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STRAIGHT FROM THE TOP with: Yutaka Nakazato, Coleman

Updated: Jun 21, 2019

Coleman’s APAC Head talks about appreciation, football, and the importance of family.

Yutaka Nakazato grew up in Japan and the US, and began his career with Marubeni Corporation. Having gained his MBA from Thunderbird, he spent a decade with the L’Oreal Group working in Japan and Taiwan, and currently runs Asia-Pacific operations for Coleman Company – the global leader in camping and recreation that has become synonymous with “outdoor fun”.

How would you summarise yourself in one sentence?

I’m simply a happy person grateful for everything that I have, and for the people around me.

What's the most exciting thing happening in your life right now?

Spending time with Hana-chan, a 4-month-old Toy Poodle puppy who recently joined our family. It’s been amazing watching and learning how dogs and people can live, learn, and play together. To be honest, when we were discussing getting a dog, I was the only one against it. Now I'm the one most besotted with Hana, and I've even renovated our rooftop so she can run around while I BBQ! I find myself wishing we'd started keeping dogs sooner, and am thinking about making more furry additions to our family!

Which figures (historic or present, public or private) played the most important influence in your life so far?

My father. He taught me the importance of staying positive instead of complaining.

What's been the biggest failure/mistake you've experienced in life or work so far? What did you learn?

The fact that I did not make an effort to learn Mandarin when I lived in Taiwan, or French while I worked for L’Oreal. It’s better to try and fail than to not try at all. The regret from not trying stays with you forever – in my case, a missed opportunity to learn because I just didn’t try.

Looking back, what key pieces of advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?

Stay true to your heart. Don’t take life too seriously - it's complicated enough already. Keep on cherishing the relationships with your close friends - they will add incredible value to your life. Respect your parents. And keep on traveling! If you do all that, then your life will only get better! 

What key values do you live by?

Appreciation, gratitude, and diversity.

What keeps you up at night?

Apart from watching UEFA champion league football, asking myself what else I could be doing to make my family happy.

What keeps you motivated when the going gets tough?

When you see colleagues around you striving for the same goal and staying strong, with their eyes somehow growing brighter – these are the moments that keep me motivated and help me believe the efforts will pay off in the end. Equally, I gain invaluable encouragement and inspiration from my small circle friends outside of my professional network, both in Japan and overseas, who help remind me of what life is all about!

What are your morning rituals for getting a great day going?

I kiss all members of my family (including our dog!) in the morning before I leave, and then at night when I return. This keeps me energised, helps me remember how lucky I am, and reminds me that every moment is precious.

Where/when do you have your most "A-ha" or "lightbulb" moments?

Most of the ‘a-ha’ moments in my life so far have happened during chats over coffee or a drink with colleagues in a café or bistro somewhere. Almost never at work or in the office!

How do you energize outside of your work?

I’m a naturally energetic person so I need to relax to maintain balance in my life. I play football on the weekends, and spend as much time as I can with my wife and kids. And of course, camping with family and friends!

What's your biggest vice?


What are the best reads you've had lately?

ビジネススクールでは学べない 世界最先端の経営学 (“What Business School Won’t Teach you about Business”), by Akie Iriyama

Requiem for the American Dream, by Noam Chomsky

一瞬の光 (“A Ray of Light”), by Kazufumi Shiraishi

My Turn, The Autobiography, by Johan Cruyff

Top movie of all time?

Easy Rider. One of the first non-Japanese movies I watched, when I was around 14 years old. It impacted me hugely, opening my eyes to a whole new perception of the Western world.

Favourite cartoon character growing up?

Captain Tsubasa – just like every other kid who grew up playing soccer in Japan in the 80’s. Taught me what you can learn about life through playing soccer – teamwork, building your skills, learning new tricks, winning, losing…

What's on heavy rotation at home right now?

Deborah de Luca and Adam Beyer.

Favourite travel destination?

I have visited over 30 countries, but still find it difficult to pick just one. So I guess I have not found “the one” yet.

Top bucket list travel destinations?

Ogasawara islands and Croatia.

What will you be doing post-retirement?

Spending a third of my time on travel, a third on pursuing new challenges, and a third on business/working under my own agenda.

And to close with, your favourite quote?

If you don’t reach for a star, you will never get there.” I’m not sure where this originally came from, but my Ecuadorian friend and Thunderbird colleague Pedro Mata said this to me 22 years ago and it has stuck with me ever since.


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