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Takenari NOZAKI

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Takenari NOZAKI

I contributed to APU because I agree with President Haruaki Deguchi’s extraordinary plans to train and produce young entrepreneurs in my home prefecture of Oita.

I used to be a junior high school teacher, and I worked my way up to the position of Vice Principal. But in 1991, I decided to start my own business at the age of 54. My company, Super Drug Nozaki, was the first big-box drug store in Oita Prefecture.

Within 20 years, we expanded to 15 locations throughout Oita, and our staff grew to around 300 people. After achieving annual sales of ¥7 billion, I handed the reins of the company over to the next generation, and since then, I have been involved in startup incubation and support in the prefecture.

From behind the scenes, I am offering my support to young, hard-working APU students who are chasing their dream of starting their own business.

Q: Surprisingly, you quit your job as a teacher and started your own company. Looking back, what were the keys to your success?
A: I was just a normal teacher in a rural school. But I always believed that even a regular guy like me could achieve something if he was determined to do so, and I took action. When it came time to make the move, I was ready, and that was the key to my success. Of course, to be confident that you can succeed means you must do your homework. It is important to get a running start, which means constantly preparing. I want to see young people hold on to their passion and take that first big step toward achieving their dreams. In the end, the most important thing is to take action.
Q: What is your message to those students who aspire to be entrepreneurs?
A: For my message, I’d like to borrow the words of two great people from history.
First, have you ever heard of Matsuo Basho, a haiku poet from the Edo era? His philosophy of “continuity and change” can be considered the guiding principle of every human endeavor. Continuity in business refers to the principles that must never change even as the times change. Meanwhile, change refers to the ability to always remain sensitive to global trends and adapt to the new. These two concepts may seem incompatible, but they actually overlap significantly.
This idea is encapsulated by a quote attributed to Darwin that President Deguchi often uses: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, but rather, that which is most adaptable to change.” The same applies in the world of business. I believe you first need to build a foundation of continuity and then think about change.

The second person I would like to quote is Zeami, a Noh playwright from the Muromachi era whose style remains the foundation of Noh to this day. He developed the concept of shuhari, which describes the proper stages of learning from training to mastery.
Shu, which means “follow,” refers to learning fundamentals through imitation. Ha, which means “breaking away,” refers to creating your own advanced technique based on those fundamentals. Finally, ri, or “transcendence,” means rising above imitation and the techniques you have developed and entering a higher level.
For those of you who want to become entrepreneurs, I think you first need to humbly learn from others’ examples of success. The first step is to imitate those examples that you have identified by diligently collecting information.

Finally, the other thing that successful people in every field have in common is a love of learning. When I say learning, I do not mean wrestling with textbooks and reference books. Einstein once said, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don't know.”
Of course, reading is the best way to gain knowledge and experience. So, if you want to become a successful entrepreneur, you should read many books. I hope you will all continue to work hard with an eye on the future.
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