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Ryukakusan: Innovative sore throat relief since the Edo Period

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Article - March 12, 2023

Blending tradition and innovation, Ryukakusan continues to be Japan’s go-to brand for sore throat relief.

“Our company has been tending to the throats of Japanese people for 200 years”

Ryuta Fujii, President, Ryukakusan Co., Ltd.

Founded in 1871, Ryukakusan has been a constant in the lives of millions of Japanese people, especially those dealing with throat discomfort. Current president, Ryuta Fujii, rebuilt a failing business when he took over almost three decades ago and explains some of the issues facing the company today.

“The biggest challenge right now is the rapidly declining birthrate and aging society. There is also an increasing cost of medical expenses due to advancements in technology, which cannot be covered by our budget. We also have to find a way to compensate for the continually growing government deficit, caused, in part, by the high ratio of prescription compared to over-the-counter medicines. The latter accounts for around 10% of drugs consumed in Japan, with most advanced nations at about 50%.”

As a member of a government-sponsored social welfare committee, Mr. Fujii is very aware of the problems surrounding health needs.

“Cutting-edge technologies in medicine and medical devices are crucial because they can save the lives of patients with serious diseases, but there is an imbalance in terms of paying for medical services provided,” he says. “Many of these treatments are covered by public funds, but we need to focus more on preventive care instead of advanced technologies.



“I come from a family of eight generations, all the way from the Edo period, originally doctors responsible for the Akita community. There were no medicines or advanced devices and people took care of themselves to prevent diseases, which is the basis of our products and care. Although we used to manufacture generic drugs, and had the top share for certain items due to our small tablet technology, this was discontinued because of pricing changes.”

And it is the technology behind the product range that helps Ryukakusan stand out from the competitive crowd.

“Our flagship product Ryukakusan acts directly on the throat mucosa to relieve symptoms,” explains Mr. Fujii. “It is characterized by advanced techniques for making herbal medicines into a fine powder, something other manufacturers often do not want to develop due to the risk of cross-contamination.

“We have unique technology to prevent this, as we knead Ryukakusan herbal powder into other products such as lozenges and tablets. It is rather difficult to imitate our product.

“Our latest offering is Ryukakusan Direct, a new granule formulation that is taken without water and dissolves like light snow. Each serving is individually packaged, making it easy to take anywhere and anytime. Our R&D is not about developing new drugs like large-capital companies, but constantly evolving by further advancing and maturing our core technologies and proposing innovative solutions in response to market demands.”

So to the company’s overseas expansion and an original strategy for success in China.

“We successfully appointed authorized distributors in Taiwan and Korea almost 60 years ago, and we’ve done the same in Hong Kong and the United States,” says Mr. Fujii. “Instead of expanding into China, however, we collaborated with various household medicine manufacturers and promoted our products via exhibitions. This approach has been very effective and, with help from our social media strategy, our cross-border e-commerce sales with China have grown significantly.

“The success in China has had a ripple effect, with other neighboring countries wanting to sell our products too, including those from ASEAN. Japanese products are highly valued globally because it is known that local consumers pay close attention to detail and demand high-quality.”

With an acute awareness of how product marketing changes from generation to generation, despite maybe not understanding the modern habits of the young, Mr. Fujii is confident about the future of Ryukakusan.

“I don't understand how TikTok promotion can help business, given my sensibilities, but it is true that it does sell products. If the next generation of managers anticipate changes in the world situation and seek management innovation, it is now possible to give them ample time to consider it.”

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