Name: Yoko Kaiki
Likes: Hiking, traveling, listening to music, enjoying good wine and whisky
1. Where do you go to escape Tokyo? Scandinavia. I love hiking in the mountains, swimming in lakes and the beautiful scenery.
2. What do you miss most about Japan when you are overseas? Excellent customer service and hospitality.
3. What’s your favorite Japanese word or phrase? “節気” (sekki, or the 24 seasons of the Japanese calendar). Each season is divided into six different stages.
4. What’s your favorite phrase in any language? “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” It’s so true.
5. What’s the most exciting/outrageous thing you have ever done? I traveled to the Arctic Circle by dog sled. I also drank a mixture of alcohol and reindeer’s blood, and sung a traditional Sami song.
6. You founded your own company, Scanjap Inc., about 10 years ago. What obstacles have you encountered in your bid to succeed as a female entrepreneur in Japan? There were several obstacles, but mainly the gender issue. Japanese men told me: “Happiness for women is to get married, have kids and support a family at home.” I was struggling with this sort of stereotype in Japanese society.
7. How have you attempted to overcome these difficulties? I have tried to develop mental and emotional strength. I also strived to be an expert in my business field. It also helped to build broad business connections and find mentors. But most importantly, I believed in myself.
8. From your experiences, what advice can you offer other young female entrepreneurs who might wish to follow in your footsteps? Set a goal, go ahead and do it. When I started up my own company at age 25, I did not know anything about practical matters. Once you start, however, you have to absorb knowledge and learn while you are inferior, and you have to trust your own capability.
9. Has your family been supportive of your chosen career? My family has been very supportive. My parents are proud of what I’m doing and my sister has been working at my company since 2008. As my father inherited a company from his father, my family knows how difficult it is to run the business. My father is the best mentor for me.
10. Scanjap Inc. focuses on the importation of Scandinavian products. What first piqued your interest in Scandinavia? When I traveled to Scandinavia for the first time, everything was fresh and fascinating. Even nowadays, I still learn lots of new things. Cultural values and traditions are mirrored by design, and so I thought that introducing design products with a story that is supported by a brand could make the lives of Japanese people more fulfilling.
11. What attracts Japanese consumers to Scandinavian products? High quality, minimalism and functionality. They suit Japanese-style houses and can help foster a sophisticated lifestyle.
12. What similarities have you observed in the way Japanese and Scandinavian companies conduct business? At least from my experience, it’s not only business. There are also similarities in how people form personal relationships.
13. Any differences? Meetings in Scandinvia are more constructive and interactive compared to Japan.
14. If you could share a bottle of wine with any entrepreneur from history, who would it be? Shinjiro Torii, the founder of Suntory. I admire his devotion and steadfast passion. We would probably share Yamazaki whisky instead of a bottle of wine though!
15. What do you think about when standing on the train? I don’t have a TV, so I often study the advertisements and entertainment news.
16. If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title should be? “My story.” I would like to write it myself one day.
17. How would you get an elephant into a refrigerator? Elephants do not need to be in refrigerators — let them be free.
18. Who would win a fight between a lion and tiger? Neither of them would win. I think they wouldn’t fight unless they were forced.
19. What do you want to be when you grow up? A politician.
20. Do you have any other words of advice for young people? A mentor once told me, “Your challenges will never end, you have to be flattered by your achievements.” Sometimes it is difficult to see your achievements when you are struggling, but you have to look back and evaluate them from time to time. Everything you try to accomplish will come back to you in the form of experience.
For more information on Scanjap Inc., visit scanjap.com. Tilda & Friends sells Scandinavian lifestyle products at Mituskoshi Nihonbashi department store (Annex Bldg., 8F): mitsukoshi.mistore.jp/store/nihombashi/fcs/english/index.html