Our (My) Story by Yozo Otsuki
It was May 2013 and I had just moved to Sydney, Australia.
I had just quit my tenure working in investment bank Goldman Sachs Tokyo a few months back and searching for new opportunities. I had an opportunity to relocate to the Sydney which I jumped upon. Having experience in the field, I started searching for jobs in the finance industry again, but something did not feel right. Why waste this amazing fresh opportunity on something that I've already done and tired and I knew that wasn't going to make me happier?
At the same time, being in a new country outside of Japan, I had the chance to see how people where appreciative of Japan and its products - the unique craft, minimalism, and splendid design it had to offer. New friends kept on asking me how they reminisced the beautiful products they could buy on their trip to Japan or how they could buy the homeware I had in my new home. These experiences got me thinking - could this become a potential business?
In June 2013 I launched Kurasu as a online homeware store to provide Japanese items in Australia
After few months of research and preparation, I decided to take the leap of faith and launched Kurasu - which means “to live” or “lifestyle” in Japanese - an online store showcasing Japanese homeware in Australia. 2013 and 2014 was a exciting time for myself and my small team, with my wife right by my side supporting the new venture. I actively reached out to the local community, touring markets and exhibitions gaining amazing friends, network, and overwhelming support. It was a feeling I had never experienced in my previous corporate line of work.
I truly felt the impact of Japanese craftmanship and design had to the world, and the power of building a brand ans telling a story. At the same time, I noticed a particular trend - more than 60% of our sales was coming from the small lineup I had of Japanese coffeewares.
Coffee had always been a central theme in my upbringing. My mother and father having owned separate Jazz Kissaten’s (Japanese coffee shops) which were in the heydays at the time, and even though I didn’t enjoy the drink for myself until high school, coffee was always around me – the scent, beans, vintage equipment’s, and atmosphere.
I began to shift my focus and research into coffee, the Japanese coffee culture, and Japanese equipments.
Sydney, July 2014
March 2015, Kurasu rebranded to focus solely on coffeewares - and to target a global audience
Being able to feature Japanese homeware to the Australian was a incredible experience, but to take Kurasu to the next level I felt we needed a precise focus and to target a global audience. That precise focus was coffee and to target the global audience, we moved our logistics operations back to Japan - this way we were able to ship items directly to customers worldwide cutting out as much middle man as possible.
We wanted not just to be a provider of Japanese coffee equipment, but to focus on the education of the Japanese way of home brew, the Japanese coffee culture and the art of coffee itself. With the third wave coffee movement taking the world by storm, we saw how it was rooted from the Japanese coffee scene. The craft, care, and mentality the Japanese put into coffee parallel no other. Thenew focus has allowed our growth to be exponential, reaching 25 countries worldwide, shipping out hundreds of items monthly.
We have continued our expansion by launched our monthly subscription service partnering with Good Coffee to ship coffee roasted by artisan Japanese roasters on October 2015.
Kurasu Kyoto opens August 2016
One of the most asked questions especially from our overseas customers was if we had a physical space they could visit as part or their trip to Japan. We always felt honoured that Kurasu was on the minds of many as part of visiting Japan.
Building a physical storefront may not have been easy, but it did make complete sense. We’ve had these amazing coffee products to showcase and we didn't see anyone in the market offering what we were - a one stop shop for everything coffee. We also had connections with artisan coffee roasters from all over Japan through our subscription service. We also wanted to put more focus on our Japanese audience, and what better way then to have a storefront.
In the spring of 2016, we’ve made our decision to embark on our next journey of opening a retail space in my hometown of Kyoto.After opening our doors in August, we soon became known throughout the city as the premier specialty coffee stand in Kyoto, featured in prominent Japanese and foreign publications.
Most of all, we were so excited to be a location where overseas and local customers alike can gather to buy, drink, and chat about everything coffee.
What is coffee to me?
Coffee is my passion and it’s what I do right now for a living through Kurasu - spreading the word of Japanese coffee culture and selling beautiful Japanese coffee equipment’s to the world. Coffee has allowed myself to open doors to unlimited possibilities and to be able to connect with amazing people from all over the world. On a personal level, it’s the process to be able to let go of the hassles or busy work schedule for the day. It’s to enjoy the pour,smell, bloom, and the sound of drip. Moreover, coffee is remembering how my mom brewed for me, and how that experience has shaped me to who I am.