26th April 2013

Exclusive Q&A : Oekaki Japan & China Business Trip

Recently, we shared with our Facebook community that some of our key staff members were taking a trip over to China & Japan. We were interested to learn more about this trip so we spoke to you, our Home-Sewing community, and asked if anyone else would like some images and information … It turns out you did so, as promised, we are delighted to share with you the wonderful details of this trip.

We have structured it like a Q&A so that you can understand more about why the business trip happened, what they did and get a little taster of life in the Toyota Home Sewing Head Office. The questions are all answered by the lovely Mayumi, who you may have spotted on our Create & Craft TV Show demonstrations. Also if you have any questions of your own that you would like to be answered, send them in to our Twitter or Facebook pages.

What was the purpose of your business trip to Japan & China?

Mayumi: The purpose of the business trip to Japan & China this time was to have SM world congress and to visit SM production factory.

Wow, that sounds like a very big deal, what is it?

Mayumi: SM world congress sounds huge meeting but it is an AISIN internal meeting which all AISIN SM related people get together and discuss the way forward of our SM business.

Which areas does this involve?

Mayumi: We have sales region in Europe, Asia, North & South America, and Australia.

Is this your first time in this meeting?

Mayumi: This is my 2nd time to attend this meeting and what is always good thing is that I can see the things from different point of view with listening to non-sales people and it is always good to see people face to face and share the goal together for our better future.

What work is carried out in China & Japan?

Mayumi: We have a SM factory in China and we have a development (technical & design) function & administration team in Japan. So all our people got together and discussed how we can move forward in future in the best way.

Is there any information you can share with us about your business trip?

Mayumi: We are always thinking about what our customers want and like, especially here in Europe, and how we can turn these ideas and functions into a user friendly design so we discussed about this.

Oooo this sounds exciting …

On your business trip you visited the factory where all the sewing machines are made, what was this like?

Mayumi: To visit the production factory was the first time for me. I normally do not communicate directly with the people in the factory so it was good to see the people working in there and understanding and appreciating how each sewing machine is made. Some processes were far more complicated and took a lot longer than what I had been imagining.

What impressed you the most?

Mayumi: I could see the continuous improvement to keep the good quality of the machine. Every machine is neatly assembled by human hand, it really is amazing! There are some quality and functionality checks in the middle of the production line and then the machines are finally packed neatly to go out for the world.

You spent some time back in Japan to visit your friends and family, what was that like?

Mayumi: After the trip to China, I took some time off to start my own holiday in Japan. Japan is my born country so I was so excited to be visiting all my favourite places, friends and family and enjoying the Japanese culture again.

What was the weather like there?

Always the end of March towards beginning of April is the best season of the year in Japan.

We, Japanese people, love the cherry blossom so much, but their beautiful period lasts only short time usually just for one week, without any hesitation until the next year. But in the time they last they line the streets and look so elegant, the way they scatter is also beautiful. The cherry blossom is so special for us Japanese.

Anyway I enjoyed the best season and enjoyed the time with my family and friends.

What do you miss most about Japan?

Family, friends and lovely Japanese food!! People might think of ‘Sushi’ and ‘Sashimi’ when they hear the word ‘Japanese food’ however we have lots more domestic food which we cannot bring out from Japan. We always pursue the freshness of the ingredient and try to enjoy the taste of the ingredient itself. Therefore we use less seasoning and put only salt or soya sauce after cooking the ingredients like fish, vegetable, etc. The ingredients have to be fresh otherwise it can taste rubbish lol!

What do you love about England?

The Queen, Tea (including afternoon tea), Cookies, Double decker, and multi-cultural culture

We have an Emperor in Japan but he and the royal family is very far from our normal life. They sometimes show up in public but are always extremely formal, there is always a ‘do not come closer’ atmosphere around. Compared to that, I feel the Queen here is much closer and friendly – even though she never loses the royalty, formal air around herself she is so lovely. I love the fact there are lots of Queen fans in UK and I am very impressed how popular she is here. I was very glad to be in England at the Queens Jubilee and the London Olympics 2012 as I have fully enjoyed the feeling ‘this is what England is’!!

Also from the living experience in London, I quite like the multi-cultural culture here. In Japan, Japanese are more than 90% of all population (I guess) and other than the big cities like Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto (main tourist places) we hardly see any foreign people in our normal life. Whereas there are many different nationalities in London which made it easier for me to live here as people respect the cultural difference.

I would have to say Japanese people are not so flexible or generous to those cultural differences that some foreign people visiting or living in Japan always have to be constantly aware that they are not Japanese. We are just not used to having a mixed culture and used to Japanese being the single culture. To live in European mixed culture is always really exciting.

Is sewing and hand-made crafts popular in Japan?

Well, sewing was very popular for our mum’s generation and mainly for the practical use. The sewing machine user population is becoming less but still lots of people are enjoying hand-made craft like knitting, hand-made accessories, etc.

Generally speaking, I think we, Japanese people, are good at making things.

What can you tell us about Japanese culture that we might not already know?

Hmmm, this is difficult one.   Let me think…

1.Some people might have seen it on telly but it is true that in Tokyo at the peak time, the train station staff always have to push people to squeeze them into the train to close the door.

Just too many people try to get onto the train to go to work or go back home… It is a nightmare.

2. We have very comfy shower toilet in Japan. It is so popular that almost it is becoming standard in Japan. Actually I can say that it is addictive. We should really bring it to Europe.

(Actually AISIN is manufacturing shower toilet as well as sewing machine, wondering what these are – click here to find out more about the shower toilet concept).

3. As I mention at the very beginning, we love food, we love eating. Basically we are very good at bringing outside culture into Japan and adopting it to Japanese style. The food is not an exceptional. Therefore at home people cook various country food, not only Japanese but also Chinese, Italian, French, German, Korean, Spanish, Thai, Indian, etc…

They might be a bit different from the original but we love trying new things and we have got patience to make it better. This is because people wants to enjoy food!! Normally people cook their own country food at home and going out for eating other country cuisine. We do that but we also cook them ourselves. Isn’t it great?

Going back to Oekaki, what has been your favourite thing that you have made?

I haven’t made so many things but I like the chick which I showed at the Ideal airing and also the London scene I embroidered on the back.

What is your role and responsibility within Oekaki?

As a product planning liaise, my work has been half finished because my first task was to bring this product out with people in AISIN Europe & AISIN Japan. We went through the process to consider what kind of product would friendly to use for people and what would make people happy. I have collected all the opinion from European staff and transferred them to Japanese staff and slowly developed the model.

Therefore I am very happy to see people are enjoying Oekaki with using our sewing machine and I was quite surprised this Oekaki fun can be newly found by the matured sewer as well.

Now my next task is to promote this machine more and make more people happy with using our Oekaki machine. At the same time, I am listening to the customers voice and imply those voice to our future product to make people even happier.

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Mayumi has been a driving force behind the Oekaki machine and is very passionate both about the machine and all of the Oekaki community, including you!! If you have any questions, like “What is a toilet shower”, send them in on Facebook or Twitter.

Here is Mayumi demonstrating the Oekaki sewing machine on the Create & Craft TV channel earlier this month …


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