• Tokyo


Alex Martin’s Feb. 11 article, “Shoe shiner buffs his trade into fine art,” is a remarkable story of determination, humility, entrepreneurialism and a sharp mind for business growth. Yuya Hasegawa has raised shining shoes to an art form. The article doesn’t mention the fact that there’s a definite psychological appeal to a good shine — the customer feels refreshed, more confident, more attractive and fashionable. And in these difficult economic times, the cost of a shine is far less than a new pair of shoes or a new suit.

Where else, but in Japan, would a young person pursue his dream of being the best, even at shining shoes, and succeed? I did the math and if Hasegawa shines a mere 40 pairs of shoes a day at an average price of ¥2,000, that’s ¥80,000 per day. If he works only 20 days a month, his gross will be about ¥1.6 million per month! This doesn’t include his special restorative work with older pairs of shoes and making “house calls.”

Hasegawa is a very impressive young man and I wish him much success in the future. One day he might very well open a shoeshine and repair shop in Paris or New York. He’ll have over 100 employees and be a very wealthy business owner. No doubt he might expand into retail shoe sales and/or other fashion apparel. I admire the fact that Hasegawa had the gumption to open his own business even as the world economy began to slump. Most guys his age are looking for work in a company. Few dream of opening their own shop or business.

It will be enterprising young people like Hasegawa who will one day transform Japan’s economy again. Maybe “corporatism” has run its course. He’s his own boss and loves what he does. There’s a lesson in his success for all of us. Thank you for publishing his success story. I’m going to save it for my English classes.

robert mckinney

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