Several years ago I helped start a non-profit organization in Japan called Enjin01. The leader of the organization is Shigeaki Saegusa, a sometimes crazy, but a very giving, thoughtful and inspired person. He collected a number of notable people and called out to a diverse group of "cultural figures" including company executives, writers, architects, actresses, educators, academics, artists, political figures and musicians. The group is now about 100+.
We have annual meetings where we visit a region of Japan and work closely with the local community to produce a volunteer, free-of-charge event open to the public that includes workshops and talks.
In addition to the annual event, we recently started a program where any Jr. High School can fill out a form on the site and request Enjin01 to dispatch a number of us to teach at the school. So far we haven't turned any requests done and have done quite a few I understand.
Last week, I participated for the first time. Four of us went to Nagai Minami Jr. High School in a small town in Yamagata. The Shinkansen (bullet train) stopped about 20 min away so it was fairly convenient, but still took me over three hours from home one-way. However, the travel wasn't the hard part...
Although I am on the board of Nishimachi International School which has a Jr. High, I had never really had to stand in front of a Jr. High School class and teach. They had scheduled two classes of 35 or so students each.
It was probably one of the hardest talks I've ever given. I had forgotten what it was like to be in Jr. High and also realized that Jr. High in Yamagata was probably quite different from Nishimachi. I tried very hard to connect to the students, but the combination of their shyness and my lack of context made it very difficult.
In the end, it was a great experience. A few of the students were visibly excited and the "wrap up" session where all of the students and teachers got back together and reported back showed that at least the kid who reported back was listening.
I do think that speaking to Jr. High School students who really don't know or much care about your real-world importance/fame is good for the soul and refreshing. I recommend it to people who are mostly speaking at industry conferences to the same crowds. ;-)
Anyway, my hearty thanks to our hosts in Yamagata and I hope it was worth it for all of you too.
I’ve just joined the board of directors of Sanrio Digital based in Hong Kong, which among other things does the online stuff for Hello Kitty. It’s a joint venture between Sanrio and Typhoon Games which is run by my good friend Yat Siu. A full press release is on their blog.
I am now reachable at joi (at) hellokitty.com. ;-)
UPDATE: You can see the various services we are providing already at Sanriotown. You can get your free Hello Kitty email address there too.
Last week I met Mr. Sunagawa from LocationValue Inc. that runs Otetsudai Networks. Otetsudai Networks is a very cool service that is one of these "perfect for Japan" things.
Because of the advanced aging population and the tendency for many of the younger generation to not be in a hurry to lock down full-time jobs, businesses are having an increasingly more difficult time filling posts - so much so that some businesses are having to close down, not because of lack of business, but purely because they can't staff their stores.
My sister has written about the Japanese youth behavior where less and less stuff is planned - the kids going out and using their mobile devices to meet up or deciding to do things while constantly keeping in touch with each other. These swarming bands of kids are now adults and many of them don't want to be tied down.
These "kids" are not becoming adults. In a recent survey by Otetsudai Networks, most people surveyed cared more about freedom and flexibility than the pay when considering a part-time job.
Enter Otetsudai Networks. With Otetsudai Networks, if you are willing to work, you sign up for the service with your skills and focus, take a GPS reading on your phone and then just hang out. If you are looking for someone for say... 3 hours to man a cash register or help wash dishes, you just send the request to Otetsudai Networks and within minutes, you have a list of people available. The list shows what each person is qualified for, how others have rated their work and exactly how far away they are. Typically you will receive a list of half a dozen or more people within a few minutes.
The businesses are rated too on a per-manager basis so when you're hanging out with your friends and you get a request to go help at the corner convenience shop, you know how your peers have rated that particular guy who's asking you to come and help. You can also counter the request and say you'd go if they paid you 2000 yen / hour instead of 1500.
As more and more people start using this system, it's liable to start filling a very important gap in the workforce. It's also a perfect example of a location based, peer-to-peer reputation based, mobile behavior oriented product for an aging society.
The website is
otetsu.jp otet.jp, but most of the functionality is only available on the phone.
Update from Mr. Sunagawa:
1. The English name of the company is LocationValue Inc.
2. Employer will see only the name of applicants rather than all the
available people around. "...you have a list of people available" may sound
3. primary URL of our web is otet.jp instead of otetsu.jp although otetsu.jp
would also be redirected to our site.
UPDATE 2: They have about 45,000 users with 1,000 new users per week.