we get caught up in something that takes us by surprise. Maybe that's why we came
to Japan - to be injected into our new future without regard to our past. It's
a rewarding, frustrating, happy and sad journey with different paths for us all.
And suddenly, quietly, in a brief moment, we can look back and realize that we
have grown in experience and life and all of us have a story. Perhaps the story
of Tokyo Classified is the story of our life in Japan.
Getting off the plane with just a few rolled-up bank notes and a big bag of hopes,
Mark Devlin, one of the founders of TC, came to Tokyo as an English teacher in
October 1989. Japan was his passport out of the gloomy Scottish job market: "I
had to leave Glasgow because there were so few jobs around. Everyone was going
down to London but that was too dull for me. I had been going to Japanese lessons
and one guy from the class went flying off to Japan and I thought, "What
have I got to lose?" I reckoned if I went to Japan for a year and came back
it would be easier to find a job in London. So I sold pretty much everything I
owned (not much), came over and got work as an English teacher. From there I moved
through several jobs: I worked as an editor of financial reports, I did computer
work for a headhunting company and then got a job with a securities firm running
a large computer network for their Research Department."
where did the idea for Tokyo Classified come from? Well,
one night I made a friend in a club who confided that he was thinking of starting
up a classified paper. It sounded like a cool project, so a few days later my
partner Mary and I sat down and started planning. We spent about six months preparing,
setting up computer programs, making the dummy issue, going to meet potential
clients and so forth. It was tough because most Japanese people didn't know what
a classified ad was - they just didn't understand what the magazine was about!
In fact when we first started lots of people called us and said, "Oh,
I had that idea too." But having an idea is one thing and actually getting
around to taking the risk and making it a reality is a whole different step. Opportunity
should be a verb-you have to make it happen.
you ever worried by your lack of experience in the publishing business?
we started we really didn't have a clue how you were supposed to run a magazine.
We just did it the way that came naturally. We had to trust our instinct that
there was a need for Tokyo Classified and then do our best to fill that need.
Then we found staff to match our energy and enthusiasm and worked with them. We've
always had a good team spirit and positive energy and have tried as much as possible
to convey that through the magazine.
Having said that, it was really
tough for the first few years. My friend pulled out but Mary and I believed it
was going to work, so we just kept on and on. It was almost two years before I
thought "Phew! We've survived!" Then I decided that we had to expand
and we are just about learning how to cope with that now. It's hard to believe
we have over 30 full-time staff.
It is one thing to make a magazine
and quite another to make a business. I have been continually amazed at the help
we have received along the way. There are some very special people who deserve
a lot of thanks for their contribution to Tokyo Classified. And I want the readers
to support our sponsors, as they have put their money where their mouth is and
are supporting the community.
Why has Tokyo Classified become so popular? The
magazine is popular simply because it is useful to people. You can use Tokyo Classified
to make a positive contribution to your life. You can use it to set up your life
in Tokyo, to make money, to find love or just to get around town. The fax machine
is next to my desk - seeing all those ads coming in makes me feel good. We're
making a contribution to life in Tokyo. People need us as much as we need them.
is your favorite section? I
read the Rant and Rave first and then have a quick look at the personals! I go
to the movies a lot so I'm an avid reader of Don's movie reviews.
you get much reader feedback? Listening
to people and getting feedback is incredibly important in a growing business.
I spend time every day chatting to readers via the website about the magazine
and what they think of it. Direct contact forces us to be truthful about what
we are doing and look objectively at our product, not just to defend our own ideas
thinking, "This is the most fantastic thing ever created." Please criticize
us more - it helps us get better!
is in the future for Tokyo Classified? Tokyo
Classified will become the primary entry point for people to get information on
Japan. That means that in addition to classifieds and listings we will bring in
much more info on travel, news, politics, fashion, computers, Internet, finance,
sports, art, culture, people - the whole lot.
It's sad that such an interesting
country has such poor quality information in English. The English-language newspapers
are a joke and there is a lack of magazines dealing specifically with Japanese
issues. But if you look at a Japanese magazine, like Tokyo Walker or Nikkei Trendy,
there is an astounding amount of information for the reader compared with similar
magazines in the West. I want to know: What are the new trends and moods in Japan?
Where are the new cars and inventions? Who has the gossip and weird, funny stories?
What is the real news with serious opinion? Let's bring that information into
this expansion be in the magazine? We
will try to fit as much as possible into the magazine, doubling its size over
the coming year. We will shortly bring in new sections for travel, learning Japanese
and to help find an apartment. We will also have a new weekly interview and be
expanding our community coverage and adding more listings sections.
that we can use the Internet to provide more information and extra services. We
will soon have a searchable archive on the web site of every feature that has
ever run in Tokyo Classified and we are adding services such as daily email newsletters
and enhanced chat rooms. We are also interested in providing information about
Japan in other languages, even Japanese.
you plan to make the magazine more widely available? Tokyo
Classified's distribution will expand both internationally, through the Internet
and international distribution, and by streamlining our distribution in Tokyo.
We have also had a great response to our sponsored distribution program, where
companies pay for copies as a benefit for their staff, or where schools buy copies
to give to their students free as a teaching tool. But the main news is that we
will shortly be distributing the magazine at major train stations, making it easier
to find and increasing its exposure to Japanese readers. There are so many Japanese
who speak English and are fascinated by gaijin life. Let's invite them to join
our international community.
is Sparky, why is he the Lord of Light and what's with those horns?
sign my email "Sparky" but very few people call me that. The first time
we put our photos in the one with the horns was the only photo I had at the office,
so in it went and has stayed there ever since! My official title was originally
"King of the Monsters" but I changed it to "Lord of Light",
which came from a song. It took me years to realize that "Lord of Light"
actually means "God" - I just never thought about it!
are you having a free party? Why
not?! As part of our "Free Forever" policy we will have an ongoing series
of free parties. The idea is for the readers to meet each other, win some prizes,
listen to some good music, get some special offers from our sponsors, get drunk
and generally have a good time! The next party will be in June, so apply for tickets
long is "Free Forever!?" So
many people ask us this question! I was inspired by Mel Gibson in Braveheart when
he said "They may take our lives but they cannot take our freedom!"
Our commitment is that Tokyo Classified will be free for ever and ever. Amen."