Business Wisdom via a High Perch in Tokyo


“Stores exist for customers.”

—倉本長治(くらもと ちょうじ)/ Choji Kuramoto (1899-1982)

While having the rare opportunity to visit the office of Tadashi Yanai, CEO of Fast Retailing, I spied this image on his office wall:

I was curious what it said. And I am so glad I asked!


Mise wa kyaku no tameni ari
Tenin to tomoni sakae
Tenshu to tomoni horobiru

Stores exist for customers.
Stores prosper with store staffs.
Stores perish with store managers.

It’s a wonderful bit of “commerce poetry” that sits at the basis of what good design is all about: serving the customer. Its raw simplicity in a sense trumped the more standard posted corporate vision, mission, values statement in his office:

And it beautifully matched the majestic view from his office window.

My random last takeaway was the special elevator we used to get to his office that had this interesting little box at the base of one of the wall’s of the elevator car. I can’t imagine that whatever’s in useful there could help someone trapped on the 80+ floor of a building … 

More on Choji Kuramoto

via 戦前戦後を通じて商業指導に尽力し、「店は客のためにある」という商人哲学を遺した。商業者は消費者に代わって商品を選び、仕入、販売するのだから、その対価として適正利潤を得るのは当然とし、また、商業者は消費者に対し公平公正であらねばならず、それが商業を成長させ、消費者の生活向上、社会の発展につながると主張した。これが江戸時代以来「士農工商」と卑しめられてきた商人たちに自信と勇気を与え、商業近代化の精神的原動力となった。


Translated by Google with slight edits by me: He worked tirelessly giving commercial guidance throughout the postwar period and popularized the merchant philosophy of “stores exists for customers.” As commercial merchants choose products, purchase and sell products on behalf of consumers, it is natural to obtain reasonable profits as a consideration, and commercial merchants must be fair and just for consumers. He argued that this philosophy would lead to the growth of commerce, to improve the lives of consumers, and aid the development of society. This gave confidence and courage to the merchants who were despised as “senior citizen merchants” from the Edo period, and they became the spiritual driving force of commercial modernization.

In addition, he advocated for the introduction of scientific management technology, introducing supermarkets and chain stores to Japan, thinking of employees as partners (“stores prosper with store staffs”) how to operate, the right management philosophy as the essence of growth development (“stores perish with store managers”). Today’s big chain, major specialty store managers got out and ahead as proper merchants, and left a huge footprint in the Japanese commercial world.

On a related note, one of my favorite sayings:

There is no path in front of me.
But behind me, I can make a path.


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