I’m in favor of liberalized immigration because

of the effect it would have on restaurants..

I’d let just about everybody in

except the English!

by: Guy Kawasaki


* * * * * * *

T OSHIO AKABORI (age thirty-nine) is the owner and chef of a restaurant called Tokyo Subway in Menlo Park, California. His restaurant is on Santa Cruz Avenue, right off El Camino Real (about fifty yards from Kepler’s bookstore).

My favorite dish is his ginger chicken----—teriyaki chicken is only for tourists.

Akabori is from Tokyo , Japan. He moved to Guam in 1976 to work for the Hilton Hotel. In 1978, at the age of twenty-two, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri, to become a chef at Benihana. Akabori returned to Japan for a very brief period to get married. After a year, his wife was able to get a visa and move to the United States. He and,his wife moved to northern California in 1980. Five years later they bought Tokyo Subway.

People frequently ask Akabori why he doesn’t open another restaurant or franchise Tokyo Subway. He tells them that he’s found his happiness and doesn’t want any more money---—or aggravation. He simply wants to spend time with his wife and two children. His story is about knowing when enough is enough and what really makes a person happy.

Our interview took place in his restaurant between the lunch-hour rush and the dinner rush. Akabori cut vegetables and mixed sauces as he talked. His English may not be good, but his hindsights are, as the British say, spot on. I chose not to introduce each of Akabori’s hindsights with a paragraph of explanation ---—this is the only interview like this in the entire book--- —because he says it all.


I always wish to someday have business because my father had a business. I have one sister and three brothers in Japan----everybody have restaurant business. That’s why more easy for me. I’m youngest kid in the family, so always I see what they doing.

When I started, we don’t have any money. My wife is pregnant, and my daughter is only two years old. We spend all when I started. I ask my wife because I know she has some own money — naisho besokuri [secret money]. So I ask her, and I got from her some money.

When we started, I’m so afraid. At that time, I don’t know business, but just try. We have lots of problems. We argue, and she cries lots, “Why we start business like this?” When 1 start, it was so hard, but little by little 1 make it, and I’m now getting a lot of regular customers. I feel very much confidence later.

My business grow, grow, grow. Now I don’t worry too much about my business. I never, ever expect a big business, but I like to keep going this way . Some people don’t care about food—just want to make business grow. But I cannot do that because I’ve been too long chef.

I was never thinking of a big restaurant because I know how many people I can handle. I don’t plan to use another chef, and I don’t want to do that way . I know U.S.—not only U.S.—is people problem, employee problem. If I want to do quality food, then I don’t do big restaurant. If I do big restaurant, I have to use other chef. Chefs always quit. If they quit, I have to train another. If too big, I cannot control. But if small, I can control more easy myself.

Defining Success

We already talk what important for us, and of course, business important. Make money important. But more important thing is the family . So what is compatible for the doing business? My restaurant serves five lunches, five dinners. Usually restaurant seven day open. Now Sunday, all day and Saturday lunch, and then Monday dinner I can enjoy with my kids.

This much big I can do whatever I want to. Like national holiday, I close for four, five days. And then Christmastime I close. And when I go Japan every other year, two weeks I close . I like to keep my family important to me. I saw many people after business they divorce because too much work and then getting no communication with the family.

I cannot do: ‘If I can make money, I don’t care whatever kind of business.” I care about my food, and I care what I’m doing so much. I care very much for the very satisfaction for my job, because I don’t get satisfaction only for making money from my job.

Money of course important, but more important thing is how much you enjoy what you’re doing in life because, especially for men, we have to work forever, because one-third our life we sleeping, one-third our life we working, and one-third our life just our time. If don’t enjoy my work, it means I don’t enjoy my life.

For me these days, success is important, but when we become successful, there’s rnan4y things we have to think . Especially some people have successful business, but don’t have successful home—divorce or whatever . I don’t want to be that kind of successful.

For me, successful means happiness life—means not money. Of course if I make money a lot and then buy more big house or become rich, then we comfortable, then I don’t have to work here. But if successful like that, still I want to work here.

Family Life

If I don’t have a good family life, I cannot make successful business, because I’m always worry about my kids, my home. I cannot concentrate for my job, I cannot smile in the front of customers. It’s no good. ‘Specially like my restaurant is an open kitchen, so mostly people want to see my face and me cooking. If I don’t say hello or nothing, no one come here again.

It means it’s important people wake up always try to be smile face. It’s hard to do it, but I want to try that way every day. Hard to do, but we have to try. Means after, when I retire or seventy, I can say I had a very good life. I try every day smile my face. Means I cannot smile only face--—I have to smile from my inside, from my heart. Means I have to have a good life.

If I cannot control my life this way, I cannot be successful in many things. That’s why for my mind, family especially important for me --— for us. Always we talk about it, and then my wife very much understand my mind, so that’s why we can go together.

If my wife push me to make more bigger restaurant or whatever, I have stuck. But she agree with me. Means we always talk what is important for our life. When I was young, I saw one picture like older-people picture-—like ninety years or like eighty years old . Picture is very, very interesting: very much good face--—like smiling . I don’t know what kind of lives they had, but I can tell smiles on face --- —very, very nice face. Always I wish to. be that kind of face when I was old.

I see that kind of face a lot in the country of Japan and in many nisei samsei [second- and third-generation Japanese-Americans]. I know they have lots of hard time, but face is a very, very nice face. I enjoy to talk to them. I don’t have to say many things, but they understand because maybe their life hard life or whatever, but I can feel very many warm things from them. That’s way I want to be when I am going to be old, I want to be that kind of people . I want to be very warm person. Means important how to live my life.

Understanding Your Spouse

I think if I going to understand my wife, then I need forever. That much. Life is not easy. People is not easy for each other. Almost we divorce, many times. And at that time, I think lots because I’m not this kind person before. More “I want to be myself this way,” and she don’t like me that way.

We talk and argue and then she understand my mind, my real mind. When people marry, they are like a square. After they are married, they get round, round, round and then fit together. No way from start everybody get together very good. No way. Argue, fight, whatever, then they find out what is good, what is bad. But I feel once you decided to marry to someone, why don’t you try your best? Try your best forever. Too easy to give up.

I’m so happy life because of my wife. She know better than I do what is life. She opened my eyes. Before my wife, I not this kind of people. More young because always young guy want to show to how good I am. Always I tell her my dreams: I want to do this, I want to become rich, or I come here U.S. because I want to be franchise restaurant.

I talk to my wife about some dream and then she know. She listen. She tell me, “Tell me...... show me more what’s your inside. Inside you, I want to see more.” Always like I show her outside . I meet many women before her, but nobody tell me that. Young people always want to show how good they are, my dream like that. My wife tell me one time, “You show me just only outside. Why you don’t tell me more your weak things?” Because I want to show her how I am strong or whatever, I never want to show her what a weak person I am, but she know it. She tell me one time, and God, I’m so shocked.

After that, I can tell her everything. My bad things, good things, ugly things. I have that kind person in my wife. I’m lucky because she understands lot--—my good things, my bad things. We can talk many things for many ways, and I don’t have to hide in my mind to her . It’s not easy sometimes even wife and husband.

That’s always my mind: I don’t hide, I try to not hide. I open my heart and then sometimes she angry, but I thought that better way because if we do each other that way, later we know more than before and understand each other more deeply.



The Wisdom and Breakthrough of Remarkable People.

Copyright @ 1993 by: Guy Kawasaki

Beyond Words Publishing, Inc.

13950 NW Pumpkin Ridge Road,

Hillsboro, OR 97124

Call 503-647-5109 Fax: 503-647-5114

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