How to Start a Business

Inside Fukuoka's Global Startup Center: Real Cases and How-to for Market Expansion in Japan

May 17, 2024

ZIPANG visits the Global Startup Center in Fukuoka. Fukuoka is well-known as the birthplace of SoftBank.

In Fukuoka, a city determined to be an active supporter of startups since Mayor Takashima’s 2012 declaration, the Fukuoka Global Startup Center has been making significant strides. Not only does it support domestic ventures within Japan, but it also extends considerable support to international startups

In this interview, we explore the unique appeal of Fukuoka City with Mr. Shimada from the Fukuoka Global Startup Center, discussing how the city is attracting global entrepreneurial talents and capital.

Introduction to Fukuoka's Global Startup Center

ZIPANG (Z): Hello! Could you please introduce yourself?

Global Startup Center (GSC): Hi, I'm Shimada from the Fukuoka Global Startup Center.

Z: Is the Fukuoka Global Startup Center a government agency?

GSC: Yes, we are affiliated with the city of Fukuoka and offer all services for free. We provide pre-arrival and post-arrival services to international startups considering entering Japan.

Services at Fukuoka Global Startup Center include:

  • Before entering Fukuoka
    • Consulting on visa types
    • Startup visa processing
    • Business consulting
    • Pre-arrival tax, legal, real estate, and banking business matching.
  • After entering Fukuoka
    • Office location assistance
    • Residential information
    • Business matching with local firms
    • Fundraising support.

Z: You offer a wide range of services! Are consultations available by appointment?

GSC: The Fukuoka Global Startup Center is located within the Startup Cafe in Fukuoka City. We operate from 10 AM to 10 PM, Monday through Sunday. Just come to the Startup Cafe! 

There, we consult with both Japanese and international startups looking to establish themselves, with a specific focus on assisting global startups. 

While walk-ins are welcome, we recommend making an appointment by email or phone to ensure availability, especially during busy times. [Book an appointment online]

📍Address: 2 Chome-6-11 Daimyo, Chuo Ward, Fukuoka, 810-0041

There's also a free coworking space available during business hours, no reservation needed. Just come by, and you can work comfortably with free Wi-Fi.

(Source : Unsplash)

Real Business Cases of Global Startups Entering into Fukuoka Market

Z: I'm curious about some examples of startups that have received support from the Fukuoka GSC.

GSC: We have numerous examples from Europe and Asia. I'll show you some cases of various global startups that have successfully entered Fukuoka with our support.


  • A Finnish startup that sells IoT devices for booking coworking spaces.
  • This company has not established a corporation in Fukuoka or elsewhere in Japan.
  • Introduced to JR Kyushu with the support of the Fukuoka Global Startup Center.
  • JR Kyushu's need: The concept for their coworking space business was to create a connection point between the global market and Japan.
  • DeskME matched this concept perfectly, leading to a successful business partnership with JR Kyushu.

Silen Space

  • An Estonian startup that manufactures phone booths for meetings.
  • Matched with a Japanese furniture company listed on the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
  • The connection was facilitated by the Fukuoka Global Startup Center.
  • Both companies signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), and Silen began selling its products to the Japanese company.


  • A German startup that manufactures materials for electric vehicles.
  • Matched with a Japanese raw materials manufacturing company.
  • FIBRECOAT could only communicate in English.
  • The Fukuoka Global Startup Center facilitated communication between the two companies through English-Japanese interpretation.

M-DAQ Global

  • A B2B fintech group specialising in cross-border FX and payments from Singapore.
  • The Fukuoka Global Startup Center introduced them to financial law experts and overseas startups.
  • Fukuoka serves as an ideal location to expand the company’s presence in East Asia.
  • The company is actively working with different public and private agencies to improve FX user experience in retail and travel transactions.

(Credit : M-DAQ Global)


  • A French software startup.
  • Develops software that accommodates color blindness and allows for text resizing on websites.
  • Matched with the city of Fukuoka through the introduction by the Fukuoka Global Startup Center.
  • Fukuoka city's website has implemented FACIL'iti's color blindness and visual assistance services.

(Credit : Japan Travel)

Navigating the Business Landscape in Japan with Fukuoka GSC

Z: How can one receive assistance when applying for a startup visa?

GSC: Previously, foreign business owners in Japan needed a "Business Manager Visa," which required having a private office (coworking spaces were not acceptable), an investment of at least 5 million yen, and a Japanese bank account. 

However, the Business Manager Visa is very difficult for foreigners residing outside of Japan to obtain.

Therefore, 'Startup Visa' was created that provides a preparation period of six months for startups to establish their business in Japan. Up to two people can apply simultaneously, and applicants can bring their families to Fukuoka. A meticulously prepared business plan is necessary when applying for the Startup Visa.

Only those who pass the evaluation can receive the Startup Visa. Applicants will need to submit a resume, a copy of their passport, documentation of their residence for six months, a bank statement or similar document to verify their cash balance, and documents detailing the business content and experience. 

Since there are many requirements, I recommend reading through the interview carefully and then reviewing the detailed guidelines slowly on the Fukuoka Startup Visa website.

Z: How do you assist with business matching?

GSC: We also facilitate connections with legal and tax professionals. We have successfully introduced foreign startups to Japanese companies whose needs match those startups and have assisted all the way to contract execution. Our team can handle inquiries in English, Chinese, and Japanese, making communication easier.

Of course, not just any startups can be matched with a Japanese company. The startup needs to have the necessary technical skills, business capabilities, references, and a dedicated internal point of contact. 

We also assess the size of the company and the level of investment to determine the stage of the startup. Our staff at the Fukuoka Global Startup Center carefully examines each business case before making a suitable match. 

We hope to foster meaningful growth for foreign startups in Japan and develop mutually beneficial relationships with Japanese companies.

(출처 : Unsplash)

Z: What types of startups can apply for a startup visa?

GSC: Good question. In Fukuoka, startups from six specific industries can apply for a startup visa. Our Fukuoka Global Startup Center plays a key role in processing these applications. You can find more detailed information on the Fukuoka Startup Visa website.

*Industries eligible for a Fukuoka Startup Visa include:

  1. IT Industries: Fintech, semiconductor-related businesses, software development, content production, and robotics.
  2. Health, Medical, and Welfare Industries: Pharmaceutical ventures, medical technology development, regenerative medicine, and development of welfare devices.
  3. Environment and Energy Industries: Greentech, green energy development, next-generation battery technology, and geoinformation systems.
  4. Logistics Industries: Global SCM services, 3PL services, international courier services, and drone logistics development.
  5. Trade-Related Industries: Developing overseas markets for products produced in Fukuoka city, using airport functions for business (the business must be innovative and significantly contribute to the growth of local businesses in Fukuoka city).

Z: The startup visa is valid for a total of 6 months. Is it possible to extend this period?

GSC: Unfortunately, in Fukuoka, we only issue it once and extensions are not permitted. 

The essence of a startup is indeed to grow quickly. From our extensive experience observing many startups, we have verified that typically within six months, a startup can establish a corporation, open a bank account, and rent an office in Japan. Therefore, we believe that six months is a sufficient period for these preparations.

The Reasons Fukuoka is Attracting Foreign Startup Founders 

Z: I'm curious about what makes Fukuoka unique. What are the charming points of this city?

GSC: Our motto is "Start Easy, Start First." We wanted to provide a base in Fukuoka that is cost-effective and comfortable, making it easier to build a business in Japan. 

Fukuoka is known for having fewer earthquakes compared to Tokyo and Osaka, which also makes it a great place to live. Once you've established your base in Fukuoka, expanding to other regions in Japan is certainly feasible. 

Many business leaders from abroad often mention how pleasant it is to live and do business in Fukuoka. They frequently express a desire to operate their businesses from a place that offers a good quality of life.

(Source : Unsplash)

Z: Living abroad, one can't help but consider the cost of living. How does Fukuoka fare in terms of affordability?

GSC: The cost of office rentals and general living expenses in Fukuoka are relatively affordable. Additionally, the climate is warm, and the people are friendly. Fukuoka is also a great place to enjoy nature. It's conveniently located so that you can easily travel from the city center to the mountains or the sea. 

Many foreign startup executives mention that you can enjoy leisure activities in nature just a 30-minute drive away. They seem to appreciate not only the business environment but also the balanced lifestyle that Fukuoka offers.

Z: Fukuoka must have engaged in trade with various international countries through Hakata Port.

GSC: Yes, that's correct. Historically, Fukuoka has been an open city for trade because of Hakata Port, which has allowed trade, tourism, and the restaurant industry to flourish traditionally. 

Companies like SoftBank were also founded here, and there are well-known IT entrepreneurs from Fukuoka. The development of the IT industry has created an environment supportive of startups. Fukuoka is not only a historical trading hub but also a modern trendsetter due to its active involvement in international trade.

Z: Do you also host networking events targeted at startups?

GSC: Absolutely. We regularly organize networking parties and annually participate in international startup events, setting up booths for Fukuoka. We also host events in foreign cities. For more detailed information on upcoming events, you can check the Startup City Fukuoka Facebook page.

Z: Last question! Do you have any message you would like to share with global startups?

GSC: Recently, I've noticed that many startup founders are actively engaging in international business. We would be very grateful if you choose to conduct your overseas operations from Fukuoka. 

When you come to Fukuoka, we are here to assist you in obtaining your startup or management visa. We want to help make Fukuoka an even better city together with you!

‍Written by ZIPANG (Link)

※Original Source : 후쿠오카가 일본 진출 스타트업에게 특별한 이유(1편) 

※This article was not reviewed for English translation by the original author


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