A Day with a Multi-millionaire (Billionaire?) in Tokyo

Her warm smile and approachable countenance would never give it away; that she owns Japan's number one karaoke business chain, Karaoke Kan, which has about 160+ branches nationwide. 60+ of these branches, in fact, are multi-level buildings owned by her (their business), and not leased or rented out, in the country known for high real estate prices. She's a leading woman, indeed, as labeled and shown in this CNN Interview. Yet a day spent with her felt like a day with a wise, older sister, and a long-time friend.

It was actually my second time to meet her. The father of a friend from business school knows her, and during our student days, she personally attended to us, and made sure we got good food, good treatment, and good experience in Karaoke Kan, even if we weren't paying anything (poor, jobless students). The first time we visited a branch of her chain, we weren't really expecting her to show up; she could always just instruct anyone to welcome the poor students, being offered a free pass for some good time. But she entered our room, and welcomed us as if we were one of those big shots, and regular patrons of her business. When a friend of mine from church in Manila, Nikka Sotelo, visited Japan, she insisted that I join their lunch, and that I should meet her (Ms. Abby Watabe). I told my friend that I had already met her before, and I didn't think there's a need to meet her again. From my end, I knew that the lunch would be a treat (my friend's or hers) and I didn't want to be freeloading. I did mention in my previous blog that I had those "tougher than the pandemic days," and these were those days; when I just quit my job as a project manager from a publishing company in Tokyo, and spending money thoughtlessly was not an option. I knew I could not repay or match their generosity, so I almost balked. But the good friend insisted (what good, godly friends do with discernment). She knew where I was in life at that point, and took me in with no judgment, but pure kindness. That day turned out to be not just a #goodtime but also a time for encouragement and inspiration.

So, the lunch happened. It turned out to be a Tuesdays with Morrie moment; there I was learning life lessons from a woman with an inspiring turnaround story. And on that day spent with her, I picked up some nuggets of wisdom:

1. Be generous, not ostentatious.

"Of course, she's generous, because she has money. If I also had the same money, I would give, too," would be the argument of the stingy. Having worked in retail for Megaworld, rubbing elbows with CEOs and owners of the brands in the Philippines, I've seen them all; these rich people, who come in all shapes and sizes. I've rode the passenger seats of Audis and Benzes of my bosses, and have been one of the first ones to see the limited Rolls Royce model in the Philippines (Trivia: I worked for Willie Revillame's retail real estate business, too. Blog post coming soon, so subscribe for notifications.) But not all of them were generous. A lot of them were ostentatious, but not all were genuine givers. I have also been with people, who were not necessarily rich, but were very generous givers. Generosity is an issue of the heart, not the wallet, I've noticed. Generosity, after all, comes in many forms: time, service, and #goodword I have been a recipient of the goodness of generous people; a missionary once gave me all of her home items to me, when I first moved into my own apartment. I contacted her in an online garage sale/second-hand stuff forum. Her prices were already very fair, but in the end, I told her that I would have to pass after finding out the transportation truck's cost, because I've been praying for a specific budget. I didn't know that she was a missionary at the onset; she didn't know that I was a Christian. I politely passed despite saying at the onset to myself, "This is it" (having all the stuff I needed from one house; with the color scheme/Scandi style I had in mind). Surely, if I can afford a guarantee money and a security deposit in Tokyo (and I was still working as a project manager then), I can use my credit card or spend beyond my budget, right? Right. But, no. A good way to develop faith, and to experience God act, involve sticking with the plan. Long story short, she contacted me again and told me that she wanted "to gift me." I thought that she would negotiate according to my budget; that would be fair. But she ended up saying, "I'm sowing through you." I only paid for the movers to get to her house, and I went home with a three-door fridge, two sofas, and all the silver IKEA pots and pans I'd need from saucepan to 5-qt pans (which I would use to entertain people at home, which have been a place for healing, prayers, fun, and fellowship).

A memory from many years ago, as a student. That week, God was leading me to read Elijah fed by the ravens. On the week before receiving this, black birds would usually flock me on my way to the train station. That time God was telling me, "If I can feed the birds, why not you? I can use even ravens to bring food, you know." Coincidence that it's the same verse that the random person wrote on the envelope? I don't think so. When I was a student, I would receive 10,000 yen bills from random people, at the time I would need them most, with the givers saying, "God told me to give this to you." When I resigned from my full-time job and got a fracture (couldn't work), I had received financial blessings, too; anything from 20,000 yen to 100,000 yen from people; them saying, "Don't think about this or me/us. God told me to give this to you." I've repeatedly experienced God's generosity through His people, with me ASKING HIM TO HELP ME, not them. These givers were breadwinners with ordinary paychecks. Generosity, as I've learned, is always according to the deposit in one's heart, not in one's bank account. They knew their source and truths about giving and receiving blessings. 2. Live below your means. The real estate in Japan is one of the steepest in the world; and, the properties of their businesses should already give anybody a clue of what she/they can afford. While she admits spending on special occasions for her family, she says that she does not spoil her children with branded items, just because she can afford it. I remember her saying that several friends, who come visit Japan (who come from her less privileged previous life), blow their budget just to get their children the latest, the fanciest, and usually the most expensive shoes to bring home, in order for them to "belong" and keep up with the Joneses. Her children usually get these luxury items as gifts, not as "necessities." She lets her children see and "do work." She can easily afford a driver at her disposal, but she drove us around. She has an assembly of service staff available, but she makes sure to arrive daily for dinner time, to prepare food for her family.

She drove us around in her BMW/Benz/Audi (Come on. Pre-corona virus feels like another era.)

Treated first class.

3. Serve whenever you can.

American entrepreneur and Forbes magazine guy Malcolm Forbes once said: “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” She still doesn't mind serving in the kitchen for the Filipino community in her church in Japan. She finds time to organize help drives in her town back in the Philippines, and also personally attends to Filipino guests visiting her branches, whenever she could. There is something about making others feel important that changes them, especially when the one serving is the one who's actually important. She professes that she's a Christian, and that day with her did feel like "a day with Jesus." She made us feel like home, and despite her celebrated success and status, she was just like one of us.

We had fun, and the treatment was first class, but it, too, felt like a time with Jesus. How she is with others reminds me of what Jesus did some 2000 years ago. Despite being King of Kings and Lord of Lords, he took the lowly form of man; walked with them, talked with them, healed them, spent time with them, fed them, heard them out, suspended his judgment on them, just to build a relationship. He set aside His status and His rights to feel the frailty of humans, so that His word that promises that "we can overcome," is not spoken out from his lofty stage. It is based on what He himself already accomplished through his death and resurrection.

In Japanese culture, there is such high regard for bosses, and the concept of seniority is an embedded part of culture. The boss is to be served, is to be set apart, is to be secluded. But Ate Abby Watabe talks to her staff as she would to us, her guests. What a reminder of Jesus, who had all the right to stay on His throne, and not care about us. YET, he extended. He served. He became like one of us. It may not be the norm in Japan to treat subordinates with kindness and servant leadership, but perhaps she takes after Jesus (Philippians 2:5-8, NIV):

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

She knows the best products on the menu.

In this era of instant gratification, of shortcuts to success, of "it's all about me" mantras, may we all be reminded that the best example, Jesus already demonstrated. And with His proof of victory on the cross, exemplified in Ate Abby's testimony, may we reconsider what it truly means to become great, to become first. The #GoodLife only is possible, if we give value to what really is of true value.

The #GoodNews is, an intimate, life-changing relationship with God, is available for you, too. There's no background check required or no portfolio of good works to show, in order to qualify for a relationship with Him. Religions all require a person's performance in order to deserve acceptance. But Christ already accepted flawed humans, demonstrated by what He did on the cross. All we need to do is accept this gift He's already initiated. Of course, Jesus in my life/my friend Nikka's life/Ms. Abby Watabe's life has not made our lives problem-free. We have not received everything we've dreamed, fancied, or prayed for. But we've seen God's turnarounds in our life. We've seen Him do the impossible. We've witnessed him heal, provide, and restore. We've experienced Him blessing us beyond what we could ask or imagine, as His word says. And He did so by His grace, not by our qualifications or efforts, but by allowing Him to lead our lives, trusting His promise:

If you have any questions about anything posted, hit the chat button. If you are believing for a life turnaround and you need some encouragement, send us an email: or subscribe to receive a #GoodWord

XOXO, K & Your Good Gurus of the Good Company

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