Be tolerant to cultural difference


Chuo graduate runs business in Shanghai


Tatsuya Ishigaki poses with a copy of Hakumon Herald in hand during an interview at his office in Shanghai.
Tatsuya Ishigaki poses with a copy of Hakumon Herald in hand during an interview at his office in Shanghai.

More Japanese go abroad each year not to do sightseeing but to work and live there. The statistics released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs put the number of Japanese workers abroad at approximately 1.3 million. Among foreign cities, Shanghai, China, ranks fourth in terms of the number of Japanese residents. At present, some 60,000 Japanese live and work there. Tatsuya Ishigaki, who graduated from Chuo’s Faculty of Law in 1996, is one of them. He is the managing director of the Shanghai subsidiary of Eightrent Co., Ltd, a Tokyo-based office equipment rental service provider. First posted in Shanghai 13 years ago, he now goes all-out to expand his firm’s business in China together with his 20 local employees. Hakumon Herald interviewed Ishigaki in Shanghai about the significance and difficulties of working abroad.


 観光目的でなく、海外で働き、暮らす日本人の数は年々増えており、外務省の統計によると、現在約130万人が海外で働いている。都市別で在留邦人の数が4番目に多いのが中国の上海市で、現在約6万人が滞在している。ここに紹介する石垣達也さんもその1人だ。   1996年に中央大学法学部を卒業した石垣さんは、法人向けオフィス用品のレンタルサービス会社「エイトレント」(本社・東京)の上海現地法人の責任者。上海滞在13年目、現在は20人の中国人スタッフと共に中国事業のさらなる発展を目指す。石垣さんに海外で働くことの意義、難しさについて語ってもらった。

Hard days in new place



  -How were you posted in Shanghai?



Ishigaki: I joined Eightrent upon my graduation and was assigned a job to promote sales in the domestic market for eight years. I had been deeply interested in managing a company since my college days. So, I talked one day with my company president about my desire. He assigned me a job to establish his firm’s subsidiary in Shanghai. It was how I moved to Shanghai. Since 2004, I’ve been working as managing director of the Shanghai subsidiary.

石垣 大学卒業後エイトレントに入社。8年間は国内の営業を担当していました。大学時代から企業経営というものに関心をもっていましたので、当時の社長に相談したところ、上海現地法人の立ち上げを任され上海に赴任しました。2004年から経営責任者として働いています。


 -What difficulties do you have in managing a company in China?



Ishigaki: One of my difficulties concerns management of locally hired employees. Soon after I took up my assignment in Shanghai, I was surprised to see Chinese workers lacked the common practices shared by Japanese business people. For example, they didn’t abide by their work hours. What annoys me even now is their basic attitude to labor. They tend to do only what they’re asked to do. In my opinion, their government has created an environment where it rigorously requires people to follow the directions of their leaders and does not encourage them to think for themselves. I think this is one of reasons for their attitude. With this unique working culture in China, you cannot win the hearts of your customers. However, I failed to produce good results even when I touted Chinese employees to learn the marketing skills I learned in Japan.

石垣 難しいのは現地社員のマネジメントです。駐在当初、社員が勤務時間を守らないなど、日本の企業人の常識が浸透していないことに驚きました。今も苦労しているのは、中国人社員の勤労に対する姿勢です。彼らは言われたことだけやるという姿勢で仕事に臨みます。中国ではリーダーの指示に従うことを、国が国民に徹底的に求め、自ら考えることをあまり求められない環境が理由にあるのではないかと考えます。その中国独特の勤労文化では顧客の心をつかみきれません。かといって、私が日本で学んだ営業手法を現地社員に教育しても順調に実績を上げることはできませんでした。


  -So, how did you sort out those problems?



Ishigaki: I have given up on my stereotyped thinking. I have tried to be flexible in dealing with matters. This has gradually helped me nurture employees who can offer quality services to their customers. For example, I have given them greater discretion and encouraged them to be responsible for their own work. Now I urge them to realize how they can think for themselves and produce results for themselves. I always talk with my employees to encourage them to take a proactive action. More communication has brought more vigor to our office. I think to be tolerant to cultural difference and flexible in dealing with it can provide a foundation for people who work abroad.


石垣 型にはまった思考をやめ、柔軟に対処することを心がけることで徐々に質の高いサービスを提供する社員管理ができるようになりました。例えば、大きな裁量権を社員に持たせ、仕事に対する責任感を持ってもらっています。自分で考え、自分で成果を出すことを実感してもらっています。私は社員との対話を常に心がけ、主体的なサービス提供を促しています。対話が増えた結果、職場には活気が生まれました。文化の違いに寛容になり、柔軟に対応することが海外で働く上での基礎になると思います。

Meet more people in college life



Tatsuya Ishigaki answering questions during an interview with Hakumon Herald.
Tatsuya Ishigaki answering questions during an interview with Hakumon Herald.

-How did you spend your days at Chuo University?



Ishigaki: I was just an ordinary student, working part time jobs, doing circle activities and dating with my girl friends from time to time. If I could come back to my student days, I would meet more people from various walks of life, elderly people in particular.

石垣 バイト、サークル活動、時々彼女とのデートがルーティンの普通の学生でしたね   (笑い)。もし、学生時代に戻れるとしたら、目上の人など、もっといろんな人と会っていればよかったな、と思います。


  -Why do you feel so?



Ishigaki: Because I think if I had learned more from predecessors about their failure and success stories, I could have made use of them for my own life. For example, I spent my first three years in Shanghai worrying about how to produce better results by cooperating with people brought up in different culture. I thought I could have avoided making such detour if I had met a person who experienced a failure similar to the one I made. In this respect, I value the Shanghai Hakumon Alumni Association for which I serve as one of managers. It groups Chuo graduates currently residing in Shanghai. It is an ideal community that provides an environment for its members to build both vertical and horizontal relationships with each other.

石垣 先人たちの失敗や成功談を聞いておけば、自分の人生に役立てることができたと考えるからです。例えば、上海に来てから、私は初めの3年間、日本と違う文化で育った人と協力し、ビジネス上の成果を上げる有効な手段が分からず、悩みました。私と同じような失敗をした人と早くに出会えていれば、そんな回り道はせずに済んだと思います。その点で、私が幹事を務める「上海白門会」のような、中大出身者の集まりである中大コミュニティは、世代の縦軸、横軸の関係を構築できるいい環境が整っていると思います。


  -Tell us what the association does?



Ishigaki: Our monthly meetings are always full of vigor. As members are active in various business domains, we can always spend an exciting and fruitful time communicating with each other. One of our members call the meeting “my heart and soul” where they can talk to friends from the same university in a country far from their motherland. Aside from the regular get-together, I’m planning to build a structure that may help younger generations who experience hardships similar to the ones I had soon after arriving in Shanghai.

石垣 月1度の定例会は常に賑わいます。会員の皆さんはさまざまな分野で活躍されているので、毎回、刺激的な時間が過ごせます。異国の地で同郷の仲間と語ることができるこの機会を「心のよりどころ」と表現する方もいます。今後は懇親会に加えて、私と同じような苦労をする若い世代に貢献できるような仕組みができればいいなと思います。


  -Can you give a few words to Chuo students?



Ishigaki: I advise students who want to work in the world to go abroad, do volunteer work, hold study meetings and experience business practice while making friends and enjoying beautiful scenery in culturally diverse environments. To experience the difficulties of understanding each other’s culture and cooperating with local people should surely become your future nourishment.

石垣 世界を舞台に働きたいと思う人は、異国を訪れ、友人をつくる、美しい景色を堪能することに加えて、文化が入り混じる環境で、ボランティア、勉強会、ビジネスを実践してみてください。お互いの文化を理解し、協力することの難しさを経験できることは将来の糧になるはずです。


-Thank you.



(Interviewed by: Hideki Kato)(聞き手/加藤英樹)