Interview with President Keiko Fukasawa
"One of the world's rare centennial companies. "

Sep. 18,2020
Special Topic

Keiko Fukasawa, President of Kotobuki Seating, on the Company's Future

Keiko Fukasawa was appointed President and CEO of Kotobuki Seating on October 1, 2019. He is also the president of Kotobuki International, based in New York, USA. Today's conversation connects New York and Tokyo via Skype. 


―― Let's begin by talking about the American side of the company's story. Can you give me an overview of Kotobuki products?

Seating in venues like theaters and sports arenas has different requirements around the world. After all, the impression given by a chair's design differs depending on the country’s culture and expectations. Because of that, I think people feel the difference when they experience Kotobuki Seating’s products. People notice the attention to the design, finishing, and especially the attention we put into every detail. The craftsmanship of the "made in Japan" ethos is felt in detail, for example in the beauty and quality of the wood we use for our products. Kotobuki products have attracted a great deal of attention in the United States because America has a long tradition of creating value through innovation.

One example of an innovation that's been gaining attention in America is the sleep capsule. Many American businesspeople and entrepreneurs want to experience Kotobuki's sleep capsules when they come to Japan, and many are looking for ways to bring the concept to the United States. I often hear people comment that sleep capsules make accommodation much more affordable while still being clean and convenient. There are great expectations for Kotobuki, and I hope we can connect Japan and the United States with a sense of comfort.

"First, ask and ask!"

――How was your experience of studying in the United States alone at the age of 16?


I lived in a dormitory where international students were gathered from all over the world. One day during my first few months of living in America, all my dreams turned to English. This was the moment the light came on, and from that day I started thinking in English.

After graduating from college, I got a job in New York City. This is when I realized that not knowing the first thing about something doesn't mean you can't approach it — just get started and ask lots of questions along the way. I believe we're all surrounded by the resources to do incredible things, and it’s up to us to get good at things by being humble, asking, and learning from others. This is directly connected to my current motto of "Just start."

――You have an MBA from George Washington University.

 I was 27 years old when I started going to graduate school. I always had a strong desire to work to connect Japan and the United States, so my undergraduate degree was in International Relations, and then I got my MBA in International Business at George Washington University.

"Inspired by differences"

 I mentioned earlier that you think in English in the US, but if you're in Japan, you think in Japanese. Both have advantages. Professionalism is at the heart of the Japanese way of thinking. It involves considering all the angles of the project, gathering as much detail as possible. I believe this is why Kotobuki Seating products are so highly regarded. In the US, things move along at a faster pace, so plans are created quickly then developed as you go along. But both of these approaches have their merits. A truly successful business knows when to apply each kind of thinking.

"Kotobuki Seating Group Annual Global Conference2"

The Kotobuki Seating Group has been hosting annual conferences around the world . Our motivation for this is to facilitate the exchange of ideas, and it stems from a desire to contribute to infrastructure development in countries around the world.
Kotobuki Seating is thankful to have a diverse group of companies around the world that are unified through its mission.


"Evolving while going deeper"

――I want to hear it from you—what are the strengths of Kotobuki Seating?

Our mission is to be our client’s best partner to create safer, more comfortable, and more beautiful places for people to gather. Our company has had a pioneering spirit since our founding over 100 years ago, and we look forward to the next 100 years in this same spirit—while remembering and learning from every one of our past achievements. As we go forward, I try to always remember that "the only constant is change."

"Built to last"

 The idea that our products are built to be a lasting part of a country's infrastructure is incredibly motivating. Theaters and arenas are important places that express the culture of the people of that country, and throughout history, people have needed a shared space to enjoy music, sports, and theater. With the changes brought about by this year's pandemic, some people are saying public gathering places are losing their importance, but history shows that's not true. Humans will always need places to come together. Let's work hard to make them the best they can be. 

Keiko Fukasawa

President of Kotobuki Seating (Japan), 2019 - present
President, Kotobuki Seating International, Inc. (New York City), 2018 - present

May 2001: Wheaton College – BA, International Relations
May 2007: George Washington University – MBA, International Business
July  2007 - March 2009, Senior Analysist, AOL
April 2009 - September 2010, Digital Analytics, MediaVest
September 2010 - July 2016, Operations Strategy, AOL
June 2017 - March 2018, Business Metrics & Analytics, Oath Inc (Now: Verizon Media)

●Interviewer: Makoto Takai, Mei Michibata (Public Relations Planning Department), Tsukasa Inomata (Inomata Office)