JEYNES JOURNEYS: JoJo in Japan

They’ve done a brilliant job of inviting a superb mix of retailers to meet me at our stand, which yet again, is one of the most creative at the show. No mean feat considering they are attempting to show Spring and Winter collections but also, for the very first time, our maternity range as well. They are discovering, as I know only too well, how challenging it is to show over 1000 lines in a relatively small space!

Playtime Tokyo

Playtime Tokyo trade show

The interest in JoJo here continues to grow. The Japanese have a well-documented love of all things French and I know in my last blog when I was in Japan, I picked up on it. Wherever I turn there’s a boulangerie here, a patisserie there, and it’s chez this, chez that all over Tokyo. Even at this Trade Show, they are playing the same French disco music from the 80s as last time.

I love sushi but struggle with it for breakfast so have loved the plentiful pastry shops in the subway where I can grab more versions of croissants and French pastries than I can probably get in Paris.

They believe France has the highest level of fashion and cool combined with the absolute belief that all French women shop daily in Galeries Lafayette and carry Louis Vuitton bags. Funnily enough, ask most French youngsters and they have the same blind appreciation about the Japanese! Apparently France is the second biggest market in the world for ‘manga’. I’ve seen very few tourists in Tokyo but hilariously if I’ve been close enough to hear them talk – they’re French!!

But the Japanese also think anything British is super cool and so what better than to have a British brand with a French sounding name on your super cool store fixtures?!

I am however in the midst of a major faux-pas (to coin a perfect French word). I have met over 25 retailers just today, all of whom have been slightly giggly with excitement that the ‘British man from JoJo’ is here but I’ve let myself down big time it seems.

I don’t have a business card in Japanese on one side.

There are certain aspects of business etiquette here that are very traditional but very much part of modern day life. Business cards are key in this and apparently a double-sided card with English one side and Japanese the other is a must have.

I already know the rules about presenting your card with both hands to the most senior person present first (with a slight bow as you do). I also know when you receive their card you treat it with utmost respect, again taking it with both hands studying it with seriousness and saying ‘Hajimemashite’ as you do.

I just DIDN’T know I was supposed to have one in Japanese as well – how silly of me not to think about that anyway! Why would they naturally understand my English one!

It’s not quite as bad as forgetting to bring any at all. That would’ve been really bad apparently.

I find business etiquette in different countries fascinating and Japan has a long list.

Apparently between October and April a man is supposed to wear a navy or black suit, always with a white shirt and subdued tie and then shift to a grey suit from May to September. A man should never wear a black suit and black tie unless it’s a funeral. I’ve failed on all counts there: today I’m wearing grey wool trousers with a black velvet jacket. Oops.

Hairstyle is important too. They respect short hair cuts on men (phew – I’m ok) although they find a pony-tail normal and acceptable if you represent an e-commerce or fashion company (sorry – I couldn’t bring myself to grow such a thing).

If you have a meeting in Japan its correct and expected that you will always telephone 2-3hrs before to confirm you’re on your way and that you will arrive 10mins early at all times.

When you first meet they are NOT hand shakers and are easily offended if you grab their hand. I’ve found that quite hard as it’s so British to shake hands and have found myself literally forcing my hand back down when they come over to say hello.

Touching full stop is a no-no really. I’ve been told to never ever pat someone on the back or shoulder.

In a meeting you’re not to sit down until instructed as there is a custom about who sits on which side of the table which apparently dates back to the samurai era!

The Japanese like to feel they are being taken seriously and listened to and they regard note-taking as an obvious sign you are concentrating so even if you are just writing nonsense they won’t know but will love it – especially on an iPad!

They absolutely love to be asked about their company – the more questions the better – but they do not like to be asked about their private life.

They’re very honourable and see it as very poor if you make any derogatory remarks about anyone, especially your competitors and fellow employees.

So not having a Japanese business card is just the tip of the iceberg it seems. There is one thing I’m told is marginally worse thankfully! Blowing your nose in public. Horrifying apparently – thank goodness I don’t have a cold!!

Pin It

2 comments for “JEYNES JOURNEYS: JoJo in Japan

  1. ruth
    28/02/2013 at 8:56 pm

    Size is everything on business cards too and finish. Bet u haven’t seen a woman in a meeting yet either?
    I am not surprised they love jo jo quality is
    great and styling chic but still playful.

  2. 05/03/2013 at 4:29 pm

    Fascinating … thanks Mark for the tips.
    We’d better print up those new business cards. I spent a year learning Japanese 25 years ago when I worked for Acquascutum (about 25% of their customers were Japanese in those days and it seemed to make sense). Your blog brings it all back – lovely to work with such a polite culture. LT

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *