Interviewed & written by Isao Tokuhashi
Mail to: email@example.com
She looks lily, but actually she is very energetic and passionate. Her target is mainly Asia and has introduced 1000 million people to services and products from Japan. And she challenged a big international project – selling Japanese “Night views” to Hong Kong.
We met her at an event which was held by “GTIC” (Global Techno Innovation Cafe) in the summer of 2012. GTIC is an entrepreneurial group led by Tomo Akiyama, a startup accelerator, and she joined his meetup as a presenter. We felt empathy for her activity like “Conveying Japan for people in overseas” and wanted to hear stories from her.
Then we met her again at another GTIC event last Spring and conducted an interview with her a few months later. It led us to come to the conclusion; “Great people never let fate take its course. They always try to find happiness and achieve it by themselves.”
The same goes for another Japanese businessperson who we interviewed. Ayaka Sugiyama, an executive director of Kawakami Sangyo (a company which is famous for bubble wrap. *Click here to read her interview). People who grow as human beings know “The more actions you take, the more chances you have”. We realized that after this interview.
Hong Kong meetup for night view lovers
“Night View Summit in Hong Kong” was held in September 2013. Originally I love watching the beautiful town lights at night very much. I used to go to Odaiba, one of popular night view spots in Tokyo, three times a week. I really love Tokyo Tower illumination, so I went to see it in the middle of the night. Moreover I drove from Tokyo even to Hakodate (about 700km) to see its beautiful night view.
I’ve spread made-in-Japan things around Asia and love both night views and Hong Kong. So I co-organized the event with an organization called “Night View Sightseeing Convention Bureau” led by Moto-o Marumaru, a night view commentariat. I often checked the information of night views, so of course I knew about him. But he was not a person who brought me to the event.
I produced a DVD which featured the night view from the top of Chiba Port Tower. It’s because a person who often came to my event called “After Nine Lounge” worked for the management company of the tower. Night view photos were taken by Harutaka Nodera and the background music was composed by Yuriko Nakamura. Both are my favorites and photos harmonized really well with music. So I feel so much for this work.this work.
Left: With Harutaka Nodera (Photographer) and Yuriko Nakamura (Composer)
Right: The DVD of Chiba Port Tower. It’s sold at shops in the tower and Nakamura’s online music store.
I thought that I would need to publicize the DVD in order to show it to many people. So I asked Marumaru to spread it through media because he is a kind of celebrity. Also I talked to him about making DVDs of 175 night views that are registered on the list of the organization called “Night View Inheritance of Japan“.
Then Marumaru brought up the idea of “Night View Summit in Hong Kong”.
Footage of Chiba Port Tower DVD
Attracting people in Asian continent to Japan
I’ve been engaged in “product placement” in the films made in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. I’ve done that because I wanted to spread made-in-Japan stuffs around Asian continent. For example, I was in charge of PR on a Japanese discount chain called “Don Quixote” and promote it through the film called “Tokyo Newcomer“, a Japan-China co-production (Directed by Jiang Qinmin).
Then the job offers began rolling in from Japanese tourism industry. And I got interested in attracting more people to Tokyo as well as publicizing Made-in-Japan things. Actually I became a PR producer because I thought that films would work for tourism industry.
On the other hand, the “Night View Summit” was held four times in several cities such as Tokyo, Osaka and Nagasaki by Marumaru. He wanted to hold the next event in Hong Kong, where is famous the world over for the night view. He was looking for a partner to realize the international event and happened to meet me. He wanted to tell the world how beautiful the night views in Japan are, and I wanted to attract more people in Asian Continent to Japan – the two met with each other and the project started.
Important things to facilitate business
Let me tell you about things that brought me to those big projects. First one is “curiosity”.
I’m curious about everything. I want to know about things even if those are not business-related. I always want to know about something that I don’t know, so I jump in an unknown world. Every time I talk to my friends about people I’ve met, they are surprised and say, “Where did you see such a great guy?” I don’t think whether to go there or talk to him/her very much. I love to mingle with people, so I’ve been blessed with unforeseen meetings, I think.
But a meeting itself never gives you a business opportunity. Second one is “learning from people”.
Before I became a freelancer, I was working at a film promotion company who focuses on arranging tie-ups with manufacturers etc. I really worked hard on sales there, like making sales calls to every single company regardless category of business and making 5 appointment a day. We did it once a week, so we made 20 appointments a month, 240 appointments a year. We created new customers in that way.
I met 240 new people a year in average and learned about many industries. So it was kind of easy for me to find where they wanted to go, so I could provide right solutions to my clients.
After work, I attended many different events. Also I organized my own meetups. I built “my own” human networks. I learned many things through talking to people from many different industries in the daytime, and it paid off in the nighttime. I was in a virtuous cycle and had much luck with wonderful relationships.
In 2008, a Chinese movie called “If You Are the One” was played. It took place in Hokkaido, northernmost of Japan. Thanks to the movie, the number of tourists from China to Hokkaido increased sevenfold! Then I received inquiries from tourism departments of local governments and tour companies in Japan. They didn’t call a company where I was working at that time, they called me directly.
They asked me, “Why don’t you work with Chinese movies?” They wanted me to promote location shooting for Chinese films.
I thought, “Oh, that’s a wonderful idea!” A company I belonged to didn’t work for Chinese movies. I believed that “Publicizing Japan through Chinese movies” must be a huge business. So I became an independent PR producer in January 2010 and established my own company in March 2011.
How to bring in good fortune
As I told you at the start of this interview, I really like Hong Kong. I’ve dreamed of going to Hong Kong on business since I was in my 20s. So I built my network of contacts in Hong Kong movie/TV industry with my personal business cards.
I had no hesitation about visiting film distributors and content producers there. I visited about 30 companies and said, “I’m Japanese and engaged in movies in Japan. I can introduce Japanese to your contents or I can introduce you to Japanese contents. So why don’t you do the business with me?”
I didn’t tell them about a company where I was working for at that time at all. I just told them, “I’m Japanese so I know much more about Japan than you. That’s why I can sell your movies in Japan!”. They got interested in me and introduced me to Chinese filmmakers. That led to the movie “Tokyo Newcomer” in 2012.
I worked for the movie as a “tie-up professional”. I was not only in charge of product placement, but also producing movie itself. As for production placement, I talked to many beverage manufacturers and Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. became my business partner.
A movie “Tokyo Newcomer” was supposed to be played in Japan in October 2012, but the incident involving Senkaku Islands dispute, a territorial dispute among Japan, China and Taiwan, occurred right before screening in Japan. So the plan was called off.
The movie was played throughout China and I was engaged in publicizing it. Thanks to that, I was asked to speak in front of people many times. Then the Senkaku incident happened in September 2012 when I was going to Beijing and Shanghai. I thought that the business in Mainland China would be difficult.
So I decided to focus on Hong Kong and Taiwan. Relationship between Japan and Hong Kong is very good even at the government level. Taiwan people love Japan and those I met said like “I want to be Japanese!”.
So the Night View Summit in Hong Kong was proposed at just the right moment.
HK night view is Chanel’s perfume, JP night view is incense
Hong Kong night view is wonderful. The night attraction called “A Symphony of Lights” which involves many buildings in Hong Kong and they cast lights into the air. Hong Kong Tourism Boardproves themselves with it.
A Symphony of Lights (Photo by Tomoko Komatsuzaki)
HK night view is like a brand-name perfume like Chanel. It’s bright and gorgeous. On the other hand, Japanese night view is like “incense”. It has a light scent, but it nurses our souls. The same goes for Japanese night view. There’s no glitz but you would feel comforted. So I introduced Hong Kong people to Japanese incense-like night views at the event.
Actually many local governments and tourism/restaurant industry in Japan joined us. We held its after-party at a wonderful place where you can enjoy the night views of both Hong Kong Island and Kowloon Island. I worked as a bridge between Japanese and Hong Kong people. Also there were some interpreters, so attendants who couldn’t speak English and/or Cantonese also enjoyed. I believe people who want to attract more people to Japan learned a lot there.
Don’t hate them without understanding
I love Japan. So I’ll keep spreading Japanese beauty around neighbor countries. That’s why I don’t want the relationships between neighboring nations to worsen.
I’ve met people who said, “I hate Chinese”. Then they asked me, “Why are you working with them?”. I asked them back, “Why do you hate them?”. They answered, “No special reason”. I hate it most! Why did they say so even though they had no Chinese friends and they didn’t know about China very much.
On the other hand, there are some Chinese who hate Japanese, too. The same thing happens in China.
I wouldn’t say, “Please understand about us!” to them. But I believe it’s important for us to tell them about our country correctly, to try to know about China correctly and achieve a successful relationship with them.
I believe that communication and trust between individuals in both countries will lead to international mutual understanding. Then I believe my daily activities will create a bright future for us!