I recently travelled to Japan for holiday – a country which, depending who you speak to, can conjure up anything from images of sushi to technology to anime to nuclear catastrophes to controversial whaling practices. It was my third visit and I was once again reminded of how difficult it is to “get to know” another country, culture or its people, while only being exposed very briefly to the (tourist) tip of their lives. Understanding is a complex activity and in a country with as many stimulations, but also unspoken rules that govern everyday behaviour, it is even more so.
The one theme I found intriguing was what seems to be a strongly emerging entrepreneurial culture among young people, specifically in services, food and hospitality.
Japan’s bakery culture is the stuff of salivating tales and recollections of the ubiquitous panya, literally bread shops. What I found very interesting in buying daily goods from these small independent bakeries was the youth demographic. A large percentage of the small bakeries we bought from in Osaka, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Kagoshima and Takamatsu, were run by 20-something Japanese. What I want to know is whether they are owner/managers, or employees only?