Buy Less, Choose Well, Make It Last


The political turmoil over the US presidential election seems to have settled down, but there still have been a lot of related news where I found a name that hasn’t been seen for a year or two. It’s Greta Thunberg. I didn’t mean to discuss the rights and wrongs of her words and actions. Her speech at the UN Climate Action Summit 2019 made her world-famous. To be honest, my inner reaction left a strong impression on me, rather than the speech itself. At that time, I listened to her speech on the part of people who are criticized and responsible to the environmental problems she posed. I’ve finally realized I become an adult, though it’s too late for my age.

In my youth, the same as many other people, I was defiant and ambitious enough to fantasize to change the existing world order. If I had seen someone raising a battle cry like Greta at that time, I would have conformed to the opinion without pretense. It’s not like young people are narrow-minded or naïve. My point is there is a big difference in the roles of human ecosystem between youths and adults. Youths are supposed to insist to change the existing order. No one would be happy to be criticized, but it’s the crucial role of adults to be challenged by youths. At least by thinking that way, I believe we can be calm and have more constructive discussion.

Conde House tree planting held annually by the employees and their families.

I assume another reason why many adults have been reacting against Greta would be due to psychological reactance. You have talked back to your parents “I was just about to do it!” haven’t you? That’s psychological reactance. In other words, most of us have already understood and agreed we should do something to protect the environment. In addition, major global companies and institutional investors smell the money in the environmental business. For Conde House, environmental protection is a fundamental issue because we’re a part of the forest industry. The company has carried out environmental protection measures for years, such as tree planting, no-use of petroleum fuel for heating, installation of solar panels, etc. Let me wrap up this article with the quote of Vivian Westwood, a little revised though. Buy less, choose us, and make it last.


Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.



Photo Credit: https://home.bt.com/news/showbiz-news/dame-vivienne-westwood-greta-thunberg-would-be-great-as-world-controller-11364385821761

Break Out of Your Shell


According to my speculation, most of us feel a sense of destiny when we decide to buy something, especially when it’s big-ticket items such as houses and cars. We may happen to see some articles saying “Now is the best time to buy!” Or we may remember our horoscopes we saw in some magazine. No offense, but there’s no such destiny in our buying behavior. It’s confirmation bias. Me? Of course, always biased, the same as before. I have been trading stocks for years. In most cases when I place orders, I feel like I found secret signs that only a genius can see. Guess what happened next? I stopped facing the reality (the balance of my brokerage account). Be wary of confirmation bias.

Destiny doesn’t guide us to significant information. We always seek information supporting our decision. As Caesar said, men willingly believe what they wish to believe. This human psychology is the source of the bias. Making matters worse, there’s another human nature enhancing the bias, which is our pride. It isn’t a pleasant experience for anyone to admit a mistake. In order to justify our decision, we always try to collect and cling to supportive information. Fraud is a good example. We can’t get out even though being vaguely aware that it may be a fraud, unless we admit our mistake.

Monument in our company forest.

Last time, I wrote about how difficult it is to attract attention in the market. This bias can be said to be one of the factors for that. In most markets, brand hierarchies have been already established, and confirmation bias obstructs people from turning their attention to outside the top brands. I didn’t mean there was no chance for new brands, like us in the world furniture market. Confirmation bias is like a flywheel. It’s difficult to make it move, but once starting to move, it helps us gain momentum. People’s shells are reinforced every day, get more difficult to break, but I’m always writing desperately telling myself that a little leak will sink a great ship.


Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.



Photo Credit: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/03/this-article-wont-change-your-mind/519093/

Walk on Water


Do you know how many advertisements are on your commuting route or on the webpages you browsed yesterday? The world is full of advertisements, but people sometimes don’t even notice they exist. Marketers always consider how to attract attention. Every time seeing advertisements, I ask myself “What in them have got my attention?” One day, I found a great one as shown in the above image. It’s a cosmetic company advertisement of which copy starts “As most of you won’t read advertising boards anyway, I’m just writing about my favorite thing.” The following sentences just express how and why s/he likes an ermine (the animal in the image). Consequently, the board has become the focus of great public attention. S/he must be a genius.

An advertisement giving up on advertising. It’s unique and unprecedented, isn’t it? Another great point, which I really like, is its sociality. In the interview, one of the creators answered “I just hoped it would at least help people have a chance to talk about their favorite things, as I believe such a world must be better and more fun.” I can’t help but respect their attitude aiming for something higher than advertising.

Some people may think the above advertisement is meaningless after all, saying “It just got attention for a short while.” I don’t think so. Have you ever heard of the AIDA or AIDMA model? It is the process of human psychology up to buying behavior, which starts from “Attention” but doesn’t tell how to draw it. When first leaning this, I felt like I was taught how to walk on water, like “Pulling up your left foot before putting your right foot down.” Attention getting is most important and difficult.

The entrance of our headquarters office under the early summer sky.

I dare to say the articles of this blog have some similarities to their advertisement. We’re a furniture manufacturer, but the articles don’t emphasize furniture, on purpose for uniqueness. We have no chance of survival even if advertising in the same way as major brands and manufacturers. Another similarity is I’m writing about what I like or am interested in. Different from their high aspirations, it’s not the public interest but readers’ interest in us that I aim for, though I’m a little embarrassed.


Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.



Photo Credit: https://www.advertimes.com/20200729/article320032/

Nothing in Excess


Have you ever experienced the Japanese commuter rush in the morning? No? Lucky you. While living in Tokyo, I had endured the cruel treatment for more than three years. On the platform of any station in Japan, door positions are marked up. Seeing long queues at the marks on the platform, commuters sigh at the thought of a great trip ahead. As I always thought that was strange, members in respective queues were almost the same, though there were around 15 queues. Me? Yes, always in the same queue without a rational reason. I don’t think other people also would have had a particular reason. Every morning, the usual faces in my queue reminded me that I was firmly caught up in the status quo bias. It seems human beings really dislike changes. Today, I didn’t mean to criticize from a height, saying “You should change,” but try to defend the human nature somehow.

As most of you may have already known that, let me explain the basic structure of the status quo bias. We select our behavior every second. The selection is decided by the comparison of reward and loss resulting from the behavior. What is important here is we are designed to take loss more seriously because it’s related more directly to our lives. In other words, our survival instinct makes us avoid changes. Due to the self-defense instinct, most of us avoid changes, while just a few people aspire to them. In any age, innovators, reformers, or first penguins are more likely to be touted, but I believe the good balance of risk orientation is important to make our society more resilient and sustainable. Changes can’t be made without objects to be changed, such as social norms or people every morning in the same queue without a rational reason.

The President of Conde House, looks conservative but is actually innovative.

Basically, Conde House is a conservative business. To begin with, furniture manufacturing is not novel or trendy at all. Most of the directors still wear ties and jackets, not in black turtlenecks and jeans. However, our president is always actively adopting latest technologies, business schemes, etc. This good balance may be one of the reasons why the company is resilient to survive for more than 50 years.


Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.



Photo Credit: https://itsyourjapan.com/15-things-you-should-not-do-when-visiting-japan/

The Age of Just-Looking Customers


The epoch-making business was born in the Silicon Valley in 2015, and finally arrived in Tokyo, Japan last year. It’s about b8ta. Let me explain their business model in very short. The shop of b8ta is divided into some compartments. Brands display their products at the compartments by paying a certain amount of money to b8ta. The monthly fixed rate includes everything, like the costs of staff, inventory management, logistics support, POS, etc. There’s no sales margin required, and brands can limit their risks. The highlight of their system is detailed marketing data provided to brands, such as the number of customers stopping at a product, how long a customer picked up a product, not to mention demographic data. Among other things, what impressed me most is the concept of their business. The main purpose of b8ta shops is not to sell products, and so, they call their business as RaaS (Retail as a Service).

As we also run some shops to sell our own products across Japan, we deeply understand how difficult it is to keep making profits in retail. I guess furniture retail is still OK because most people—at least for now—would like to confirm actual products before purchase, but generally, e-commerce is now overwhelmingly superior. People are more likely to buy various articles (even fresh food) online. From this point of view, RaaS looks reasonable. Shops are no longer places to sell but advertise and market products.

Conde House Nagoya

I think this change of shop’s role would create another big benefit: we are free from pressure to buy something on site! Am I not the only one who hesitates to go in luxury places? I may not be able to even breathe in a luxury shop such as Rolex, Lexus, for example. If it’s a b8ta shop, I could casually try on Rolex watches, and even settle back into the seat of a Lexus car. Surprisingly enough, I’ve heard some people said our shops also look too exclusive to casually drop in. Indeed, mood or atmosphere is important to show off products. We always pay close attention to the interior design, lighting, color coordination, etc. of the shops, which may make them look a little exclusive, I guess. However, we totally understand furniture is not a thing people decide to buy on the spot. Our shops are not b8ta, but please feel free to visit us!

Photo Credit: https://www.rli.uk.com/b8ta/


Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.


The Origin of a Name


I wrote about a name last time, which has reminded me of another thing about a name. Most of the Japanese, American, and British cars have pet names, like TOYOTA PRIUS, CHEVROLET CORVETTE, Rolls-Royce Phantom, while German cars don’t. It sounds like a product code rather than a name, like BMW 320i and Mercedes-Benz 500E. According to my research, pet names force car makers to bear more risk of controlling the rights. They have to register trademark rights for many words for future products. On the other hand, the naming way of German cars is easier and more practical. People can see the class and sometimes even engine size of a car from its name, but I personally like pet names. How about you?

I was once a car enthusiast and replaced cars almost every year in my 20s. One of my favorite is NISSAN Fairlady Z which may be better known as “Z-car” outside Japan. It’s a famous story that then president of NISSAN named it after the musical “My Fair Lady.” If he had liked “Hello, Dolly!” it might have been DOLLY Z, by the way. The Z came from “Z-flag” which is one of the international maritime signal flags, meaning “I need a tug.” Only in Japan, it means Victory. I believe this kind of background stories would grow customer attachment to products more, though ill-fated names have been born sometimes, like MITSUBISHI LEGNUM (It’s from a Latin word “regnum” but just sounds like leg numb).

All of our products have pet names. The designers and our management always have serious discussions to decide names. Each name has a specific meaning to express how it is born. For example, one of our best-selling chairs was named TEN which means heavenly sky in Japanese. The feature of the chair is its backrest made of resin. It was a big challenge for us because we had never used such material for our products. Consequently, the chair turned out light and comfortable, and people may feel like being in the air. This is the reason why it was named TEN. The problem is it’s sometimes a little confusing when we receive an order, like “Oh, you meant four TEN chairs. 10-4!”

Photo Credit: https://japaneseuniverse.com/2020/07/07/what-do-the-names-of-japanese-car-brands-mean/


Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.


The Power of a Name


Spirited Away: The main character signed away her name and came under the control of the witch.

I started playing the guitar when I was 15 years old. It was around when NIRVANA started dominating the music scene and destroying the existing values. People made a fuss, saying “Alternative Rock is not tainted by commercialism.” I gave cold look to such fanatical people. NIRVANA didn’t look new to me at all because they had a name, the same as the existing bands. I know names are practically necessary, but the old me purely wanted rock musicians to be anti-establishment. Let me introduce real rock in that sense. It’s Souseki Natsume. He is the most famous novelist in Japan (1867 – 1916). His masterpiece is “I Am a Cat.” The story starts with these sentences “I am a cat. As yet I have no name.” How rock it is! Today, let’s dig deeper the power of a name.

Do you know Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis? It can be interpreted in short as “language is equal to thought.” This interpretation is not widely supported. Alternatively, it’s nowadays interpreted not to deny all the non-linguistic thoughts. When first learning the hypothesis, I remembered a movie “The Never Ending Story (1984).” As the fantasy world of Fnatasia is being devoured by “The Nothing,” the inhabitants come to forget everything but their names. I had wondered at that time why names were exceptions, but now I feel like I can understand. Ultimately, without names, we can’t even recognize objects. Everything in the world exists by name.

As you may already be aware, the reason why I’m writing about names is to make our brand name more memorable to you. The name, CONDE HOUSE, was created not to have a specific meaning in most places, so that we can be widely accepted all over the world. I’d like it to be synonymous with good furniture in the near future, the same as in Japan. Thank you very much for reading this article to the end. In the narrow sense of Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, we today come into the world by your awareness of our name.


Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.


Photo Credit: https://beneaththetangles.com/2015/11/05/sen-to-chihiro-control-to-freedom-the-significance-of-names-here-and-forevermore/

Tidy up to Spark Joy


I was so surprised when learning that it is prohibited to hang the laundry outside in some places overseas. We, Japanese people really like to hang the laundry under the sun light. Japanese climate of high humidity is said to be the main reason of it. Recently, more washing machines come to have a drying function. Most Japanese people would still prefer hanging the laundry outside, saying they like to smell the scent of the sun. I completely agree. The scent of towels and bed linen hung outside reminds me of younger days in bright summer. However, there’s one thing I can’t abide about washing. It’s folding the laundry. What is the point of it all? We have to unfold clothes to put them on. It seems irrational, meaningless, and a waste of time.

My above statement may sound extreme. It’s like stopping eating because we get hungry again anyway. I know, but I can’t help feeling empty when putting on socks that folded the day before. I’ve found on the Internet many people who have the same worries. Some people proudly explain their time-saving techniques of folding; some people seem to get desperate and just stop folding. Indeed, I was encouraged by knowing I’m not alone, but what I had really wanted is a rational reason to convince me to fold the laundry.

Have you ever heard of KonMari Method? Marie Kondo is a pro organizer. Her Netflix show “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” exploded in popularity. Many Japanese business books have analyzed why she gained such a great reputation overseas, and what makes her different from other organizers. What impressed me most is an analysis that she focuses on not techniques but psychological effectiveness of tidying up. According to her concept, folding the laundry is worth because we can make a fresh start with clothes neatly folded.

On the last working day of a year, we spend most of the time to tidy up work place. It’s a Japanese tradition to welcome the god of the incoming year, which results in making us start working better and freshly in the following year. Of course, our factory was completely cleaned up on the last working day, and we’re ready to make this year a great one!

Photo Credit: https://organizing-geneva.com/what-does-marie-kondos-netflix-show-really-tell-us-3-2/


Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.