Stanford Graduate School of Business alumni based in Japan find unexpected obstacles as entire industries face disruption and an unknown future since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
Shige Yamaji, MBA '93, who lives part time in the San Francisco Bay Area but who was in Tokyo at the time of the earthquake shared this story with the GSB community:
"When the earthquake hit at 2:45 p.m. on March 11, I was on the 39th floor of a 42-story, 4-year-old building close to Tokyo Bay in Minato-ku of downtown Tokyo. While I was not injured, the shakeup was so massive, lasting about 10 minutes, I thought the building would collapse. It's beyond my imagination how frightful the shake may have been for those who went through this in the Eastern Tohoku Region and Ibaraki Prefecture, areas that had the biggest shake.
My venture, called Flora Holdings, is experiencing some challenges related to the disasters. We have three operation companies, two in Japan and one in the United States, and provide a membership-based social-commerce platform for Japanese senior citizens on both analog and digital ends. Members can buy and sell products, as well as make friends, using our customized tablet PCs or they can meet, sell, and buy through 120 local Fukiya clubs that also host recreational programs for seniors. Fukiya is a blowgun sport involving deep breathing and mental concentration that is gaining popularity among Japan's senior citizens partly for its health benefits. Japan is the leading aging society, with people over the age of 55 accounting for more than 35% of the population and the highest life expectancy among all countries. The products sold on the platform are mainly food products. Some of our member merchants providing produce for the platform have had their business base wiped out by the tsunami. These include oyster beds near the fishing village of Miyagi Prefecture and a rice farm near the sea in Iwate Prefecture, the two hardest hit prefectures. The great news, however, is that none of our merchants lost their lives.
We are now discussing ways to help these merchants get back to their fishing and farming business, but it has been difficult at best with all civilization lost in the area. In fact, we were able to reconnect with them just recently, more than two weeks after the quake, as there has been no means to contact them with the mobile network in the area dead and the landline service base wiped away. To make the situation worse, the nuclear radiation and contamination damage to agriculture and fisheries cannot be assessed by anyone at this time."