Lessons from Japan Part Two

Last week I wrote about some retail tackle shop takeaways from my recent trip to Osaka, Japan, with the great people of Gamakatsu. I’d been to Japan before, so I had a little experience with retail shops there, but I had never been to one of their major tackle shows. This year, I had that opportunity.

The Osaka tackle show is a big deal and very well attended. It’s a combination trade and consumer show — sort of ICAST meets the Bassmaster Classic Expo, except that it’s probably not as critical to the Japanese fishing industry as ICAST is to the U.S. market, and the consumer element of the Osaka show makes the Classic Expo look like a yard sale.

Day 1 of the Osaka show is the trade part. It’s industry people only, and those in attendance take it very seriously. Virtually everyone is dressed in a suit and tie. Even the lower-ranking representatives in the booths are either in suit and tie or in some other sort of show uniform that establishes their affiliation.

Booths are expansive. There are likely fewer exhibitors than you’d see at ICAST, but the footprint of each booth is much larger. There are very few 10X10s at the Osaka show, but plenty of 30X50s … and bigger.

And the displays are taller and more noticeable than what you’d find at ICAST or at a U.S. consumer show. Osaka is crowded (more than 20 million residents in the metro area), and it’s a very vertical city. Exhibits have the same quality. They go up … and up. You don’t have to wonder where the Gamakatsu booth is. Just look up and see the logo. You can’t miss it.

Because the Osaka show is in Japan, there’s a lot more formality to it than anything we have here. There’s a ribbon-cutting ceremony before the doors open. Dignitaries make speeches, and hundreds of media types take photos and get quotes. It sets a tone for what follows.

But the completely business-like tone of the first day of the show is gone by Day 2. That’s when the floodgates open for the general public to come in and check things out.

Tens of thousands visit the booths to check out the latest gear and create buzz for what retail stores will be carrying in a few months.

More thousands buzz around the retail outlets that are selling some of the latest offerings and discounting what was hot last year. Black Friday crowds at Walmart have nothing on the Japanese anglers looking for a deal at the Osaka show. It’s shoulder to shoulder with some not so gentle pushing and shoving just to get a look in the bargain bins.

I know. I was doing some of the pushing and shoving.

Impressively, anglers were paying money for a lottery just to earn the chance to buy the lone triple-jointed Roman Made Mother Triple Swimbait I saw at the show. If you were lucky enough to win the drawing, you still had to fork over more than $600 for the actual bait!

That was out of my price range.

One of the best things I saw at the Osaka show was fishing classes. In the same exhibit hall as the retailers, there were fishing classes of all kinds — fresh and saltwater, beginner and expert. For the equivalent of about $5, you could attend and get maybe 10 times that much in bonus gear. Most of the classes quickly sold out.

There were also lots of activities for kids, including casting and fishing pools, games and plenty of interesting fishing characters creating photo ops. No matter your age, if you had an interest in fishing, you could satisfy it at the Osaka show.

More to come on “Lessons from Japan.”