I spent the last week in Japan. The goal was two-fold: meet with the Drupal community to understand how we can grow Drupal in Japan, and evaluate the business opportunity to incorporate an Acquia subsidiary in Japan (we already offer Acquia Cloud in Japan using Amazon's Tokyo data center).

I presented at two Drupal meetups in Japan; spent the week meeting with members of the Drupal community, Drupal agencies, large system integrators (IBM, Accenture, Hitachi, Fujitsu, Ci&T and SIOS) and the Japanese government. In between meetings, I enjoyed the amazing food that Japan has to offer.

The community in Japan is healthy; there are some noteworthy Japanese Drupal sites and there are passionate leaders that organize meetups and conferences. The Japanese Drupal community is bigger than the Chinese Drupal community but compared to North America and Europe, the Japanese Drupal community is relatively small; the largest Drupal agency I met with employs 20 developers.

The large system integrators, with the exception of Ci&T, have not done any Drupal projects in Japan. We're way behind our competitors like Sitecore, Adobe Experience Manager and SDL in this regard. All of them enabled the large system integrators to sell and use their products. It was great to meet with all the system integrators to make them aware of Drupal, and the potential it could have to their business. It's clear the large system integrators could benefit from an Open Source platform that allows them to move faster and integrate with more systems.

The biggest challenge is the lack of Japanese documentation; both marketing materials as well as developer documentation. Most of the Japanese do not have much confidence in their English speaking ability and struggle to use Drupal or to participate on drupal.org. My recommendation for the Japanese Drupal community is to organize regular translation sprints. Translating one or more of the best-selling English Drupal books to Japanese could also be a game-changer for the community.

Another problem has been the historic challenges with drupal.jp. The anonymous owner of the domain drupal.jp claims that drupal.jp is the official Drupal site in Japan (it's not officially approved) and runs it without much regard or consultation with the broader Japanese Drupal community. I promised the Japanese community to help fix this.

I returned from my trip feeling that the Japanese market offers a great opportunity for Drupal. Japan is the world's third-largest economy, after the United States and China. With continued leadership, Drupal could be huge in Japan. I’d love that, as I would like to go back and visit Japan again.

Japan

Comments

Garrett Albright (not verified):

Thanks for the update and the photos - I recognize some of those faces! My wife and I lived in Japan up until about a year ago and was trying to land a visa-providing job with Japanese companies for a while, though plans ultimately fell through. We'll be back some day, though, at least to visit, and I like to keep abreast of the goings-on of the community. It has grown quite a bit in the last half-decade; the Japan group at groups.drupal.org used to be sparsely used, and even then mostly by foreigners who talked in English, but for the last couple of years it's had posts almost daily and almost entirely in Japanese now. If only my Japanese skills were good enough to keep up…

I'm not sure if anyone mentioned it to you, but I think another possible obstacle to wider Drupal acceptance in Japan is that full-time PHP developer salaries are shockingly low compared to the rest of the industrialized world - in the range of US$40,000 for a senior-level position. I think this might drive many people who might otherwise have been web developers to seek other lines of work. (To be fair, I've heard it's the same situation for Rails gigs as well… ) If certain cultural issues can be overcome, I think it wouldn't be too tough for a company (Acquia?) to easily acquire the best talent in the country just by offering salaries more consistent with the rest of the world.

Micheal Cooper (not verified):

I am the website admin for http://www.oist.jp, and we are very rare in that we are a Japanese government-funded graduate university and very deep into Drupal. I presented at the first Drupal Camp in Japan with the two people from http://an-nai.jp (far left of the photo), and I can attest for the superb quality of the people in the Drupal scene here. They are great folks, though they are in the minority still. I really do think that Drupal could work really well here. We at OIST are using it for mission-critical communications websites. Official recognition and some more love for the Japan drupalistas would be great.

Shaun Ward (not verified):

Dries, thanks for taking the time to come to Japan.

Drupal.jp is by far one of the biggest road blocks to Drupal in Japan. But with the backing of you, and of Acquia, there is no reason it should not grow.

It was great to have you here and see the real personal care that you have for Drupal and the people who are involved in it. That is refreshing to see.

Hope to see you back here again sometime soon!

Dries:

Thank you for the translation, qchan. It looks there are some comments on https://groups.drupal.org/node/443523. If any of them are important for me to be in the loop on or react to, please summarize them in English so I can try to reply. Thank you.

Mori Sugimoto (not verified):

It's great to know that you are committed to help resolving the long-standing issue that the Japanese community has been facing.

In the UK where I am based, I see a virtuous-cycle relationship between businesses and Drupal community, in which both entities are fueling each other's success. UK has a very healthy community too and I'd like to help make this happen in Japan.

The issue with drupal.jp which you pointed out has been making the community seem like an unpleasant one to belong to. We also have had some conflicts within the translation group on localize.drupal.org, which is also partly related to the owner of drupal.jp. All in all, these issues don't only degrade reputation of Drupal and its community in Japan, but also deteriorates the health of the community. As a result, possible output of the community is reduced (e.g. translation efforts). The benevolent cycle is still ways away for us and there is a lot we can and need to do to reach to it.

I sincerely hope collaborations between the Japanese community and you (both as the project lead as well as Acquia co-founder) will continue and eventually take the state of Drupal to the next level for both community and business.

Tim Romero (not verified):

Dries,

It was good meeting you when you were out here. Expecting great things of Drupal in Japan. The community is small, but dedicated, and there is a great foundations to build on.

Tim

Yoshiyuki Ueda (not verified):

Hi Dries, thanks a lot for coming to Japan and joined our event introducing Drupal to Japan's digital influencers.

Most of them did not know what Drupal offers, how Drupal helps enterprise digital capability and agility, also Drupal is competing with proprietary CMS. Take a look here one of Japanese media wrote about Drupal and Acquia.

About this blog post, I really liked you already have a good sense about the market and simplefied next action as well as your commitment to fix drupal.jp issue. I would work on marketing materials and documentation from now on. I believe things would progress next time you visit to Japan Thank you again!