For US companies targeting Japan, everything you need to know about succeeding there can be learned by watching the Japanese movie Swing Girls. Well, not quite but let's keep this light!
Swing Girls is what would happen if the Bad News Bears met your local high school jazz band. In the process it says a lot about Japanese culture and what it takes to succeed there.
The movie is set in Yamakawa High School in Yamagata Prefecture, deep in the northern backwaters of Japan. The girls are in remedial math class when they are roped into becoming the new school pep band. Because there aren't enough of them to form a full band, after hearing a recording of Glen Miller's Moonlight Serenade they decide to become a jazz band. How hard can that be, right?
The girls face many obstacles, not the least of which is their complete and utter lack of musical training. But they persist, they "ganbare" because that's what it means to be Japanese: to persist. The girls eventually manage to find a band director who, despite his love of jazz and his undying devotion to the saxophone, is a total failure.
Undeterred and now hopelessly smitten with jazz, the girls continue practicing and eventually become good enough to enter a regional high school band competition. Predictably, the forces of nature, their own self-doubt, and any number of minor disasters conspire against them but in the end they prevail.
That's ganbare! It's what Japanese do. It's what they admire in themselves, and in others.
At about 16:30 in the above clip the girls make their debut at regionals. If you can last that long, I dare you to not smile when the girls launch into Louis Prima's Sing, Sing, Sing at 21:00!
Perseverance must be genetically encoded in Japanese DNA because they like nothing more than coming up against long odds and working hard to overcome them.
Want to succeed in Japan? Ganbare!
It's no coincidence that G.A.N.B.A.R.E! is what Asia Business Group calls its market entry process.
Interested in learning more how we can help you ganbare your way to success in Japan? Let us know.
(Postscript: If you've gotten this far you'll probably be interested in the backstory to this movie. Only one of the band members had actually played an instrument before filming. Everyone else had to learn to play from scratch! Get the idea?)