Japan was once a country of innovative entrepreneurs who turned "Made in Japan" into a synonym for quality and advanced technology.

Decades later, there's one up and coming entrepreneur who hopes to revive that tradition.

Toru Tokushige founded Terra Motors in 2010 and has built it into Japan's top electric motorcycle maker.

Terra sells a modest 300 or so EV bikes a month in Japan...but Tokushige's dreams go well beyond this tiny office in downtown Tokyo.

Terra's already set up factories in Manila and Ho Chi Minh City, and is now expanding to India, betting its bikes' price tag of 800 to 1,000 dollars will appeal to these emerging, motorcycle-heavy markets.

I rode in to talk with Tokushige about revving up Japan's startup culture.

(SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) TERRA MOTORS CO, CEO, TORU TOKUSHIGE, SAYING:

"What Japan is lacking is the mega ventures. Compared to Silicon Valley, Taiwan and China, the number of startups that generate 1 billion dollars in sales, raise employment and tax revenue, and pull the country along is overwhelmingly small. When it comes to manufacturers, it's close to zero."

(SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) TERRA MOTORS CO, CEO, TORU TOKUSHIGE, SAYING:

"The big reason for this is the mentality of the Japanese. When I was in Silicon Valley, the most surprising thing to me was the type of people there. In the case of Japanese, the more educated you are and 'elite' you are, the lower your entrepreneurial spirit tends to be. However, Silicon Valley's similarly-ranked Stanford grads are among the craziest. And they are also aggressive. That is an overwhelming difference."

(SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) TERRA MOTORS CO, CEO, TORU TOKUSHIGE, SAYING:

"People tell me: 'You're a small venture and you're in manufacturing? You're aiming for the global market? You're doing things that only the big guys do?' From the Japanese perspective, that's absolutely crazy. But if you go outside Japan, there are many cases of startups becoming mega ventures."

(SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) TERRA MOTORS CO, CEO, TORU TOKUSHIGE, SAYING:

"As I'm fighting it out in Asia, moving around and meeting a diverse group of people, I really feel the overwhelming power of the Japanese brand in places like Southeast Asia, India and Taiwan. They really want to work with Japanese companies, and they believe in Japanese people, products and firms. However, these companies lack speed, commitment and the ability to take risks, and so there is a cultural gap that doesn't mesh between Japan and the outside. Japanese companies want to cooperate but as a result of being slow to act, high risks and low commitment, these projects do not advance."

(SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) TERRA MOTORS CO, CEO, TORU TOKUSHIGE, SAYING:

"If you calculate without regarding development costs, we are breaking even. Of course, we cut unnecessary costs by working in small offices like this, and all of our workers are very sensitive to the issue. That puts us in a good place."

(SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) TERRA MOTORS CO, CEO, TORU TOKUSHIGE, SAYING:

"It's definitely true that changes are happening in Japan. There's more of an entrepreneurial consciousness developing among the younger generation. Especially among those who excel academically, rather than going into a big company where they would have to spend years at the bottom of the corporate ladder and it's harder for them to challenge anything. So more people are starting to realize that if you think logically, it makes more sense to strike out with your own venture and with just a little more effort, I think we can push them to succeed."

ENDS