Guest Post: Connoisseurs of Quality – The Philosophy of Japanese Consumers
By Azumi Uchitani
When it comes to Japanese products, they are known all over the world for their quality, precision, and reliability. Quality in products, quality in service. From medieval katana making to modern car manufacturing, there is something very special about how the Japanese excel in quality and subconsciously seek quality in anything, more than other nations.
Japanese experience of quality
Let’s say, you travel to Japan. You will have an exquisite shopping experience, walking into an elegant department store in Kyoto, greeted courteously, being helped to choose a Japanese artisan tea bowl to your liking, being treated like a king or queen. The box is wrapped immaculately in a beautiful sheet of paper, by a well-trained shop assistant, with a magical wrapping technique, like an “origami” magician. Not only due to the quality of goods you purchased, but you will also be mesmerised by the entire experience.
Even at the nationwide discount stores where you can buy almost any type of basic household goods for as little as 100 yen (equivalent to €1 shops), you will be happily surprised with your shopping experience as you feel the unexpected “quality” in goods and customer service.
These days, we frequently shop online with easy access to many products from around the world. Have you ever bought something from a Japanese seller? Even though there is no direct physical contact with the seller, you would often feel the act of dedication and respect from the seller to the buyer, in the way the Japanese seller packs the items and writes emails, etc.
The quality of goods is further enhanced by the personal touch of the seller.
Take a look at the success of Japanese clothing brand UNIQLO. The secret behind their success is their consistency in offering quality products, designs and services, which excel compared with any of their competitors who supply clothing within the same price range.
In Japan, we experience “quality”, the excellence of goods and service every single day.
What is behind this philosophy?
What is the secret to achieving such quality?
Beyond any specific methodologies or techniques, there is one secret, that has been passed down through the generations. It is the act of dedication. It is deep down in our DNA; how we, the Japanese, relate to people and how we treat people, but also how we relate to and treat objects around us and how we keep things in harmony with our sense of respect. It is a tiny act we have practiced daily since childhood, with the belief that every object carries a spirit and energy, and that each one should be treated with the same level of respect.
It is the Japanese virtue to dedicate ourselves to service, to dedicate ourselves to do what is necessary right now. Quality mirrors this dedication. We respect and cherish acts of dedication in both making and serving. It is not about achieving perfection. Instead, perfection creates a ceiling in our act. But dedication does not create such a ceiling in our act. It keeps us evolving. When someone makes a mistake, instead of making an excuse, this person would accept the mistake and do their utmost to correct the error in a dedicated manner. Through this action of personal dedication, we can see “quality” even though the product itself may not be perfect.
In short, we measure quality in a tangible and intangible way. To give and to receive, to sell and to buy, in both ways, these are acts of exchanging excellence with respect in a dedicated manner, no matter what the products are.
It is the attitude of people who are involved in every process of delivering goods and services. The attitude of dedication.
Connoisseurs of quality
We, the Japanese, celebrate “quality”. In fact, we celebrate the act of dedication that people have made to bring about quality and excellence. We respect and thank the act of dedication; the way we let our precious powerful life energy flow from our heart to produce and serve. We also let our hearts open to feel this energy of dedication and receive quality with a great deal of respect. We give and receive quality from our hearts, not from our minds. In practising this, we become connoisseurs of quality.
Tips for creating winning products in Japan
If you are thinking of entering the Japanese market successfully, or if your products are already available in Japan, you may like to know how you can take your business to the next level. There are many practical tips and advice, but in this article I have shared a fundamental principle, a code of conduct. I believe it would apply to any business anywhere in the world. It is the act of dedication from everyone involved to deliver quality products and service, and that is easier said than done. In addition to your specialised knowledge, skills and college degree, it requires self-discipline, inspiration, motivation, respect, compassion, and team spirit.
You have high quality and authenticity in your product and service, but what makes your product stand out comes from your entire team’s daily continuous act of dedication to serving with respect. Your newly launched product will be appreciated and successfully achieve or excel your sales goal, but if the team starts getting laid back and lose their dedication after initial results, this success will not last long. Japanese consumers are sensitive and can feel this change. Without continuous dedication, they will start to gradually lose their faith in your brand.
To bring a successful entry and growth in the Japanese market, it is essential to keep educating and inspiring each other, every single staff and management team who are involved in the project so that they keep their level of dedication to produce and serve with respect.
Let’s all be ‘Connoisseurs of Quality’, giving and receiving quality from our hearts.
For more insights on the philosophy behind Japanese culture, I invite you to watch the talks on my YouTube channel.
Azumi Uchitani is an Intercultural business consultant, keynote speaker, writer, artist and Founder of Japanese SALON art & culture. She is based in the Netherlands and has been a TEDx speaker, appeared in the Dutch media and has been delivering talks to an international audiences across Europe and the US.
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