Daiso Industries announced on Monday that its founder, Hirotake Yano, passed away due to heart failure. He was 80. According to the company’s statement, he died on February 12. A private funeral was held by family members.  

Hirotake Yano: A Humble Leader  

Despite his status as one of Japan’s most successful business people, Yano was anything but flashy. A self-effacing individual who drove around in an old Toyota and worked in a nondescript office, he once uttered the words, “Okyakusama wa yoku wakaran” (“I just don’t understand customers”). That obviously wasn’t true. He seemed to know exactly what they wanted. 

Born Koro Kurihara in Beijing in 1943, his family, including five brothers and three sisters, returned to his father’s hometown of Higashi-Hiroshima at the end of World War II. While two of his brothers followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming doctors, his grades weren’t good enough for a career in medicine. He went on to study engineering at Chuo University, during which time he married Katsuyo Yano and took on her name as he felt it sounded better than Kurihara for business transactions. At 26, he took over his father-in-law’s aquaculture business rearing yellowtail fish. Within three years, the company was declared bankrupt.


Establishing Daiso

Moving to Tokyo with his wife and son, Yano started selling encyclopedias. He lasted just three months. After working at a garbage recycling company, his father requested that he and his family return to Hiroshima. So they did. Yano then bounced around from job to job before eventually setting up his own stall as a street vendor. In 1972, he established his first company named Yano Shoten, selling cheap household goods from the back of a truck. Five years later, he changed the name to Daiso, meaning “big warehouse.” As it was too time-consuming to tag so many different products, he decided to charge a uniform price of ¥100 for everything.

The company opened its first directly managed shop in permanent premises in Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture in 1991. Today, Daiso has more than 4,000 stores in Japan and close to 1,000 shops overseas. Boasting around 70,000 products, it is a fun place to shop with little treasures around every corner. Considering the price, the quality of the goods is very high and that is why it has been so successful. Its success is mainly down to one man, who apparently didn’t understand customers. 

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