Ahead of the Game in Kansai
A meeting with Anthony Matthews
It’s no secret that Anthony Matthews is one of the more successful foreign business owners here in Kansai; with three businesses running, many would become curious as to how he became so successful. Coming from Australia almost 17 years ago with no intention of opening a business or even staying in Japan longer than 3 months, he fell in love with Japan and decided to stay.
I met him at his newest bar, Fusion, on a quiet Monday night and sat with him for the interview. I was nervous as to how I’d be able to manage a professional interview because we are friends, but as always he was calm and friendly so we settled into the questioning…
So, how long have you lived in Japan for?
I have been here for sixteen years… almost seventeen.
Initially, how did you come to stay so long?
Originally, I came here on a working holiday visa with no intentions of staying more than three months
And then what happened?
And then I fell in love with Japan. It’s just a great country, I never felt like leaving.
What did you do when you first came here?
I was working in an Australian restaurant making meat pies.
Is the business still running now?
No, it was successful but all the Australians that were working there moved on so, it kind of lost its appeal.
Did you learn how to run a business there?
Not really, no. I learned how to run businesses in Australia through different jobs.
So you had previous experience opening businesses? Before Cinquecento, Fusion and your guesthouse?
Yeah, well before I actually owned Cinquecento and opened Fusion I managed a couple of bars.
You managed Bar Zero, right?
How long did you manage Bar Zero for?
For three years? Two or three years.
Two-three years? Wow, were you managing Cinquecento at the same time or you moved on after that?
No, I actually managed Cinque when it first opened. Then I went to manage Zero, and then Cinque become available for sale so I bought Cinquecento. Then after that I opened here (Fusion).
So, it wasn’t always your intention to open a business in Osaka?
No, not at all… I mean the opportunity came up so I just jumped on it. I never really thought about owning a business here.
How long have you had Cinquecento for?
I think about nine years now
And how long have you had the guesthouse in Amemura?
The guesthouse is coming up to five years.
Did you open that one by yourself or did you buy the business?
No, that one me and a friend opened up together. It was actually an office space before that, so yeah, just one big space and we rented that space and built the guesthouse.
Oh, great. I didn’t know that… so starting these businesses, was it difficult for you to open as a foreigner?
No, I have permanent residency so it makes it easier.
Did you have certain penalties?
Oh of course. I mean when you first rent a place you need to pay like, key money and other fees, like a thank you fee to the real estate agent, and all of this so it’s quite a lot of money to initially get the place. So, yeah it’s not so much penalties… it’s just money you’ll never see again.
Okay, so being a permanent resident didn’t really change that matter?
No, no… even Japanese people have to pay that money. It’s just the Japanese way. You can find places without it but not in as good of a location.
How difficult was it for you to start Fusion?
Fusion wasn’t that difficult to start up. It was in a good location and was previously a bar. A friend of a friend is a real estate agent and helped me get this place.
Did you have any help setting up the business?
Building it, yes. I had a lot of help. Well, me and four or five of my friends helped me a lot. So it’s all hand built. But setting up the business was easy because I already had Cinquecento, I changed from owning a private business and turned it into a company. So it became a company. So, in that sense it took a bit of effort. Changing bank accounts, but my accountant helped me with all that. I mean setting a bar is not difficult. You do need permission from the local police to stay open until a certain time and also if you serve food you need a license to do that.
You don’t need an alcohol license? Just a food license?
There are certain restrictions for food of course, but not alcohol. You just permission from the police. You just have to register your business, I think it’s not as strict anymore since they removed the dancing laws.
And lastly, do you have any advice for any foreigners who are thinking of opening a business in Osaka?
Advice? Go for it really, it’s just… get all the paperwork in order before you get started because that’s the hard part anybody living in Japan for a long time will realise just how hard it is to do simple things like open bank accounts and stuff like that. Make sure everything is in order, everything is under the same name, no variances but other than just go for it.
Cool! Thank you so much.
For more information about Cinquecento, Fusion or C&C Guesthouse click the links below!
This weekend 4th, 5th and 6th of November is Fusions first anniversary;)
By Rae Uemura