Interviewed & written by Isao Tokuhashi
Mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephane Danton (France)
Japanese tea merchant
(He’s been in Japan since ’92)
Stephane Danton has been offering unique products with his fresh ideas. You can relax yourself with a cup of fragrantly-scented tea and delicious cakes there. Also you can buy adorable gadgets at a shop. He created such a relaxing space, so you may think he is a calm person.
But actually he offers harsh words about Japan and Japanese people. This healing space was created by his adversarial quality.
*Interview at “Ocharaka” (Kichijoji, Tokyo)
*You can learn his business philosophy… Click here!
*Edited by Daniel Penso
I’ll be back home to franchise my business.
What brought me to Japan is my wife. She wanted to give birth to our child here. I thought I would be able do find a job because I was a sommelier. So I knocked at the gate of Japan Sommelier Association but they said I wouldn’t be able to be a member because I’m French. So I went to a French tea shop in Tokyo and started my career in Japan there.
I don’t dislike it here because you have to work wherever you live. In Japan, there are many good things and some bad things. In France also, there are many good points and some bad points. The same can be said about anywhere.
I have my home and family here so Japan is my home. But I will be back home to franchise my business. I want to franchise our shop “Ocharaka” in France.
Of course I will keep living in Japan. My wife and kids are here so Japan is my home. But I want to do something like living in France for three months, living in Japan for six months and in France again for three months… I will establish such a lifestyle by myself.
Japanese people protect themselves.
I have many things which I don’t like. For example, Japanese people tend to organize an association and defend their own interests. In my eyes, they are totally weak. They protect themselves like woodlice. They attend study sessions which are held by themselves but actually they don’t learn anything. I want to tell them not to protect themselves or their interests.
I want to say one more thing. Don’t do what your neighbors do! You have to think about something by yourself. You should be alone and aim for the top. But they don’t. That’s why Japanese are weak.
Also Japanese politicians are bad. They have no political capacity. I have no right to vote here but I don’t want it even if I can have. They become politicians because their fathers are politicians. They seek elections from their fathers’ electoral districts.
In rural areas, Japan Agricultural Cooperatives protect farmers’ interests and provide subsidies to agriculture people. There’s no competition among them. But OK, I don’t care.
The social system in Japan is suited only for big companies. Banks in Japan don’t bankroll small companies very much now. I actually borrowed money but I had a solid plan for repayment from someone because banks didn’t bankroll my business. So I want to franchise my business in France.
You dump great treasures.
What I hate in Japan is that people don’t make much of their own history.
I preserve old tea chests here. Customers come here and buy new ones. They say that they had many old boxes but they wanted new ones because the newer the better. I can’t understand. Old tea boxes have their forte. They don’t know how to use old things. They dump great treasures in front of them.
Even if you got it only five years ago, it has a five-year history. If you care about something which has only a five-year history, it will be passed down 100 years later. So you have to take care of something you got five years ago. That’s “history”.
An express way runs above a traditional bridge in Tokyo. In the course of nature, an express way should run underground in order not to spoil the beauty. I know it would cost much money. But we should preserve its history even if the government pumps tax money into the huge undertaking. That’s important.
Do you cherish things around you?
Good things are in rural areas or the countryside in Japan. Beautiful scenery, people’s personal warmth. You cannot enjoy those things in Tokyo.
On the other hand, you can see many treasures in the countryside. For example, there’s a hot spring resort in western Japan. There’s a beautiful lake in that area. There are many wonderful places in the countryside. Not only a big Buddha statue, not only Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto. I know they are amazing but what I want to say is that you should take care of things in front of you. If you don’t review those, Japan will get ruined.
Why does the Shinkansen, the bullet train, have to be an elevated railroad? We don’t build elevated railroad tracks in France. You have many treasures in Japan but you destroy them. You have to restore a balance between nature and technology as soon as possible.
*Photos by Mariko Kodaira
What is Tokyo to you?
I’m living in Yokosuka, a port city which is 30 miles away from Tokyo. It’s my best place to live.
The best places to live are always in the countryside, not in Tokyo.
Ocharaka (Japanese): ocharaka.co.jp/
*You can learn his business philosophy… Click!