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japan issue alan parker

To Japan

Sir Alan Parker reflects on his father’s love for the country as Brunswick opens its first permanent Tokyo office.

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Dear Reader:

When my two partners and I founded Brunswick 35 years ago in the kitchen of my parent’s home in London, the idea that Brunswick one day would grow to 27 offices on six continents was only a dream. At that moment, we were simply scrambling to find and afford actual office space.

But from the beginning the idea of working and having an office in Japan was in my mind, placed there by my father Sir Peter Parker. After his chairmanship of British Rail and various other companies public and private, my father was offered the UK Chairmanship of Mitsubishi Electric. This was in 1984 and part of his long passion for Japan and its culture. 

My father had been stationed in Japan immediately after the war, and while there he formed a profound connection to the culture of Japan that lasted all his life. He learned to speak Japanese. He never stopped marvelling at Japanese resilience following the war. 

“I keep remembering the evidence of their startling energy and discipline that was showing through the rubble,” he wrote in his 1989 memoir, For Starters. “Where there is a national will, that is the way, and it was the national will that recreated Japan post-war.”

My father brought this passion home to England and to our family, where it ran very deeply in our household and was instilled in me. A former student of management at Cornell and then Yale, my father became an early student of Japanese management, realizing that it bore a lot of valuable lessons for the West. After his Chairmanship of Mitsubishi Electric UK, he served as the UK Chairman of  Japan Festival 1991, a massive UK-wide event celebrating Japanese culture. 

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Nihachiro Katayama, then-Chairman of Mitsubishi Electric (Japan), and Sir Peter Parker break into a barrel of sake, the taru-zake, at the kai-sho-shiki, the opening ceremony of the Mitsubishi Electric (UK) factory in Livingstone in 1984.

What my father knew is that you do better business with people whose culture you understand. That’s a principle we hold true here at Brunswick.

This special edition of the Brunswick Review is a celebration of the opening of Brunswick’s first permanent Japan office, in the Tokiwabashi Tower in central Tokyo. This milestone comes 15 years after Brunswick first began advising Japanese executives, and first began assembling a Japan Team that is now more than 25 people strong. Our Japan Team consists of 15 members in Tokyo, and more than 10 others in Hong Kong, London, New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Chicago.

Supporting our clients in Japan is a team too large and accomplished for me to do justice in this letter, but if I may I will spend a few moments on their leader, Daisuke Tsuchiya. Osaka-born, Daisuke is truly multicultural, having lived in Tokyo, London, Chicago and Los Angeles. He played American football at the University of Tokyo and is equally passionate about British sports, as evidenced by his interview in these pages with the Chairman of the Japanese Rugby Football Union, Kensuke Iwabuchi (whom he met while both were at the University of Cambridge). Daisuke spent 15 years as a fast-track diplomat in the Japanese Foreign Ministry before we welcomed him to Brunswick in London 10 years ago.

Since then, Daisuke has flown to Tokyo monthly, cultivating a stellar team that brings together deep experience and knowledge of business, government and society in Japan and around the world. As Japanese companies grow their global footprint, our team has helped them navigate regulators, investors and NGO activists around the world, while also counseling on cross-border acquisitions and geopolitical tensions. Team Japan, with key advisors in Asia, US and Europe, has also supported Western companies seeking to enter the Japanese market in engaging with government, business, employees and media as well as crisis situations. Working seamlessly from time zone to time zone, Brunswick’s Team Japan is a 24/7 operation.

What my father knew is that you do better business with people whose culture you understand. That’s a principle we hold true here at Brunswick.

At Brunswick, we take a three-step approach to any challenge. We help our clients make hard decisions on critical issues by understanding the outside world and the dynamics of key stakeholders. We then help them make their position as compelling and strong as possible, and finally we help encourage the support of their stakeholders.

Many Western companies don’t fully understand Japanese markets—Japan’s doors are open, but they can’t quite see how to walk through.

On the Japanese side, their confidence and care for their own culture is reflected in how they treat the rest of the world. I have seen time and again how deeply Japanese companies respect other nation’s traditions and want to do business the right way. Examples of that can be found in this edition, which features interviews with executives who have led world-class Japanese organizations such as Hitachi, TEPCO, the University of Tokyo, Mitsubishi Research Institute, Sony, Panasonic and Chugai Pharma.

It takes no small amount of diplomatic skill to understand this delicate dance of what’s possible in a market, what works best in a market and how best to link into the market. Luckily, Brunswick is an extraordinary mix of people from different backgrounds and experiences, insights and expertise from all over the globe, with specialties from finance to government to foreign affairs. We believe that better understanding and connection creates better relationships and that is at the heart of any corporate success in the 21st century. 

What our new office signifies is a deep and lasting commitment to our clients in Japan, current and future. If we can help in anyway, please don’t hesitate to be in touch. 

All my very best,

Sir Alan Parker CVO