Employer: IDEO

Nationality: American

Family: Married, one son

Arrived: April 2015

A US citizen with family in the Philippines and a Thai wife, Greg Perez has certainly found his feet in the Japanese capital.

You could say that Greg Perez got hooked on Japan through music. Back in 2008 he was working in China when he heard about an event held every summer in central Japan: Fuji Rock Festival. “My friends said that I had to go to the best music festival in the world – and they were right. It’s stuck with me,” says Perez, an avid collector of vinyl records.

Today the 42-year-old US citizen works at the Tokyo office of IDEO, a US design firm based in Palo Alto, California. He joined the Shanghai office in 2010 and transferred to Tokyo two years ago. Perez helps Japanese companies, from multinationals to start-ups, use design to foster creativity and improve products and productivity. “The attention to detail and craftsmanship here excites me,” he says.

Perez’s relocation coincided with big changes in his life: marriage, the birth of his son last year and the release of his first album, The Incident at Fallthrough Bridge. “My wife is Thai, my family is from the Philippines and I have spent a lot of time in Asia,” he says. “Being in Tokyo feels like a warm bath. I love being immersed in it.”


When Perez tells friends and family about Japan he usually raves about how safe it is.
“I come from a culture where you have to be on high alert or jockeying for position,” he says. “Here, I could close my eyes, walk down the street and I’d be fine. I can drop my wallet and an hour later it will still be there; it means I can focus on what matters most.”


Perez works on a visa for professionals in the humanities and international services field. Designers get bonus points for winning awards from the likes of the Industrial Designers Society of America, the Japan Institute of Design Promotion and Hong Kong Design Centre.


“People here for a short time expect to get things done. They want to accomplish something and they want to move fast. But in Japan everything – relationships, progress, communication – takes time. You won’t know the language. Getting consensus and making people understand your vision is key. You have to be patient.”


Disk Union, Shimokitazawa: This branch of the record-shop chain has 80,000 albums, spanning everything from jazz to Japanese indie rock.

JBS, Shibuya: Kazuhiro Kobayashi started this cosy jazz bar (the name stands for jazz, blues and soul) with his personal vinyl collection.

Long Va Quan, Setagaya: This venue beneath the railroad tracks at Shimokitazawa Station serves street food from Vietnam and Thailand in a temporary space called The Cage.