Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Japanese ARTS and BUSINESS - New Year's Cards or nengajo

Have you ever seen New Year’s Cards made in Japan? Now here is an idea for business, if you are thinking of starting one from the scratch. Like we are.

New Year's Cards Promotion 2012
© ShashinBako

Check this out: New Year's Cards, as many as 4.1 billion are printed and mailed by the Japan Post every year, according to wasabipress blog. For a population of about 130 million people, we get to an average of 31 cards purchased by each person. Individuals buy packages of 50 or 100 cards, corporations get much more for their partners and employees. Photo and Printing businesses are in charge of personal information, databases of names and mailing addresses. They do the digital input, the editing and the printing. The Japan Post delivers.

We can think of a few reasons why this system would not work as nicely someplace else. But maybe you can bring a change. Think about it. Get your numbers right. Multiply 4.1 billion cards by 90 yen per card, and you get a nice amount of 369 billion yen, a rough 306 million GBP, 369 million EUR, or 480 million US dollars turnover, or revenue. Dare say that profits are not bad. Interested?

We got a bunch of leaflets in the mail these past few weeks and we did not pay much attention to any of them. They were actually all headed for the rubbish bin this morning when we discovered the promotion for New Year’s Cards, a belated discovery. Why does any of these matter? Well, it is all related to practicality, inventiveness as opposed to a humanities degree. Or better: how to use your knowledge on arts and poetry to make business.
The launch of 2012 is for some of us just the right time to get practical: we decided to show you something quite Japanese: practicality. For a little while we are going to set aside How to find a career with your Humanities degree in 126 days, a relevant, smart, straightforward book written by James from selloutyoursoul.com , and start storytelling about New Year’s Cards, also known in Japan as the nengajo 年賀状. We scanned some stuff for you and searched some important arts databases.

First, is there a need for improvement in the greeting cards industry? We started getting a bit tired of getting e-cards that will not open, and when they do, they can be rather impersonal. We searched google for Western rivals to the Japanese cards. We could not find any. Instead we found these Jingle Bells greeting cards and we thought of them as boring: 

Google Images search for
"greeting cards" (today)

The home-made cards are obviously a step forward, yet something is still missing:

Google Images search for
 "homemade greeting cards" (today)

In order to engage into a comparative, interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, multimodal Intermedialitaet approach to Greeting Cards Studies, we are showing you first a sample of Japanese envelopes, as a sign of exquisite taste. We reckon that previous research in Envelope Studies has ignored many important aspects of a field that should receive proper attention in the analytic tradition. Have a look.

Japanese envelopes with financial gifts
 for the bride and groom

The Japanese Greeting Cards do not need envelopes, because unlike the Royal Mail, the Japan Post can be trusted. But you have got to understand the taste first, since without it, there is no 369 billion yen result. This is the promotion from Fujifilm for this year:

New Year's Cards Promotion 2012 © Fujifilm

What you can see here are various examples of cards, calligraphic, photographic. And a form to fill in should you be interested in any offer (the image on the right side). We have got more samples from ShashinBako Printing:

New Year's Cards Promotion 2012 © ShashinBako

Ink-splashed writing is still very common. Sweets, too. Noticed the Japanese cookies? Those pink little flowers in the middle. You can promote a cookie business with these cards. Children can choose their own cards to send to friends, see image No.4. Do children send cards anymore these days? There is plenty of room for improvement in children's lives and adult lives as well. Call it tangibility.

Naturally, Japanese calligraphy cannot simply be replaced with alphabet. Is there anything that can be done to make English text look beautiful?

Is seems complicated, but perhaps it is easier than you imagine. Japanese Calligraphy is a form of art, and like any form of art, it could have stayed behind locked doors in archives, museums and temples. But no, Japanese Art escaped from Archives and National Treasures and moved forward, to why not, BUSINESS. This is a National Treasure from Kyoto, see the poems transcribed on paper, these handscrolls look beautiful, but they do not bring money to businesses. Nevertheless, these handscrolls made the New Year's cards 369 billion yen business possible. Bloody brilliant !

Poems from Wakan Roeishu
read more on the e-museum website

Ink has a long history, just like charcoal does. 15th century painter Sesshu reduced the whole landscape to an ink-splashed primordial Breath, and this is not totally unrelated to that card in the middle image of the Fujifilm promotion above, the fleeting ideogram containing the whole space within. Ideas are there where you do not look.

Sesshu, Broken-ink Landscape, 1495
see the entire scroll on the e-museum website

Ideogram or Kanji for "Dragon"
New Year's Cards Promotion 2012 © Fujifilm

And when you find them, you have got to put them into practice. Master Shuseki (1946-2007) spent his life making a business by carving ideograms into wood. If you have a better look at Sesshu's painting above, you will notice a red seal in the lower left corner. These are seals with ideograms pressed on paper, and there is no paper in Japan without them. They are replacing signatures and represent proofs of identification. 

Master Shuseki engraving a square seal
virtual tour of his atelier here

This story was about New Year's Cards in Japan. This might inspire you to start a business. It might not. Let us figure it out together. Leave a message, get in touch.  

And if you went all the way to the Degree Zero of hope due to a humanities PhD that messed up your life and killed your dreams, visit SHM-ltd, a company based in London, where humanities grads teach business to businesses, and you will find people like Sarah Tyler from Goldsmiths (fluent in French and Italian), or Nigel Shardlow, who holds a doctorate in Philosophy from Oxford, and works as

an experienced consultant and senior manager with a broad skill base encompassing qualitative research, marketing communications, new product development, strategy and planning, and change management.

SHM-ltd, a company based in London
humanities grads teaching business to businesses

Learn from them. Learn from James. There must be something we can do to have the life we always wanted.


The Bosa Bosa Review 

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