Reflections of Japan

I returned recently from a business trip to Japan.  It is a country that I have come to like very much.  I enjoy the food, the culture and perhaps above all the respect shown for people.  I especially appreciate the kindness and respect I receive, no matter where I happen to be in the country.  There are some people who have gone very far out of their way to help me, as I attempt to create more business opportunities for companies in my region of Atlantic Canada.  My business, Sunset Trading Company, is a small company that focuses on assisting Atlantic Canadian businesses who wish to seek marketing opportunities in Japan.

Looking out across the skyline of Tokyo.  This massive city and surrounding area is home to nearly 40 million people.  The famous "Sky Tree" is in the left of the photo.

Looking out across the skyline of Tokyo. This massive city and surrounding area is home to nearly 40 million people. The famous “Sky Tree” is in the left of the photo.

As I sat one morning, gazing out the window of my hotel in Tokyo, I had some quiet time to reflect on my being in this foreign land. I was there doing things that I would never have dreamt earlier in my life were ever possible.  Believe me, I have come from very humble beginnings, with a modest education but with a heart and head full of dreams.  I started out in forest management and grew to love the forest so much that I felt I wanted to find the most valuable uses for every tree in the forest.  This lead me to marketing of wood products, locally at first, and then to international markets.  I had some early connections to Japan and I never forgot those connections.  As my career advanced, I had an opportunity to finally visit Japan to promote wood products from my region.  I became hooked on this fascinating and beautiful country.  So, late in life I felt I just had to start-up my own business and focus only on Japan as a market.

I feel that I have been so fortunate in my life.  It has been, and still is, an amazing journey.  But remembering my humble beginnings makes me take note of those around me.  To me, the smallest things are the biggest things.  As I sat that morning gazing out the window I was actually in the hotel restaurant.  A lady came to pour my coffee refill.  She had no expectation of being noticed and was probably meant to be as “unnoticed” as possible.  However, I noticed.  As I notice many of the people who are in the positions that are meant to be almost unseen.  But with out these dedicated individuals my trip would not be as pleasant.  To me, the lady who served me coffee is as important as the hotel manager.  Every task, no matter how small it may seem, is important and needs to be done by someone.  Without people performing the so-called smaller tasks, things would never get done.   It struck me in such a profound way that morning of just how important each of these people are to my comfort and success in Japan.  As I left the restaurant that morning I stopped and personally thanked each of the people who had made my stay so memorable.  I hope that they appreciated that I had noticed them and deeply appreciated their hospitality.

Having a business lunch with Mr. Makoto Anzai, Pres., Jyuka Soken Co., importer of Canadian building materials.  Not seen (taking the photo) Mr. Yuya Kato, Pres. GPE Inc. and assisting me in all aspects of my meetings.   I have to say, this is one of the best Japanese meals I have ever had.

Having a business lunch with Mr. Makoto Anzai, Pres., Jyuka Soken Co., importer of Canadian building materials. Not seen (taking the photo) is Mr. Yuya Kato, Pres. GPE Inc. and assisting me in all aspects of my meetings. I have to say, this is one of the best Japanese meals I have ever had.

I wondered also if I would ever have another opportunity to return to Japan.  At this point, I truly do not know.  Only if I have some success in creating new business will I be able to afford to return.  So now, only time and more hard work from home to follow-up on the contacts I had made will tell the tale.  Will we be able to bridge the gaps between the Canadian producers and the Japanese importers?  Will we be able to put the right products, at the right price, with the right scheduling and with all the many necessary adjustments to suit a Japanese buyers?   At this point I can only say “Perhaps”.  I have a lot of work to do with the Canadian companies to help them understand exactly what is required to make the possibility of sales a reality.   The interest is there, but there are many conditions to be met.

Since I have returned, I have had more opportunity to reflect on how blessed I am to be able to do the work I am doing.  From my humble beginnings and background, to be in face to face discussions with executives of some small and large Japanese importers is truly amazing!  Some days I feel I am living in a dream.  What effect will my success have back in my region?  If orders do develop then products will have to be made and shipped.  Flooring, cabinets, stairways, bricks and more will have to be made.  Sweaters and slippers and maybe some food products may find a market in Japan and have to be made or prepared by hands in Atlantic Canada or beyond.  People working in small business to make all these things will be needed.  It is hard for me to imagine the effect that my work may have on the lives of others.  And when those floors and cabinets and stairways are being manufactured they will require wood from this area.  Trees will be harvested, trucked, sawn and manufactured into beautiful finished products.  Some of these trees which are turned into lumber and then into a finished product could be my trees, straight out of Watts Tree Farm.  This brings me full circle, right back to the place I love the most, the woodlot.

A pine floor in a home in Japan.  Manufactured by Royalty Hardwoods Ltd. in Prince Edward Island, Canada

A pine floor in a home in Japan. Manufactured by Royalty Hardwoods Ltd. in Prince Edward Island, Canada

I am extremely grateful for the opportunities I have had in life.  For the people I have met through business but now call friend.  For the many people I have yet to meet but I look forward to meeting.  And to the many people I may never meet but I hope my work touches their lives in a positive way.  Will I ever return to Japan?  I don’t know.  But if I do it means there is some success and many of the things I had mentioned above will continue to happen.   My life is richer for having had this opportunity to visit Japan and for meeting some truly wonderful people.

Until next time, keep safe and well.

***Click on any photograph to get a larger image***

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Sunsets

Sunsets can be so beautiful, no matter where they are in the world.  There is one location at Watts Tree Farm where I have watched the sunset hundreds of times. Sunsets are very special to me.

There is something about sunsets that makes us stop and wonder.

There is something about sunsets that makes us stop and wonder.

Every one is differerent , changing every minute  and you know they are only there for a short time.  In a way they are like snowflakes, no two are ever the same.

The shadows cast long streaks across the sky.

The shadows cast long streaks across the sky.

These photos may not be the most spectacular sunsets on the planet, but they are some that I watched and truly enjoyed.  My camera doesn’t take the best photos but I hope they show a bit of the spectacular color and design of these evening events.  To truly enjoy these you should click on each one to see a larger image.  The camera can not begin to capture all of the color and some of the surroundings that go into making up the whole picture.  No, for that you actually have to be there, watching as the sun dips behind a cloud or sinks at the horizon.  The subtle colors across the whole sky are amazing and the camera simply can’t capture it all.

The true warmth and serenity can be felt in the orange glow of a sunset.

The true warmth and serenity can be felt in the orange glow of a sunset.

We sometimes refer to “sunset” as the later time of life, just like the sunsets are in the later part of our day.  When they are so beautiful, as they often are, we can’t help but stop and look at them for awhile.  I’m at that beautiful time in my life and I am going to take some time to enjoy it.

As I said earlier, Sunsets are meaningful to me.  So much so that I named my business after them, Sunset Trading Company (http://sunsettrading.ca/).  I gave my company this name for two reasons.  Firstly, I love the beauty of the sunsets as I see them from my woodlot.  Secondly, I am at that later stage in life and I’m pretty sure this will be the last business I ever start up. So I thought it would be a fitting name for my company.  But I admit, I am living my dream.  For most of my adult life I have dreamt of owing my own business.  So here I am,  joining the millions of other small business owners just trying to survive and be successful.  Using the word “Sunset” in the name of my company has made it more meaningful to me.

Even the darkest clouds can show their beauty when the sun shines on them.

Even the darkest clouds can show their beauty when the sun shines on them.

However, the woodlot is still my pride and joy.  It is the place where I can go for some piece and quite.  A place to enjoy the simple pleasures of life.  So many beautiful things to see there, including the sunsets.  It can’t always be about the work.  We need the time to simply sit back and relax and take in the view of the world around us.

There are not as many words in this blog as usual and more photographs.  I hope people take the time see the photos and realize how important these things are to all of us.  I’ll get back to writing about things in woodlot management in future blogs. But every once in awhile we all need a break.

As the sun is setting and dips below the western horizon here, it is just beginning to rise and start a new day in a distant land.

As the sun is setting and dips below the western horizon here, it is just beginning to rise and start a new day in a distant land.

I truly hope you have enjoyed these colorful scenes.   It is special for me to share this with you.  At the end of the day, as the sun sets on Watts Tree Farm, I know it is just beginning to rise on my friends in Japan.  It is at some other sage as it shins down on friends in other places.  In some ways we are all connected around the world.  As it should be.

Until next time, keep safe and well.

*** Click on any photo to get a larger view ***

“Hope”

This blog will be a little departure from my usual blog but will still have some relevance to woodlots. I have just returned from a business trip to Japan.  I recently retired from my forestry position with the Prince Edward Island government and started my own marketing company.   My company is called Sunset Trading Company and will focus on representing, primarily, building products from Atlantic Canada in the Japanese market, which was the reason for my visit.

While in Japan I visited the city of Sendai. This is a thriving city that is near the coastal community that was devastated by the giant tsunami that followed the Great East Japan Earthquake in March, 2011.   Although we did not go directly to the affected area we were only a few kilometres away.   I was there to seek partnerships with local businesses to provide construction solutions for the reconstruction of the affected area. During my stay, I saw a sign in my hotel lobby that really spoke to me. That sign showed the city of Sendai as being the centre of HOPE for this devastated region. I couldn’t help but think that we were not just possibly supplying products but we would be supplying Hope. Hope to people who badly need to begin to get their lives back. Many lives were lost that day in March, 2011 and many more lives were shattered. Thousands of homes and businesses gone!

Sign on wall of hotel in Sendai. The “Hope” word is the location of the city of Sendai in the Tohoku Region of Japan close to the most devastated area of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The Japanese words roughly translate as “Lets be Together”.

This sign got me thinking about the products I was representing and how they can give renewed hope. If we supplied just one product, used in one house, that is installed by one person from the region, then we are giving hope. This person would be paid for their work and would hope to build more homes. This pay cheque would be the basis for this person to make a living and support a family. This would be hope in action. I began to realize that we would be providing hope for families back in my area as well. We would be creating opportunities for employment to harvest trees, truck the logs, saw the logs into lumber, dry the lumber in a kiln and manufacture the lumber into a product such as flooring. Every time that wood was touched by hands there was someone receiving a pay cheque and having hope for long-term employment.  Back in Sendai there would a family living in temporary relief housing that would have hope for a new “home”.  Hope for a new beginning and for businesses to return to the region they call “Home”.

Evening meeting at the showroom of Jyukasoken (http://jyukasoken.com/). This company specializes in sales of Canadian products. Mr Anzai, the business owner, is shown on the right.

As a woodlot owner we do not often think about where the products from trees we grow may end up.  But, when we cut trees for saw logs the journey is just beginning.  Many people will handle the lumber from the trees that we grew with love and care.  We create hope for a lot of people along the way.  Wouldn’t it be great if we knew that some of wood from trees we grew would end up in products in a far away land.  Maybe even end up in a home in the tsunami damaged region of Japan.  It is possible!  If I am successful with my new business it is even probable that trees grown by Atlantic Canadians will end up as products that will be shipped to Japan.  An exciting journey from a humble beginning.  Just imagine, a new floor installed by a Japanese crafts person and enjoyed perhaps for generations by a Japanese family.  It is amazing to think that as woodlot owners we are creating the beginning step in so much “hope” for happiness and prosperity somewhere in the world.

Photographs posted in a train station showing the before and after scenes of the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami in March, 2011.

English sign at the train station telling that the photographs are there as a reminder of what has happened and what will happen again.

To my special friends in Japan and to the many crafts people I may never meet but who I hope will handle wood products from Atlantic Canada, I wish you all the best as reconstruction of the tsunami damaged region begins.  Hope can be one of the strongest human emotions and can help lift us up and overcome the most difficult obstacles.  Without Hope there is despair and despair can be the most damaging of all to the hearts and souls of people in the affected area.   “Lets be Together” and help create more hope and remove all despair.  On behalf of all Atlantic Canadian woodlot owners and wood product manufacturers in this region, we wish you, in the tsunami damaged region of Japan, Hope for a prosperous new beginning.

Until next time, keep safe and well.

***Click on any photograph to get a larger image***