Media Partner the newyork times

Kota Matsuda

Kota Matsuda
I will keep the global challenge alive

In 1995, I came across specialty coffee, which was a trend in the US. It became an opportunity for me to start a business. From its birthplace in Ethiopia, Africa, coffee beans have spread across the globe and turned into various drinks that we enjoy around the world today, such as Turkish coffee in Turkey, cafe au lait in France, and espresso in Italy. In other words, I firmly believe that I could offer a new lifestyle by introducing the specialty coffee that I have encountered abroad to Japan. That became the start of my big challenge.

Year of Birth
1968
Birthplace
Miyagi
url
http://koutamatsuda.com/
I spent most of my childhood in Senegal, Africa because of my father's work. Then, from 10 to 18 years old, we have transferred and stayed in the US. Throughout my life abroad, I have felt that Japanese culture was not properly recognized. I noticed that gap particularly in food, where I was laughed at for eating raw fish. As a child, I had a lot of unpleasant experiences. My father's work was related to fishing, so I felt that I was made fun of because of that and because of our culture. Because of these experiences, I had a strong desire to introduce sushi and other Japanese food to the world and to let the world know the wonderful side of Japan when I started working. On the other hand, I am also aware that there are other wonderful cultures abroad, so I thought that I wanted to become a bridge between two different cultures.

Even after I started working as an employee in the bank, that desire has never changed a bit. And, when I visited Seattle, USA in 1995, I have come across a specialty coffee that is an all-time favorite there. It became an opportunity for me, and so I resigned at the bank that I have worked for six years and established Tully's Coffee Japan.

At that time, Tully's Coffee was a small coffee shop with only around 4 or 5 stores in Seattle. Back then, their management was not thinking about expanding their chain of stores, let alone expanding at a global level. I explained my intentions, and so I was able to start a branch in Japan. From there, it took me 10 years to open about 320 branches across the country.

I took a break from entrepreneurship and withdrew from managing Tully's. Then, I made myself active in spreading the Japanese culture across Asia and moved my base to Singapore. I have encountered two unexpected events shortly after that.

First, I received a message from the owner of Eggs' n Things, which has a store in Hawaii at that time, and was offered a franchise contract for Japan. I responded to them and said, "If I can expand the stores not just in Japan, but also in Asia and in other parts of the world, let me do it". By accepting that culture with newness, Eggs ’n Things became popular across many generations in almost no time.While I was enjoying the success in Eggs ‘n Things, the second unexpected event happened. A friend of a politician asked me if I can become a politician and run for office. At that time, becoming a politician did not ever cross my mind. However, Japan is seen as a country with a poor economy abroad and falls under a country in a sluggish state throughout Asia. Despite having a world-class, wonderful culture, Japan's declining economic power caused me to have a difficult time not only in introducing the culture but also in bringing the world the goodness of Japan. With an intention of rebuilding the Japanese culture, I rose up and decided to enter the world of politics.

Then, following the end of my term, I retired from being a politician in 2016. Right now, while I continue working as a manager and entrepreneur, I work in the biomass industry in efforts to implement energy conservation, which was one of the policies that I was not able to achieve when I was a member of the Diet.Although I have been throwing ideas for various industries as an entrepreneur, if I think that a certain business is not something I am impressed of or passionate about, I would not do it regardless of how profitable it could be. Because of these discoveries and surprises, I was able to have a clear vision of becoming a bridge of our culture, garner knowledge for that purpose, and continue activities to challenge myself. In the near future, I would like to continue to challenge myself even more as I gain the flexibility to accept a wide variety of cultures.

Kota Matsuda
Kota Matsuda

*Information accurate as of time of publication.

Kota Matsuda