|LIFE IN JAPAN
General Manager of Recreational Equipment, Inc.' Tokyo Flagship Store
Time in Japan:
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
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.
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 email@example.com