breaking into the
japanese luxury market

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Travelling to Tokyo and want to explore the city’s hidden secrets away from the tourist hordes? Sarment’s Keyyes digital platform now offers an array of luxury options perfect for visitors who want insider knowledge in the Japanese capital on where to go and how to get in.

The digital platform allows users to access Sarment’s luxury ecosystem through which they can purchase fine products, secure a range of highly-curated services and read specialist content. The English language Keyyes mobile app started covering the Singapore market in April and added offerings in Tokyo this month.

It now includes hundreds of luxury partners in Tokyo – across lifestyle categories such as restaurants, bars, boutiques and art, with more categories to come.

Breaking into the Japanese scene and launching Tokyo as the second market after Singapore was no easy feat. Nicolas Finck, Sarment’s head of partnerships, says: “It is usually very difficult to get information and access when you’re dealing with the very highest level of Japanese luxury product and service providers. Many of these operators cater to domestic consumers and are relatively unknown outside the local Japanese market.”

Mr Finck notes that in the fine dining scene, for example, most exclusive Tokyo restaurants tend to be closely-guarded secrets that only the Japanese know about. Compared to top venues that you find in other global cities, these Tokyo restaurants are comparatively small, private and do not market themselves to international customers. So, unless you have been recommended to dine at Sushi Umi or Kagurazaka Kurosu by a Japanese contact or someone who has patronised the restaurants before, these gems will not be on your radar.

“But it’s not just a matter of knowing where to go. Getting your foot in the door is also tricky in Japan,” he points out.

A good illustration in the fashion industry is bespoke men’s shoemaker Yohei Fukuda. His made-to-order shoes may be coveted by those in-the-know but getting an appointment at his Tokyo atelier is near impossible. Users of Keyyes, however, can reserve a booking there with just a few clicks on their mobile phones, and bypass the two-year waiting list.

And that is not all. Mr Finck adds: “Once you have figured out where to go and how to get in, you’ll still need to navigate your way during your customer journey.”

He explains that if you intend to play golf at one of Tokyo’s high-end courses, you will not just find it challenging to make a reservation in English; staff members will probably speak the local language without exception and course signage will almost definitely be in Japanese. Sarment will not only make the reservation for you at 20 of the top golf courses, it also offers a golf ambassador to accompany you during your game to overcome any language issues.

It is widely known that the Japanese market is extremely unique. Even though Tokyo is a top-tier international destination, the local language and culture serve as high barriers to entry. In addition, the Japanese are remarkably conservative when it comes to dealing with international operators.  

This conservatism is exponentially higher when you consider businesses engaged in the luxury industry. They tend to be very private and it takes a lot of effort to build relationships with them.

Says Mr Finck: “They have a very distinctive way of doing business. So, to overcome the language and cultural barriers, you need to invest a lot of time and energy into your partnerships. We established a local office in Tokyo two years ago and have since forged strong bonds within the luxury industry.”

These luxury businesses have appreciated what Sarment has brought to the table: gated communities of high-value customers that they otherwise do not reach as well as a digital platform to engage with them.

Mr Finck explains: “We also focused on hiring the right local ambassadors and they, in turn, have sourced the most appropriate partners for our highly-curated luxury ecosystem. By selecting who we work with very carefully, we offer our partners an exclusive platform that aligns closely with their brand propositions.

“Above all, we have stayed humble and focused on respecting the country’s traditions and values. We believe that, ultimately, is the key to access of the most amazing things Japan has to offer.”

Sarment's "Keyyes" is currently available at the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. Users need a personal access code to sign into the app.

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