As well as his experience as a senior executive, firstly, at the car company, Mazda, and then, since 2001, at Menicon, and his extensive knowledge of the contact lens market, what particularly stands out about Toshio Matsushima is his personality and his particular view of the world, in which he lives as a "global citizen". As a child, he enjoyed reading European books translated into Japanese, and his favourites included the Greek mythology, Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island and biographies about famous explorers like Magellan, Columbus and Amundsen. All of this no doubt inspired him to become a seasoned traveller, who likes to broaden his horizons, meet new people and do things he has never done before. After a decade as a religious activist, at the age of 28, he changed direction and entered the world of multinationals, in which he moves effortlessly like a fish in water, although his appearance and relaxed and jovial manner seem far removed from the stereotype of the "aggressive executive".
- What brings you to Spain?
Blue skies and sunshine! Actually, I’m on a business trip, and it’s great to be back in Spain. I love its cuisine and the diversity of its culture.
- And you speak the language, don’t you?
Yes, I came here for the first time in 1981 and later lived for five years in Madrid, where I met my wife. In the future, when I retire, we’re going to settle in Spain, probably in the south.
- Tell us about your company
Menicon is the largest and most innovative contact lens company in Japan. It was founded in 1951 and manufactured the first Japanese contact lens. Today, we design and manufacture contact lenses and treatment solutions, which are distributed worldwide, and we’ve been present in Spain for 10 years. In 2011, we opened a shop in Madrid. Our first outside Japan!
- So, what’s new in the contact lens market?
The latest thing is daily disposable lenses, which are currently dominating the market. Menicon is about to launch a highly innovative product in the Japanese and American markets: the Menicon One Day Flat Pack, which are contact lenses that use the most modern packaging technology in the world. The lens is completely flat, and its packaging is less than a millimetre thick. In response to the demands of the American market, we have developed an outstanding product that requires no maintenance, and, as it is disposable, does not become exposed to contamination. Its main benefits include its size and compact packaging, which is easily carried, highly convenient and contains nine lenses. It’s similar to the packaging for sticking plasters, and we also wanted to incorporate a modern design to give it the look of a consumer product. It’s a new concept in the contact lens market; a product that can be carried in a pocket and can adapt to different lifestyles.
- What is the international contact lens market like?
It’s a large and growing market. It’s estimated that 100 million people use contact lenses in the world and 18 million of them are in Japan … And consumption is increasing.
- Who are your major competitors?
There are four large multinationals: Johnson & Johnson, Novartis (Alcon), Bausch & Lomb and Cooper Vision. Menicon is the fifth largest, but the world leader in the development of Hyper-Dk GP lenses (Menicon Z) and soft contact lenses (Menicon PremiO).
- Competing in such an international market makes it necessary to travel a lot, doesn’t it?
Yes, I live on planes! Last year, I worked out that I was in Japan for 150 days and away for 215 days.
- Do you enjoy your busy lifestyle?
Yes, I love it! I’m a citizen of the world!
- What does your family feel about it?
They’re used to it … My wife, Susanne, who’s German, lives in Frankfurt; my daughter, Emi, who’s a professional model, lives between Tokyo, Singapore and Frankfurt, and my other daughter, Nina, lives in Nagoya, but she’ll soon be moving to Europe to study.
- So, your family is spread around the world.
Yes, it’s not exactly conventional, and it’s only on rare occasions that all of us can get together. Last year, we all met here in Barcelona at the Hotel Vela. For us it’s quite normal, and we’re actually very close. We’re just like a normal family with everyone scattered around the house: one on the sofa, one in the kitchen, one in a bedroom and one in the bathroom, but just on a larger scale. And we constantly keep in touch through Facebook, which was clearly invented just for us.
- Thank you and until your next visit.
See you soon!