[From March Issue 2012]
Before landing a job as a content planner for a design company in the toy industry, American Andrew HALL worked as a gourmet reporter on TV Asahi’s evening news show, as a columnist writing about stock trading, and as a translator of the “Yakuza” video game series. “I can only assume it was my language skills that landed me these jobs, because I’m sure no expert on gourmet cuisine, stock trading, or yakuza,” he says.
Hall is, however, no amateur when it comes to toys. “I had always wanted to work in the toy industry,” he says. “I was born in ‘81, which means that I was the right age to experience some of the most memorable American cartoons of the 80’s, with ‘The Transformers’ being at the forefront. Little did I know that many of them originated from Japanese animation studios or toys… I was stunned to find that many of the ideas that had captivated me so greatly as a child had all come from the same distant country.”
Right after graduating with a B.A. in Japanese he moved to Tokyo. “I envisioned that becoming fluent in Japanese would allow me to become a translator, letting me work closely with the various media I enjoyed so much.” Still, it would be some time before Hall landed his current job. “I had gained lots of interesting language experience, but didn’t seem much closer to working in my dream industry. You can’t exactly just go knocking on someone’s door, I thought.”
His determination to acquire the language made for a steep learning curve: “The important thing is to aggressively learn and adapt through this. Make an error once, it’s understandable. Make the same error again, and that’s on you.” Hall applies this approach to all aspects of his life and feels that it’s helped him get to where he is today.
“During my years of study in college, I remember feeling challenged by upper level courses where there tended to be more focus on public speaking than on kanji comprehension and writing,” he explains. “Motivation filled in those gaps, as I had my own intense interests.” Hall doesn’t measure success in terms of academic qualifications, but instead puts more emphasis on practical ability. “You can have a black belt in the dojo, but if you don’t know how to use your skills, suddenly when things get rough, it’s not going to count for much.”
Hall now translates and plans content for Part One Co., Ltd., a design company that does work for some of the largest toy companies in Japan. He landed the job by contacting the president of the company directly, an approach which initially landed him a small translation job. At Part One’s online shop e-HOBBY, his work now includes creating proposals for new Transformers exclusives, doing research for manufacturers and developing new international projects.
Hall finds working in Japan enjoyable. “Something I’ve always respected about Japan is the culture of craftsmanship present in work. The concept of adhering to great quality and design despite the pressure of cost-performance. I love being a part of that.”
Overall, this kind of passion is central to Hall’s success. He explains, “What I learned getting where I am now is that an MBA is not a necessary qualification to being hired in most Japanese industries. It turns out that the most important qualifications are great Japanese ability and more guts than ‘Grimlock.’”
Text: Gregory FLYNN