I want to hear your story / Masayuki Waki

  • Masayuki WakiBookstore Writer

Picture:Katsumi Hirabayashi
Interviewer/Editing/Writing: Daisaku Mochizuki

<This article has been translated using DeepL so there may be inconsistencies with the translation due to this.>

Table of contents

  • As a matter of fact, I was a shut-in in junior high school
  • The thought patterns that changed when I met my wife
  • The turning point came from an article that was covered in Osaka
  • Management thinking that grew out of increased fixed costs
  • Basically, “after” is always better than “before”
  • As a matter of fact, I was a shut-in in junior high school

    When I was in junior high school, I was a hermit for a long time, and I went to school, but I just didn’t talk to other people in general.

    Mochizuki

    That’s a bit surprising.

    Waki

    I’m still basically a recluse, so I don’t have any problems keeping quiet about it. I don’t remember how it all started, but I realized that you can’t understand how you feel unless you’re out in the open. From there, I started to tell people close to me and learn about communication.I’ve barely spoken for three years, so I’m really starting from a negative place.

    Mochizuki

    You haven’t been talking that much?

    Waki

    I almost only talked to my people.

    Mochizuki

    So you’re almost making your high school debut?

    Waki

    I guess I’m making my third grade debut (laughs). But I didn’t particularly dress up, I just want to be a normal friend. It was also important for me to enroll in a university after that. I went to middle and high school and an all boys’ school, but it was very boring.

    This is something I’ve only recently learned, I’m probably not very good at boys’ culture in general. I don’t like the boys’ culture of getting mounts on top of each other for the time being.

    The thought patterns that changed when I met my wife

    Then there’s a difference between before and after I met my wife, too. When I think about myself, I think I have a strong pattern recognition. I have some idea of what I would do if I did this or that, but I’m just too big-headed to get out of it, so I think there have been times in the past when I have been unable to get out of it.

    But my wife was not at all within the bounds of my sensibilities at the time, so as we went out, I realized that I was overthinking things.

    Mochizuki

    So it’s even easier than before? 

    Waki

    Yes. I think that you can think about it, but I’m not someone who can get from one to ten with it.Then I decided I would move early. I felt I was better suited to deal with it after I had moved. That’s how I felt when I looked at my wife.

    Mochizuki

    I see. So that’s what led you to start moving earlier rather than overthinking it?

    Waki

    I didn’t start moving right away when I met my wife. but I feel like if I hadn’t been dating her, I wouldn’t be independent by now.

    Mochizuki

    I see. Maybe you were thinking too much and couldn’t go out on your own.

    Waki

    Yes. I might have stopped thinking about it too much and got scared to stop.

    Mochizuki

    So, after independence, you’re going to modify it as it moves roughly?

    Waki

    That’s right. As I decide on a general direction and then do more and more work, I’ve come to feel that people are important. If you have good people, you start to enjoy it as you go along.

    The turning point came from an article that was covered in Osaka

    When I was in Osaka for about three years at my previous job before I became independent, a reporter from the Osaka headquarters of the Asahi Shimbun wrote an article about my blog.

    That article was read by Mr. Nakagawa of Standard Bookstore (closed as of May 2020, scheduled to move to Tennoji in June).

    That’s when I started drinking with Nakagawa-san. That was a big turning point in my career.

    That’s when I realized that I could get to know the people in the bookstore. So I realized that I rather enjoyed listening to the people inside the bookstore there.

    Up until that point, I was planning to run a bookstore, so all I needed to do to become one was to survey the shelves. It was like people who wanted to be a coffee shop going around to coffee shops.

    And when I was able to talk to the people in the bookstore management, it was a big thing to be like, “Oh, that’s pretty interesting too.

    Mochizuki

    You’re more interested in that right now.

    Waki

    For me, it was a discovery that I liked listening to people better. To delve into that further, I failed the graduate exam when I was in college. I was interested in clinical psychology, I wanted to be a clinical psychologist.

    When I got to the bottom of it, I rather liked listening to people. That leads me to talk about how much I liked talking to people later on, too. I don’t understand what people mean, basically. There was a time when I was looking for an answer to something like, “Why doesn’t this person notice that he is saying something completely different than he was saying five minutes ago?”

    But when I failed the entrance exam, my professor told me, “You’re good at sales and talking to people,” and now I think he was right.

    I think I’m better suited to taking the time to meet people face to face, listening to their stories, connecting them, and communicating them to various people. If I had gone into research, I’d be pretty unhappy.

    Mochizuki

    I think you’re good-natured.

    Waki

    I’m good with people and I can cheat on a lot of things, but that’s why I’m just being honest after so many laps (laughs).

    Mochizuki

    I see (laughs).

    Waki

    I don’t basically say the part where I’m doing that many rounds. But it’s not very interesting to talk about it. I don’t think I’m very interesting, and that’s why I want to hear what other people have to say.

    Management thinking that grew out of increased fixed costs

    Mochizuki

    Most recently, what’s on your mind?

    Waki

    Most recently, I guess that means the rent has gone up. Initially, it was cheap and really like a trial because of the owner’s consideration, but as a result of the success of the project, the rent was increased in order to go beyond that.

    Mochizuki

    So that’s a good start, right?

    Waki

    That’s right. We changed the system of renting shelves and prices along the way, but the store itself, including the operation, was done while listening to everyone’s opinions, and it’s gotten better since the members of the shelves have come together quite a bit.

    Then we were allowed to use part of the seating area in the cafe, and we decided to expand that part of the cafe. We talked about raising the rent to do that. I thought that was a great idea, and I was happy that I could add a few more shelves, but as I said, when you have more fixed costs, you suddenly change my consciousness.

    Ever since I started my own business, I’ve been working without increasing my fixed costs too much. For example, if I don’t like it, I can just quit.

    More to the point, I’ve gone from having a lot of freedom to increasing my fixed costs and being prepared to make it here.

    Unlike a normal company, there are about 70 people who are renting our shelves at the moment, and I’m wondering how we should behave towards them. I used to be able to think only about myself, but now I am able to think from a different perspective, and the content I see and hear has completely changed. For example, I’m starting to care a lot more about strategy, tactics, and operations.

    Mochizuki

    It’s sort of a management thing, right?

    Waki

    That was a big thing. In hindsight, I felt like I was pretty much tempered there and changed gears a little bit.

    Mochizuki

    I think the way of thinking in this area is completely different from the way of thinking from a player’s perspective and from a management perspective. How do you separate the two? Is it something that can be separated, or is it something that has to be overlapped?

    Waki

    I’m still adjusting that part of the game. I’m a big part of writer in terms of the player side of things. Management is about the store. The way of thinking about these two things is completely different, and the way of using concentration is different. I heard that it’s better to think of it in terms of three axes: fast and slow, deep and shallow, long and short.

    I think management in the precise sense of the word is completely different, but the ability to concentrate when thinking about the shop and the ability to concentrate when working as a writer are two completely different things. It’s still very difficult for me to switch between the two.

    Mochizuki

    There is a difference between the right brain and the left brain. There’s a difference between right-brain and left-brain. I think writers are more creative, and management is more left-brained by any measure.

    Waki

    If I say I use both, I use both. But I’m more deeply focused on writing. You have to dive deeper into yourself. Management is a bit shallower, but you have to do it very widely.

    Writing is basically a process of getting down, so when you get down, it takes a long time to get down. When I’m thinking about the shop, it’s especially hard to go the writting idea when I’m thinking about the shop. It’s especially dangerous when the number of characters is increasing. I can do a series of articles in newspapers and my recent book “My Picture Book Tour to Visit as an Adult” because it’s 250 to 550 words. I can run management-type things at the same time.

    In the case of the book I’m writing right now, each one is over 1400 words, and that makes it hard to run them at the same time. For this one, when I write a book that’s more of a narrative that’s there with me rather than an introduction to the book, the depth of the book is suddenly so deep to get down, and it’s hard to focus on that, so I haven’t been able to write. But the timing was right and I was able to get the writing going in reverse.

    Mochizuki

    It’s a nice little break from running the store.

    Waki

    That’s where it was, but finally, just before this timing, I’m starting to get some idea of what the idea of running a store should be, relatively speaking. So, conversely, as a writer, I started to feel a little bewildered about what I’d do in the future.

    Mochizuki

    On the management side, it’s just a matter of deciding on a certain amount of structure, or a certain amount of frame, and then embedding it.

    Waki

    I decided to leave that to others.

    Mochizuki

    You know, some people are good at it and some people aren’t.

    Waki

    It’s still impossible. I can get to the point where I can pull everyone along and say, “This is definitely fun,” After that, I’d like others to do the mechanics.

    Mochizuki

    That’s an element of that as an aspect of management’s job, so it would be important to have a systematic person beside you to support that.

    Waki

    You recognize that’s the challenge this year. That’s the most recent “before and after”.

    Mochizuki

    So not much has changed in terms of values between before and after you started your own business?

    Waki

    Yes, it’s true. In terms of values, before and after I became independent, I feel like I’ve lost all the extras. I feel like I’m back to my original values. I’m not very good at organizations (laughs). I’ve been telling people around me since college that I’m not good at organization. When I left the company, they told me that stability was the only thing that mattered to them.

    Basically, “after” is always better than “before”

    Mochizuki

    Do you have any thoughts on the timing of this?

    Waki

    I’ve been working in a shop lately and I thought I was tired. It took the dark circles out of my eyes (laughs). After working in the shop and then doing other work and drinking, I realized that I really couldn’t afford it. I felt like I was just doing a little bit of work lately, so I knew the timing wasn’t right, and in that sense, the Corona might have made me reevaluate myself.

    In the case of “before and after,” it’s surprisingly hard to remember what came before. Thoughts go in circles to some extent, don’t they? The stages of the spinning wheel change. Then you can’t remember what went before, can you?

    Mochizuki

    But if the “later” is better in the end, that’s okay, right?

    Waki

    I agree. I still think it’s good for now. I’m forgetful.

    Mochizuki

    If it wasn’t like it was better then, or something like that.

    Waki

    Yes, that’s not true.

    Mochizuki

    If it’s there, I’ll probably remember it.

    Waki

    That may be true. But there were times when running the store was too hard, and I wanted to take a month off. At that time, though, the physical part was the biggest thing.

    Mochizuki

    It’s hard to think alone. Basically, in Waki’s case, “after” is probably better.

    Waki

    I agree. I think I’m basically stronger now than I used to be. Basically, it’s always better than it used to be. I think that getting older is a good thing, I know.

    I want to hear your story / Masayuki Waki [Japanese version]

    Profile

    Masayuki Waki

    He is also the owner of BOOKSHOP TRAVELLER, a bookstore antenna shop in Shimokitazawa.
    He runs the website "BOOKSHOP LOVER", holds events such as "Bookshop Lover", and contributes to various media, such as the monthly "BOOKS" series in the Tokyo Shimbun, as well as other activities related to bookstores and books.
    He is the author of "Tokyo: Bookstores in the City I Want to Go All the Way to Tokyo" (G.B.) and "Japan's Little Bookstores" (ExKnowledge), and co-author of "Bookstores in the City I Want to Go to Even if I Travel Through the Country" and "My Picture Book Tours in the Country I Want to Go to Even if I Grow Up" (both G.B.).
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