Nacasa & Partners

Column > Column Vol.03

Hot Talking Night in Ginza


These outstanding figures have never met together, but they have been paying attention to each other. Takeshi Nakasa decided to set up an historic opportunity for them to meet together. The following is a cheerful, hilarious conversation, no whisperings of adults, at the Ginza restaurant "Dazzle" one summer night.

The chatter of the two patriots throws us into convulsions of laughter, their disclosure of secrets is brilliant. Please enjoy reading part of their conversation. (September, 2006)

The Beginning
When Young
"The Welcome to Japan" campaign


Yukio Fujimaki
President and representative director of SEVEN & I Research & Development Institute and director of Ito-Yokado. Fujimaki was born in Tokyo in 1960. After graduating from Sophia University, he entered Isetan as a buyer. He became famous for the numerous sections he set up on sales floors, such as Kaihoku, Re-style and BPQC. He was also a buyer for the ladies' section at Barneys Japan. Fujimaki took up the post of senior managing director of Kitamura, then as president of Fukusuke before accepting his current position in 2005.


Yindigo Ayano Mochizuki
Mochizuki was born in Tokyo in 1970. She is a product designer and creative director. After graduating from Waseda University, she studied as a research student at Universidad de Catoica del Ecuador (Catoica University in Ecuador), and then worked at Ceramic Ware Design Laboratory in Tajimi, Gifu Prefecture. At the age of 28, she started studying at Domus Academy in Milan, Italy. She started a lighting brand called "Lx” with Jasper Morrison. She also establishes overseas brands and works in urban planning.

Yutaka Noda
Noda was born in Tokyo in 1968. He graduated from the Art Planning Department of Osaka University of Arts in 1991. While still at university, he planned many events and participated in planning in various fields. After graduating, he entered the audio manufacturer, Bose, where he was posted to the sales and planning sections, etc., and was then dispatched to Tida Planning which specializes in planning events. In April 1993, Noda set up a company called Plan Do See Inc. which owns hotels and restaurants in cities including Tokyo, Kyoto, Kobe and Fukuoka.

01. The Beginning
The aim was to have Mr. Nakasa take photographs of my work. I thought that he was Mexican. (Yindigo)

Nakasa: When did you see Noda for the first time, Mr. Fujimaki?

Fujimaki: When he came to the sales section called "Kaihoku” that I set up while working for Isetan. He came to the section on the day after the opening day together with his companions. He was a 23-year-old skinhead (in Japanese, "bozu”) working for Bose. My first impression was "What a strange guy”. Since then we have been close friends for fifteen years.

Nakasa: I first met Noda at a grilled-meat restaurant in Roppongi. He was shabby and I had the impression that he was an unpleasant man. I met him again three years later: he was still arrogant. He hasn't changed a bit.

Noda: I was full of spirit then because I was about to set up a company. I'm surprised to hear both of you had a bad first impression of me.

Fujimaki: But, "unpleasant man” is the highest expression of admiration. Yutaka is unusual for a Japanese. When you phone, can't you stop starting off with "Where are you?”. I say, Aoyama. You say "Well, I'm in New York.” I can't see the point of you asking me where I am.

Noda: I say "Where are you?” instead of "Hello”.

When I set up a bridal company, I phoned Mr. Nakasa because I strongly wanted him to do the photography for my company. He takes photos for all of our units. They really are the best!

Yindigo: All of the photos of buildings I liked from the very first were Mr. Nakasa's. From the name of his company, "Nacasa & Partners”, I thought that he wasn't Japanese and most probably Mexican.

Nakasa: Publishers don't like the Japanese katakana alphabet in a company name, so I decided to use English letters which make the name look like that of an overseas law firm. I thought the name "Nacasa” is good because it sounds like "la mia casa”.

Fujimaki: Ms. Yindigo, how did you get to meet Mr. Nakasa?

Yindigo: The light in Mr. Nakasa's photographs is very beautiful, so I was working hard to produce nice lighting worthy of Mr. Nakasa's photographic eye. I met Mr. Nakasa by chance at a restaurant in Aoyama called Caminetto, which has lighting of my design, when the Italian architectural magazine Domus sent somebody to see my work. Domus asked me to provide photos of my designs for the magazine. I was so pleased that Mr. Nakasa agreed to take photos of my work at such a short notice.

Nakasa: Domus is a magazine with such presence.

Yindigo: People say that one page of Domus is worth twenty pages of ordinary interior design magazines. The photos in the magazine are so impressive.

Nakasa: Domus published an article on the work of the architect, Hiroshi Nakao (note 1). Soon after, Mr. Nakao was asked to present a lecture for an architectural society in Oslo, Norway. I took photos of the model to be used for the lecture at a salt mine in Wakayama Prefecture. The model was so good that I could not believe people could make such a thing. Those photos were printed.

note 1
Hiroshi Nakao
Born 1961 in Kobe. Presently holding an exhibition titled "Enjoyable House” of his drawings and models at Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art.

Exhibition: "Enjoyable House”
August 4 (Friday) - October 1 (Sunday) 2006
Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art (10F Aichi Arts Center)
1-13-2 Higashi-Sakura, Higashi-ku, Nagoya 461-8525
Tel: 052-971-5511, fax: 052-971-5604

02. When Young
We arrived at parties twenty minutes before they finished because we didn't have any money. We didn't pay the party charge but got to know people. (Fujimaki)

Fujimaki: I had a complex. I graduated from an ordinary university, joined Isetan and became a buyer, without studying design at all. I couldn't understand what artists and people in the fashion business were talking about. I went out every night to meet as many interesting people as I could, and to talk with artists and people in fashion.

I met Yutaka then. We were invited to many parties because we were full of spirit, but we didn't have any money. We usually had only about ¥5,000 between us, so we couldn't pay the party charge of ¥10,000. We went to parties twenty minutes before they finished because we thought we could get in then without paying. Once we got in, we talked to everybody, saying "Haven't we met before?”. Although we often heard "I don't know you”, we gradually got to know about fashion and art, and made more and more acquaintances ? which is presumably why we are here tonight.

Noda: I did stupid things with Macky (Fujimaki). We have a similar taste in women.  

Fujimaki: I unexpectedly met Yutaka in New York one day. He was with his employees. He told me that he was visiting New York so that his employees could eat the best food. Not many people can do that.

Noda: We now have 250 employees. Twenty recommended employees, assigned as researchers, are allowed to spend up to ¥50,000 a month on good meals. Employees are allowed to spend as much company money on food as they like when I am with them. We also have ten hotel researchers. When they go away on business they are allowed to stay in the best rooms of the best hotels in town. I want our employees to experience the best of the best. This was the company motto from the beginning. I was very happy that my firm, in its 14th year, came 55th in a company popularity ranking.

Fujimaki: I cannot be proud of Ito-Yokado's ranking. I have to make more effort. I have started a brand called "pbi”at Ito-Yokado because I wanted to change the company's way of thinking that design means nothing in the supermarket business. I want more design in daily life.

Nakasa: What does "pbi” mean?

Fujimaki: It stands for "petit bonheur inattendu” which is French for unexpected small happiness. I'm wearing a pbi jacket costing ¥6,000.

Noda: I like the pbi belt, a bit like crocodile skin. After all, price doesn't mean everything.

03. Work
In a hotel questionnaire, one of the answers to the question "Next time, who do you want to come with?” was "lover”. I went with the wrong person. (Nakasa)

photoNakasa I went to The Fujiya Gohonjin (set up by Plan Do See Inc., note 2) in Nagano Prefecture. It's a good restaurant.

Noda: The restaurant was constructed by renovating "Gohonjin Fujiya Hotel” in front of Zenkoji Temple. We are making an interesting attempt. Despite the good cooks in the restaurant, the meals are not of the same level as Acqua Pazza in Hiro. I have requested the employees to write menus they want to see in restaurants, and the menus are bought from Acqua Pazza.

Fujimaki: That's an interesting idea of collaboration.

Noda: I'm going to open a restaurant by renovating a hotel in Hakata, I want the restaurant to be like The Mercer in Soho, New York. Although The Mercer is small, everything is first-class including the service, and the prices are very cheap. So perfect I was moved.

Fujimaki Price-consciousness.

Noda: Yes. I went to the Mondrian in L.A. for the first time in a long time and I was surprised that their service had improved so much. It seems that Ian Schrager, who designed the restaurant, had been working harder.

Nakasa: When I stayed at With The Style (note 3) in Hakata with my wife, my wife started laughing when looking at a questionnaire in the room. The first question was "Next time, who do you want to come with?”. The first answer choice was "lover”. We really liked it.

Noda: Customers are not interested in boring questionnaires. I made the questionnaire myself. There are only two choices for a question about the hotel's BGM: "superb” and "unbelievably superb”.

Fujimaki: That's really funny.

Noda: I am trying to be playful so that customers feel excited as soon as they enter the room. The hotel still has an 80% occupancy rate. The check-in time is 16:00; check-out is 14:00. International phone calls are cheap, the drinks in the refrigerator are all free. We don't ask stupid questions like "Did you drink anything from the refrigerator last night?” at check out.

Nakasa: I will go to the hotel with the right person next time.


note 2
The Fujiya Gohonjin

80 Daimon-cho, Nagano, Nagano Prefecture 380-0841
Tel: 026-232-1241


note 3
With The Style Fukuoka

1-9-18 Hakataeki-Minami, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka, Fukuoka Prefecture

04. The "Welcome to Japan" campaign
On departure at Narita Airport immigration control, I say to the officers "I won't be long.” (Noda)

Fujimaki: I recently bought the Irresponsible Man series starring Hitoshi Ueki on DVDs to watch them again, and because of the depth of the humor, I'm lending them to the employees saying "These will make you laugh!”

Yindigo: When I was a middle school student, I attended an advertising school run by Madra Publishing. Many of the lecturers there loved Crazy Cats and Hitoshi Ueki. It's fantastic that they still have appeal.

Nakasa: I agree. Hitoshi Ueki's great. A movie called A Success Story of A President starring Hisaya Morishige is also very funny. The furnishings of the train in the move that the president traveled in to Ise Shima with his lover were gorgeous enough to make me wonder why the interiors of current trains are so plain.

Fujimaki: Japanese culture and the Japanese sense of humor are concentrated in the movie series. Young people should watch them.

Noda: Macky has been recommending me a book about Jiro Shirasu for some time now. He is truly great.

Fujimaki: Mr. Shirasu often drank at a bar called Osome in Kyoto, which was a favorite with my uncle. So my uncle has told me about Mr. Shirasu since I was a child. He was great because he was extreme — in good ways as well as bad.

Nakasa: Mr. Shirasu thought about Japan so much. He was a true patriot.

Noda: An acquaintance of mine — a reporter on The Wall Street Journal — asked me what I thought of Japan. So I said that Japan is a splendid country, the food's good, the sea and the mountains are close, cherry trees bloom all over the country, seven shinkansen bullet trains have been running every hour with a very low accident rate over forty years, and eighty percent of wallets lost are returned to their owners. There is no county like Japan among the 160 countries of the world. But a Japanese person who was with me at the time said "Japan is no good.” I was really angry with him for about two hours. I told him that Japanese who do not love their own country and go abroad to study light heartedly, become influenced by their host country, so when they return to Japan, they start looking down on their own country, but I don't think they are qualified to do that!

Fujimaki: Yutaka and I really love Japan.

Noda: Yes, really. I am thinking about starting a "Welcome to Japan” campaign, secretly by myself. First of all, I want the immigration officers at Narita and Kansai airports smile. I think their smiles would give visitors to Japan a good first impression. If they smile, transit passengers would change their plans and stay in Japan for the night.

Fujimaki: That's true. Smiles are the base of business, but many companies can't make employees smile. And the worse the company, the fewer the smiles.

Noda: When I return to Japan, I greet the immigration officers with "I'm back”, and when I leave, I say "I won't be long”. They are surprised.

Fujimaki: You are always so cool. You are evolving all the time!

Noda: Instantly smile whenever you see anybody. Smile for your driving license and passport photos. If you are smiling in your passport photograph, people of every country you visit will think you are from a nice country. In this way, we could increase the number of overseas visitors to Japan, which is currently seven million a year, by ten times. If I become governor of Tokyo, I will clean the city straightaway. I will make sure public toilets are perfectly clean. Macky, why don't you become the governor of Tokyo and fill the city with patriotic spirit?

Fujimaki: Politicians need to have customers' views, as you do. Governor of Tokyo? I'll think about it. Just recently I was invited by Eishi Hayata, producer of Emerald Cowboy, which is based on his own life, to look for an oilfield together. Right now, I want to raise the patriotic spirit from the business of items for daily use. Ito-Yokado is increasing its range of traditional Japanese craftwork products.

Nakasa: By the way, Noda, I heard that you complained to Tadao Ando.

Noda: You bet I did. I told him that the lighting and the flows at Benesse House in Naoshima and Omotesando Hills are no good.

Nakasa: It is truly impressive that you told the internationally acclaimed Ando that his work is no good.

Fujimaki: The most important thing is whether or not you can say that you like or dislike something honestly. By trying to be honest, I have lost some clients, and some other clients have barred me from their offices, but honesty will improve the country. As a patriot, I want to make the country better, beginning with honesty!


Photographic collaboration

Restaurant "Dazzle”
8F and 9F Mikimoto Ginza 2, 2-4-12 Ginza, Chuo-ku
Tel: 03-5159-0991

Interviewer/Composition: Nobuko Ohara (Nacasa & Partners Inc.)
Text: Ako Matsuda (freelance editor)