There is a man who started a new service in Paris where products are not sold.
Last fall, “MIWA” opened in Saint-Germain-des-Prés to provide a Japanese traditional wrapping service using “origata” for registered members. The term origata used here differs from origami to craft objects for fun. The origata used here is a unique Japanese form of ethos and courtesy for when one exchanges gifts. At MIWA, performing this as a ritual, the skilled staff begins with a green tea ceremony and then moves onto assist with the wrapping of gifts of members, using Japanese paper and decorative cords.
We interviewed the founder of Rightning Consulting, Inc., Takeshi Sato about his unique business.
- What prompted you to start MIWA?
I became interested in the presence of branding in the consumer market through my experiences of creating visuals for advertisements and product development. I was involved in the Ryuichi Sakamoto led “more trees,” which aims to increase the demand for domestic wood, just around the time the Tohoku Earthquake happened. I produced the mobile phone “TOUCH WOOD” project to create phones made of Japanese hinoki wood. “TOUCH WOOD” mobile phones became known for its functionality and design but also for increasing the demand of Japanese wood. This project made me realize that I wanted to go beyond creating high quality products; I wanted to create a business based on stories and emotions.
- MIWA is a business which sells stories not products?
Gifts brought into MIWA to be wrapped with origata become unique one-of-a-kind items, incorporating the sender’s feelings. This is similar to branding. For example, Louis Vuitton is established as a brand for its history and tradition, which is unique and makes it special. In Japan, the belief was that as long as the products are good, they will sell. This is why I think true brands in Japan are hard to find and Japan made products are losing their competitiveness. I wanted to take the challenge now to create a Japanese brand. MIWA, which sells a story rather than products can be said to be an experiment of branding.
- What is an example of a unique Japanese story?
When sending a text message, Japanese people tend to add stickers of characters or hearts after typing “arigato (thank you).” I think that arigato alone is sufficient but Japanese people go out of their ways to spend time to do something extra. When the recipient receives the message, they receive the entire message including the stickers, which the sender took time to select.
- Is there a reason why you opened MIWA in Paris?
In the past when information was limited, foreigners enjoyed Japanese culture such as geisha and ramen noodles, things that were different to their own culture. Now, we see otaku foreigners enjoying Japanese idols and anime in the same spirits as Japanese people. This is only an example but I see more cases where people are trying to understand Japanese spirit and more people are coming to understand the spirit. This is why I felt that MIWA would be accepted overseas. Paris, with many knowledgeable people seemed like a good place to start.
- What is the key to success for MIWA?
In order to not become a follower in the business world, I felt that I needed to create something completely new, which led me to start MIWA. I will continue to take on new challenges.