"Explorers #3: Diary of a temporary monk in Japan

11 April 2024


The Inalco Foundation is launching the third edition of its "Explorers" project, which aims to revive, in a resolutely contemporary way, the tradition of travelogues by the great explorers who made the history of Langues O'.
Photos de Richard Collasse
Richard Collasse au Japon © Richard Collasse ‎
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After two series of columns written by Eric Dugelay "Billet du hasard - Entre Maputo et Kigali" and "Douze billets de voyage du Grand Nord canadien", Richard Collasse, a Langues'O graduate in Japanese and Korean and former CEO then Chairman of Chanel in Japan (1995-2023), is pleased to take up the pen to share his experience in Asia and more particularly in Japan.

Before resuming his activities as "Senior Adviser" in several companies, teaching at leading business schools in France, the Middle East and at a Japanese university, and joining the Board of Directors of a major Japanese company, Richard Collasse decided to take a three-month break after almost fifty years of professional life.

In early January, he moved into an old traditional "machiya" (町屋) from the Momoyama Era (桃山時代 1568 - 1600) in the north of Kyoto city lent by a friend, close to the cluster of numerous temples of the Daitoku-Ji (大徳寺). He joins the Buddhist hermitage Za Zen Shinju-An (真珠庵) as a "temporary monk", a fictitious title granted to him by the High Priest (住職)who runs this temple. There, he takes part in the hermitage's daily tasks, such as cleaning the centuries-old moss gardens and maintaining the buildings, while indulging in the practice of Za Zen.

Richard Colasse invites the reader to follow him on this "Voyage immobile" through the imperial capital of Kyoto in this "Diary of a temporary monk", written for Inalco. From February 2024, twice a week, his stories and photos will be published on the Foundation's social networks.

An international career

Richard Collasse graduated from Langues'O in Japanese and Korean, and pursued a career in the luxury goods industry in Asia, particularly Japan.

After creating the Givenchy Group's Japanese entity in 1979, which he managed until 1985, he joined Chanel to head the Perfumes/Beauty division in Japan, then the Asia-Pacific Zone from Hong Kong before returning to Tokyo in 1995 as CEO until 2018. Based in Geneva between 2018 and 2023, he is in charge of Global Travel Retail, while retaining the position of Chairman of Chanel Japan. He is a member of the Board of Directors of Chanel Ltd.

He has also held various consular positions, including President of the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Japan from 1999 to 2002 and Chairman of the European Business Council (EBC) between 2002 and 2008, during which time he helped launch negotiations for the Economic Partnership Agreement signed between Japan and Europe, whose 5th anniversary will be celebrated in March 2024.

Officer in the Order of Merit and Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, he was awarded Japan's 2008 Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star.

A writer in his spare time, he has already published seven novels or essays in French and Japanese, including the acclaimed "Dictionnaire amoureux du Japon" published by Plon. "La trace", published by Le Seuil, is his first novel, and is considered a benchmark for learning about Japan. He is also taking advantage of this break to work on his next novel and write a "commission", an uchrony of Mozart traveling to Japan in 1788, in the form of letters sent to his family and friends.


Find Richard Collasse's posts on the Foundation's social networks!