TOMODACHI Tohoku Challenge Winner Chosen

October 05, 2012 at 6pm - 9pm


Mr. Ernest M. Higa congratulates Dr. Kazuo Matsuura on his first place win at the 2012 Annual Conference.

The TOMODACHI Tohoku Challenge (TTC) was a business competition led by members of the U.S.-Japan Council in partnership with the TOMODACHI Initiative benefiting the disaster-affected regions of Japan. The specific purpose was to identify a venture business that would bring innovation and employment to the Tohoku region of Japan and accelerate the rebuilding of the area. The U.S.-Japan Council welcomed the three finalists to the 2012 Annual Conference on Oct. 5 in Seattle, WA. The contestants pitched their business plans to a distinguished panel of expert judges from the U.S.-Japan Council Entrepreneur Leadership Advisory Board (UE-LAB).

TTC_1.jpg UE-LAB Judges Dr. Norman Winarsky, Mr. Taisuke Sasanuma, Mr. Ernest M. Higa, Mr. Jeffrey Char, Mr. Robert Eberhart and Dr. Kathryn Ibata-Arens observe the presentation by the finalists.

The finalists’ business plans were wide-ranging, including the commercialization of a game-changing desalination technology; the franchising of a “smile-of-yum” that builds awareness about Tohoku in the U.S. through rice burger restaurants; and the establishment of a Tohoku incubation center for start-ups with a diverse group of experts. Each project would benefit one of the three of the hardest hit prefectures, Miyagi, Fukushima and Iwate, respectively.

During a luncheon session at the conference on U.S.-Japan business and innovation, NanoMist Technologies was awarded the top prize in front of an audience of more than 350 people invested in the future of U.S.-Japan relations.

The team, led by Dr. Kazuo Matsuura, received a mentorship package from Global Venture Habitat, supported by the SunBridge Foundation. With facilities in Silicon Valley, Tokyo, and Osaka, this program supports startup companies and international market entry teams with a range of professional services from office space to globalization support. NanoMist Technologies will benefit from access to professional services, a network of professionals, potential venture capital and a variety of assistance and consultation in maximizing their global market potential.

The YOAKE Rice Burger team was awarded second place, receiving a mentorship package from Venture Generation. Venture Generation is a venture community operated by J-Seed Ventures, Inc. located in Tokyo, Japan. It supports entrepreneurs in Japan by offering a platform for companies to achieve their growth goals much faster than they would independently. UE-LAB Member Ernest M. Higa, President & CEO of Higa Industries Co. Ltd. and Wendy's Japan LLC has offered consultation to this team. Mr. Higa is credited with bringing the concept of delivery pizza to Japan along with other entrepreneurial and culturally creative food ventures.

Meet the TTC Winners

Winner: NanoMist Technologies

Team Leader: Dr. Kazuo Matsuura

Region Served: Kessennuma City, Miyagi

NanoMist Technologies is the owner of a patented process to separate solutions by a method called Atomization Separation (AS). Compared to conventional methods of distillation and reverse osmosis, AS is more energy efficient and offers other competitive advantages. Current applications include waste water treatment at hospitals, but the company seeks to expand their business to provide fresh water for food and agricultural processes and other commercial applications. Kessennuma will be the first test market, and the founder is currently also reaching out to businesses in the Middle East.


Dr. Kazuo Matsuura of NanoMistTechnologies explains the globally-patented atomization separation technology to the audience.


Atomization Separation technology.


Second Place Winner: YOAKE Rice Burger

Team Leader: Kenji Suzuki

Region Served: Iwaki, Fukushima

Inspired by the reconstructed “YOAKE Market” restaurants in the immediate aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake, YOAKE Rice Burger is a business model to inject the international sales of rice burgers into supporting Tohoku through the Japan KOME Foundation. Portions of sales proceeds will be given to the Foundation, which will apply funds for job growth and new projects. Rice Burgers sold in the U.S. will use supplies sourced in the U.S., and marketing will raise awareness about the Tohoku region and Japan.

Rice_Burger_1.png Smile-of-yum Rice Burger.

Both NanoMist Technologies and YOAKE teams have been invited to the awards ceremony at U.S. Ambassador John V. Roos’ residence during the Global Entrepreneurship Week in Tokyo in November 2012. The TOMODACHI Tohoku Challenge was coordinated by the U.S.-Japan Council Entrepreneurship Task Force, led by Council Members Kathryn Ibata-Arens and Yumi Kuwana; Mentor Leads and Emerging Leaders, Kei Ashizawa and Dana Heatherton and USJC staff.

Click here for more information.