Forming Shin-Sen-Gumi - Ideals, Beliefs, Passion, and Foresight Breaking Away From Conventional Thinking, Expanding the Possibilities
Breaking Away From Conventional Thinking, Expanding the Possibilities
At one time in the Los Angeles, the Japanese community it was thought taboo to own more than one store. There was a belief that such an endeavor could not succeed. Shin-Sen-Gumi owner and “Kyokucho” (Chief Boss) Mitsuyasu Shigeta broke that taboo when he opened his highly successful 2nd and 3rd stores at the same time, to the surprise of those around him. Additionally, when he decided to open the first Hakata ramen shop in Los Angeles, the employees of the Shin-Sen-Gumi group were unanimous in their opposition. The conventional thinking at the time was that Tonkotsu (pork bone) soup was something that only people from Kyushu ate, let alone the fact that many Americans did not eat pork for religious reasons. However, Mr. Shigeta followed his own beliefs and succeeded in turning this way of thinking on its head. Indeed, the greater the resistance the deeper the feeling of joy when one can overcome such thinking. If one can expand the possibilities of dreams and desires a new joy can be found and that, in the end, is what helps people grow.
A Place of Human Development
In the beginning, when Shin-Sen-Gumi was getting started, Mr. Shigeta had a strong desire through his work to promote himself, gain a reputation and, of course, profit financially. However, looking back he now feels that this was a greedy way of thinking. One day, three years after the opening, Mr. Shigeta found himself looking at one of his young employees who started as a part-timer and he noticed something. This employee, who at the start couldn’t even greet customers properly or understand how to see to customers’ needs was now doing both very well. When he noticed this, Mr. Shigeta felt embarrassed by his greedy motives. After that, such impure motivations naturally disappeared. At Shin-Sen-Gumi, we strive to develop people. With that thought in mind we pursue a philosophy of employee education. This belief leads to our workplace motto, “an educational environment that provides people with the opportunity to grow and become a positive contribution to society through the workplace”.
A Way of Living That Brings Joy
As a young man, while Mr. Shigeta was working part-time at the Hakata, Japan yakitori (roasted chicken skewers) restaurant “Tonsho” he worked so hard that his manager might have even thought that the hourly wage he was paying him was too cheap. Rather than wondering if this was what he was meant to be, whether this was something he wanted to do or not, Mr. Shigeta took every task he was handed seriously and worked his hardest. With that commitment and focus, the results of his discipline and hard work naturally came to fruition. Conversely, if he had been calculated at that time it certainly have come back to bite him. It is because of this lifestyle where one can honestly find joy in others that the current Shin-Sen-Gumi is enjoying its success.
The Importance of a Proper Greeting
At Shin-Sen-Gumi we put great importance on properly greeting people and on our manners, being aware of your surroundings, being attentive, and generally taking care of people. When a customer enters one of our restaurants he or she is always greeted properly. Our restaurants are a sacred place where one can share the culture of Japanese cuisine and interact with customers. Therefore, greeting with proper courtesy is expected not only when dealing with the customers but also when people enter and leave the restaurant. This custom and practice is also applied to our fellow employees. Furthermore, greeting others with the proper courtesy is a way of exchanging “energy” and when carried out properly, greeting others can draw out and heighten the “energy” that lies in us all. If a customer tired from his or her workday is greeted properly this may help them face tomorrow with a new vitality.
A Close Friend is Invaluable
At Shin-Sen-Gumi, friends from Mr. Shigeta’s days as a student also work as executives. A close friend is a friend for life and one where interests in gains or loss do not get in the way. And in life, if one is able to make a close friend such as this he or she has something very invaluable indeed.
Thinking of the Customers' Convenience
Like no other Japanese restaurant, since its opening, Shin-Sen-Gumi has been open for business 7 days a week, 365 days a year with no holidays. This was born out of a frustrating experience when Mr. Shigeta couldn’t find anyplace open during the New Year’s holiday. Because we think that restaurants exist for the convenience of the customer and not the employee Shin-Sen-Gumi is open all year round with no holidays. During the New Year’s holiday we offer the traditional preparation of mochi rice cakes with a wooden mallet (a Japanese News Years staple) and serve o-zoni, a traditional soup also containing mochi rice cakes. All of these services have been started to make the customer happy.
Bringing You an Authentic Food Culture
More than just offering Japanese food to Americans, Shin-Sen-Gumi believes its mission is to offer this food in the most authentic state possible. In a manner of speaking it could be said that Shin-Sen-Gumi is a representative of Japan, with the Japanese soul on its back and its responsibility is to bring the people of the US, with all their different nationalities and backgrounds, not some imitation of Japanese food but the real deal, and have them appraise it. This is fusion of culture in a true sense and if that is achieved the relationship between cultures is finally equal. For that purpose, Shin-Sen-Gumi has produced videos for the purpose of showing the correct way to eat Japanese food. When in Rome do as the Romans do so to speak. We would like Americans to study the authentic way to eat Japanese cuisine.
Shin-Sen-Gumi Charity Summer Festival
As a place for imparting Japanese culture and local area vitalization Shin-Sen-Gumi holds several events throughout the year such as the mochitsuki ceremony during the New Year’s holiday, Children’s Day, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day and more but most important event held is the “Summer Festival”. At the 5th Annual Shin-Sen-Gumi Charity Summer Festival held in August of 2007, which coincided with the 15th anniversary of Shin-Sen-Gumi’s foundation, 100 guests, entertainers and crew were flown in from Japan by the Shin-Sen-Gumi Group. The festival was the most exciting yet. The management, young part-time workers and the entire employee staff turned out to work tirelessly to set up the event, realizing that with everyone working toward the same goal incredible things can be accomplished. To experience this sort of thing at a young age can be an asset in one’s life and a priceless lesson.
Why We Opened “Magokoro” in Japan
Borrowing from the Shin-Sen-Gumi Group slogan of “The Restaurant with the Most Will Power and Sincerity in the World” we named our first restaurant in Japan “Magokoro”, the Japanese word for sincerity. This restaurant would also serve as a place of work for employees who, for some reason or another, have to return to Japan from Los Angeles. Moreover, this restaurant could serve as a starting point for those employees who are wondering what they should do as a career, giving them the future chance to test their mettle in the U.S.
What the Future Holds
Opening a restaurant in the largest Chinese community in Los Angeles was a great challenge for the Shin-Sen-Gumi Group. Not only was there the pressure to succeed with a Japanese restaurant managed by Japanese in a Chinese community, this was the first time that a new management structure was tested. With this restaurant, the manager was given the post of president and, as president, was given the responsibilities of managing that franchise. Fortunately, this venture has proved very successful... The Shin-Sen-Gumi Group is now looking to establish this same kind of company in markets beyond Los Angeles such as New York, San Diego, Hawaii, and Las Vegas with the plan of promoting store managers and designated staff as company presidents. Also, we would like to step outside our focus on restaurants with the production and distribution of such products as our independently branded “Yuzu Pepper”, which has recently spread around Los Angeles, further expanding the reaches of the Shin-Sen-Gumi Group.