Friday, October 21, 2011

Snowpeak - natural lifestyle creator

He sits down to a family dinner only a few times a month as his hectic schedule takes him everywhere, throughout Japan and overseas. He often works from morning to midnight.

Is Snowpeak’s president Tohru Yamai a typical Japanese workaholic out to get rich? No, he says, he mainly works to make his community wealthier and its people happier. However, he is ambitious and his ambitions have grown bigger and bigger over the years as he has expanded the business that was handed down to him from his father.

His business’s success has allowed him to open a new company headquarters on a hilly ranch site four times as large as the Tokyo Dome baseball park in the Shitada District of Sanjo City in April. The site was chosen because Snowpeak deals with the production and distribution of outdoor gear, and the areas surrounding the new building are some of the best camping sites around.

Along with the new headquarters, 60 of his 130 staff members moved to Shitada, planning, designing, producing, selling and even repairing high class goods there in this all-in-one building. The office building won an award for Good Design from Japan Institute of Design Promotion.

He said Snowpeak brand goods are more luxurious than those used by most traditional campers, but they are also highly user-friendly and fashionable. Likewise, his camping sites are of a more sanitary-design and are as equally luxurious as the goods he sells. However, his company doesn’t just please those of us who enjoy camping right here in Sanjo, it also has shops throughout Japan as well as foreign countries such as Korea, Germany and the USA.

Mr. Yamai’s unstoppable quest for excellence didn’t just start after he came to be president of the company. Even back in his high school days when he was on the baseball team, he played with the sole goal of playing for the national high school championship at Koshien Stadium. He had dedicated his whole life to that point to baseball.

After entering university in Tokyo, he pursued his outside interests with far more dedication than he gave to his course work. However, as he grew to be a full-fledged member of society, he began to channel the same energy he had spent on sports and partying to helping others. When a devastating flood hit Sanjo City in 2004, he volunteered to help in the cleanup every day for more than three weeks, without ever visiting his office. Likewise, after the great 3/11 earthquake, his company collected a total of 10,000 tents, sleeping bags, mats and rugs from all over Japan and provided them to many victims and many volunteers who were helping out with search, rescue and restoration projects.

These days, a lot of his energy is devoted to sharing his love for nature and healthier lifestyles. When he’s not doing that, he is helping to foster young and energetic entrepreneurs and business people by volunteering his experience and knowhow. When he was still an active member of the Japan Junior Chamber, the older members tutored him and helped him to “grow up” and he now feels compelled to give back.

As for his company, he hopes that it will be able to serve 100,000 customers a year in five years. As a “citizen of the earth,” as he sometimes refers to himself, he simply wants to contribute positively to society.