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Mokuhankan Staff Letter - end of November 2014

Posted by Dave Bull at  11:05 PM, November 27, 2014 [Permalink]

An open letter from Dave to the Mokuhankan staff, after our first month of operation in Asakusa.

* * *

The first month of our (hopefully) long adventure in Asakusa is now behind us. I have to say right up front that I am quite happy with the way that things have gone during this early stage. We've encountered a couple of minor bumps, but overall I think we have done a good job in bringing this new place to life.

The best indicator of this has been the reaction and feedback from the customers who have visited so far. You have heard their comments - "What a beautiful place!" being perhaps the most common - and you have certainly felt their reaction after a Print Party. Every single person who has participated in one of these events has enjoyed it ... immensely.

Our first month of business has confirmed a number of things:

  • we have a fabulous location - perhaps none better in Tokyo
  • we have an excellent 'product' - our Print Parties are a wonderful experience for people, and our woodblock prints (as you all know) are growing in popularity day by day. We are bringing very good value to society by offering these things, and this is recognized by our fans and customers
  • we now have the core of a good staff to operate the business - our 'team' is not very solid yet, but we clearly have a good foundation to start
  • our timing is perfect - there will be a flood of visitors to Japan over the coming years (a very large percent of these coming to Asakusa) and the yen exchange rate - after years of frustration - is very much in our benefit, and may even get better for us over the next few years

Absolutely every possible facet of this business is lined up in our favour. There is an expression in English to describe this situation: "The game is ours to lose ..." It means that unless we make a lot of very large and silly mistakes, we are pretty much guaranteed to succeed.

I would like thank you all for your assistance so far in this work. I know that I have sometimes not been very clear in giving you good direction and guidance on how to do your new jobs, but just like you, I too am new at this. Many years ago I ran a large music shop (we had around 14~15 full-time staff) quite successfully, but that was when I was much younger. I certainly can't do such a thing by myself any longer, and it will be very important to our new business that we organize a good division of our work, with everybody quite clear about what their jobs should be.

Every single one of us is going to have to wear multiple 'hats' over the coming months. I myself took off my 'Construction Hard Hat' a few weeks ago, but haven't yet managed to find a new one that fits well. My own schedule for the next few weeks (perhaps for the rest of the year) is going to be completely taken up with a combination of jobs:

  • physical printmaking work. I have to get the very late Blue Storm print finally into production, then of course I must get the Great Wave carved, and I also have to prepare the sizing on a mountain of printing paper (hopefully avoiding a repeat of the disaster of last month's sizing work ...)
  • running Print Parties, and 'training' other staff members to the point where they can handle Parties by themselves
  • continuing to run our 'background systems', the online ordering and the subscription series processing

In order to help organize our work over the next few weeks, let me outline some of the important jobs that need to be undertaken during the coming month (over and above our ongoing printmaking work):

  • we need to - quickly - fix our Japanese web site, to bring it up-to-date with our current situation. We need a good page explaining our Print Parties, and we need both an on-line reservation form, and a way for people to make reservations other ways (telephone, email, etc.)
  • we need to begin our first 'media campaign' for Japanese media (TV, radio, magazines, newspapers). I have experience of doing this - during the years that I had an annual exhibition - and am confident that we have pretty good 'media power', and can attract some good attention.
  • we need to begin the long process of contacting the editors of every Japan-related guidebook on this planet. I stopped in Maruzen books on the way back to Ome the other night, and found over 20 major guidebooks for Japan, with another dozen or so just for Tokyo, and we need to be in all of these, next time they are updated. I then went over to the domestic travel section and was stunned at what I found. There are literally hundreds of guidebooks, magazines, and guide maps whose editors would be interested in learning about our shop and our Print Parties. Contacting all these publishers is going to be a huge task.
  • we have to catch up on a ton of overdue bookkeeping work. I usually do this alone, but have not touched it since the beginning of September and I now need help to get it back up to date ...

I will be talking with most of you over the next couple of days, and trying as best I can to get these jobs broken into bite-size pieces, and assigned to suitable people. Please help me get these things organized well - it is very important now that we begin to spread the word to the world about our wonderful little shop!

And one final reminder to everybody. Every westerner who visits Japan always goes home with a very strong impression of how 'The Japanese people are so polite!', and of course I know that people who visit our shop will get the same impression. But being 'polite' is actually not enough - I want to treat our visitors with warmth.

If you yourself will enjoy dealing with them, and let them feel that enjoyment, then this will happen.

Thank you again, and let's have fun moving forward with this little project of ours!





Added by: Jed Henry on December 1, 2014 12:49 AM

I'm blown away at your ability to get this shop up and running, Dave. Every step of the way, you've shown a huge degree of versatility and resourcefulness. I can't wait to see the next step unfold!

All the marketing is going to take some work. I'll do what I can on the Facebook page, of course. If there's anything else I can do, please let me know.


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