Our business focuses on the key phrase Japanese way of life. The emphasis is not simply on presenting an array of products for sale: our aim is to introduce the Japanese sense of living and way of life through various goods and products. We want to create interest in products that are an integral part of the Japanese lifestyle, and that notion is encapsulated in the “Japanese way of life” expression. Our purpose is not just to bring new and exciting products to our customers, but to strive in finding ways to meet and provide beyond expectation and aid in happily enriching the lives of people living in other Asian countries. Rather than simply displaying an assortment of products, we aim to deliver a new experience—introducing the Japanese way of life, which will slowly come to take root in other parts of Asia. Our business focuses strongly on this concept.
In the past, Takashimaya operated a store in New York, and the store concept was “cross-cultural.” The idea behind the venture was to present with a new fusion the products of Japanese culture and American cultural life. At the time, it was, in fact, a real novelty seeing Japanese products on sale in the American landscape. And it was extremely impressive. Now, we are able to bring our expertise to life in Asian countries. However, we are not thinking in terms of cross-cultural trends, but going beyond offering new ideas related to ways of living and lifestyle.
Japan today is enjoying an era of peace that has lasted 70 years. During that period, there has been economic growth. And because of that economic growth and peace, it has been possible for a product culture to evolve. As part of that, the basic meticulous nature of the Japanese has been honed and developed toward its present state. New lifestyles and products have gradually come into being, and so the products and ways of thinking in Japan today are completely different from those of 20 years ago. With that background of peace, the fruit of economic growth in Japan is its present lifestyle—the Japanese way of life. Many countries in Asia are now undergoing economic growth and have entered a new era of living. For that reason, we hope to spread the Japanese way of life there among interested people.
One remarkable feature of Japan is its ability to absorb culture from around the world. For example, gyoza (Chinese-style dumplings), yakitori skewered chicken and curry might all appear together on a family dinner table. They all differ from the original dishes, which were developed in other countries, yet for the Japanese, this is all perfectly normal. This adaptation is a characteristic of Japanese cuisine. The same applies to dishwashers. Dishwashing machines in Japan have to be able to clean rice bowls, platters, small plates, small bowls and variously shaped pieces of tableware. In the United States, though, it is basically fine if a dishwasher is simply able to accommodate flat plates and drinking glasses stacked side by side. And so when designing a dishwashing machine in Japan, it is necessary to come up with various ideas to adapt to the specific needs of our lifestyles. It may be said that dishwashers represent Western culture, but they have been elaborated upon and integrated carefully into the Japanese way of life. For the dishwasher to be a convenient device for daily life, it has to be appropriate for the eating habits of the particular country in question. I think it is our role as TAKATRANS to proceed in a similar way—offer products with a new function or purpose that can provide added value to the lives of people in other Asian countries.
Some Japanese products possess distinctive qualities, and they may also have the potential to find global use. The initial step is discovering good products and establishing congenial relations with the creators, artists or manufacturers involved. We believe it is necessary to focus on particular products and make decisions based on them. We will first focus on the area of food and on household articles, which are closely connected in terms of daily life. Japan produces an excellent baby- and child-care articles and underwear. Since the child population is on the rise in many parts of Asia, we believe there should be considerable demand for these items as well. It is also likely that there will be substantial demand for Japanese art and design.
We believe that Takashimaya has a strong image as a long-established business, but the company does in fact have a history of constantly trying out new things. The company started off as a secondhand clothes store before becoming a cotton merchant, a dry-goods store and then, in the Meiji period (1868–1912), a trader. Thereafter, the history as a department store began. Before the Second World War, Takashimaya operated in a similar fashion to today’ s 100-yen shops or American dollar stores. So Takashimaya has always been in step with the times, and it has developed based on input from its consumers. In addition, Takashimaya has supported artists and developed such business activities as incorporating culture into everyday life. And that brings the company’ s history to the present. While responding to the needs of the times, the company and its business conditions have undergone change. All this has been the result of meeting various social needs.
I believe that this DNA of Takashimaya is something we should capitalize on. This means that Takashimaya is not simply a department store selling luxury merchandise: it has the DNA that can respond to the needs of society at a particular time. The Takashimaya brand does, of course, have name recognition in the Asian region, and while utilizing its brand assets the company will place great importance on its aesthetic sense in selecting quality products. As to why TAKATRANS deals with such products, that is something I believe we constantly need to affirm. As to why TAKATRANS should select particular products, that is something we constantly need to re-examine. Also, we have to constantly think of the significance for our Japanese partners in exporting through TAKATRANS. The meaning behind our business purpose in all these aspects must be constantly reviewed.
Takashimaya is able to take advantage of the discerning judgment it has developed over the years. This involves more than simply dealing with individual products: I think it amounts to being able to export an entire store. And to local retailers, we would like to introduce various products, sales techniques, and know-how. Efficient maintenance of merchandise in a store, which is one of the wholesaler’ s key functions, is something we will be able to offer as part of the Japanese way of life. In any event, we believe that having the ability and energy to change with the times is extremely important. It is this energy for change that invigorates individuals and businesses alike.