In Japan, the word “house” is often synonymous with “family.” Getting married is often described as “entering someone’s house.” However, as Japan became a developed society in the postwar era, the house became an industrial product. The housing industry has made it difficult for people to build houses to express their own identity.
Weekend Homes Corp has been challenging the status-quo, providing more flexible house design and construction services to individuals in Japan. With its motto “the house is your identity,” the company has helped many people realize their ideal houses.
Heading up the company is Tsuyoshi Morimoto. Born in Chiba, he studied business management at a college in San Francisco. In 1987, he joined Asahi Breweries where he was tasked with the development of new markets in the U.S. After leaving Asahi Breweries in 1990, he worked as a consultant for the advertising and restaurant industries. In 2000, he launched Weekend Homes.
Japan Today reporter Taro Fujimoto visits Morimoto in his office in Yoyogi to hear more.
What services does Weekend Homes offer?
We offer originally designed houses for individuals, as well as apartments and buildings for corporate clients. We are involved in everything from finding the land to the design and construction of houses and buildings as well as maintenance services and loan consulting. We have franchised offices nationwide. We also hold weekly and monthly seminars for the public on how to build a house, secure home loans and other related topics.
How is the housing market in Japan now?
In general, the market has been influenced by the data fabrication scandal by architects and builders in 2005. Standards for construction have been tightened. One of the biggest issues now is the price hike in imported materials. However, because we have not done our business on a large scale, we are not greatly influenced by those factors. So for us, business is going well.
How does your original design house service work?
We have about 2,200 registered professional architects. After starting the project, we hold a competition for the architects on our special online website, showing requirements and requests by our clients. Only an architect who matches what the client wants and has chemistry with them is chosen. We don’t have any sample designs at all. We first of all start by researching the lifestyle of our clients, such as their favorite fashion brands, music, and how they spend their time at home, etc.
Who are your individual clients?
They are typically aged 35 and above. Among some couples, wives are more influential than husbands in decision-making. But some husbands have a clear concept for the house. The communication with wives, however, is always the most important, I think.
Why did you start original design housing services?
When I bought a house for myself through a major builder, I was so unsatisfied. That is because consumers do not have access to information on the housing industry. The industry doesn’t tell consumers anything about their products but just require them to choose from what they can build. I found that some people are passive consumers when buying houses.
How has the housing industry in Japan been like so far?
First of all, building an original house by ordering a design has been only for a limited number of rich people in Japan. Most people have to choose standardized houses offered by builders.
I don’t think the house is an industrial product. I think the house must be unique for everyone. Building a house is a very flexible process in which you want to be able to request many things. But major housing makers have made this an industrial process.
I also found that carpenters and those who are involved in construction of houses are not good at communicating with consumers and listening to their input. They are too proud of their craftsmanship to give and take.
How do builders react to your service?
I think major housing makers do not take our services positively because almost all the clients choose our services after comparing them. We provide our clients with what they want. Major housing makers just offer what they think is good but they don’t listen to their clients.
Do you have competitors?
No, we don’t currently. Several companies have already come and gone. Our business is more difficult than outsiders imagine. This is because we have to deal with architects and builders as artists or craftsmen as well as demanding clients who want their ideal homes.
How many projects do you typically deal with?
We usually deal with about 10 projects a month and 150 projects a year. There about 150 to 200 inquiries over the country every month from the corner of the request for the brochure of WEB. It is possible to look for the height of the concern to the architect house. We see the number, we can say the interests for the housing industries are growing.
Are your original design house projects affordable for everyone?
Our project fees are slightly more expensive than major house makers. But we have several pricing courses to suit different budgets. The cost totally depends on what clients want.
What is the most difficult thing in your service?
Since our clients and architects spend much time designing their houses in detail, they often propose challenging projects. However, we have to build a house which we can guarantee in terms of safety and easy maintenance. This is legally binding on us as a housing maker. So, realizing all our clients’ requests at the practical level is often difficult.
What do you want to ultimately achieve?
I believe a house reflects the resident’s identity. As everyone has a different identity, the house should be different. So we would like to tackle as many challenging projects as we can in order to provide diversified choices.
How do you advertise your services?
We don’t advertise. Women’s and lifestyle magazines cover our unique houses almost monthly, which is very effective. My wife often lets me know when she sees houses we designed in magazines.
What is a typical day for you?
I come to the office around 8:30 a.m. and attend meetings with our business partners. I leave the office around 7 p.m.
What is your management style?
I always tell everyone my opinions without hesitation. But I basically let them do what they want to try. I always feel I want to join the project with our clients because creating something is fun and enjoyable. But as president, I have to do my admin work, which is a pity.
I don’t work at home because it is too comfortable to waste on working. I designed it myself.
How do you spend weekends? I play golf with my 15-year-old son, 12-year-old daughter and wife, and we have dinner together after that.
For further information on Weekend Home, visit: http://www.weekend-homes.com/english/index.html© Japan Today