He was seven hours away from completing his degree at Portland State when he received the notice.
“I was drafted,” Jim King said. “That is how I ended up traveling to Japan and becoming interested in a myriad of business ventures.”
In his time, King has been the director of a modeling agency, a language school with over 600 students and eventually proprietor of a flourishing antique shop called Shogun’s Gallery that he and his wife Kimiko still run to this day.
The Shogun’s Gallery is a 6,000 square foot gallery located in the heart of Northwest Portland, surrounded by other shops with storied histories of their own. But Shogun’s story is a unique one.
The talk, which will focus on King’s success in the Japanese business market, will be held in room 75 of Lincoln Hall, starting at 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
Building the shogun
The Shogun’s Gallery hasn’t always been there, in the heart of Northwest Portland. It wasn’t always like this, a smooth ride.
“There were pitfalls, roadblocks and challenges of many different sorts,” King said. “The evolution of my experience as an entrepreneur and international business man in the land of the rising sun is what I am excited to share about in this forum at Portland State University.”
When asked what he thought was unique about King and his evolution as a successful businessman, Dr. Ken Ruoff, a history professor at the university, responded with one resounding word: “Everything!”
“Establishing and running a Japanese antiques shop in the United States might seem innocent enough but, in fact, there were immensely complex issues, including cultural ones, to overcome in getting the store up and running and continuing to succeed,” Ruoff said. “Where does one obtain the antiques? Well, from Japan, of course. But how?”
Ruoff said there exists a longstanding Japanese guild of antique sellers and buyers. When King wanted to start his store, he had to become a member of the guild.
No foreigner had ever previously been a member of this guild, so King had to finesse matters with the government agency overseeing the guild, and with the longtime members of the guild, in order to gain entrance.
“Now he is considered an old timer in this guild, with longstanding, trusting relationships with Japanese colleagues,” Ruoff said.
Bruce Brenner, a member of the advisory board for the Center for Japanese Studies, said he was introduced to King by an employee. Brenner is no stranger to Japan. He worked for City Bank in Tokyo for several years and, after meeting Phil Knight, he was asked to open a Nike division in Japan.
“Quite frankly, I don’t know any other independent entrepreneur in that business,” Brenner said.
King buys, trades and refurbishes fine antique wares from all over Japan. He restores; he makes new.
At the Shogun’s Gallery, visitors find many items and artifacts that are a part of traditional Japanese culture. From big to small, the gallery carries armoires, and on lanterns, iron tea and sake pots, ranma, temple bells and the tiniest of ink stones.
The art of listening
“One thing Americans need to learn how to do is listen,” Brenner said. “Anyone, no matter what their major might happen to be, can potentially learn something from King’s experience and his insights.”
Brenner said the concept of listening is one major tool in the learning process. Especially when another language is involved, it is important to listen and understand in order to learn. It’s a simple concept, but one often ignored when it comes to dealing with people of other cultures and languages.
Ruoff affirmed Brenner’s sentiments with an even more elaborate example.
“If, by goodness, an American is insistent on doing business ‘American-style’ in Japan, well, I suppose that there is a small chance that he or she may succeed just by accident. But there is a far greater chance, and I could cite many concrete examples, that he or she shall fall flat on his or her face in failure.”
King’s presentation is one of the CJS’ ongoing lecture series, called Japanese Success Stories in Doing Business in Oregon.
Ruoff said the lecture series profiles Oregonians who have succeeded in doing business with Japan. The lessons are pertinent for anyone who has contact with those from different countries and cultures, not just present and aspiring business people with Japan in their sights.
“It is by far the most worthwhile, popular and successful forum on campus for students, staff, faculty and community members to gain practical insights about the cultural challenges that are inherent in doing international business,” Ruoff said. “We have been astonished at the size of the audiences.”