METROPOLIS | CLASSIFIEDS | PERSONALS | JOBS
LIFE IN JAPAN
Tim Spangler


Tim Spangler

Maki Nibayashi

Occupation:
General Manager of Recreational Equipment, Inc.' Tokyo Flagship Store


Time in Japan:

One year



Where are you from?
Washington State, USA.

What brought you to Japan?
Work. I was managing a store for REI in Spokane, Washington when I heard the announcement that we were going to open our first international store in Tokyo. When the store manager job was posted, it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up.

What was your first impression of Japan?
Probably the same as a lot of newcomers. I rode the bus from Narita into the city as evening was falling and I couldn't believe the size of Tokyo. Having just left a city of 250,000 people it was a bit overwhelming. Once I got off the bus though, I was surprised at the contradiction. What looked huge and confusing was in reality, clean, accessible, and easy to negotiate. It was a nice surprise.

What do you do here?
Until now I have been responsible for opening and operating our first store in Japan. I'm beginning to focus my attention on the development of future stores.

Can you tell us a bit about REI?
REI stands for Recreational Equipment, Inc. We sell gear and clothing designed to meet the needs of the hiker, camper, climber, cyclist, snowshoer, and adventure traveler (in the US we also specialize in skiing, snowboarding, and paddlesports).

REI was founded in Seattle in 1938 as a consumer cooperative. Since that time, the company has grown to 60 retail stores in the US as well as our websites www.rei.com and www.rei.outlet.com We have over 5,000,000 cooperative members, 90,000 of whom live in Japan. In April of this year, we opened our first international store in Minami Machida's Grandberry Mall. In September, we launched our Japan-based website www.rei.co.jp  

This 15m high rock climbing pinnacle is inside of REI's Tokyo Flagship store
Photo courtesy of REI

REI's Tokyo Flagship store includes some very innovative interactive features. We have a 15 meter high free-standing indoor climbing pinnacle; an outdoor mountain bike test trail; a hiking boot test trail; water filter and camping stove test stations; and an indoor kids play area. We also have full-service bicycle and camping repair shops on site. The goal is to provide our customers with a great selection of outdoor gear and clothing; friendly expert staff to assist and offer advice; and an environment in which gear can be tested and experienced prior to purchasing it.

What do you think are the main differences between managing a store here and in the US?
In US stores, most of our employee teams are made up of part-time staff who stay with us for various lengths of time. Most do not consider REI their long-term career. Our store team in Japan is made up of a high percentage of people for whom this is their intended career. It's a nice change because the commitment and dedication level among my co-workers is exceptional. They are absolutely invested in our future success, because they see it as their future too.

What's your favorite thing about Japan?
Watching my kids experience life in a different culture.

And your favorite restaurant or watering hole?
Sushi Chu in Minami Machida. Great fish, reasonable prices, and a nice casual atmosphere. Suzuki-san, the owner, is an exceptional host.

What is your recipe for a happy and successful life in Japan?
Try to keep some balance in everything that you do. Remember that a good sense of humor and a bit of patience make all the difference. Get out of the city and go to the mountains whenever you have the chance. If the opportunity doesn't present itself, go anyway. You won't regret it.

REI: Grandberry Mall, Minami Machida. 3-4-1 Tsuruma, Machida-shi 042-788-3535.

Tim Spangler spoke to Maki Nibayashi.

Do you know someone who has an interesting life in Japan? Email us at maki@tokyoclassified.com

LIFE IN JAPAN:
349: Tim Spangler
Recreational Equipment, Inc.
348: Robin Rozzell
Tribal Nation Security
347: Marco Invernizzi
Bonsai artist
346: Charles E McJilton
Advocate
345: Chris Chavez
Dancer/Singer
344: Donna Burke
Singer and narrator
343: Dennis Sun
Artist, freelance graphic design and illustrator
342: Martin Hope Berry
Natural food shop owner
341: Donald James Berry
Technical Adviser
340: Amy Jorrisch
Tokyo International Players
339: Anthony Al-Jamie Ph.D.
Education consultant and journalist
338: Joel Silverstein
President of Outback Steakhouse Japan
337: Neal Dauber
Termite and Pest Control Operator
336: Marcus Spurrell
CEO of No Mass Media, Internet Co.
335: Stefan Fanselow
Flight Instructor
334: Colleen Lanki
Theater Artist
333: Ben Leibson
Scuba Diver
332: Bernard Yu
Executive Director of TELL
331: Hayden "Hay-chan" Majajas
Informations Systems Manager
330: Alistair McLachlan
BootsMC Finance manager
329: Ronald Lee Davis
Missionary / Teacher
328: Ed Durbrow
Musician
327: Isabelle Maranda
Marketing Coordinator
326: Brian Marcus
Food & Beverage Director at Tokyo American Club
324: Murali Kupusami
Furla Tea & Coffee Owner/Model
323: Angela Jones
Fire Dancer
322: Tim Tsang
Coordinator for International Relations (CIR)
321: Chris Monnier
Drummer
320: David Snyder
President of Rising Crane Sports Consultants, Inc.
319: Juliet Hindell
BBC's Tokyo Correspondent
318: Sid Lloyd
Football team captain
317: Niels Frederik Walther
Chef for the Danish Ambassador
316: Jonathan Katz
Jazz musician and composer
315: Yoichi Hayase
President, True Travel, K.K.
314: Ira Bolden
Program Manager
313: Benjamin Gurnsey
Corporate Communications at Sony Computer
312: Dr Jonna D. Douglass, PhD
Clinical Psychologist and Family Therapist
311: Roy Kilner
Izakaya Manager
310: Neil Day
Senior Software Research Engineer
309: Stuart Ablett
Sakaya Operator
308: Maggie Tai Tucker
Animal Trainer
307: Carmine Cozzoline
Restaurant Owner/Chef
306: Alison Noonan
Cellist
305: Kevin Meyerson
Rainbow Japan Inc. President
304: Randy McGraw
DirecTV Marketing Manager
303: Roy Ron
Researcher
302: Antonio Plozay-Liberatore
Economist/TV Talent
300: Miguel Angel
Bartender

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