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Archery points the way to success in business philosophy

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Yomiuri ShimbunTarget: Business Wisdom from the Ancient Japanese Martial Art of Kyudo

By Jerome Chouchan

LID Publishing Ltd., 169pp

Whenever asked what the secret to producing a hit in the business field is, Jerome Chouchan gives the same answer, saying, “You don’t reach a target; a target reaches you.” Such Zen-like question-and-answer remarks are at the core of his recent book. By introducing the spirit and wisdom of the traditional Japanese art of kyudo archery, the president of Godiva Japan elaborates on the essence of his philosophy to help businesspeople deal with uncertain times.

The Frenchman has practiced kyudo for more than 25 years, having lived in Japan longer than in his home country. Chouchan has dedicated himself to pursuing a double career in business and kyudo.

The art of kyudo, meaning the way of the bow, developed during the Edo period (1603-1867), according to the International Kyudo Federation. In the modern era, close distance competitions use targets that are 36 centimeters in diameter at a distance of 28 meters.

Comparing Japanese archery to its Western counterpart, he writes the latter is “a sport where accuracy is the sole measure of performance.” In contrast, the former is “a martial art where the spirit, the form and the accuracy all contribute to the criteria involved in assessing performance.” In addition, he points out that “surprisingly, learning the spirit and wisdom of traditional Japanese archery helps the modern businessman navigate through today’s challenges.”

He lines up other magical phrases, too: “Right shooting always results in a hit,” “One shot at a time,” “Study where your arrow lands,” and so on. I was amazed to learn that he initially wrote the book in romanized Japanese.

To return to the opening remark, the “target” is the customer. In an example to help readers understand such a paradoxical statement, he describes visiting a Godiva shop with his wife as a customer. Discovering a lot of attractiveness there, he wished there were more shops like this — in more accessible places. His “feelings had naturally become one with the target, the customer.” Based on this experience, he built Godiva’s new strategy, in which the company aimed at creating an aspirational brand and making it more accessible.

Thanks to the results he gets, his stories are fairly persuasive. Godiva recently doubled its sales within five years, even though the chocolate market in Japan has grown by less than 5 percent over the past 10 years.

Quite a few managers do more or less the same things as Chouchan, I think. What differentiates him from the others is that he can completely forget his position and become a customer as a result of his longtime kyudo practice.

For example, while he was president of Lladro Japan before joining Godiva, he proposed creating “Wakamusha,” a boy’s festival doll to appeal to Japanese customers. It became a big hit.

Chouchan holds the rank of 5th dan in kyudo. He reveals he took the 4th dan examination 15 times and failed 15 times. For a straight-A student from France who always ranked at the top or second place in school, “it was quite shocking.” This impressed me because it shows this successful businessman and athlete to be just as human as the rest of us. Success does not always come quickly. We don’t reach the target, the target reaches us.

— Takeshi Nagata

Japan News Staff Writer

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