Interview with Japanese International Businessman, Ty Fukata
9 diciembre, 2013
Throughout this semester, my classmates and I have been writing group articles, both opinion and news, on specific regions of the world for our International Current Day Observations course. Asia Pacific has been my region. For our last regional assignment, we were assigned an individual interview with someone either from our region, or with an interesting story about the region.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Ty Fukata from Japan. I received Ty’s contact through a family friend who I told about the interview assignment. She thought that I would enjoy talking to Ty as I am interested in International Business, and he works for an international corporation. Since I didn’t know Ty before the interview, besides the few emails we exchanged prior to our Skype call, I wanted to get to know a little about his background before asking about his work and his view on current events in Japan.
Ty was born and grew up north of Tokyo in the Saitama prefecture of Japan. He studied International Studies and learned English at Tokyo International University. One very interesting thing that I learned about Ty was that Ty is not his real name, and it is common for Asian people to use an alternative name when they move to the United States. He expected that his birth name, Toru (pronounced toh-ruh), might be difficult for Americans to pronounce. Ty said that he was given many choices for an English name from one of his colleagues, and chose Ty because it started with a “T”, like Toru, and was very easy to pronounce.
Ty is the Chief Operating Officer for Taiyo America, the daughter company of the Japanese Taiyo Ink Mfg. Co., a technology company that develops, manufactures and sells printed wiring board materials for computers. He moved to Carson City, Nevada earlier this year to take on his role in Taiyo America of running the company and expanding the business throughout the nation. Before joining Taiyo Ink in 2007, Ty worked for another Japanese company that manufactures and sells an electrical component. For this company he also had international business experiences, working at the company’s daughter company in England for three years and in Germany for two.
I asked Ty what some of the biggest differences he’s experienced were, since moving to the US, in regards to how businesses are run and also culturally. I couldn’t help but laugh a little at his answer in regards to cultural differences. He described to me an experience he had on a Southwest Airlines flight, where the flight attendant threw a bag of peanuts at a passenger. He was shocked at the way the cabin crew for this flight interacted with passengers, because in Japan, he said, it would never happen. Ty thought that “The meaning of politeness and rude to a customer is different than Japan. Maybe Japanese style is too much polite.” I assured him that not all Americans are rude and not all flights on Southwest would be like that; he might even get a crew that sings the safety features of the airplane.
In reference to differences with running a business, Ty said that leadership styles in the US are very different to those of Asian countries. In Japan and on business trips to other Asian countries, Ty experienced a very hierarchical style of leadership that he calls “Top-down,” where management decides a direction or sets a goal and the people below follow, often without question. The leadership style Ty has experienced in the US is a “flatter” style, where “frequent communication between Management and his people to achieve a goal is needed.” He said that this is an obstacle he has had to overcome since leading a company in the US, and that he has to be very logical to do anything in the US, whereas in Top-down, sometimes logic is not appropriate because of the hierarchy-type model. One thing that he prefers about business in Japan is that motivation of employees can be improved by assigning a challenging task. He stated, “Of course money is one motivation, but it is not a must.” In the US he has experienced that money is often the only motivator, especially for routine-work employees, which he says is a very difficult issue for running a business in the US.
Toward the end of our interview, I wanted to know how Ty felt about the international news surrounding the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. He told me that more than 300,000 people are still evacuating from their homes due to the nuclear pollution, which is not actually pollution in some of the areas, but the government has suggested the evacuation to minimize risk if the pollution spreads. He said that he knows some people who evacuated, and the government needs to consider when they can return home. Ty also mentioned the fact that the Olympics will be held in Tokyo in 2020, and he said scornfully, “Can you imagine how much we spent to invite and promote Tokyo as a candidate? It’s $83 million (USD). Part of this cost should have been used to help evacuees!”
I thoroughly enjoyed my interview with Ty, and I enjoyed hearing his experiences from a career path that I may want to pursue, as well as get some local insight on an international hot topic.