Shuhari Japanese Brand Daisuke Sugiyama


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“Shu-Ha-Ri” stands for the three stages of skill mastery: the Chinese character Shu, Ha, and Ri. In “Shu”, you follow the examples given and master them completely. At the “Ha” level, you add your own creative touch to what you have learned and make the techniques and skills your own. At the stage of “Ri”, you take what you have learned even further.

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Shuhari Japanese Brand Daisuke Sugiyama

  1. 1. Daisuke Sugiyama JFTC Essay Competition 2006 Japan Foreign Trade Council, Inc. Prize for Excellence (Short Version) “Shu-Ha-Ri” 守破離 Compared to fifty years ago, Japan has become more closely linked to other countries as Japanese corporations have entered overseas markets. To live together in a borderless international community, the people of each country must have a sense of belonging to their own nation and have a clear sense of national identity. The concept that “culture = brand” at the national level differentiates one country from the nations in the global community and strengthens that country’s competitive spirit. A brand’s uniqueness is amorphous. This means that the value of a brand is created through the image people have of that brand in their minds. In the case of Japan, I think that the “image people have of a brand in their minds” is an aspect of the Japanese Philosophy of “Shu-Ha-Ri” which I came to know from kendo, I started during my thirteen-year stay in New York. In brief, “Shu-Ha-Ri” stands for the three stages of skill mastery: the Chinese character Shu(守), Ha(破), and Ri(離). In “Shu”, you follow the examples given and master them completely. At the “Ha” level, you add your own creative touch to what you have learned and make the techniques and skills your own. At the stage of “Ri”, you take what you have learned even further. In Japan, “Shu” is the heart of knowledge transmission, which is the basis for the creation of culture, in other words, the origin of education. Through “Shu” that has been passed down over the generations through intentional effort, the basics have been valued and the traditional mindset and atmosphere of Japan have been valued. “Brand Japan” which is Japan’s pride and glory is precisely this “Shu” from “Shu-Ha-Ri”. 1 | “Shu-Ha-Ri” 守破離
  2. 2. “Shu-Ha-Ri” Foreword – Japanese Spirit Any Japanese person who has lived abroad will tell you that in a foreign land, there are many instances where you become acutely aware of your Japanese-ness. Following my father’s transfer to America, I spent 13 years living there in the melting pot of cultures. Through my many experiences there, I became very aware that I was indeed Japanese. Since I was 3 years old, and until graduating from junior high, I attended the neighborhood public school as the only Japanese person there. Among the many races and ethnicities, I formed my own identity, as Daisuke Sugiyama, and regarded myself as that, not minding what others thought. At public school I soaked in American culture and cultivated an Americanized way of thinking, different from that of a typical Japanese. An American identity is not dependent upon something; it is about creating your own style. I returned to Japan directly following the Great Hanshin Earthquake for high school entrance exams, and resumed my life here. In my world history text book, I read a war history different from that I learned in America, and realized that the war was perceived much differently by country. 11 years have passed since then, and I have learned the Japanese style of business, hospitality, and thoughtfulness. The distinct culture specific to Japan, was very refreshing to me. Most of the time, what seems fresh from the outside, goes unnoticed by those living inside. Recently, the strengths of Japanese corporations are being aknowledged. Meticulous monozukuri, product development, production systems, quality of service, etc. the strengths of Japanese corporations are wide ranging. What has supported this is the coherence and solidity of the Japanese people, which is a characteristic of Japan, and the Japanese people. Japan’s unique asset is its people itself. Japan’s value lies in the philosophies that have supported her, and in the Japanese mindset which is unwavering despite the tides of time. This to me is ultimately the “Shu-Ha-Ri” concept. 2 | “Shu-Ha-Ri” 守破離
  3. 3. Chapter 1 Japanese Values - “Shu-Ha-Ri” 1. Beginning Kendo in NY The first time I laid my eyes on the protective gear and bamboo sword of kendo, was at a friend’s house when I was in third grade. I was instantly attracted, and put them on over my T-shirt and shorts. Wanting to take up kendo, I approached my mother, and she said that I may, if I could withstand an hour in a room with no air conditioning with a rice cooker on my head. Now that I think about it I understand that she was testing whether I could bear the protective head gear. This is how I began kendo. In New York, my kendo class would often use public gymnasiums for our practice. There was once an incident where Americans who were unaware of the art of kendo, walked by and saw an adult hitting a child with the bamboo sword and dialed 911. The police came to check if there was any child abuse going on. Taking up kendo in New York, I had many opportunities to meet with the Japan national champions. My teacher was good friends with a man who taught kendo at the Japanese police department, and insisted that I attend a training camp during the stay in Japan he knew my family was planning. He told me there would be fishing trips in the morning and fireworks at night and it would be all very fun. I believed him. - The kendo camp hosted by the police department That summer I spent at the camp hosted by the police in Katsuura, Chiba would be one I would never forget. The kendo that I learned in New York was a sport. It was where we would work up a good sweat with friends and interact within the Japanese community. The teachers were also all family friends, and were like our neighbors. Practice was fun, never hard. However, during those 5 nights and 6 days at camp, I realized that the kendo I was learning was in fact a budo, or martial art. From how to care for our bamboo sword or “shinai”, to how to properly put on the protective body gear, everything was about repeating the basics, respecting elders, orderly communal life, greetings in clear strong voices, and scrubbing the teachers back in the bath houses. It was a life of rules that I had never experienced before, and it appealed to me. 3 | “Shu-Ha-Ri” 守破離
  4. 4. By beginning kendo, I learned Japanese mannerisms and culture while living abroad. At the camp I attended, I got a feel of the genuine kendo. The words recited at the mediation we did at the end of each practice were as follows: ‘The sword is the “kokoro”. If the “kokoro” is true, so is the sword. If the “kokoro” is not true, neither is the sword. Those that learn the art of the sword must first learn the way of the “kokoro”.’ As a boy living in America, these words were very fresh to me. “Kokoro” literally means “heart”, however I believe “mind” is a more accurate English translation. The heart is a feeling, emotional thing that cannot be controlled. However, the mind is a controlled feeling, spirit, or mentality. I understood that I needed to practice to control my “kokoro” or mind. In America, I played a variety of sports; however I never encountered one whose teachings were based on the mind. Since then I came to learn that “kokoro” is important not just in kendo, but in everything we do. I also learned the profound depth of the Japanese responses, where yes means no, and no means yes. Henceforth, I began my interest in budo and Japanese culture. In New York, there were no Dojos nearby, so going to practice meant going by car, which eventually lead to my older and younger sisters to start kendo as well. After a while, my kendo teacher invited my parents to join, and my dad jumped in wearing his sweats. My mother, disliking the idea of wearing sweats, didn’t join in until her gear arrived from Japan. My parents were over 40 years old when they began in New York, but have continued kendo even after their return to Japan, and still today join the police sponsored lessons. My father is now a grand master, and our beginning kendo together has strengthened our bonds as a family. After returning to Japan, my mother was facing her kendo promotion screening, and one of her exam questions was to explain the concept of “Shu-Ha-Ri”. My mother went to the library to research. To her dismay there were not many sources available, so I searched the internet on her behalf. At the time, I was unaware of the phrase “Shu-Ha-Ri”. In my research, I found that this concept was common to all Japanese arts ending in “do”, such as “Sado” (tea ceremony). What I learned then was that “Shu-Ha-Ri” is comprised of three Chinese characters “Shu”, “Ha” and “Ri”, each with deep meaning, expressing a stage of mastery. 4 | “Shu-Ha-Ri” 守破離
  5. 5. “Shu” is the first stage in learning anything. Here, you follow the teachings of your master completely. It is the stage in which you absorb the teachings and values of your master. The next stage, “Ha”, you abide by your master’s teachings but add your own thoughts and values to it. In other words, you create your own “do” or “path”. The last stage is “Ri”. This is where you detach yourself from your master and refine the path you have created, and ultimately gain enlightenment. It dawned on me, that this “Shu-Ha-Ri” concept was exactly the “Japanese values” that I had come to know. The Japanese-ness that I inexplicably felt was all nicely embodied in this concept. 2. What is “Shu-Ha-Ri”? In his book, The Philosophy of Shu-Ha-Ri, Ryozou Fujiwara describes “Shu-Ha-Ri” as follows: All Japanese arts end with the Chinese character “do”(path). Their ultimate goal is to achieve self completion through training. The philosophy of “Shu-Ha-Ri” is the mental path describing the behavioral pattern through which an apprentice achieves his awakening. “Shu” is learning and retaining the teachings of his predecessors. “Ha” is complete immersion in the drilling and refining of oneself, and “Ri” is the state of the mind and soul after grasping the art’s spirit with both body and mind. In brief, “Shu-Ha-Ri” stands for the three stages of skill mastery: the Chinese character Shu, Ha, and Ri. In “Shu”, you follow the examples given and master them completely. At the “Ha” level, you add your own creative touch to what you have learned and make the techniques and skills your own. At the stage of “Ri”, you take what you have learned even further. There are many Japanese who are unaware of “Shu-Ha-Ri”. However, “Shu-Ha-Ri” is a concept that relates to the spiritual foundations of Japan, and underlies all the fields of art and business. 5 | “Shu-Ha-Ri” 守破離
  6. 6. 3. The significance of “Shu-Ha-Ri” It is said that humans possess a high capacity of learning, and the ability of teaching, traits that no other animals possess. These abilities are what the foundations of human society and culture are based upon. Its goings on are language based education, which is as Russo points out, vital to the existence of man. “Education” is exclusive to mankind, and is also its greatest contrivance. The word for learning in Japanese, “manabu”, stems from “manebu” or “imitate”. Human learn through intellectual curiosity. This is motivated by the desire to test and heighten one’s ability, and is accompanied by a sense of joy. Learning which does not cultivate a higher ability is not accompanied by a sense of joy, and learning without the desire for new abilities is not intrinsic learning, and cannot become a motive for further advancement. To learn is to gain human culture, and since culture is social by nature, gaining such connects one to human society, and to the entire history of mankind. To learn is to connect with others via culture, and to open one’s self to the world. As above, and as Hajime Tajima states in his book, Introductory Education Principles, education is the origin of culture, and learning, or “Shu” in the case of Japan, is the beginning of mankind’s history. I believe that the origin of learning in Japan is this “Shu”, and thus the origin of Japanese culture is also the “Shu” of “Shu-Ha-Ri”. All the basics are learned in “Shu”. Japan is a country where adjectives such as “kokoro” (heart/mind), and “omomuki” (atmosphere/flavor) nicely fit. Mastering the basics are important in both budo and art. The basics are first and foremost how you maintain your “kokoro” or mindset. In business and in anything else, it is important to concentrate your “kokoro”. This fundamental idea is deeply reflected in Japanese budo, art, and culture. To develop one’s insides or “kokoro” is one of the points of mentorship, and as an apprentice, the first step is to imitate the movements of the master, whom has already achieved the before such. This is in other words, “Shu”. By polishing and developing your “kokoro”, you can move on to the next step. This is the process by which apprentices grow as a person, and such arts as kendo and sado (tea 6 | “Shu-Ha-Ri” 守破離
  7. 7. ceremony), or any other art ending with “do” signifies that one will continue to battle within oneself in order to progress in mastering the art. The enemy is within. The battle is between yourself. Therefore, I believe that “Shu” is a method of protecting yourself from yourself. Even if you self learn kendo from the start, it is insufficient because the limits of any self-styled (“Ha”) art without the basics shall come at one point. In Japanese culture, you must first learn the basics, or “kata”(form) first. To make yourself look similar to that of the world you wish to master, and to adapt to it is what is most important. This is also the spirit of respecting “Shu”. 4. The Japanese Culture of “Shu” Japan’s cultural background is fundamentally different from that of other countries. The core of such background is the “Shu-Ha-Ri” concept, where the sequence is of great importance, and if any one step is missing, the training loses all meaning. Through learning or imitating your master or mentor, you gain your basics and conceive your base. “Ha” is where you develop yourself and create your own style upon these basics, and “Ri” is where you take it one step further and gain enlightenment. Therefore, without the basics, you have no base. Hence, there is “Ha” or “Ri” without “Shu”. If one goes through the “Ha” and “Ri” stages without the “Shu”, it is most likely an unsophisticated, imperfect, and unstable mastery, since it lacks a base. Let’s take a look at the world now. The United States of America, is an economic giant where an emphasis is placed on an “original-style” and “the power of money”. Materialism is wide spread, what can be seen with the eyes is valued, and thinking is egocentric. Individuality is respected above all else, and people are taught to speak their minds before listening to others. In such a manner, Americans and Japanese are fundamentally different, as Japanese value what cannot be seen with one’s eyes. 7 | “Shu-Ha-Ri” 守破離
  8. 8. Chapter 2. The Japan Brand - The brand value within people’s minds 1. Brand value within people’s minds The below is a quote from Seminar - Introductory Book to Marketing: “A simple definition of “brand” is “a collective term placed upon a name or mark that characterizes a product or service”. Looking back in history, companies have heavily utilized brands since the beginning of marketing in the early 20th century.” This definition of brand is easy to understand. In general, “brand” has a “product or service” at its core. A “brand” has a “mark” by which a product is distinguished from other products, in the way that most Japanese think of “walkman” when they see the SONY mark, and UNIQLO when they think of fleece tops, and TIFFANY when they think of engagement rings. A brand’s function in marketing is it’s “guarantee function”, “identification function”, and “associative recall function” (brand recall, brand association), and the prerequisite of these are the existence of a “product or service”. Today, many companies in many fields stress the establishment and development of their company’s brand value over that of their technology or product value, meaning that brand development is not only in regards to “products”. Let’s look into this idea that brand does not necessarily equal product by reading the following excerpt from Product/Brand Strategy. The source of value that brands add to products is directly related to the “knowledge the customer possesses”, as is signified by the phrase “brand image”. Even people who cannot tell you the difference between a product and brand, will often use the word “brand”, not “product” when relating to “value”. A typical example is when people talk about high class fashion apparel. The word that is frequently used is “brand”, not “product”. Although people may not be clearly aware, many intuitively sense that the brand value is created by the knowledge of the customer. The characteristics of brands can be described in four categories, “amorphous”, “indirect”, “multilayered”, and “relativity”. I would like to focus on the “amorphous” quality. 8 | “Shu-Ha-Ri” 守破離
  9. 9. “Amorphous” means that the brand’s value cannot be seen with your eyes, because it is composed of the knowledge that people have in their minds. A brand is perceptional, and exists within the knowledge or emotions of our minds. It is 10 layered, and relative. Now, let’s look more deeply into the possibilities of the “Japan Brand” on the pretense that the source of brand value lies within our knowledge. 2. Conclusion The Possibilities of the Japan Brand – The “Shu” of “Shu-Ha-Ri” – Within “Shu-Ha-Ri”, I believe that “Shu” is the most significant of Japanese values. “Knowledge” is the consolidation of past teachings and is a legacy. By imitating or learning from your mentor, and obediently attaining his skills, regardless of if you understand it or not, you will be gaining the legacy that your mentor has gained from his mentor. If for example, you are training to become a cook of Japanese cuisine, at first you will not be allowed to hold a knife. First you would clean the kitchen and sinks and do all the chores obediently as ordered by your elders. By doing so, you will learn from what your mentors say, or how they move about. Through this training, you can feel the atmosphere of the art you hope to master, and at the same time copy the technique of your mentors. These early years are where you learn the basics. In the Japanese arts ending with “do”, there are many instances where one is not directly taught by his mentor, but gradually learns the art from living limited within a group of apprenticeship, sharing the same atmosphere. Through “Shu-Ha-Ri”, a master will learn from his master “Shu”, make it his own “Ha”, and then continue on “Ri”. Then, his apprentice will learn from him “Shu”, and so on. If you go back in time you will see the master learning from his master, and his master learning from his master, and so on. “Shu-Ha-Ri” is continued on in sequence, and through this the legacy lives, and the basics are further developed. This is not only true for master and apprentice, but also between parent and child. A parent will pass on knowledge and customs, technique, skill and atmosphere, to his child. His child will obey and protect this knowledge, and pass in on to the following generations. 9 | “Shu-Ha-Ri” 守破離
  10. 10. I believe that because there is this “Shu” stage, there exists a “Ha” and a “Ri” for each individual. Japanese have from ancient times valued the passing on of knowledge. “Shu”, of “Shu-Ha-Ri”, is what best describes the source of this thinking. Today, the strengths of Japanese companies such as “meticulous monozukuri”, “product development skills”, “production systems”, and “high quality of service”, are becoming renown in the world. A strength of Japanese companies that makes them even more competitive is the “Shu” of “Shu-Ha-Ri”, or the “consolidated value” of the Japanese throughout history. This is Japan’s distinct trait, its “Japanese-ness”. I also believe that it is the most important possibility of the “Japan Brand”. (Footnotes) 1 Fujiwara, Philosophy of Shu-Ha-Ri (1993), Baseball Magazine Publishing 2 Yanagida, Historical Kokogo Education (1937), Iwanami Publishing 3 Tajima, Introductory Education Principles (1997), Yuhikaku Alma 4 Ishii, Kuriki, Shimaguchi, Yoda, Seminar Introductory book to Marketing (2004), Nihon Keizai Shimbunsha 5 Aoki, Onzo, Product/Brand Strategy (2004), Yuhikaku, Chapter 9 6 Aoki, Onzo, Product/Brand Strategy (2004), Yuhikaku, Chapter 4 References “Branding” is Organizational Strength (2005), DIAMOND Harvard Business Review Cabinet Office “Consumer Confidence Survey” March, 2005 Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications “Communications Usage Trend Survey (Households)” December, 2004 “Honkawa Data Tribune” Yutaka Honkawa Ishii, Kuriki, Shimaguchi, Yoda, Seminar Introductory book to Marketing (2004), Nihon Keizai Shimbunsha Aoki, Onzo, Product/Brand Strategy (2004), Yuhikaku Ogi, Marketing Strategy (2000), Chuo Keizaisha Tajima, Introductory Education Principles (1997), Yuhikaku Alma Fujiwara, Philosophy of Shu-Ha-Ri (1993), Baseball Magazine Publishing Yanagida, Historical Kokogo Education (1937), Iwanami Publishing 10 | “Shu-Ha-Ri” 守破離