A Wine Tasting and Discussion about Japan Meeting was held on December 2, 2015 as always at the representative’s home. The guests included Mr. Ichiro Aisawa, a Member of the House of Representatives – the first Member of Parliament to have graduated from the Matsushita Institute of Government and Management; Mr. Abdelkader Jamushi, a Deputy in the Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco in Japan – the country where Casablanca, the town made famous by the movie of the same name, is located – and his wife; and Mr. Hiroyuki Nakamura, who was born in Yoichi Town in Hokkaido which was brought to people’s attention by the television drama Massan. They animatedly discussed a diverse range of topics.
The Kingdom of Morocco in North Africa is a country with an area of land that is about 1.2 times that of Japan and a population of approximately 33 million people. The capital is Rabat. The population is 65% Arab and 30% Berber. Arabic and Berber are both the official languages. The majority of people are Sunni Muslims and this is the state religion. The number of tourists going to the country from Japan to see towns that evoke the Middle Ages is also increasing. The most popular city is Marrakech in the center of the country. The market stalls and street performers in Jamaa el Fna – listed as a World Intangible Cultural Heritage Site – are exciting. Hassan II Mosque – the largest mosque in the country – is a must-see in Casablanca, a city with an incredibly high degree of familiarity in Japan because of the Humphrey Bogart movie. The oldest city in the country is Fez; it celebrated its 1,200th anniversary since it was built three years ago. This is a city that has roads like a maze and is said to be the most complex in the world. This is an area that is also subject to archaeological studies because of its history and a research team from Oxford University discovered an eight thousand year old necklace here. Moreover, the fossils of pterosaurs have been found here. It has also been established that the land which is now the Sahara Desert was once fertile. The appearance of Morocco has changed dramatically over the last decade. When the representative goes overseas, he tours that country in a rental car. This is the best way to understand the real state of a country. In addition, there is also the possibility of being seen as a tourist and then getting attacked while traveling by bus depending on the region. In that regard, if you travel by car, it is more likely you will be regarded as a local person and be able to escape difficulty. The “Stop” road sign is an inverted triangle in Japan, but in many cases this is an octagonal in other countries. The “Yield” inverted red triangle road sign in the West signifies that it is fine to proceed slowly if there are no cars after checking the road with priority at a crossing. There was a debate about whether Japan should use the same sign as in the West because it is confusing otherwise.
Kiichi Miyazawa was the Prime Minister in 1992 when the bubble officially ended in Japan. The following year, the many years of rule by the Liberal Democratic Party came to end and Morihiro Hosokawa became the Prime Minister. However, his rule did not even last a year. After the government of Prime Minister Haneda lasted just 64 days, Tomiichi Murayama became the Prime Minister for a year and a half through the coalition government of the Liberal Democratic Party, the Japan Sociality Party and the New Party Sakigake – the so-called “Ultra C.” Following on from this, the Hashimoto and Obuchi Administrations lasted from two to two and half years. The Koizumi Administration then ruled over a long period of more than five years. However, after this, there was a period in which successive governments only lasted about one year. Thereupon, Prime Minister Abe – who had waited for the right opportunity – reappeared on the scene. Prime Minister Abe is a person who makes decisions about what should be done only after holding various debates and listening to diverse opinions. Three years have now passed since the birth of the Abe Administration, but there are many people who hope it continues for as long as possible.
The winners of the “True Interpretations of Modern History” Best Seiji Fuji Award that was launched in 2008 are a distinguished group: The first winner was Mr. Tamogami Toshio, the former Chief of Staff in the JASDF; the second winner was Tsuneyasu Takeda, who is still very active as a writer; the third winner was Ms. Yuko Sanami, a journalist who reports on postwar issues; the fourth winner was Mr. Jun Takada, Professor in Sapporo Medical University; the fifth winner was Mr. Masaharu Isshiki, who leaked video showing a collision with a Chinese boat under the name sengoku38; the sixth winner was Mr. Jin Matsubara, who served as a cabinet minister in the Democratic Party Administration; and the seventh winner was Ms. Mio Sugita, who was the first to question the press code in the National Diet. The eighth winner this year is Kent Gilbert – a California lawyer who has become famous in the living room because of the television program Sekai Marugoto HOW Match. He also gave a magnificent speech at the “Now Is the Time to Revise the Constitution! Ten Thousand Person Rally in the Budokan” that was held as a public meeting to create a beautiful Japanese constitution on November 10, 2015. Mr. Gilbert is also scheduled to give a speech at the party after the awards ceremony that will be held in the Meiji Memorial Hall on December 8.
APA Group was called Shinkin Kaihatsu (lit. Credit Union Development) at the time of its foundation. However, the group was ordered to change its name to Shinkai Sangyo (lit. Trust Development Industrial) because it was believed that its original name would make people think it was an associated company of a credit union. The representative was not satisfied with the change of name and believed it would one day be necessary to give the firm a new name. Accordingly, the representative asked Landor Associates – the world’s number one corporate image company that has worked with Japan Airlines and Coca-Cola – to come up with a new name for the firm and a logo in 1997. This led to the birth of APA. This has been a great success. This is a name that is easy to remember whether in Japanese or English. It is also possible to input quickly when searching on the Internet. The original goods under the APA President brand are also all popular. “APA President’s Curry” has been a huge hit with more than 1.4 million meals sold. This thoroughly boiled Western-style curry has been acclaimed as the most delicious in hotels in a certain economics magazine. “Fuji River Source Natural Water” – the official mineral water of APA Hotel – has also achieved total sales of 7 million bottles. Decaffeinated corn tea with a sweet aroma and refreshing taste has also become popular recently. The APA Hotel’s original “Umaibo” is given as a present to groups that have reserved a banquet in an APA Hotel. “APA President’s Rice,” which is packed with Koshihikari rice produced in Ishikawa Prefecture, is also given as a present in the same way.
The number of visitors to Japan from overseas has been increasing significantly. Approximately 30% of guests in APA Hotels in the city come from overseas. Of course, it is also necessary to improve the English proficiency of staff. One theory says that it is possible to understand 80% of business on the reception in a hotel if you are capable of 14 patterns of English conversation. However, that does not mean it is acceptable to just have this level of English. It is difficult to communicate by turning Japanese into living English. The haiku “Matsushima ya/Aa Matsushima ya/Matsushima ya (Matsushima, Ah! Matsushima! Matsushima!)” does not make sense when it is translated directly into English. It is necessary to communicate by turning the intention and atmosphere of Japanese into English.
APA Hotel Woodbridge – the first APA Hotel overseas – was opened in the State of New Jersey next to New York on November 13, 2015. This is close to Newark Liberty Airport; it is 20 minutes by car. It is also possible to reach Manhattan in 30 minutes with two stops on the railway. The rates for hotels in Manhattan are extremely expensive at about 40,000 to 50,000 yen per night. Many businessmen stay in hotels in the area around Manhattan (e.g. New Jersey) where rates are about half that at 20,000 to 30,000 per night. Woodbridge is a franchise hotel of APA. The owner is the second son of a Taiwanese multi-millionaire who has been successful in the real estate business over the whole of the United States. This second son is still young; he is only in his 40s. He wants to expand APA Hotel in the United States in the future. The representative made the decision to expand APA Hotel overseas two years ahead of schedule after meeting this man. In addition, inquiries about the expansion of APA Hotel are coming in from all over the world.
The representative held a press conference in New York at the opening of APA Hotel Woodbridge and gave a speech that started with a talk about bring born in the neighboring town of the former New York Yankee Hideki Matsui – the most famous Japanese person in this town. During his speech, the representative declared that hotels around the world are converging into the “new city hotels” that APA advocates. The rooms in these hotels have just the space to be able to do everything without walking around with a commitment to having an efficient layout. The focus of these rooms is placed on being able to go to the bath, watch television and then sleep. APA Hotel has introduced its own original beds called “Cloud Fit” that pursue sleeping comfort and “Air Relax” pillows for quiet sleep. Beds have a width of 1,400 millimeters even in the single rooms. The latest large 50-inch televisions have been introduced into hotels recently. Hotels with more than a certain number of rooms come fully equipped with large artificial hot spring baths. These large baths are a place for interaction between guests. Moreover, the bathtubs in the guest rooms have been made egg-shaped. This has made it possible to reduce by 20% the amount of water needed to be able to soak in these while maintaining a sense of fullness. In addition to these bathtubs, APA uses thermal barrier curtains and LED light bulbs in all buildings for the environment. As a result, carbon dioxide emissions from APA Hotels are a third of that of regular city hotels. This high functionality, high quality and environmental friendliness is the “new city hotel” that is being advocated by the representative.
The other very important principle of APA Hotels is that guests and staff are treated as equals. Servants come with the room in residential suites in hotels in India. Even if it is not to that extent, bell boys in regular city hotels carry the luggage of guests and explain about the switches in their rooms after check-in. Moreover, when guests are not in their rooms, members of staff enter to turn down their beds and hang clothes that have been dry cleaned in the closets. The fact guests are not concerned about others entering their rooms is because the basic concept of these services is related to the Western-style master and servant relationship. This leads to the story of European and American female commissioned officers who thought nothing of showing nakedness to Japanese prisoners of war as depicted in Aron PoW camp by Yuji Aida. The service in APA Hotels is completely different to this kind. The style of service in APA Hotels is for members of staff to provide hospitality with pride to guests who are proud to be able to stay there. The relationship between members of staff and guests is equal. Excessive service has been abolished and only the necessary services are provided to people who seek them. This is the concept of APA Hotels. Therefore, once a room has been checked into, it is treated as the private space of the guest and members of staff never arbitrarily enter. The image of the hospitality in APA Hotels is that of the “collapse loading” of the stone walls of castles. APA Hotel sticks to the concept in which each individual member of staff providing hospitality from their heart by taking advantage of their own strengths instead of operating to a standardized manual leads to flexibility over the whole hotel and everlasting hospitality. This impresses guests. This then leads to an increase in the number of repeat customers and improves the occupancy rates of hotels.