Manifesto of Eco-friendliness


Did you know that many brands changed their logos lately? Such as BMW, VW, and Nissan in the automotive industry, for example. It is the mainstream to make it simpler. Speaking of simplification, the most famous example would be Starbucks. When the brand was launched, the scales of the mermaid were depicted one by one. Now, the scales were abstracted into wavy lines, and even the brand name was removed. One of the reasons for the simplification trend is said to be a reaction against the old days when companies tried to dress them up with ornate and decorative logos. Now, the simpler the better?

Another reason for the simplification trend, which is considered as the biggest one, is good visibility in digital devices. This sounds also reasonable because most people access information mainly from their digital devices, but doesn’t always work. The famous failure case is the logo change of Tropicana. By simplifying the original logotype in a tropical style and also the original symbol mark (the orange with the straw), their advantage (the brand image of freshness, 100%, etc.) was lost. The sales dropped by 20%, and Tropicana decided to return to its original logo only in one month. The point seems to be if a logo change has a focused intention or not.

Now, some of you who know our logo change made recently may be a bit worried about us, assuming we’ve just followed the trend. Of course, it’s the market that will finally judge if it is accepted or not, but there is a focused intention in our logo change, at least. The old one (each serif-font letter in a red box) was developed when we decided to expand our business into the US market. The red color comes from the Japanese national flag. It was a kind of manifesto: “From Japan into the world market” Even now, it’s still one of our important goals to become an international brand, but nowadays, another one emerges as more important: eco-friendliness. It is a natural consequence for us, a wooden furniture manufacturer, using a gift from the forest. The new company color (deep green) expresses the forest around the company in Hokkaido, and the symbol mark is an oak tree composed of C and H, the initial letters of Conde House, we hoping you will like it!


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.condehouse.co.jp/?lng=ja_en


Japanese Ambiguity


S/he once sharply criticized the government, but after becoming a politician, s/he comes to repeat ambiguous remarks and looks like losing her/his former self. I’m sure you’ve seen this kind of change of mind. You may feel betrayed and think “I could always achieve social justice.” I didn’t mean to defend all the politicians, but believe most of them are not faithless. First of all, there’s no such thing as absolute justice or evil. Indeed, it is right to pursue the greatest happiness for the greatest number in utilitarianism, but the tyranny of the majority sometimes hurts the minority so deep that people can’t coexist after confrontation. In a sense, decent politicians are meant to be ambiguous.

In terms of ambiguity, I believe Japanese people are second to none in the world. Majority vote is rarely adopted in a company meeting, and even company representatives don’t like to be seen as imposing their opinions. A consensus, decision, etc. are made ambiguously. This national character may be related to the uniqueness of the Japanese language that can complete sentences without a subject. I was so irritated by this ambiguity when younger, condemning such people as irresponsible, but now come to think Japanese ambiguity seen especially at work place may be ancient wisdom to keep working in harmony as an organization.

You may wonder how the quality of work is maintained under such conditions as people don’t know clearly where responsibility lies. We don’t need other people’s eyes to pursue responsibility because of a genetic factor. Japanese people have more S-alleles of the serotonin transporter, and we are genetically more anxious (self-tortured). It is said to be the result of natural selection unique to the island country prone to a lot of natural disasters such as tsunamis, earthquakes, etc. In other words, we can’t work without ambiguity because we’re too anxious and scared. I think it’s similar to backlash for furniture. The joint parts of some furniture must have backlash to absorb the expansion and contraction of wood. The modern age of digitalization allows less and less room for ambiguity, but I think physical things like us, furniture, etc. still need it.


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://blog.gaijinpot.com/7-things-know-japanese-politics/

How to Spend Money Right


It is common for me to lose (rare to make) thousands of dollars a day in the stock market. On the other hand, I sometimes give up buying cereal only because it doesn’t sell at a bargain price, though I eat it almost every morning. I once bought a suit at more than 2,000 USD but hardly ever wore it. This may be a natural result for a man like me who always wear UNIQLO (synonym for cheap clothes in Japan) from head to toe at home. It seems spending money is as difficult as making it. Today’s subject is “How to spend money right.” Let me share an interesting paper by Harvard psychologists.

“Money can’t buy happiness. This sentiment is lovely, popular, and almost certainly wrong.” One of the coauthors, Daniel Gilbert started the paper with such a sensational introduction, proposing the eight money principles to guide our spending. As some of you guessed it, I tried, as always, to draw a good conclusion to recommend the purchase of our products, but I found it difficult this time because the first one of the eight money principles is: “Buy experiences instead of things.” It seems I made a mistake in subject selection, but give me a chance.

Another one of the principles says “Buy many small pleasures instead of few big ones.” He raises an alert over our ability or curse to adapt, saying “Expensive new iPhone will inevitably reveal itself to be just a smartphone in a matter of weeks.” I should buy good cereal and even toppings instead of blowing money on the stock market (dreaming of making a fortune); wear a little better loungewear instead of paying a lot for clothes to wear once or twice in a lifetime.

Let me forcibly conclude today’s article, though I know it’s the slightly broader interpretation (or intentional misinterpretation) of the principle. The quality of life and cost performance get better by spending more money on things we use often and for a long time. In that sense, I can say buying furniture, especially our durable products, would be a right way of spending money.


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.aarp.org/money/budgeting-saving/info-2018/spend-money-wisely.htm

A Personification of Logical Thinking


The Matrix Reloaded, Blues Brothers 2000, Speed 2, etc. These movies prove it’s difficult to surpass the great originals. On the contrary, there’re some exceptions such as Terminator 2 and The Hustler 2. The second president of CondeHouse can be said to be one of such exceptions. I’m not flattering just because he is still at the desk near me as the chairman of the company. It is more like retrospective or hindsight. The company is still thriving (and I’m here) because he was a great successor. If I explain in short, from my personal perspective, he is a personification of logical thinking.

In 1984, still in his 30’s, he was transferred to the US to establish a branch office. The first thing he worked on was CI development. He brought together experts and prepared everything such as a brand name, a logo mark, shop interior planning, etc., without the approval of the founder, a man of hot blood (see last article). His behavior doesn’t sound so logical? Please remember it was about 40 year ago. I imagine very few people would have even heard of CI (such a systematic way of developing a new business) in Japan at that time. How logical and strong-nerved he was! He already showed something of a big man in the game.

Watanabe wants to show the world what Japanese furniture can bring to the table.

The above episode shows his great ability at the time of offense. What about at the time of defense? As the Art of War says, defense is much more difficult than offense. I personally think it is defense that showed his true value. When the Japanese economy seriously deteriorated after the 2008 Financial Crisis, everything without exception was logically judged. He didn’t hesitate to make a drastic cut in labor costs including his own salary. Consequently, CondeHouse survived the hard time while about 16000 companies went bankrupt in Japan in 2008.

I once asked “Even logical thinking can’t predict future correctly. How do you judge future issues?” He grinned and answered “If s/he comes to me for approval again even after being rejected three times, I will give a go even for application that my logical thinking says no to.” Even passion or human irrationality seems to be logically taken into consideration by him. After the feverish early days under the founder’s administration, the logical thinking of the second president made the company position on the growth path.


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.


A Man of Frantic Passion


An autocracy may be required to make a business take off in the harsh market battles. Especially new comers in the market are always exposed to kill-or-be-killed situations. They don’t have time to make decisions after democratic consultation. The founder of CondeHouse was with an autocratic leadership style, which, I’m sure, made the company survive and thrive. I don’t think the leadership style was what he intended. He was a master craftsman and furniture designer of frantic passion, and the passion drove forward everything including himself autocratically. In the furniture industry in Japan, he is a legend. There are many anecdotes about him, but let me narrow down and share two of them.

I believe his biggest achievement is a revolution in the furniture distribution. Before the revolution, furniture wholesalers had substantial control over everything such as pricing, product planning, etc. He rebelled against the system and started selling directly to retailers, which soon caused a furor, of course. Some wholesalers put pressure on other companies to stop trading with CondeHouse. Even though being cornered into a financial crisis, he didn’t give up. Finally, the tide turned, and now, most of the furniture wholesalers withdrew from the market. He led off the restoration of sovereignty for furniture manufacturers.

Japanese Furniture Designed by the World.

As I wrote before, we Japanese people started using chairs just about 150 years ago. Even when he established the company, chairs were not so popular. The main product of the furniture market at that time was a Japanese classic-style chest of drawers. Here again, he was against the tide and decided to focus on the production of dining chairs and tables. His foresight determined the fate of the company and established a firm position in the Japanese market as a top brand of dining chairs.

Strong light creates thick shadow. I heard many people had left the company due to interpersonal conflicts with him, but it was his frantic passion that could lead the company higher. CondeHouse is a company of about 300 employees. If group companies and employee family members are included, the company can be said to be a system to support the lives of more than 1000 people in this small city with a population of 340000. From the perspective of a man who always dreams of being an entrepreneur, I can’t help but admire even his shadow.


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.


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/

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, CondeHouse, 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.


End of Year Greetings 2020


What’s the difference between Black Friday and Cyber Monday? As I checked them on Wikipedia, the former came into use in 70’s; the latter was just born in 2005. I feel both are fast spreading also in Japan in these few years. Now that the main sales battlefield is online, they are synonym to me. Actually, in the U.S., Black Friday 2020 online sales gained more than 20% on 2019, while store traffic was down by more than 50%. Coupled with the COVID pandemic, a battle for online sales becomes more severe. In other words, companies are now competing for people’s time online. This is not somebody else’s issue. I very well know I’m a part of the competition. Today, let me explain the logic and strategy behind this blog.

In most cases, the articles of the blog start with my personal question, awareness, or daily events. Secondly, some famous theory, quote, or topic comes up in relation to the preceding episode. Finally, I introduce ourselves or a subject closely related to ourselves, like the culture of Hokkaido or Japan, associating it with the above social and sometimes academic information. I go a long way around like this to the main purpose — the introduction of ourselves. It’s always tough to think of themes associated with ourselves in conclusion. Believe it or not, it’s for something more than attracting and keeping people’s interest.

As I was writing in the first paragraph, we are competing for people’s time online. If I have to take it anyway, I don’t want to waste it. My priority is always put on whether the content is informative, not whether our brand is well-expressed, in order to consequently raise brand awareness. I’ve been cautioning myself as we can easily post information in the modern world of IT.

I’m wrapping up 2020 with this inside story. It has been about six months since we started the blog. Fortunately, we have more and more page views, visitors, and likes these days. In order to make it more informative, I’ll read many books during the New Year holidays and be back here. Thank you very much, and have a great new year!

Photo Credit: https://www.trtworld.com/business/amazon-black-friday-and-cyber-monday-2020-biggest-online-sales-ever-41958


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.

Empathy Is the Key to Survival


In Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort sounded off “I’ve been telling you guys not to take no for an answer, to keep pushing, to not hang up the phone ‘til you get what you want.” In The Founder, Dick McDonald regretted making a business partnership with Ray Kroc, saying “There’s a wolf in the hen house.” The business world is a battle field where wolves are ruthlessly killing each other. Many people would think like that. At least I did. When I worked at the Ministry of Finance, what unfolded right before my eyes was exactly that. One mistake can lead to the end of a career. The mistakes of others taste like honey. As naturally imagining the same dramas would happen in Silicon Valley, I was surprised by a book written by Stanford University online high school principal (who is Japanese, by the way). According to him, many IT giants in Silicon Valley, like Tim Cook (CEO of Apple), Satya Nadella (CEO of Microsoft), and Mike Krieger (ex-CTO of Instagram) unanimously said “What is most important to survive in the business world is empathy to others.”

CondeHouse Australia, exterior design scheduled to be completed soon!

While expanding our business to the international markets, I’ve been meeting many business owners in many countries. Indeed, as the book said, they are way far from greedy wolves. The one who has most impressed me is the owner of our Australian dealer. When we first met, he was still in the middle of his 30’s and just started up his furniture-retailing business. We see entrepreneurs are very hungry, but he was surprisingly different from such a general image. He was (is even now, of course) really modest, humble, and empathetic. After the first meeting with him, our president, expressing a little concern about his inexperience in luxury furniture business, said to me “I think it must be fun to grow together with him.” They seemed to have empathy to each other (between entrepreneurs). As more than five years have already passed since then, the Australian dealer is now one of our main pillars in the international markets. This month, he relocated and opened a shop on Swan Street in Melbourne. Please visit and see him (and our products) if you go (are) there.

Photo Credit: https://www.macleans.ca/economy/welcome-to-the-era-of-woke-capitalism/


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.