Interview with Nicolas Soergel – Founder of NIHON ICHIBAN
Interviewed by Sophie Coureau – staff writer at Chinriu Honten Limited
Japan is a country with a very rich heritage and abundance of great food, craft and design products. But knowledge about these original products is very low and it also is very hard to purchase authentic products for most foreigners.
The mission of NIHON ICHIBAN is to promote Japanese authentic craft, food and design to foreigners inside and outside of Japan. Our family manages a traditional Japanese food company with more than 140 years of history. From this experience I have access to many traditional Japanese companies and also understand their challenges to market their products abroad.
This is when the idea was born to create an online shop that brings together a large number of such traditional companies to create a broad selection of products suitable for non-Japanese.
But NIHON ICHIBAN is not only about selling products. We also want to create a community of people who are interested in Japanese culture. With blogs, Twitter and Facebook we already have an active community of more than 82,000 Japan fans and more than 320 Japan bloggers. We give Japan bloggers a free platform to promote their blogs and the NIHONGO ICHIBAN site provides about 1000 pages with free material for those who prepare for the Japan Language Proficiency Test.
How do you select products for NIHON ICHIBAN?
Products need to fulfill three basic requirements to be listed in the NIHON ICHIBAN SHOP.
- First a product needs to be genuinely Japanese and we welcome contemporary products as much as traditional products.
- Then products need to be of high quality. I personally visit every partner to understand the products as well as the production process. We only want to offer the best products available on the market.
- Last but not least products or suppliers need to have a story to tell. A story can be the history, the manufacturing process or a thought behind a product.
By adding products that fulfill these three conditions I believe that we will create a unique and interesting line-up for our customers.
What is your outlook for NIHON ICHIBAN?
NIHON ICHIBAN shall become the leading shop for authentic Japanese craft, design and food products. This means that we will keep adding products until we have the most comprehensive line-up covering all traditional food and craft categories. But this will take some time as we will only expand the line-up step by step to keep the high product quality.
In cooperation with selected craftsmen and designers we now also started developing new contemporary products that also suit Western lifestyle. This will become an increasingly important part of our business.
One last word to the readers of the newsletter:
We just launched NIHON ICHIBAN and although we took outmost care to make shopping with us a pleasant experience I am sure that there are still many things to improve. Please let us know what you like and what you did not like as well as the kind of products you would like us to add to NIHON ICHIBAN.