Since my first visit to Japan for New Years 2005, it’s been a country that intrigues me. So much so that I even enrolled for Japanese language lessons for a few years in Cape Town, but I was never a good student. Such a complex language requires daily effort to master, which I unfortunately did not have.
The interest did not wane, however, and after two more visits in 2008 and 2014 I realised my interest requires another outlet. What was frustrating to me after each visit was the fact that very few of the quality products that permeate Japanese life were available in South Africa. We are used to many things from Japan like Japanese vehicles, pens, electronics and increasingly food, but many of its small-scale manufacturing / craftsmen industries are not represented.
Japan has a long and complex history and a large part of its society and economy is built on small to medium sized businesses, which often have a very narrowarea of specialisation. This is something I also learnt from reading Yoshio Sugimoto’s An Introduction to Japanese Society – the typical ‘salary man’ of Japan is not the majority group within the economically active part of society.
In 2014 I started working on an idea to establish an import and distribution business in South Africa which would focus on small quantities of high-quality Japanese goods for the house and garden. Products like hand forged secateurs, or durable notebooks and art supplies, or kitchen tools. It’s been a long road (30 months to be exact), but this weekend on 9 July 2016 my business partners and I launched our online store WAZA with a first range of products and focusing specifically on the South African market.
Every new project I work on and every new business I become involved in is a learning experience, so I welcome feedback and suggestions on this new venture, or on our products. And if Japanese tools are your thing too, feel free to contact me through the shop with any order requests!