Posted by Clare
Jane Fong, 27, owner of A87 Café and Bar, 108 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore.
YOLO: What made you move to Tokyo at age 20?
JF: I grabbed the chance to do a year-long exchange program at Tokyo University while studying in NUS and after coming back and finishing my honors, I won a scholarship to do my masters in Japan. I gave it up half way to set up my own company which was what I had ultimately planned to do... just decided to do it faster ^^
YOLO: Can you share some of the challenges you faced while you were setting up your business in Japan as a then 24yr old?
JF: Being young, and foreign is a double-edged sword. Not to mention the fact that I’m a woman in Japan. It's a male-dominated work environment and people are used to talking business with mature, Japanese men. But I think Tokyo is very much a conducive place for entrepreneurs. The market is receptive to new ideas and there is a big community of young entrepreneurs who support and, in a sense, sustain each other.
YOLO: How did you not just overcome those challenges, but go on to make them positive milestones?
JF: It's not hard, sometimes being different makes you leave longer-lasting impressions with your clients and you get away with things you normally can't get away with. Fortunately in Japan, who you are as a person, your character, "soft skills" and your connections alone can build a business, unlike in certain countries that base business on mere practical terms.
YOLO: So what is it about cosplay that you are so passionate about?
JF: Cosplay enables you to be whatever or whoever you want to be. The freedom to express yourself and play!
YOLO: So now you're back in Singapore, and setting up your very own Cosplay café and bar. What you hope to achieve?
JF: A87 functions as an offline presence of our web media akibanana.com. It aims to reach out to more English-speaking audiences in the world. Singapore, with her perfect blend of the East and West and her strategic location makes for an ideal location. I hope to further cultivate and promote Akiba culture here and provide a "home" for like-minded people to come back to.
YOLO: Where on earth do you get all this energy?
JF: Love makes the world go round! In micro terms, the three Fs: friends, family, food....
My curiosity and my need for fun and entertainment pushes me...as for inspiration.. I can be inspired by anything or anyone but I guess mostly by anime, Tokyo, and Akiba.
YOLO: What does success mean to you?
JF: Living a balanced life and having a normal loving family with happy children and grand-children. Normal is so rare these day
YOLO: What is your hope for young Singaporeans who are worried about going against the norm?
JF: Being Asian we have a tendency to obey our parents and let them make life choices for us, thinking that doing otherwise is not being filial to our parents. Honestly, I find that irresponsible because we have to take reins of our own life.
To be fair, I think it's hard for many young adults to draw a distinction between filial obedience and making their own decisions or taking responsibility for their own life as an adult. It doesn't help that we live in a small society where life choices are so limited.
There is such overwhelming concern over money and "paper" and everyone chases after these to make them feel secure.
We need a lot of guts to be different and live the kind of life you want to live without such social constructs of "security". I hope that young people reading this will be brave and follow their dreams.
YOLO: What does YOLO mean to you?
JF: I think YOLO is about being free and independent.. yet being Asian and group-oriented at the same time (I hope). Singapore is one of those rare countries that has this ideal balance... I think we are still struggling to strike a balance but this would be such a wonderful place if we have it sorted out.
Visit www.akibanana.com to check out the latest offerings at this unique Cafe and Bar!
Click here to read No plain Janes Part 2 of 2 featuring Jane Hia, Kith Cafe owner, and the woman who revolutionised Rodyk Street with her lattes!