071: Essential Advice For Foreign Entrepreneurs Exploring Rural Areas in Japan w/ Chie Schuller

podcast Sep 29, 2020
 

 

 

On this episode of the Small Business Japan Podcast we have some Japanpreneur Quick Tips from Chie Schuller who is a leader in international relations and cross cultural engagement. She has some great advice for entrepreneurs looking to explore rural areas in Japan.

Essential Advice For Foreign Entrepreneurs Exploring Rural Areas in Japan w/ Chie Schuller

Chie was born and raised in Ishinomaki, Miyagi, Japan. Even though she grew up in a small rural community, she was always curious about other countries and cultures. She came to the US as an exchange student when she was a senior in high school. After graduating Japanese and American high schools, she continued her college education in US. She has been working for a Japanese company in Ohio for the past 15 years. She is a wife and mother of two kids and one Shiba-inu.

As a leader in international relations and cross-cultural engagement with a focus on US-Japan relations she’s spent over a decade at THK Manufacturing of America breaking down barriers and serving as a catalyst for international collaboration.

If you’re interested in learning more about cultivating corporate cultures that embody both US and Japanese values as well as embrace differences and diversity, bringing people together despite differences is at the heart of what she does.

(Ishinomaki, Miyagi, Japan)

Resources

Fishermanjapan.com

Ishinomaki Kokeshi

 

 

 

Transcript 

Speaker 1 

On this episode of the small business Japan podcast, we have some Japanpreneur quick tips from Chea Schuler who was a leader in international relations and cross-cultural engagement. She has some great advice for entrepreneurs looking to explore rural areas in Japan. 

Speaker 2 

If somebody who. 

Speaker 2 

Is in Japan and want to do star business in Japan. I mentioned about being honest as well, but the start that building the Relationship and really be humble and. 

Speaker 2 

If I could promote my Homestead, Maggie. 

Speaker 2 

'cause a lot of people know Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto. Or you know, the nice Okinawa. The weather is always nice, right? And Miyagi is often known as a um, the area that was destroyed by tsunami. Um, however, they are doing. 

Speaker 2 

Everything they can to be build a city and also because of that there's a lot of different new opportunities and people moving in to start new business. Um, so for example, an initial maki to, uh, there is a group of fishermen who is inviting people from different areas and having to learn about. 

Speaker 2 

In a fashion business. 

Speaker 2 

Stuff like that. So if you were in Japan in a small business and trying to expand what, please try to explore different area over the Japan as well and at the same time, um. 

Speaker 2 

Have that honesty and integrity in a way goes along way, specially if you are dealing with someone older generations. 

Speaker 2 

Um, a lot of Times Now top executives are still like maybe 50s or even 60s, right? So they're still old school, so they will still value what younger generation may not really think that's important, but it's really important how you show up to your meetings, or um, how you keep your words. 

Speaker 2 

For example, if you have an appointment at 3:00 o'clock. 

Speaker 2 

And maybe I'll side with Japan. It's not really a big deal if you show up pretty 05, but in Japanese business perspective, that's not good. 

Speaker 2 

And also have everything be ready and. 

Speaker 2 

That goes along way. 

Speaker 2 

And also to keep a good relationship. 

Speaker 2 

In a way. 

Speaker 2 

If you were doing the sales or try to expand your business and um, going to sales call or says visit if you are shut down, don't really give up on that, but show that you care. 

Speaker 2 

Um, have that grit in a way. Have that strong determination so if you don't come back and a lot of older generation think that, oh, it was not that big deal, then I wasn't that important. But if you keep coming back, some people might think, especially maybe in America, uh, what I have? 

Speaker 2 

Heard was it? It sounds like you're kind of begging, but in Japan they of course you have to do it the right way, but it may not seem like a begging. It wouldn't reverse it kind of shows that you have that grit. You have that determination. You want it that much to keep coming back. 

Speaker 2 

Um, so that's something that I'd like to tell you. Listeners, if you are doing the business in Japan or try to start a business in Japan, those like old traditional Japanese way goes along way, specially if you're trying to deal with someone who is in higher in the position within the company. 

Speaker 2 

And somebody who is in the 40s, like my generation, are also trained under that old school generation. So they still have that little trait of, you know, you have to look certain way or dress certain way to go visit in a different um, meetings and stuff like that. So that was something I have to learn to 'cause I didn't grow up in the. 

Speaker 2 

Corporate, you know when I started working in 20s, so that's something I had to kind of learn. Um and a lot of Japanese wifes. 

Speaker 2 

Will Tell Me. 

Speaker 2 

Like what to dress and what not to dress. 

Speaker 2 

So that's something that I didn't really think that would be that matters anymore, but I think they it still does. 

Speaker 2 

So that would be something that I would like to share with your listeners. 

Speaker 1 

If you are starting or growing your business, I have a free mini E book for you over at the small business Japan website. There's a ton of great advice and tips for some of the various successful entrepreneurs I have interviewed on the show, and each tip also has a link to that podcast as well. Check out 18 small business startup tips from some of today's top Japan Preneurs. 

Speaker 1 

And you can also sign up for our newsletter that features even more business tips and news to help you start and grow your small but mighty business. Now back to the show. 

Speaker 1 

Have you seen like younger people and people our age? Have they continued taking over the businesses from their parents? I know that's sort of a rural issue. 

Speaker 2 

Yeah, so there are some who took continued and there some didn't. And like my Gran father is a perfect way. I have no idea. 

Speaker 2 

How many generations been the traditional um Carpenter? I know at least 5 six generations in the past, so it was always that, but my Gran father knew my father isn't really cut out for that, so he didn't make him to take over the business. So that's kinda ended that way. So there's some. 

Speaker 2 

Like that too. 

Speaker 2 

But like my from my neighbor friend, she's. 

Speaker 2 

Her family's been owning the flower shop for. 

Speaker 2 

Two generations now, um, she didn't take over, but her brother did. 

Speaker 2 

Yeah, yeah. So I think there is some and some not, but most likely if they are successful enough and then the children um like to continue and it seems like that's the case, but. 

Speaker 1 

Yeah, and you mentioned some people are sort of trying to spark some new business opportunities. 

Speaker 2 

Yes, um, so it was like I wish, um? 

Speaker 2 

I could have been. 

Speaker 2 

In that situation where a lot of people are now coming in and it's more international, you know why additional monkey was done before, 'cause there's a lot of people came in to help and decided to stay and open the business or help the locals. 

Speaker 2 

And so. 

Speaker 2 

At this point, I personally cannot participate to rebuild the city, but whenever I can just like this, I kinda advertise coming to Miyagi. 

Speaker 2 

I recently found out, uh, I will send you a link with the book too for those who are looking for jobs but something different. 'cause I know that like a lot of the jet program, people want to stay but not really not teaching right, but so there is fish called fisherman Japan. I recently found out what them but local younger fishermen. 

Speaker 2 

Um, found a way to promote the fishing industry to people from different areas. 

Speaker 2 

I want to show this one. This is also this is out of. 

Speaker 2 

But you know the Kokeshi dolls. 

Speaker 2 

So there was this gentleman, uh, initial maki um, whose families been, uh? 

Speaker 2 

Store that sells kimono. Try to structure models, but he saw that he needed to rebuild the city and try to bring a lot of different people for tourism. So when he thought about what he can do, what he was like. 

Speaker 2 

Well, what can I do? All we can create cinematic OK. She so he created originally Caucasian dolls and he's more like a creative side. So this is Ohio State brutus bio. Same mascot, but he made it for me. 

Speaker 1 

OK, why don't you take custom orders? 

Speaker 2 

Yes customers, but he's now quite. 

Speaker 2 

I I think famous for. 

Speaker 2 

Among the young artist, whenever he puts his knew items online, it sold out. Oh wow, but people can go see him and make um kokeshi dolls, and I know he took the interns from different countries. 

Speaker 2 

Um, I know. So there, uh, I think organization who is trying to teach promote about programming. And then they also take interns from different countries. And so there's a lot of knew activities and small scale. But try to bring the business and the people back to the city. 

Speaker 2 

But people leaving the city is greater, so kind of size is shrinking. Yeah, so whenever I can, I always tell people. Come visit, you know my keyboard, the Miyagi. 

Speaker 2 

It's a wonderful place. 

Speaker 2 

But a lot of things are smaller scale. 

Speaker 2 

But I think new things are going on too. 

Speaker 1 

That sounds very cool. I have to. 

Speaker 1 

Plan a trip. 

Speaker 2 

So hopefully your listener can kind of think outside the box of. 

Speaker 2 

Try to learn something you and uh, maybe they can be a fisherman back home. 

Speaker 1 

And there are some of those programs, like in English. There you know they're they're trying to bring in international people. 

Speaker 2 

I think most are in Japanese, but for example that fisherman Japan I think so. Fishermen, Japan. 

Speaker 2 

They there is somebody who is doing a lot of communication for outside of Japan so. 

Speaker 2 

At least they have to have some basic Japanese skills, probably to learn all those kind of things. But people in Ishana Monkey kind of like in the same thing as Midwest too. They're more patient, um, and they love the fact that they want to come to the city, so no matter. 

Speaker 2 

Doesn't have to be a four in outside of Japan, but even within the Japanese from different places, they were really more welcoming in a way, kind of like that you were walking down the street. Um, I do remember Ohio State warranty or who went to Channel. Lucky told me a story that he was walking on the street and this middle aged. 

Speaker 2 

Then start talking about hey where are you from? You looking from outside of town? 

Speaker 2 

Do you need a lift? 

So. 

Speaker 2 

He then started giving a whole tour in the city and he was like I never had that before anywhere in Japan. I was like, well, that's people in addition to monkey is like everyone's like you know, really helpful and somebody knows somebody who knows somebody. 

Speaker 2 

Even though you can help them. Oh, let me call that such and such. He might be able to get that for you kind of thing so. 

Speaker 2 

I'm pretty sure I can do that. Somebody is looking for something. 

Speaker 2 

I don't know, um, it directly. 

Speaker 2 

Can help by know somebody who knows somebody, so I recently not too long ago I did a connect somebody who was trying to connect the publishing company locally. 

Speaker 2 

Um pen, whose father took a picture back in 1950s wow and that was issued in monkeys pictures and he didn't realize how valuable it was an eye. So I assisted him a little bit to connect people locally, but he had already had a connection to local newspaper, but then he was telling me though I'm trying to publish this. 

Speaker 2 

In Japan, some what and an I said, Well, you know you know such and such from this newspaper company locali you know that local companies paper company is also have a publishing company. Why don't you reach out to that person and he was like oh OK and then so he did and he was able to get publishing deal from that. 

Speaker 2 

Company that I suggested so it's kind of small town so I know somebody who knows somebody. 

Speaker 1 

Those local ties, yeah. 

Speaker 2 

Local types, so I think it could be the same thing for other communities in Japan outside of the big city small cities. It might be scary. 

Speaker 2 

To go to in the beginning because people look at you. Who are you kind of attitude, right? Why you here? But then once you explain why you were there and then you want to know and and they were like Oh OK and they will love the idea that somebody wants to be there. 

Speaker 1 

Right? 

Speaker 2 

So there would be more. Um, it might be hard in the beginning 'cause. 

Speaker 2 

It's not Tokyo, so you don't have a Costco. You know you don't have all those American stores or you won't be able to get your the food that you're familiar with, so that's kind of disadvantage. No way, or it could be a lot of people could be seen as a boring too. If you are from the city. Definitely my husband could say, yeah, I would. 

Speaker 2 

I mean. 

Speaker 2 

Teenagers from where I'm from so. 

Speaker 2 

How, how? How would I survive? 

Speaker 2 

They make it through. 

Speaker 1 

Yeah, yeah, we'll get through it, yeah? 

Speaker 1 

Everyone will adapt. 

Speaker 2 

Right, so it's it's. 

Speaker 2 

A little different in a way. 

Speaker 1 

That's cool, yeah. 

Speaker 1 

Was that your familiarity with Indiana University before? 

Speaker 2 

Uh, we didn't talk about going to West Coast, but in the last minute, um, we just come back to Ohio because that wasn't where my husband was from. I know. So he had a sister living Columbus and I knew there was big Japanese community in Ohio. 

Speaker 2 

So we thought might be easier me location wise an I was of course familiar with the Midwest, so that's pretty much why we decide to come back to Ohio. 

Speaker 1 

OK, I I was not aware that there was much of a Japanese community in Ohio. What is it? What is that based around? 

Speaker 2 

So I would say. 

Speaker 2 

Two sections, one central Ohio around Columbus, but also there are bigger um populations, or the companies around Cincinnati area as well. And there are some North of I was in northeast or maybe kind of close to Detroit. There some here and there. 

Speaker 2 

Um Japanese companies. 

Speaker 1 

Oh God. 

Speaker 2 

But most of them are in central Ohio, I would say. 

Speaker 1 

God Anne you were. 

Speaker 1 

From a rural community in Japan an you notice any similarities there with the Midwest. 

Speaker 2 

Yes so. 

Speaker 2 

When I first came to the United States as an exchange student, that was an Illinois city called Rockford. That's kind of border of Wisconsin and Illinois, so you probably drive 1015 minutes and that's Wisconsin. OK, um, I couldn't pick where I would go, so organization would place to wherever. 

Speaker 2 

Um, I couldn't really pick. I don't think I was able to put preference either, but I always want to California, but ended up in the Midwest. 

Speaker 2 

The only thing I knew about Illinois was like Chicago, right? Um, and that's pretty much it. So when I landed. 

Speaker 2 

I think we had to. 

Speaker 2 

Transfer from O'Hare to then small airplane and landed in Rockford and host family. Picked me up and then when we are driving through I was looking through the windows and it was just cornfields flat and a cornfield an that we might. I was just like looking at it and I remember my host mother was thinking telling me you'll get to what are you thinking? 

Speaker 2 

I don't know how I sounded, but I wanted to say was it kinda looks like where I'm from it just not the rice field, it just cornfields. And it looks like Hokkaido. 

Speaker 2 

But where I lived was in the countryside kind of suburbs, and where you need the car no matter where you go, which is pretty similar to where I'm from, although doubts need to have a car and you had drive through this long path of the rice field to get to the city. So the lifestyle itself was very similar. 

Speaker 2 

And I didn't really have much hard time adjusting to that kind of a lifestyle. Um, I missed that mountain, though. That was for sure. Scenery Wise people would always ask me what do you mean that missed the most? I wasn't homesick per southeast, but I missed. 

Speaker 2 

Seeing the mountains. 

Speaker 2 

I missed it so, but. 

Speaker 2 

Scenery wise, similar? Uh but. 

Speaker 2 

Uh, but I felt like immediately good we like was the lifestyle but also the people. Also in a way, um. 

Speaker 2 

They may not have much interaction with the people from different countries, but once you start talking to them they are just. 

Speaker 2 

Normal, I mean, I wouldn't say no, but there are just nice people, an more curious and welcoming part. In a way I don't have any um perception in a way in a bad way, so they're very welcoming. And I was one of the I think I'd school. I was the only Japanese. 

Speaker 1 

Oh OK, so later on then I guess. Tell us about the company that you decided to work for. 

Speaker 2 

So this is Japanese owned company, a manufacturer for machinery parts, an automotive parts. A lot of companies around Ohio supplier for automotive parts. 

Speaker 2 

Um, but our company has two sections and one produces automotive parts and another section produces machinery parts. So I was hired as an administrative, bilingual administrative assistant to the president, but also to assist the Japanese families and Japanese expats for more daily. 

Speaker 2 

Means communicating the teachers or making appointments for a doctors setting up an appointment for um apartments when they relocated here, so I would do a lot of relocation assistance. And then when they go back to Japan, there's a lot of things need to be taken care of afterwards. So I would use those kind of things too. So I was able to. 

Speaker 2 

Do those business related interpretation translations, but also more community type interpretation as a medical interpreter. 

Speaker 1 

So yeah, in a sense, on top of the business side of it you you had to be very much a cultural liaison as well. Having to explain a lot of like American culture and local culture as well. Is there a a Japanese school for people to attend on the weekends or? 

Speaker 2 

So there there is a Columbus Japanese language schools, they do Saturdays. 

Speaker 1 

And have you worked in or continued with the teaching side of things? Or is that no longer? 

Speaker 2 

No, I did. 

Speaker 2 

Little bit when I was in Japan, I taught um. 

Speaker 2 

English to some of the I tutor them like private lessons and right now I don't really teach Japanese per se, but we do have a program where we invite local students to kind of give them the opportunity to learn about the business in the manufacturing, and it will count what kind of. 

Speaker 2 

Career path they can take and during that time we do introduce a little bit about Japanese cultures and stuff like that, so I assist. But um, our company also provide Japanese program to our employees, but we do have, uh, someone in my Department who does that. I'm not really involved in, I'm. 

Speaker 2 

I managed the Department but we do have someone who is specifically to do that as an instructor. 

Speaker 1 

And does your company then sometimes send local employees to Japan as well? 

Speaker 2 

But sometimes yes for business trips. 

Speaker 1 

What would be a? 

Speaker 1 

An example of some of the the culture shock that maybe some of the Japanese families are experiencing coming to around your locality. 

Speaker 2 

To the United States, yeah yeah, well this year well couple of things if they're from Tokyo then they have to use their lifestyle of being the country kind of setting. 

Speaker 2 

You know they have to commit in the car. Um, 'cause I also had a friend who went to school where I went to for the first 2 years. I went to small junior College in Illinois that was really country setting too. There's no public transportation and middle of nowhere situation and she was near from. 

Speaker 2 

From Tokyo, she had to get out. She was like I can't handle this, so she moved to Atlanta in downtown. So if they're from Tokyo, sometimes, um, they say they kind of missed the downtown feeling, so they have to go downtown Columbus to kind of get the feel of I'm in the city. 

Speaker 1 

OK, yeah, so that's it for me. 

Speaker 2 

No, not not too far away. It's about probably half an hour drive or depending on where they live, but we live in kind of closer to the Columbus. It's not too far away to go downtown. OK, so some have told me that, um, but other than that, um. 

Speaker 2 

What some people have told me was they're friendly. 

Speaker 2 

Um? 

Speaker 2 

But also that something American stuff that I hired who have lived never lived in the Midwest but lived in maybe West Coast or the East Coast said well, people in Ohio is really friendly because, you know, at the grocery store they start talking to me. No, that didn't really happen in New York, but. 

Speaker 2 

The Japanese also make a comments like that, and then a lot of times they don't know what to say. 

Speaker 2 

To reply, uh, so sometimes they're like and I'm glad they're really friendly. But I don't know what they're saying. Or sometimes I know what they're saying, but I just don't know what to say. 

Speaker 2 

So the cultural difference. I think there is a lot of them that I can unless someone end up kind of comes up to me is one kind of getting used to the. 

Speaker 2 

Rural area or the suburbs lifestyle and also how friendly it can be depending on where you go and some people from Japan. It's not really used to that kind of talking to a stranger and say hi on the street. 

Speaker 1 

Let alone in in, uh, not your native language, right? Yeah, OK. Oppositely, have you had to. 

Speaker 1 

Explain something about Japan to a lot of people. 

Speaker 1 

Is there something in particular that people are always wondering about? 

Speaker 1 

Um? 

Speaker 2 

Well, a lot of people were. 

Speaker 2 

Some would ask me why is Japanese people so nice, but at the same time, when you're in Japan, they don't really, um, say sorry when you're running into each other or they don't hold the doors. 

Speaker 2 

I would have been. I would be asked why and also a lot of times, uh, sometimes I was asked. Well, when you're in Tokyo when you get train station or in a crowded train, um, there will be elderly people or pregnant person or female in front of you. But then a lot of business. 

Speaker 2 

World guys or younger people? 

Speaker 2 

Don't really give up at seats. 

Speaker 2 

Why? 

Speaker 2 

So there are so small things, uh? 

Speaker 2 

That I was asked why? 

Speaker 2 

Um, there are like that or typical things like why did it bow when they're talking on? 

Speaker 2 

The phone, but I'm pretty sure. 

Speaker 2 

He might have touched. 

Speaker 2 

It was like I don't know um or why people running all the time that I was asked by that one of executive when I was working at the USA. Girl Scouts who were stationed in Europe and now she was. 

Speaker 2 

Station in Japan and she had to go to City Hall and. 

Speaker 2 

When she noticed that people were called to go to the counter, they were running and so she wouldn't be asking why are they running um there right? There? They are not running away and my explanation was that, well, a lot of time in Japan. We were told that somebody is waiting for you so you have to kinda hurry up and again. 

Speaker 2 

Especially that person can see you. So you kind of have to sense the urgency there. That's how I explained it, but that's how I am too. I'm always I'm not supposed to run on the floor, but I'm kind of unconsciously running around and somehow some people have to remind me chair you're not supposed to run. 

Speaker 1 

Yeah yeah, in manufacturing facilities and things like that may have a different different set of rules and regulations. 

Speaker 2 

Right, so sometimes Japanese might think when they're just walking when they're late, or when people are just waiting. Why? Why you? Just walking waste, Hurry up kind of thing. I can kind of see that. 

Speaker 2 

Um, sometimes as a patience, some people might think Japanese have a lot of patience, but sometimes, specially when they're in the customer service side, they went something really fast and quick. 

Speaker 1 

Yeah, I I see what is. 

Speaker 1 

A mistake or a hurdle you've had to overcome at your company. 

Speaker 2 

At my company. 

Speaker 1 

Or personally. 

Speaker 2 

Personally, the mistake. 

Speaker 2 

Well, there's a lot of mistakes, but one not so much about the cultural per southeast. 

Speaker 2 

But as a manager. 

Speaker 2 

One big mistake that I can recall that I learned so much was that. 

Speaker 2 

The way I ask questions a lot of times being seen as an attack which my kids always tells me. 

Speaker 1 

Welcome to the show cheer, thank you. 

What is your connection to Japan? 

Well, um, I was born and raised in Japan city called Ishinomaki in Miyagi, Japan. 

Thanks. 

Yeah. 

Yeah. 

Do you find in in Buffalo? We have a lot of the companies are on like a two year transition stage, so they don't really get. 

 

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