Name: David Bickle
Occupation: President of the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan; chartered accountant with Deloitte Tohmatsu Tax Co.
Likes: Rugby, autumn, reading with my daughter
Dislikes: Defeatism, mediocrity
1. What first brought you to Japan? A chance to work and play rugby for Kobe Steel Ltd.
2. What’s keeping you here? A desire to make a positive contribution to this country, which has provided me with so many opportunities, and to strengthen its business ties with the United Kingdom.
3. Do you miss any particular item from the United Kingdom? My family and friends, which are irreplaceable.
4. Where do you go to escape Tokyo? Kobe — a beautiful city nestled between Mount Rokko and the sea, which was my home for six years in the ’90s.
5. What’s your favorite Japanese word or phrase? “虎穴に入らずん場、虎児を得ず” (“Koketsu ni irazunba koji wo ezu,” or roughly “You can’t catch a tiger cub without entering a tiger’s cave”). It’s so much more descriptive than its English equivalent, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
6. What’s your favorite phrase in any language? “Courtesy costs nothing.” Among the many things the world can learn from Japan, this should be very high up on the list.
7. Where are we most likely to find you at 10 o’clock on a Friday night? At a gym near my office. Its late opening hours are a boon. It’s also the best time to avoid the crush.
8. Where are we most likely to find you at 10 o’clock on a Saturday morning? Catching up on the weekend newspapers over a coffee in one of Tokyo’s excellent cafes.
9. You played lock for Japan’s national rugby team in 1996 and 1998. What was the biggest challenge you faced in achieving that? Surviving the training camps in one piece. Although training methods were pretty enlightened with Kobe Steel and Japan, I never quite learned to love the camps. You had to be smart enough to manage your condition in order to deliver on match day — when it counted.
10. It would have been unusual to represent another country in those days. How was this received back home? Friends, family and former teammates all recognized it as a great honor. They did wonder, though, whether it meant I had had to take up Japanese citizenship (which, incidentally, was not required).
11. What’s your favorite sporting memory? Playing for Kobe Steel against the Barbarians (rugby team). It was a charity match after the 1995 earthquake, and to be able to help lift local morale by beating the world’s most iconic invitational team was a very special experience.
12. What steps must Japan take to ensure the Rugby World Cup 2019 and the 2020 Olympics are a success? Success will be measured not only by reference to the tournaments themselves, but by the quality and endurance of the legacy that follows.
13. As president of the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan, what advice do you give U.K. businesses wanting to break into the Japanese market? A quality product or service is, of course, a must, but be sure to stress-test your value proposition with people who really understand your Japanese target market. Then be prepared to customize your offering and/or the way you deliver it.
14. What are the biggest challenges of doing business in Japan? Reconciling the need to invest and plan for the medium to long term, while facing pressure to achieve quick wins.
15. In your view, what steps must Japan take to ensure the economy recovers? Implement the structural reforms of the government’s growth strategy, in particular measures to increase female participation in the workforce.
16. If you could share a bottle of wine with anyone from history, who would it be? William Adams — the first Englishman to arrive in Japan 400 years ago not only survived, but thrived here. He would be the ultimate oracle on cross-cultural communication.
17. What song best describes your work ethic? “Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba — “I get knocked down, but I get up again.” Rugby taught me that it’s how you react to failure that forms the foundation for future success. Giving up will get you nowhere.
18. Who would win a fight between a lion and tiger? The tiger. It’s just as aggressive as a lion — and bigger.
19. What do you want to be when you grow up? Everyone needs a plan, but mine is a work in progress, and probably always will be — that is what makes life interesting.
20. Do you have any words of advice for young people? Never be afraid to ask questions. Most people respond positively to enthusiasm, and you’ll hopefully be pleasantly surprised at how willing they are to share their advice and experience if you show motivation to learn.
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