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Now and Zen Japan

Author: Andrew Hankinson

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Insightful conversations with Japan experts focused on business, culture, with stories of success & failure and lessons learned. Entertaining and educational, discover first-hand what it’s like to live, work, and experience the most fascinating country in the world. Direct from Tokyo, this is the Now and Zen Podcast!
25 Episodes
This episode I sit down with Japan veteran and savvy businessman Seth Sulkin. He is the founder of Pacifica Capital an international hotel developer and operator. He has also recently become a disruptor in the restaurant food delivery business with the launch of his new gourmet restaurant food delivery app Food-e. In this episode we learn all about this booming industry, why before Food-e high-end restaurants couldn't or wouldn't join delivery apps, and the innovations which convinced these reputable restaurants to sign on. As Seth states, "It's the quickest sell I've done in 35 years of doing business in Japan".  We also discuss developing hotels in Japan and the importance of overseeing all customer touch-points and the Instagram angle.  Other topics we cover:What led to the inception of Food-eThe inside stories of food delivery apps and restaurant economicsThe problems with current food delivery apps and how Food-e solves themHow Seth was able to convince high-end restaurants to join Food-eMy crazy ideas on how to improve the Food-e experienceWhy Pacifica Capital only develops International HotelsThe reason why "chairs" are so important Unique ideas for instagram-able breakfastsFavorite Japanese word (Okamochi)Seth Sulkin: Pacifica CapitalFood-e: The Moxy Tokyo: Moxy Hotel TokyoGreat Sleep Starts Here = gugu Sleep Company: Japan Adventures via Camper Van = Dream Drive: https://www.dreamdrive.lifeUse the code word "ZEN" to receive discounts
This episode we discuss fashion in Japan and premium dog food. Not two topics often mentioned in the same sentence, but very related to today's guest Mr. Loic Bizel. Loic started his own fashion consulting business in Tokyo nearly 30 years ago and runs two very successful fashion related websites (see links in the notes below). He was one of the co-founders of the fashion "flash sales" site in 2009. He's referred to as a "Trendspotter" and "Cool Hunter" by the media and is considered one of the utmost foreign experts on Japanese fashion trends. In 2017 he started a new DTC business focused on premium dog food. Using his experience in eCommerce, spotting new "trends", and understanding the Japanese psyche, "Leo & Lea" specializes in a growing niche for organic pet food with a unique customer experience. This is another insightful and fun listening episode. Other topics we cover:Fashion in Japan is about being part of a communityWhy Japanese prefer to spend on fashion over home improvementHow fashion trends start in JapanThe role and importance of "Select Shops"How the Japanese fashion market has changed in the past 30 yearsThe Moncler story of how puffer jackets went from niche to BOOM in JapanDefining Fashionable vs. TrendyWhy Tokyo is the best fashion capital in the worldDogs in Japan are treated as family membersWhy Japanese are happy to pay a premium for organic dog foodIn Japan you are not a pet "owner" you are referred to as a pet "parent"Favorite Japanese word (Shoganai)Loic Bizel: https://lebiz-consulting.comFashion In Japan: https://fashioninjapan.comLeo & Lea Premium Dog Food: https://leoandlea.comGreat Sleep Starts Here = gugu Sleep Company: Japan Adventures via Camper Van = Dream Drive: https://www.dreamdrive.lifeUse the code word "ZEN" to receive discounts
This episode I speak with Cynthia Usui.  Author of Eight things Full-time Housewives Should do Before Entering the Workforce .  After 17 years as a stay-at-home mom, Cynthia successfully re-launched her career and quickly rose to the managerial ranks. She now coaches housewives who want to return to the workforce, how to follow in her footsteps. Cynthia shares many tips and much  wisdom from her amazing journey "from Mother to Management". Other highlights from our conversation:The work-life balance should be measured from a long-term perspectiveWhy it was easier for her to re-invent her career with a non-Japanese hotel3 metrics to evaluate housewives when re-entering the workforceOn using a SWOT analysis for her students before job interviewsThe success of her government sponsored tourism coaching programsWhat she would do if she were in charge of the 30% "Women in Leadership" mandateWhy Japanese hospitality needs more personalization Career mapping for the 100-year-life and goal setting in 2021 and beyondHow she quickly progressed from part-timer to management in 7 yearsWhy can't the achievements and experiences of rasing a child be included on a resume?Favorite Japanese phrase (Read the Air)Cynthia Usui: Cynthia Usui LinkedInHer book: 8 things Full-time Housewives Should do Before Entering the WorkforceGreat Sleep Starts Here = gugu Sleep Company: Japan Adventures via Camper Van = Dream Drive: https://www.dreamdrive.lifeUse the code word "ZEN" to receive discounts
This episode I speak with Brendhan Kelly, the Hospitality Communication Manager for the Tysons Group of restaurants. Tysons is most well known for Ivy Place, Cicada, Smokehouse, and the iconic TY Harbor Brewery in Tennozu Isle. If you have dinned at any of these restaurants you were most likely impressed with the unique level of personalized hospitality. This is a direct result of Brendhan's input and influence. We discuss Tysons brand of "Global Hospitality" and how he trains and imparts this with staff and mentors and empowers them to become "experience creators".  You will also hear about how after years of consulting work, he suddenly switched careers in his mid-40's, walked into a Tysons restaurant and said "I want to work here". Other highlights from our conversation:The difference between "Service" and "Hospitality"A story about entertaining 350 South Africans during the rugby World Cup How he empowers staff to give personalized servicePet peeve about restaurants in JapanThe big break which catapulted him to his current positionMentoring techniques to teach better hospitalityThe best compliment he could ever receiveThe story behind the IPA nameHow his father's business and childhood influenced his interest in hospitalityThe one establishment which has better hospitality than his chainHow hospitality affects the bottom line in the restaurant businessgugu Sleep Company https://gugu.jpDream Drive: https://www.dreamdrive.lifeBrendhan Kelly: & Company:
This episode I welcome back Mike Howard.  It has been seven months since we first met on this podcast to promote his just published book "The Salaryman". Since then, there have been a lot of changes in Mike's life - many good, some negative, and one huge life altering decision. Mike discusses these developments as they relate to his book. This episode was spontaneous as we had originally planned to just meet for a "farewell" drink (spoiler alert) but we ended up recording and it became pretty self-reflective but also a lot of fun. Some other highlights from our conversation:A spin-off project from the "Salaryman" bookIndie publishing do's and don'tsHow the book caused him to lose a friendshipWhy he's moving back to the USThe book became his self-therapyHow much you can make with digital publishingSelf promotion sales resultsHis new Dream Job developmentA relationship with a Japanese stand up comedianThe new Salaryman Manga seriesMike's house got broken intoA look back on 13 years in Japangugu Sleep Company https://gugu.jpDream Drive: https://www.dreamdrive.lifeAlso available Direct: http://www.thesalarymanbook.comContact Michael:
This episode I sit down with Dominic Carter, an expert on Japan market entry, market research, and branding. Dominic shares great insight, knowledge, and current research results, for anyone working in Japan or looking to expand into Japan needs to hear.  Today you hear his 3 Golden Rules for Japan market entry success, the 4 Marco Trends shaping modern Japan, as well as numerous great quotes about how to succeed in the Japanese market. This is must listen to anyone doing business in Japan. Other topics we discuss: How the future of Japan will be better with a smaller working populationDoing sales in Japan is more of an art than a science and what is "aggressive positioning"Why Dominic is overly generous in his offering of free, but valuable market entry content on his blog and social mediaThe best definition of "insight" you'll ever hearLearn the "Four Macro Trends" shaping modern Japan and how they will affect marketing and the future of doing business in Japan"Scarcity Value" and how this relates to the youth of JapanHas the COVID pandemic caused "Internationalization" to go backwards in Japan?Great marketing examples which exemplify the risk adverse nature of the Japan marketThe Three Golden Rules to successful Japan market entry Keeping your "foreignness" vs. localization for international brandsMany great quotes from Dominic, lead me to start a "Now & Zen" quotes pageThe Carter Group: https://the-carter-group.comDominic Carter: Mattress Company: https://gugu.jpDream Drive:
This episode I speak with Mary Reisel. Mary is an applied anthropologist, who has lived in Japan for nearly 20 years. Her main area of expertise is consumer psychology.  She is also a PhD. candidate from Meiji Gakuin University and her dissertation is on Japanese "Enjyo Kosai" also known as Compensated Dating and how it applies to consumption and E-Commerce. After ten years of researching this controversial subject, she explains how sexuality, intimacy, and desire are not only closely linked to consumerism but also hold the keys to everything in life. In this episode we get to hear the origins, the real motivation behind "Enjoy Kosai" and the current status of compensated dating in Japan. Other topics we discuss:Why intimacy in Japan is very different than in the WestHow "Enjyo Kosai" started out as a game among high-class womenA question from a Japanese student regarding "love" which changed her viewsMarco Polo's role in her early interest in Asia and JapanThe foreign press influence in the image of "Enjyo Kosai""Enjyo Kosai" was never about sexual relations. . . The history and role of Japanese "Snacks" and Hostess barsIs "Enjyo Kosai" female empowerment, therapy, or abuse?How she did her research and how many interviews she conductedHow shopping and sex are related to the meaning of lifeThe deep psychological answer to consumerism and "Enjyo Kosai" Mary Reisel: Sexuality, Pleasure, and Corporate Masculinity in a Tokyo Hostess Club: Mattress Company: https://gugu.jpDream Drive:
This episode I sit down with Katsura Sunshine, the only Western Rakugo Master Storyteller in the world and only the 2nd in the history of traditional Japanese Rakugo. He shares his fascinating journey from Canadian playwright and musical producer to Master Japanese Rakugo Storyteller.  We dive into the details of his three-year apprenticeship, the hardships and rewards. How he became an international Rakugo ambassador not only on Off-Broadway but around the world. Toward the end of the podcast we even get to hear a short traditional Rakugo story translated into English. Other topics we discuss: The genius story behind why his Master made him bleach his hair blondWhy he does not localize the traditional Rakugo stories when presenting in EnglishHow he got his first big break to internationalize RakugoThe differences between stand-up comedy and RakugoIndentured servitude for three years and menial jobs is part of the apprenticeshipThe real meaning and purpose behind the apprenticeshipHow he convinced his Master to take him as an apprenticeNew Yorkers reaction when seeing him in kimono in publicRakugo stories are very family friendly, but there is an "adult" version as wellgugu Sleep Company: https://gugu.jpKatsura Shinshine's Website:
This episode I sit down with Jared Campion the co-founder of Dream Drive, a customized Camper Van rental company. Only a little over one-year old, Dream Drive is seeing its business expand exponentially despite the current situation. How did the original idea for   Dream Drive come about and what were the many hurdles in Japan for a foreigner to start a customized rental van company in Japan. Despite extremely high capital investment for a niche Japanese market, Jared's dream for Dream Drive is coming true. Other topics we discuss: The reasons all Camper-Vans are customized "in-house"Difference and advantages of a Camper Van vs. traditional RVThe biggest challenges starting his businessHow he defines his business as "Luxury Hotel on Wheels"What is a "Base Camp Network" and how this is the actual long-term goal of Dream DriveThe interesting intinerary differences between domestic customers and inbound touristsWe debate five new business ideas for Dream Drive presented by AHWhy Japan is better than New Zealand for "Best done by Camper Van"How travel by Camper Van is actually cheaper than by train or plane in Japangugu Sleep Company: https://gugu.jpDream Drive Japan:
This episode I continue my conversation with Tim Sullivan. Specifically, he talks about the hundreds of cross-cultural training seminars he conducted for Hawaiian Airlines prior to their launching Japan flights. It's full of great anecdotes and amazing cultural insight. We also discuss the Japanese apology, and how he moulds his rule-breaking ways to fit accepted Japanese norms. This is a short episode and well worth a listen: Quality over quantity for sure. gugu Sleep Company: https://gugu.jpTim Sullivan: Twilight Zone:
This episode I sit down with cross-cultural educator Mr. Tim Sullivan. He’s a very down to earth and culturally astute ambassador for Japan and foreign relations. His excellent Japan understanding comes from his study of cultural anthropology and Japanese story-telling Rakugo. For his corporate seminars he uses a storytelling approach vs. academic speak and on this episode he tells us numerous educational and entertaining stories including of his experience as a corporate mediator between waring US and Japan engineering teams, another about Mt. Fujii and how this majestic mountain is culturally perceived differently by Japanese and western cultures, and finally his most humbling yet inspiring moment in Japan, which took place in a Blues Bar. In addition, we discuss Japanese humor, Peter Drucker, which culture really invented the "Ikigai" concept, and how through his intervention, Americans learned to embrace the Japanese Hanseikai - the self reflection meeting. Other topics we discuss: Living with a Japanese rock and roll star and his days as a "roadie"How to use Kakubari in a cross-cultural way with non-JapaneseProcess oriented vs. Goal oriented: The Japanese decision-making process explained Why American's might refer to Mt. Fuji as a "Son of a Bitch!"The "Iceberg" model of visually analyzing cultural differencesA Japanese concept he employed to defuse toxic US-Japan corporate relationsHow storytelling Increases engagement in in cultural seminarsCulturally accepted sarcasm and irony in JapanDiscuss his new collaborative book "Simple English for Japanese Medical Professionals" and the background of this projectgugu Sleep Company: https://gugu.jpTim Sullivan: Twilight Zone: https://japaninsight.wordpress.comSimple English for Japanese Medical Professionals:
This "remote "episode I sit down with Omotenashi Consultant Paul Willis. Didn't know this was an actual job? Neither did I, which is why I was very interested to speak with Paul. "Omotenashi" has become a buzz word in Japan and internationally ever since Tokyo was selected to host the 2020 Olympics, and is the cornerstone of why Japanese hospitality is considered the best in the world. Paul has extensively researched Omotenashi, the background, culturally where it derives from, and has constructed a "schematic" in which he breaks down six components behind Omotenashi. Usually these details are reserved for his seminars, but luckily in this episode, he shares his findings along with numerous examples and stories. Other topics we discuss: What led him to become an Omotenashi ConsultantThe role "consistency" plays in OmotenashiHow Western hospitality often requires the guest to initiate the process of getting good serviceHis Omotenashi "research" in KyotoHis most disappointing Japan "service" experience in JapanThe dark side of Kodawari (attention to detail)Explain how he "sells" his Omotenashi service to organizationsThe future of Digital OmotenashiHis greatest success story and proudest accomplishmentgugu Sleep Company: https://gugu.jpOmotenashi-CX Customer Experience Consultancy: https://omotenashi-cx.comPaul Willis:
This episode I sit down with the ultimate Kagoshima spokesperson Alex Bradshaw. It's rare to meet a foreigner so personally invested in any specific region of Japan. His knowledge of history, traditions, and the ability to weave these stories into a tourism proposition is amazing! He is currently Head of Overseas Business for the award-winning, World Heritage site Sengan-en and an advisor to the Government of Kagoshima. How he manages these two roles make up the crux of our interesting conversation. If you have never visited Kagoshima before, you will definitely want to after listening to Alex! You're  guaranteed to hear a couple new thought-provoking perspectives on Japanese culture. We chat and share craft beers at Yona Yona Beerworks in Ebisu. Other topics we discuss: Culturally, "Added-Value" is Japanese tourism USPInteresting backstory on Kiriko glasswareHow his current role was meant to be a kind of "wrecking ball"Introduces a hidden gem of travel destinationsWhy there are so many garish signs at tourism sites and his improvement adviseFascinating history lesson about Satsuma (Kagoshima)How Japan sells itself on "Mystery"Discuss Japanese artistic Bokashi and corporate Nemawashi What he would implement to improve tourism, if he were in charge of the JNTO (Japan National Tourism Agency)Winning Best Attraction at the World Tourism AwardsInteresting facts about the Kagoshima drinking culturegugu Sleep Company: https://gugu.jpSENGAN-EN: Bradshaw:
This episode I share craft beers with Andrew Silberman, Chief Enthusiast of the Advanced Management Training Group and author of the book "Get a G.R.I.P." The Global Readiness Improvement Plan. With nearly 30 years of corporate training in Tokyo focused on coaching, leadership, and presentations, he is a very riveting guest. We share some super insightful topics and a lot of laughs. It's another podcast from the Ivy Place in Daikanyama and the best 40 minute investment you will make today. Other topics we dive into: The inspiration behind writing the book "Get a G.R.I.P" Discuss negative vs. positive reinforcement in Japanese businessExamine Daniel Pink's theory of motivation and how this applies to JapanWhy he chose Chief Enthusiast rather than CEO as his official titleThree ways to harness positive psychology from The HBRTurn the tables on Andrew (the guest) with some sentence-completion tasksLearn a new Japanese version of PDCA (try not to laugh)The joys of saying and sharing the Japanese word OtsukaresamaHow Japanese business is akin to a marathonTakeaways readers of "Get a G.R.I.P." should expectHow corporate training has changed in 25+ yearsgugu Sleep Company https://gugu.jpThe AMT Group: Buy the book Get a G.R.I.P. Silberman:
This episode we get the low-down on all things subculture in Japan with Mr. Brett Bull. Brett is the founder of Tokyo Reporter, an English language website focused on salacious and scandalous news from Japan. It's not all cherry blossoms and sushi, get the background on why and how he started Tokyo Reporter and many other stories from the underbelly of Japan. We share craft beers at Ivy Place in Daikanyama. Other topics we get into: How he originally got started reporting Japanese scandalous stories even before Tokyo Reporter (TR)Discuss ideas how to monetize his siteThere is a template in Japanese for every crime news storyComments on the TR Facebook page is where all best interaction takes placeExplains the legal loop-holes regarding "girls bars" The real reason behind the "No Dancing" laws in JapanHis end-game (goal) in operating the TR websiteWhy he doesn't want to have 1million unique readersThe one topic he would love to focus on if he had free access to cover anythingAvoiding meiwaku (causing trouble to others) is very strong in Japan, but so is the concept of "shoganai" (it can't be helped) and how this applies to Right Wingersgugu Sleep Company https://gugu.jpTokyo Reporter site: https://www.tokyoreporter.comTokyo Reporter Facebook page
This episode I continue my discussion and sharing of IPA's with Dr. David Sweet. David is 20-year Japan resident, a sales superstar, best selling author, serial entrepreneur, certified business coach, and one of the best recruiters I know in Japan. We are at the Oak Door, located in the Grand Hyatt in Roppongi.  In this part 2 of 2 episodes, we share entertaining stories about business life in Japan. Some highlights include:Discuss his 33 recommended books every sales person should readExplains why the Dr. Seuss book "Green Eggs & Ham" is the best sales book everDebate the sunniest state in the US and discuss the movie Blazing SaddlesWhy 'motivational' books are just as important reads as sales booksUsing a racial epithet led David to believe his great great grandfather was JapaneseExchange our top 3 qualities which make a great sales personRecall our childhood days of "Show & Tell" with a couple of personal storiesTalk a little about his passion for runningWhy he distrusts charities but explains why he supports the charity YouMeWeThis episode is sponsored by the gugu sleep company http://gugu.jpDavid Sweet: http://drdavidsweet.comSweet Sales: Ginza (Tantanmen)
This episode is a follow-up with 32-year Japan entrepreneur Ruth Jarman. She is the founder of Jarman International, and the author of six books in Japanese. We focus on two of her books: "33 Reasons Japanese should be Proud" and "39 Reasons Japanese are Great" and discuss some of these reasons including her Top 3.  We dive into some cultural analysis complete with personal experience and stories. She is full of infectious energy and passion and together we share many laughs, unique insights, and of course a couple beers at The Rigoletto in Shibuya. Other highlights from our conversation:Japanese are comfortable in being "under the wire" or "avoiding the limelight""Taking it to a higher level" or "Give one's All" is ingrained into Japanese psyche How attracting foreigners is one part of the Japanese government's revitalization strategy for rural JapanWhy Japanese maintain an extreme focus on the "long-term view" of everythingHer greatest accomplishment in her 32-years in JapanThe fundamental Japanese concept of always "Being Wached"Did you know that in 2018, 45% of all 20 year-olds in Shinjyuku ward were non-Japanese?We both share our "themes" for 2020 and a couple of Japanese punsgugu Sleep Company https://gugu.jpJarman International https://www.jarman-international.comRuth Jarman Ruth's books at Amazon ルース・ジャーマンThe Rigoletto Shibuya https://rigoletto/shibuya
This episode I sit down with 32-year Japan entrepreneur Ruth Jarman. She is the founder of Jarman International, a company assisting Japanese destinations and organizations connect with foreign visitors through customized marketing, curated business strategies, and training programs to help them grow and globalize. Or as Ruth likes to say "helping Japan ease into the international age". She is full of infectious energy and passion, and has a lot of great stories. Together we share many laughs, unique insights, and of course a couple beers at The Rigoletto in Shibuya. Other highlights from our conversation:How a Japanese superhero TV program first got her into JapaneseJapan as a destination is bursting with "content"Japanese as hosts, need to understand that foreigners (guests) are probably nervous with interactions, and not the other way aroundWhy she promotes destinations which are very diverse and distant from each otherDiscovering the hidden jewels of Kobayashi City which convinced her to represent themAmazing story of Japanese Caviar How she creates top-of-mind awareness for her destinations with inbound touristsJapanese denim is a good example of Japanese cultural modestyDiscuss "High-Context" communication stylesgugu Sleep Company https://gugu.jpJarman International https://www.jarman-international.comRuth Jarman Ruth's books at Amazon ルース・ジャーマンKobayashi City of Japanese Caviar Rigoletto Shibuya https://rigoletto/shibuya
This episode I chat with Timothy Connor, a successful, long-term Japan resident. His absence of imbibing proves that drinking beers is NOT required of any guest on Business & Beers.  Nonetheless, we discuss in-depth, retail in Japan and how his business Synnovate, specifically his new concept "Responsive" is helping companies adopt a more customer-centric focus through improved customer experience. Timothy believes the future of retail is the customer as the point of sale.  It's more than just a discussion about buzz-words, please join in on this innovative customer approach conversation at Shibuya's TGI Friday's. Some highlights include: Explains the concept behind "The Customer as a Point of Sale"What makes the Japanese consumer "unique""Don't game the system, work the system"Explains his new customer-centric service "Responsive"Why cooking demos don't work at factory outlet shopsHis definition of Omotenashi - "Invisible Service"Debate the effectiveness of retail Net Promoter ScoreWhat is the customer experience "Secret sauce"Andrew introduces some of Zwilling Japan's new customer-centric initiativesHow "Image" rather than potential profits got the old Tokyo Classifieds (now Metropolis magazine) into the Tokyo subway kiosksThis episode is sponsored by the gugu sleep company http://gugu.jpTimothy Connor:
This episode I sit down with one of the sharpest Japan inter-culturally minded people I've ever met. Rochelle Kopp is a Japanese business culture expert and cross-cultural communications specialist and is the founder and Managing Principal of Japan Intercultural Consulting. We share drinks and eye-(ear)-opening facts and stories about Japanese business norms. Its another podcast from the Grand Hyatt's Oak Door bar. Just give the first 5min a listen, I'm sure you will want to continue to the end. Other topics we dive into: The reason Japan loves cute mascots for nearly everythingWhy Ikebana (flower arrangement) is analogous for Japanese on-the-job-trainingThe reason Employee engagement in Japan is one of the lowest in the world"Periodic Personnel Rotations" a typical corporate tradition which holds back Japanese businessWhy a large number of Japanese are in jobs they have no motivation for and how this results in the low labor productivityDiscuss the article "30% of Japanese managers feel stress when dealing with foreign employees"The Japanese government's efforts to improve employees work-life balanceRocelle's take on the future of JapanHow the Japanese generation-gap is changing the way people work in Japangugu Sleep Company https://gugu.jpJapan Intercultural Consulting https://www.japanintercultural.comRochelle Kopp Rice-Paper Ceiling, Valley Speak, The Lowdown, and other books from Rochelle Kopp Japan Times articles
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