Densho Digital Archive
Twin Cities JACL Collection
Title: Ed Yoshikawa Interview
Narrator: Ed Yoshikawa
Interviewer: Steve Ozone
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Date: October 12, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-yed-01-0017

<Begin Segment 17>

SO: So all those trips to Japan must have improved your Japanese quite a bit.

EY: Yes, yes. Well, along with these trips to Japan I also included side trips to Taiwan to communicate with some of the merchandise they were making for us and in Korea and Hong Kong, and then I would end up in Japan. In Japan they have a semi-annual fashion show, their new line of merchandise, and they would invite all the customers to come in. That took place twice a year for the spring and the winter line. And we would be invited to go there quite often along with an executive or two. And we observe the different booths -- see, the Munsingwear Japan product was far superior to the Munsingwear USA merchandise. Back in those days, Munsingwear Japan garments were sold at eighty bucks, ninety bucks, hundred dollars easy. Back in the States, its only twenty-five, thirty-five dollars. So the quality of merchandise far superior, and the brand name of Munsingwear in Japan meant a lot more.

The Japanese are so brand conscious that it worked out to our advantage. To see the penguin on the garments.

SO: Immediately they know what it is.

EY: Yes. And it's quality and expensive merchandise. So they were very successful and Munsingwear, the recipients of over 2 million dollars annually for what do you call it? Oh, I can't think of the word now, they were the recipient of... it was based on the percentage of sales. And, oh, what's the term I'm trying to think of?

SO: Franchise?

EY: Franchise, no, not franchise. Anyway, so all the more reason why they were very liberal with me. So whenever a Japanese came they would ask me, even when I was vacationing up in Portland, Oregon, said, "There's a guy coming down to Dallas, Texas, would you come down and help him?" And, "There's an executive from Renown that's coming to Minneapolis," and I was in California then. And I don't know if you are familiar with shiitake. Shiitake, it's a form of mushroom, very expensive, and they grew shiitake in Oregon and my sister, my wife's sister had just received a package of shiitake -- no, not shiitake, matsutake, excuse me. There's a world of difference between shiitake and matsutake, matsutake. So I brought that with me to the Minneapolis Athletic Club and had the chef prepare it in butter, slice it in butter, and just serve it to the Japanese because it's a real treat for them. Well, it turned out all the other executives from Munsingwear enjoyed it so much that they just got a few pieces that's all. But they would go very freely with me as far as expenses were concerned.

SO: Well, they had a lot of respect for you, your ability.

EY: Well, that's another story. A questionable thing. [Laughs]

SO: That's very interesting, your relationship with Japan. Is there anything else you can think of, that you want to talk about?

EY: Can I include a little funny incident that took place? There was a guy who was in charge of, who manufactures nylons, I mean, men's golf socks like this, with the penguin on it, and he was coming to the USA for the first time, so he was asking his buddies all about the trip to Munsingwear. And they said, "Well, first thing they ask you when you get on a plane, on a jet plane, they'll ask you what would you like to drink." So he kept that in his mind and he gets on the plane and the stewardess comes up and says, "Where are you going?" And he said, "Orange juice." "I said, no, where are you going?" "Orange juice." [Laughs] This is the same guy that came to our sales meeting and he was bored stiff. He didn't understand English at all. So I noticed that he was bored, so I said, "Yoshimura-san, let's go golfing." So he was a golf enthusiast, wow, he jumped right away, I took him out golfing. These are the little things that occur that they seem to appreciate a lot.

SO: All right, that's all I have. Those were great stories.

EY: I can't think of anything else.

SO: Okay.

EY: Enough said. I'm sorry I was so long-winded.

SO: No, that was fine.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.