Jerome Chouchan, Managing Director of Godiva, who brings
insights of traditionalkyudo to the chocolate empire. He also serves as
a board member of the International Kyudo Federation.
Two years after reading Eugen Herrigel’s classic book Zen in the Art of Archery, Jerome Chouchan began practicing kyudo (Japanese archery)—“the Way of the Bow.” He felt a subtle pull toward a tradition that placed great emphasis on developing the proper kokoro (spirit) and kata (form). In addition to practicing kyudo, Mr. Chouchan is the Managing Director for the chocolate company, Godiva in Japan and South Korea.
Mr. Chouchan visited Japan for the first time in 1983. He was still in college when his essay—“Why do new graduates in Japanese companies like Matsushita and Japan Airlines go to Zen temples as part of their initiation into a company?” —won a nationwide student essay competition in France. The win afforded him two weeks in Japan.
Mr. Chouchan has been practicing kyudo for 25 years. He believes that it has brought clarity and purpose to his personal and business life and given him insights into Japanese culture. “For example, in kyudo you learn the importance of the moment—both mentally and physically. When you practice kyudo day in and day out, you discover what they call the kai, which is when you are in full draw. The moment when you release the arrow decides whether your shot is good or not; and you cannot repeat it.”
“Another thing you discover is to be decisive,” Mr. Chouchan says, “because if you start to worry, the shot will be very weak. This is the same in business. I know that I have to decide now. And I cannot repeat the past. So every year, we try new things.” Mr. Chouchan continues: “Another point that has been important is the saying seisha hicchu, which means if you do things correctly, you will hit the target. I try to apply it in my business dealings.”
Mr. Chouchan’s clarity of purpose, poise, and determination were demonstrated following the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. Mr. Chouchan recalls, “I was managing this business, and we had 250 stores in Japan and 700 employees. So I could not leave the boat when there was trouble in the sea.” Referring to those dark days, he says, “I was impressed by the dignity with which the staff reacted.”
Kyudo has also given Mr. Chouchan a clear direction with regard to his future and the future of the art around the world. “Anyone from any country,” he says, “can learn the virtues of what is called ‘respect’ in dō (way of life), especially in the traditional Japanese martial art of budo: to respect the senior, respect the value of patience, humility, continuity, and the value of the balance between process and result; all of these are completely universal.”
Will Mr. Chouchan stay in Japan? “Yes, for the moment I’m staying,” Mr. Chouchan says. “I would like to export Japan’s skills and treasures, both cultural and human.”