TV programs about house makeovers are common but in Japan the ‘Before-After’ TV program on Channel 10 focusses on “baby boomer” owners whose intention was to make the house they had owned for many years a place they could live out their retirement in style and comfort. This is a change from previous Japanese views on housing renewal – that if your house was old, you pulled it down and built a new one. A house used to be a temporary, cheap structure on far more valuable land.
In one case the couple chose a particular architect and interior designer after five years of pondering, as they were the only suppliers that took pains to work out how to preserve the woodwork, bamboo beams and engraved glass sliding doors of the original. The end result was well worth the effort, as the house was a stunning combination of modern Scandinavian minimalist design and traditional Japanese features.
The other owner chose a department store to carry out the renovations. Here, too, a change was apparent in the kind of services Japanese consumers are buying. The department store had dispatched its “external sales force,” who were far more used to selling door-to-door items such as jewelry and chinaware for wedding gifts than “house renewal” services. The salesmen succeed in selling more than 10 million yen (Roughly US$100,000) worth of refurbishment services to the owner – far more than they could have sold her in teacups and earrings. Her reason for choosing them was quite conservative, however. Her family had bought from the department store for many years, and it was a name she knew she could trust.
This program illustrates that Japanese companies still have to adapt to a new Japanese consumer in an aging society: one who is careful, conservationist and trusting of famous names, but who is nonetheless looking for new ways of living their life.
Article adapted from The Nikkei Business News.