2019年11月02日 英语美文 暂无评论

11:30,柳井正(Tadashi Yanai)准时步入房间,主动与我握手。这位日本首富(福布斯(Forbes)最新公布其财富高达155亿美元)个子不高、身材瘦削而结实,灰白头发剪成了寸头,似乎是为出家做准备。


.Goy356 { display:none; }


At exactly 11.30am, Tadashi Yanai marches into the room and sticks out his hand. The richest man in Japan, worth $15.5bn according to Forbes’ latest reckoning, is definitely not the tallest. A slight, wiry man, with alarmingly short grey hair cropped as if for the priesthood, the founder of the Uniqlo clothing chain can’t be much above 5ft 4in tall. Still, there is a toughness, almost a pugilism about him. Though he is 64 – or, perhaps, because he is 64 – he is among the most driven businessmen in Japan.
11:30,柳井正(Tadashi Yanai)准时步入房间,主动与我握手。这位日本首富(福布斯(Forbes)最新公布其财富高达155亿美元)个子不高、身材瘦削而结实,灰白头发剪成了寸头,似乎是为出家做准备。这位优衣库(Uniqlo)连锁店创始人身高不超过5.4英尺。然而他显得很壮实,酷似拳击手。尽管他已64岁,仍是当今日本最具创新意识的企业家。
His holding company, Fast Retailing, of which Uniqlo is the most prominent brand, is bent on world domination, or at least on overtaking its three larger competitors, Inditex (which owns Zara), HM and Gap. Fast Retailing, which operates more than 1,000 stores in 14 countries, has annual global sales above $10bn. Uniqlo alone is opening about one new outlet a week and will break into Germany and Australia next spring with stores in Berlin and Melbourne.
他旗下的控股公司迅销(Fast Retailing)专心致志在全球市场开疆拓土,抑或说至少一心一意赶超自己的三大强劲竞争对手——拥有Zara的Inditex、HM以及 Gap。优衣库是迅销旗下最知名品牌。迅销在14个国家开设了1000多家门店,全年销售额超过100亿美元。仅优衣库每周就会新开一家门店,明年开春就会在德国的柏林与澳大利亚的墨尔本开设新门店。
We are in the private dining room of Azure 45, one of dozens of high-end French restaurants in Tokyo, this most culinary of cities. This one is spectacularly located on the 45th floor of a skyscraper with sweeping views of Tokyo Tower and the city beneath. A cluster of different-sized glass balls dangles above the table, giving the otherwise haute-chic room the air of a 1980s disco. Yanai starts work at 7am and likes to be home by 4pm to spend time with his wife and to practise golf, so the whole company has shunted its schedule forward. Our 11.30am encounter is early even by Japanese standards, where lunch at noon is the norm.
我俩就在Azure 45餐馆的私人包间用餐,这是东京几十家高档法餐馆中的一家,饭菜档次无与伦比。Azure 45餐馆位于丽思卡尔顿高层酒店(Ritz Carlton)第45层,在此可以饱览东京塔(Tokyo Tower)的丰姿及整个东京城的美景。大小不等的玻璃串珠悬挂于餐桌上方,恍如置身于上世纪80年代的高档迪斯科舞房。柳井正每天早上7点开始工作,下午4点下班回家陪伴妻子以及练习打高尔夫球,因此全公司只得顺势把日程安排提前。即使以日本人的标准来衡量,我俩约定的11:30会面时间都有些早,日本人约定俗成的午餐时间是中午12点。
“Just by looking at your face I can tell you’re English,” Yanai announces as we take our seats at the long dining table. “There’s an Englishness about you.” He is almost imperceptibly leaning back in his chair and, as he speaks, his mouth moves less than you might expect, as if he were a ventriloquist minus a dummy. His face is stern, though beneath is a hint of amusement. Every so often, he bears his teeth as he erupts into laughter.
What, I ask, is so English about me? “The whole package. The air of the English is down-to-earth,” he says. “They care about details, there’s a tradition but there’s also a counter-culture, the younger generation versus the older generation and so on. But then that’s well blended into a happy balance and crystallised into common sense.”
It’s not where I would have started the conversation but it’s a fairly typical line of discourse in Japan, where perceived national characteristics remain an important prism through which to view the world. Seeing as we’ve set off down this road, I ask whether the Japanese are similar. One commonly hears Tokyo cab drivers pontificate on the parallels: both Britain and Japan are islands stuck off the edge of a great continental landmass. Yanai focuses on the differences. “I’m afraid Japanese people tend to collective hysteria,” he offers.
I can’t let that phrase go by, I say. What does he mean by collective hysteria? “Look at history,” he says, describing how Japan, after 300 years of isolation, burst into the world in the late 19th century, beating first, in 1895, China and then, in 1905, Russia in war. “Japan had this gut feeling. ‘We can do it. We can change the world. We can even walk on water,’” he says of the hubris that led to the destructiveness of would-be Asian domination.
At least three waiters, all wearing blue suits with light blue ties, are fussing around us. They pour sparkling water – the wine glasses have been whisked away without comment – and begin serving food. In Japan, it’s common to order before you arrive at a restaurant and Yanai’s office must have chosen. The first course is brightly orange Hokkaido sea urchin, served on an off-white sauce of fennel and seaweed cream in a large indented plate, like an inverted white cowboy hat. The sea urchin is delicious on its own but slightly overwhelmed by the creamy sauce.
As Yanai sets about slurping in the Japanese fashion – the action is said to introduce flavour-enhancing air – I apologise before pulling out my iPhone to snap a photo. Through the lens, I notice again his severe haircut and protruding ears. “It’s like cooking,” he says self-deprecatingly of his appearance. “If the ingredients are bad, then the picture probably won’t come out looking like a handsome-looking guy.”
I’d like to pursue the wartime history question, ever-present even as Japanese companies such as Uniqlo become more dependent on Chinese labourers and consumers, but Yanai has dispensed with his first course in a few quick slurps and I feel I should press on. As a chilled mushroom soup arrives, I turn to his childhood. He was born in 1949 in the mining town of Ube in Yamaguchi prefecture, where his parents ran a western clothing store. Yanai compares Ube with the gritty Welsh mining village in John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley, a film about environmental and social despoilment. “Back in those days, Japan was still an occupied country. It was very poor. My parents had a shop on the first floor and we lived on the second floor.” He remembers the taste of chocolate and coffee as “aspirational”.
我希望继续谈论挥之不去的日本侵略的历史遗留问题。尽管优衣库等日本公司如今越发仰仗中国员工及消费者,但柳井正三下五去二就已把第一道菜消灭了,我觉得应该趁热打铁。蘑菇冻汤端上桌后,我转而问他的童年时代。柳井正1949年出生于山口县(Yamaguchi)的煤炭城市宇部(Ube),他的父母在此经营一家西式服装店。柳井正把宇部与约翰福特《青山翠谷》(John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley)中坚忍不拔的威尔士煤矿山村相提并论,这部影片讲述了对环境与社会的过度掠夺。“想当初,日本仍是个被美国占领的国家,国贫民穷,我父母在一楼开了店铺,全家则住在二楼。”他还清楚记得当时巧克力与咖啡的味道让他“魂牵梦萦”。
When a mine shut down, he says, his school friends moved on with their families. “In my childhood, I learnt that all industries have a shelf-life. Everything comes to an end.” Did he want to escape? “I knew there was a certain expectation from my father.” As the only son, he would be required to take over the family business. But he also wanted to become a “salaryman”, an employee of a big Japanese company dressed in suit and tie.
He studied economics and politics at Tokyo’s prestigious Waseda University, where, he says, he devoted much of his time to mah-jong and pachinko, the latter an addictive game in which glassy eyed punters feed metal balls into noisy machines. He listened to jazz and was, he says, “soaked in American culture”. It was the late 1960s and student protests, over the Vietnam war and Japan’s subservience to the US, brought the university to a standstill for 18 months. Yanai took the opportunity to travel abroad and ended up in the UK. He was surprised to find that no one spoke English, or at least not the American version he knew. “I couldn’t understand a word of Cockney English,” he says. The reminiscence proves cause for another eruption into laughter.
他考上东京久负盛名的早稻田大学(Waseda University),攻读经济学与政治学,他说大学期间,自己把大量时间耗在了打麻将与玩弹球盘上,弹球盘容易上瘾,面无表情的赌徒把金属球塞入嘈杂的机器中。他说,自己当时聆听爵士乐,“沉醉于美国文化”。正是上世纪60年代末学生因越战以及日本对美国惟命是从而举行抗议活动,从而导致早稻田大学停课了18个月。柳井正利用这个机会出国游历,最后一站是英国。他惊讶地发现每个人说的都不像英语,抑或说至少没人用自己理解的美式英语说话。“伦敦英语,我一个词都听不懂,”他说。他一想起这段往事,就不由得哈哈大笑。
After graduating in 1971, he worked briefly for a supermarket chain before returning to his father’s shop in Ube. In 1984, he was made managing director of the expanding business and established the first branch of the Unique Clothing Warehouse in the back streets of Hiroshima. Instead of selling the ready-made men’s suits in which his father’s business specialised, the Hiroshima store dealt in affordable casual clothes akin to those then being sold by Giordano of Hong Kong.
1971年大学毕业后,他先在某连锁超市打了一段时间工,然后回到宇部父亲的老店铺。1984年,他担任业务繁忙的家族企业社长,并在广岛(Hiroshima)的背街小巷开设了Unique Clothing Warehouse仓储服装店(优衣库原先的名字)首家分店,销售的并非父亲主打的男士现成西服,而是廉价休闲装,类似于佐丹奴(Giordano)当时在香港的销售模式。
Uniqlo, a contraction of the original name, started expanding and by the mid-1990s had more than 100 stores. Yanai then opened a Tokyo outlet. Before long, the company was churning out hit products, typified by the $20 fleece jacket that is said to have been purchased by one in four Japanese. It experimented with new materials, to retain heat or to breathe in the sweltering summers, co-operating with Japan’s most cutting-edge manufacturers. The leap from Ube to Tokyo was, he says, far bigger than the one Uniqlo subsequently made from Tokyo to London, New York, Shanghai and Moscow, all cities where it now operates. “The world’s major metropolitan cities are more or less the same,” he says.
Still, there have been false starts. In 2001, Uniqlo opened several stores in London only to shut most of them again after miserable results. Yanai says the launch was undone by sloppy standards. In Japan, though Uniqlo’s products are cheap, customers are treated like kings, with bowing staff and immaculately laid-out stores. That’s not how it was on opening day in London, according to Yanai. “I was so angry at how messy the floor was and how the merchandise was stacked any-old-how,” he says, tucking in to the delicately cooked white fish that has been served. “I was infuriated.”
Since that false start, the going has been somewhat easier as Uniqlo has sought to glamorise its brand by opening flagship international stores in prime locations such as New York’s Fifth Avenue. Yanai has set a wildly ambitious target of nearly quintupling sales to $50bn by 2020. Isn’t he making a classic mistake of Japanese business, I wonder, prioritising scale over profits? “Scale has no importance on its own,” he shoots back. “But unless you have scale, you may not be able to stay alive or competitive. Unless you have scale, you can be bought by someone else or you may go bankrupt. Remember, I have seen so many industries dying out,” he says with a nod to his Ube roots.
自打那次“出师不利”后,优衣库在纽约第五大道(Fifth Avenue)等黄金地段开设了国际旗舰店,并开始大肆宣传品牌,随后的“攻城略地”就变得一帆风顺。柳井正制订了雄心勃勃的目标:到2020年,年销售额基本上要翻5番,达到500亿美元。我问他是否在重蹈日本企业的典型覆辙——重视规模甚于利润?“规模大小本身没啥意义,”他立马回击道。“但如若没有规模,就无法生存下去或是保持竞争力;如若没有规模,就很容易被吞并或是破产。请记住,本人已亲眼目睹很多企业如此败亡,”他说道,不言而喻指他家的宇部小店铺。
Some wagyu tenderloin has arrived. Portions are delicate so the parade of food is manageable. The beef comes in a red-wine sauce and is served with little vegetables arranged more like an avant-garde art exhibition than a plate of food.
I ask if the clothing industry’s model is sustainable. After all, it relies on no-longer-so-cheap labour in China, where the bulk of Uniqlo clothes are made, and up-and-coming manufacturing centres such as Bangladesh, site of this April’s appalling tragedy in which 1,100 garment workers were crushed to death when a factory collapsed. Might not consumers in the west decide to buy fewer, better-made clothes, manufactured under more humane conditions? “People say that globalisation has negative aspects but I don’t believe globalisation is bad,” he says, a piece of beef suspended on his fork in mid-air. “It’s criticised from a western perspective but, if you put yourself in the shoes of people in the developing world, it provides an unprecedented opportunity.”
In the case of Bangladesh, it also brought death, I press. Although Uniqlo clothes were not being made in the collapsed Rana Plaza building, Fast Retailing has subsequently responded anyway by joining a European-led initiative to improve factory conditions. “Some European people tend to believe that these labourers are being exploited and deprived of their human rights and that, therefore, what they need is a strong union,” he says, waving away imaginary agitators. “But in my opinion, unless each one of those labourers and all the people in Bangladesh can stand on their own feet they will have no future.”
我不依不饶:孟加拉国的惨剧还造成了大量工人伤亡。尽管倒塌的拉纳大厦(Rana Plaza)中,并没有生产优衣库服装的厂家,但不管怎么说,迅销公司事后有所行动——加入欧洲人改善工厂生产环境的倡议。“有些欧洲人总是觉得这些工人遭受残酷剥削,人权遭践踏,因此他们需要组建强有力的工会,”他说,对于那些想当然的搅局者,他深不以为然。“但在我看来,除非每个工人以及所有的孟加拉国人能够自食其力,否则他们就没啥前途。”
Even at home, Uniqlo is sometimes labelled as a “black company” because of a high, by Japanese standards, staff turnover rate that sees half of all new recruits leave the company within three years. In Japan, too, the brand has become a victim of its own ubiquity. There is a slang term, unibare, meaning to be caught wearing Uniqlo clothes. Part of Yanai’s global push is aimed at reflecting a better international image of the company’s products back into its home market.
In Japan, Yanai is famous for his prodigious wealth, not always a compliment in a country where money can be held in suspicion. His enormous house in central Tokyo has a mini-golfing range in the garden. In a previous interview, Yanai has said he is not interested in money, though he confesses to liking the idea of being Japan’s richest man. How does he square the two? “I would describe myself as a very average man,” he says. “I’m not extraordinary. I don’t think I was cut out to be making all this money. I have long prioritised being fair, doing something good for society.” Surely he has a Van Gogh or two tucked away at home, I goad. In answer he shows me his wrist to reveal a humble Swatch timepiece. “This is the watch I wear every day,” he says. I’ve seen this before, the classic gesture of a billionaire keen to prove that wealth has not erased his down-to-earth origins.
在日本国内,柳井正因其巨额财富而出名,但这并非总是褒奖,因为在日本,财富的来路往往存疑。在柳井正东京市中心豪宅的花园里,修建了一座迷你型高尔夫练习场。我上次采访他时,他说自己对财富并无兴趣,尽管他坦承很享受日本首富的虚名。那么这两者该如何自圆其说?“本人自认为是凡人一个,”他说,“我并无特殊能力,自认为天生不是个挣大钱的料。早就认为公平公正以及为社会做贡献最重要。”我故意激将他:您家里肯定收藏有一二幅梵高(Van Gogh)的画作吧。他的回应是亮出手腕,证明自己只是戴着一块瑞士普通计时表。“这就是我每天戴的表,”他说。我之前也见过这块表,这是亿万富翁型的惯用伎俩——急于证明自己尽管腰缠万贯,依然未改朴实本性。
Ice-cream and coffee arrives, the latter served in fine bone china cups. The previous time I met Yanai, I say, more than a year ago, he was incredibly pessimistic about what he regarded as Japan’s myopic business culture, and an economy that he saw as floating on a sea of debt. Everyone harboured the illusion that they were middle class, he scoffed, but when they woke up they would realise they were poor. “All their savings have been used up by politicians and this bureaucrat-led socialist system.”
Since then, Japan under Shinzo Abe, its new prime minister, has embarked on a bold – some say reckless – economic turnround plan that centres on ridding the country of its 15-year-old deflation. There is also talk of more radical reform, by opening up areas such as agriculture and healthcare to greater competition. Since “Abenomics” was launched nine months ago, corporate confidence has crept back up and the stock market has surged, greatly adding to Yanai’s paper wealth. Japan is growing at more than 3 per cent a year, higher than most advanced economies. Is he now more optimistic?
从那以后,新首相安倍晋三(Shinzo Abe)领导下的政府开始实施大胆的经济复苏计划(有些人说不计后果),中心议题是让日本摆脱长达15之久的经济滞胀。坊间还传有更激进的改革计划,即大幅开放农业及医疗等领域,以实现充分竞争。自从9个月前推出“安倍经济学”(Abenomics)后,日本公司重拾信心,股市也大幅飚升,大大增加了柳井正的账面财富。日本的年经济增长率超过3%,远超多数发达经济体。他对前景应该更乐观了吧?
“What Abenomics has achieved so far has been successful,” he concedes. “But that alone will not be enough unless it entails meaningful structural reform.” Japan must liberalise, deregulate and open its markets to foreign competition, he says, citing what he considers the model of Thatcherite reform in Britain. “If Japan remains isolated and protected,” he concludes with a finality, “it will become a second Greece or a third Portugal.”
Yanai stands to go. He makes his farewell and departs. For a man in a hurry he’s given me a generous 90 minutes. I survey the restaurant, full of well-heeled clientele chattering over their French cuisine. I wonder who among them will wake up to realise they are poor and which of them owns a Uniqlo fleece jacket.
柳井正起身与我告别并向外走去。这位工作繁忙的富豪给了我90分钟采访时间,算是给足了我面子。我扫视了一下餐馆,只见衣冠楚楚的食客人头攒动,他们一边享用着法式大餐,一边眉飞色舞地聊着天。我不知道他们中有谁会幡然醒悟,与柳井正相比,自己只是个穷光蛋;也不知道他们是否人手一件优衣库羊毛夹克? 本文来自美文网