This field-based case uses a Japanese teahouse and cultural space to discuss broader themes in strategy formation.
The material would work well to conduct a strategic capability analysis.
Sotatsu Ota, director of Yuhisai Koudoukan (Koudoukan), bought the property to save it from being destroyed in 2008. In the decade since, sales have grown, but the business has yet to turn a profit. Yet there is a traditional piece to teahouses that Ota-san was sensitive about: they were not meant to be prosperous.
Koudoukan was a place that served as a cultural embassy, marrying the traditional tea ceremony with modern cultural outreach internationally. Customers were often interesting people from all over the world as well as locals. Yet the space for traditional culture in Japan seemed to be shrinking, even in the face of an aggressive governmental campaign to encourage integration of the old and new. Was there a place for Koudoukan to teach culture, tradition, and creativity to a modernized Japan and a globalized world? Could the primary mission of promoting traditional tea ceremonies become financially successful without violating the tradition wrapped around the original intent of teahouses? Ota-san needed to figure out how best to run Koudoukan in the years ahead.