• バリエーション多様な「痛い」アイテム

    [From August Issue 2013]


    Over the past few years, various “itai” items, ranging from inkan (stamps), to cars, have gone on sale. “Itai,” which literally means pain, refers to designs that boldly incorporate manga or anime characters; because these appear rather itaitashii (pitiful), they’ve been dubbed “itai” for short.

    “Itataku” (pitiful taxis) emblazoned with anime (cartoon) character designs began to appear in Sapporo City, Hokkaido, a year ago. The idea was dreamed up by TAKEUCHI Norihito, the head of marketing strategy for Choei Kotsu Corporation. When he was thinking of ways to make his taxi company stand out from the competition, a photograph of an “itasha” (pitiful car) caught his eye.

    The first model incorporated the official mascot of the TOYAKO Manga Anime Festa. “It doesn’t matter if the character isn’t famous. It is more important that people see the taxis driving through the city and say, ‘What on earth was that?’ to each other, thus creating a sensation,” says Takeuchi. The existence of the itataku spread steadily by word of mouth.

    To keep costs down, the body design and printed sticker attachments were done manually by Takeuchi and friends who were supportive of his scheme. In order that the cars didn’t become an over familiar sight, just three to five taxis from a fleet of 85 are run as itataku with designs that are updated about every three months. A total of 15 taxi designs were created in one year.

    The itataku also had a positive effect within the company. More and more customers want to ride in an itataku, and the Choei Taxi name has become well known, so that radio calls increased by about 20%. In addition, Takeuchi feels that since these taxis attract attention, it helps drivers develop as they are conscious of being in the spotlight.

    Most importantly, “complaints are down,” Takeuchi laughs. “Also, customers probably don’t feel like complaining when they are in these kind of taxis.” Next time around, by involving customers in the process of selecting characters and so forth, he is planning to transform the itataku into a taxi made by everyone.


    “Itai” business suits have also gone on the market. YOSHIDA Ryuichi started up this Osaka-based business suit project. Yoshida is a third generation tailor, but has also been interested in anime since he was a high school student. Bringing the two together resulted in the “ita-suits.” He received a better reaction than he expected, after exhibiting suits with cartoon characters printed into their lining at the Tokyo International Anime Fair last March, and decided to begin producing them commercially.

    The business really began to take off last May. Unexpectedly, besides the original target market of young men in their 20s to 30s, women are also driving growth. Recently the suits were exhibited at the 14th Japan Expo held in France, and Yoshida recognizes that demand exists both domestically and overseas.

    These ita-suits demonstrate that it’s possible to create products that combine clothing with printing techniques in a way that is not possible with normal suits. However, Yoshida has set his sights on expanding beyond his current business activities into a different field. “Currently, there is no place that provides information on other ‘ita-items.’ I would like use my ita-suits business to launch a platform which will bring together other ita-items under one roof,” he says, looking to the future.

    Choei Taxi

    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo















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  • 魚を同じ重さに切るスライサー

    [From August Issue 2013]


    Yoshiizumi Industry Corporation

    Fried food ordered at a Japanese restaurant is always served with shredded cabbage and sashimi is served garnished with shredded radish. Chopped leek is indispensable as a condiment for udon or soba noodles and for various kinds of fish fillets displayed in the fish counters of supermarkets. All of these things are an everyday sight.

    At home, cabbage, radish, leek and fish are all cut using a kitchen knife and a cutting board. But in the food services industry and at food markets, which handle large amounts of ingredients, human labor alone won’t cut it. Because of this, food processing machines called “slicers” were developed. One of the leading companies producing slicers for business use is Yoshiizumi Industry Corporation in Hirakata City, Osaka Prefecture.

    Speaking about their approach to product development, President SASAKI Keieki says, “We’re attempting to create machines that can cut finely, just as a professional cook would do with a kitchen knife.” Take, for example, the “Leek Chopper:” developed at the request of an udon shop that wished to chop leeks quickly, the machine was a hit with over 1,000 units sold so far. This machine became increasingly popular in the food services industry and is now widely used both at home and abroad.

    One of the firm’s strongest products is the “Super Sakanayasan fish slicer” that can cut fillets such as salmon used for lunch boxes into equal portions. An example of their high tech expertise, using a high precision camera and a microcomputer, this machine can cut a fish split in half from top to tail into equal portions that weigh the same, with an error margin of only three grams. It is capable of processing 2,800 slices per hour.

    Once you enter the weight of the fish you want to slice into the touch panel, the machine selects the optimum program. Though fillets cut from the region near the head are different in shape from those near the tail, because it’s possible to change the angle at which the knife touches the fish and the thickness of the fillet, the machine produces cuts that are almost exactly the same weight. A patent is being filed for the “technology to measure each cut,” this machine’s best feature.

    The company originally offered a service to sharpen knives and other metallic products. Before long, they gained a reputation for sharpening knives, so, employing the same knowhow, began to produce not only knives but also food processing machines. Sasaki explains the reason why they are capable of developing products that other companies can’t imitate, “It’s because we do everything on our own; from designing, to manufacturing parts, to assembling them.”

    While their competitors assemble parts purchased from other companies, “We manufacture parts ourselves, so we don’t need to buy them. This enables us to build machines quickly at no extra cost,” says Sasaki, explaining the difference between his company’s method and that of other firms. When we eat out or consume store bought food, we may be benefiting from this company’s machines without realizing it.

    Yoshiizumi Industry Corporation

    Text: ITO Koichi













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  • 子どもにも大人にも人気の職業体験

    [From July Issue 2013]


    KidZania is a “city in which the children are the stars” where they can challenge themselves to try any job they fancy. Everything in the building is two-thirds of its normal size in order to suit children’s field of vision and height. Faithful replicas of familiar institutions, including a department store, hospital and police station, line the city streets. Children can try out more than 90 professions and receive services as customers themselves.

    There are 13 KidZania located in ten countries around the world. The first facility opened in Mexico. All their facilities incorporate jobs typical of the local culture. For example, Japan had the first “door to door delivery” pavilion. Mexico has “shoe shining” and “archeological dig” pavilions and Indonesia has a “tea factory” pavilion.

    “At KidZania Tokyo, some children choose familiar workplaces, such as the bakery or pizza shop, while others go for professions that are easily identifiable by their uniforms, like pilot or fire fighter.” UEDA Hiromi of the PR and Marketing Department says. “Besides occupations such as fashion model or beautician, many girls opt for dynamic jobs at the construction zone or gas station.”

    Recently, there’s been a buzz about companies that offer work experience not just to children, but also to adults. Launched in 2011, Shigoto-Ryokousha Co., Ltd, embraces the philosophy of “experiencing a variety of occupations as a traveller.” As part of a day tour, the company offers work experience for a range of some 60 occupations including fisherman, plasterer, waiting staff at an inn and bartender.


    Experiences by Shigoto-Ryokousha


    The cost is between 8,000 and 20,000 yen and tours run from half a day to two days, depending on the profession. Forty percent of the participants are male and 60% female. The largest age groups are in their late 20s to 30s. All kinds of people take part: casual workers, small business owners and those in full time employment.

    The reasons people have for participating varies greatly from simple curiosity, to a desire to find a suitable career for themselves, to those who want to learn more about a certain industry because they are contemplating a change of career.

    TANAKA Tsubasa, the company’s representative, says, “These days being a florist, Japanese language teacher or director of traditional crafts is popular. Florist has always been a popular profession with women and many take part in the Japanese language teacher program because they think it’s an easy career switch. As for the director of traditional crafts, some participate because they are interested in crafts, but most have no ambition to become an artisan; they prefer to be involved with traditional crafts for other reasons, one of which is to see which craft is most popular with the majority of people and another is to find out what kind of traditional craft would have suited them as a trade.

    For the future, Tanaka is planning to expand into offering work experience in real businesses and into offering work experience packages for groups. Though their numbers are few, there are also foreign participants who enjoy typical Japanese professions, such as being a director of traditional Japanese crafts or being a sushi chef.

    KidZania Tokyo
    Shigoto-ryokou Co., Ltd.

    Text: TSUCHIYA Emi














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  • 雨粒をはじいてぬれないかさ、ヌレンザ

    [From July Issue 2013]


    The Hokuriku region is located on the island of Honshu, facing the Sea of Japan; there they have an old saying: “You can forget your lunch, but never forget your umbrella.” In Hokuriku the weather is changeable and it is not unusual for it to suddenly start raining when up until that moment the weather had been fine. That is why it is important to always keep an umbrella handy when travelling in the Hokuriku region.

    For this reason, Fukui Prefecture in Hokuriku was home to many companies that manufactured umbrellas. Parts such as the frame, cloth and handle are separately manufactured by different companies and then assembled to make a complete umbrella. Fukui Yougasa Inc. is a major umbrella manufacturer in Fukui; the finished product is made by gathering together all the components, inspecting, cutting and sewing the cloth, assembling the parts, putting on the finishing touches and completing a final inspection.

    However, because of a steady influx of cheaper umbrellas from foreign companies, the number of local companies gradually fell, and now Fukui Yougasa is the only company remaining in the region. The president, HASHIMOTO Hajime says, “If we cease to exist, the umbrella industry will disappear from Fukui Prefecture, so I decided to create an umbrella users want.” So, Hashimoto developed two products: “umbrellas that don’t get wet” and “difficult to lose umbrellas.”

    The umbrella that doesn’t get wet is made so that it stays dry when it’s folded up and when it touches the body. Therefore, to make the cloth that covers the umbrella frame, a special material called “super high-density polyester thread weaved by a special method” was jointly developed with a local textile company. Just like big lotus leaf, this material repels rainwater.

    Therefore, even when raindrops fall on the umbrella, with just one shake, moisture flies off and the umbrella returns to its original dry state in a matter of seconds. This umbrella was named the “Nurenza,” a play on the word “nurenai” which means “doesn’t get wet.” At 30,450 yen, the Nurenza is quite expensive for an umbrella. However, they are so popular that, after an order is placed, it takes about two to three months for the umbrella to arrive.

    “Difficult to lose umbrellas” alludes to the fact that umbrellas are often forgotten on street corners and in trains. Hashimoto thought, “The reason why umbrellas are forgotten is because of a problem with the way the handle is shaped.” So rather than having a handle made to be gripped, he designed a cowhide belt loop that would fit snugly into the hand. Its advantage is that the handle can be hung from the arm.

    Not only does this handle make it harder to lose, but also it is easier for people who are physically challenged – the elderly and people with a weaker grip – to use. It is a sort of universal design. Hashimoto, who hopes that umbrellas with this kind of handle will become popular, says, “Any product that makes it easier for those who have physical difficulties to use, is sure to catch on.” Of course, this handle can also be used with the Nurenza.

    Fukui Yougasa Inc.

    Text: ITO Koichi












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  • 変わりつつある外国人社長

    [From June Issue 2013]


    Although some people say that the taxes and infrastructure of Japan makes it difficult to start up a business here, non-Japanese startups do exist. But due to the reluctance of Japanese companies to hire non-Japanese, until now, these foreigners had no choice but to become translators or restaurant owners serving up their native cuisine. These days, however, the numbers of a new breed of non-Japanese company presidents are swelling.

    “Japanese people are very enthusiastic about their hobbies. Ordinary office workers go to schools after five pm to learn English, or to take music classes. I thought I’d like to teach guitar to people who have such a love of learning,” says American, Michael KAPLAN. Overcoming many difficulties, he established American Guitar Academy, a guitar school in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo.

    Having majored in guitar at college, Kaplan is a professional guitar instructor with a master’s degree. He had taught guitar in the USA. When he visited Japan on holiday in 2006, he loved the country. “With its beauty and cleanliness, it made a good impression on me and I came back in 2008. Because Japan is a wealthy country, many people love art. There are so many people who go to art museums, and there are many jazz-clubs, too. Jazz is close to my heart, so the numerous jazz fans impressed me very much.”

    Kaplan wanted to teach guitar in Japan, so he looked into how to do this. Then he found out that not only is it difficult for non-Japanese to live in Japan, but that it is even more difficult to start up a business. It’s hard to acquire a visa, also, if you want to start up a company, it’s necessary to establish an office, but landlords are reluctant to rent to non-Japanese. “Some people advised me to use a small place with only a telephone line and post box as an office. But I had my Japanese friends help to convince a landlord to rent out an office to me.”

    Kaplan came to Japan to open his school in February, 2011. He was badly hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake that occurred one month later, but he says with a smile, “Dreams come true if you don’t give up. If there are difficulties, all you have to do is just change your approach and try again.” His policy of teaching guitar in English went down well, and now the number of his pupils has swelled to 80, he has taken on new instructors. “My next goal is to make my school the most recognized guitar school in Japan,” he says.

    Having established Langtech, a software company, that produces apps, in his native country, Canadian Alain BRETON continues to develop his business in Japan. The Great East Japan Earthquake was the trigger for starting up his business. “Until then, I was an English teacher, but after the earthquake, work dried up. I had a lot of time on my hands and I needed to earn money to live,” he says.

    Breton visited Japan in 2004 while travelling around many countries. “It was April,” he remembers. “Tokyo was filled with cherry blossoms and people were happily enjoying cherry blossom viewing; after seeing this I fell in love with Japan,” he smiles. “Of course after a while I found out that I had come during the best season in Japan, but even to this day my positive feeling about Japan hasn’t changed.”


    Alain BRETON / App LEXI


    Breton returned to Japan once again as an English teacher, while also attending a Japanese language school. Then he got the idea for the business he runs today. “There were many Chinese and Korean students in my class. They improved really quickly.”

    Taking into account his experience at the Japanese language school and the environment he grew up in, Breton, who speaks English, French, and Spanish, came to the conclusion that vocabulary was vital to learning foreign languages. “The reason why Chinese and Korean students learned to speak faster was because there are similar words to Japanese in Chinese and Korean. That is why I developed the educational app ‘LEXI’ in which you touch a photo of an item when you hear a native speaker saying the name of that thing out aloud. Colorful pictures help with memorization, so you can learn words while playing a game.”

    He then received an email from a user asking him to“please make an app for children.” “Children of immigrants and children who have learning difficulties want to use iPads and iPhones, so they can learn without becoming bored. That is why I quit my job as an English teacher and established my company.” He is saddened by the fact that, except for teaching a language, it is very difficult for non-Japanese to make a living in Japan. “Because there was little variation in the routine of an English teacher, I wanted to change things up and to continue developing my skills. Starting up a business has made my life more varied and I am very happy now.”

    There are some people who choose to start a business by collaborating with Japanese partners. Ariawan, an Indonesian national who went to university in his own country and was hired by a big corporation, left his job after six months. He then established an IT company with three of his friends. “The corporation managed their business in an inefficient way. I created software and recommended it to them. They then said, ‘Start your own company. We will buy in your software from that company.’”

    Ariawan eventually wanted to go abroad to study further. So, he sold his company and came to Japan. After getting a master’s degree, he began to work in Japan, where he met and partnered up with Japanese citizen, KAKIYAMA Takehiro. The two established FlutterScape Inc. in May, 2010.

    “Kakiyama was in charge of setting up our company,” says Ariawan. “Our company runs a membership based shopping site named MONOCO that sells unique merchandise. I am in charge of the technical side of our website.” Though they’ve gone through some tough times, sales have increased by 20% in one year and they now employ a staff of nine of various nationalities.

    “English is mainly used in our company. Our headquarters is currently located in Tokyo, but we might move to a country with more favorable tax laws. As for myself, I wouldn’t mind going back to start a business in Indonesia someday. Because the economy is now rapidly growing,” says Ariawan. It seems that even in Japan, the time has come for people and businesses to move beyond borders.

    The American Guitar Academy

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo










    ブレトンさんは再来日して英語教師になり、同時に日本語学校にも通い始めました。そして今のビジネスのアイディアを得ました。「クラスには中国人や韓国人の学 生がおおぜいいました。彼らの上達が、とても早かったんです」。









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  • まんがやアニメのファンが楽しめるイベントを目指して

    [From June Issue 2013]


    TOYAKO Manga Anime Festa

    Toyako-cho in Hokkaido is a beautiful hot spring town. The town is known for being the location of the Toyako G8 Summit in 2008. Though this town has a rather staid reputation, this completely changes during two days in June. This is because the “TOYAKO Manga Anime Festa” is held here.

    The first time this event was held was four years ago. The ball got rolling after a consultation on what should be done to celebrate the 100th anniversary since the hot spring resort was opened. SASAKI Takuichi who owns a restaurant and hotel in the town suggested hosting an event for people who like comics and animation. He was simply motivated by the fact that he himself liked them; young people in the area gave their support. However, the idea was seriously opposed by the local elderly population.

    “Having received a powerful impression of extreme cosplayers on TV, elderly people were anxious about the sort of people who would attend. It’s not generally understood that this is simply a hobby that normal people enjoy.” In addition, some people mentioned that it might damage the reputation of the town that was known for holding a summit. Two meetings were held to explain matters. “The atmosphere was just as if we were trying to build a dam.”

    Once consent had been acquired, the event was successfully held, attracting around 3,000 people. Though originally planned as a one-off event, requests came in from attendees for the event to be held there again the following year. People, who had at first been opposed, came around after they discovered that participants had been well mannered; properly taking their garbage home with them.

    The event began to be held annually. In the second year there were 7,000 attendees, and by the time the third event was held last year, 30,000 people turned up. This has become an event that brings people to the town. “We do not host this event in order to revitalize the town.” Sasaki became vice chairman and, taking the point of view of an anime or manga fan, is always thinking of ways to improve visitors’ enjoyment of the event.

    Pretty much anything related to manga and anime goes on at the event: talks are given by voice actors, there are exhibitions of works, and fanzines are sold. “Itasha” cars with characters painted onto them gather and people in costume walk in and out of local stores. On the other hand, there are set rules for the general public about taking photographs of cosplayers and there are strict restrictions prohibiting the distribution of images and video. These rules take into account the feelings of people who might be hiding the fact that they cosplay from their acquaintances and employer, allowing them to enjoy the event without feeling self-conscious.

    This year – on June 22 and 23 – will be the fourth time the event will be held. More visitors are expected to attend. “It would be terrible if we lost sight of our goal of getting visitors to enjoy themselves,” says Sasaki. “One of the unique things about this event is that staff and visitors are brought together,” he says proudly. This year he is planning to get dressed up as his favorite character in order to freely interact with visitors.

    TOYAKO Manga Anime Festa

    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo













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  • 日本人とイスラム教徒とのかけ橋に

    [From May Issue 2013]


    SAKURA HOUSE Co., Ltd.

    “We wanted to create an opportunity for Japanese to see how calm and highly moral Muslim people are,” says NAMIKI Masayo, sales manager for SAKURA HOUSE Co., Ltd. SAKURA HOUSE is a company that manages hotels and apartment buildings for non-Japanese. This February, they opened up the shared house, “Yoyogi-uehara Muslim House” in Yoyogi-uehara, Tokyo.

    Muslims have all kinds of religious customs. They can’t drink alcohol nor eat pork. Women cannot show their skin to men outside their family. Muslims also customarily pray five times a day and go to mosque on Fridays. In Japan, many foods contain alcohol and pork ingredients and there are few places for praying. “Life wasn’t easy for Muslims in Japan, especially for women,” says Namiki.

    Up until now, Japan had little contact with Muslim societies. Lots of oil is bought from the Middle East, so while many Japanese travelled there on business, few Muslims visited Japan. However, an increasing number of Muslims from south east Asia, the middle east and Africa are coming to Japan in recent years to study and work.

    “Many Muslim customers have begun to visit our company, too,” says Namiki. “A Saudi student who understood neither English nor Japanese came after translating our website using Google Translate. Muslims ask us where they can find a mosque and where they can buy halal foods. That’s why we had the idea for this shared house for Muslims.”

    The Muslim House was designed so that Muslims could live comfortably there. There’s a prayer room in which an arrow indicates Qibla (the direction in which to face towards Holy Mecca). The second floor is for women only and is separated from the first floor by a curtain. In the neighborhood there’s Tokyo Camii, one of few large-scale mosques in Japan.

    “But the proximity to the mosque wasn’t that important for me,” says tenant Anfal SEDDIK, smiling. “I chose this place because there’s a floor reserved for women and because it’s new and clean.” Anfal is French and she’s staying in Japan for an internship. “I like it here because the surroundings are quiet. I can pray like I always do and it’s also good that it’s a typical Japanese house.”

    “The idea for the Muslim House was partly inspired by a Muslim, Mohamed IBRAHIM, who started working for SAKURA HOTEL Hatagaya, one of the hotels we administer,” says Namiki. “Japanese are still far from being familiar with Muslims. Unfortunately some are scared of them as they hear about Islamic extremists in the news. In a town where Japanese and Muslims cross paths daily, in our own little way we’d like to encourage interaction between Japanese and Muslims.”

    SAKURA HOUSE Co., Ltd.

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo












    文:砂崎 良

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  • まるで本物! 机の上にひろがる自然

    [From May Issue 2013]


    Kitan Club Co., Ltd.

    Birds that look as if they are about to fly, cute rabbits and cats: these are all palm-sized figurines. Easily obtained from capsule toy vending machines, known as “gachagacha” and toy shops, they are quite popular among children and adults.

    Kitan Club Co., Ltd. (Shibuya Ward, Tokyo), is a company founded in September 2006, which plans, designs, manufactures and sells capsule toys. The company is well established with a reputation for creating fully-imagined toys. Drawing inspiration from plants and animals in the natural world, their “Nature Techni Colour” series is especially popular.

    Nature Techni Colour signifies: “Figurines of all kinds of natural objects in natural colours.” Creatures are grouped according to their ecosystem; for example, sea turtles go together with dolphins and whales. There are about ten animals in each set. When you have collected the set, it’s as if the natural world has invaded your desktop.

    The director of the company who created this series, SATO Junya, relates how they got started on the series: “Since we could not find high-quality figurines of living creatures, we decided to make them ourselves. The models of mushrooms and edible wild plants are mostly life-sized. We hear about children surprising their families by secretly attaching models of frogs and lizards to the refrigerator with magnets. We receive a lot of requests and take these into account when we make new products.”

    Some items in the Nature Techni Colour series come with a pedestal useful for display, a magnet or a cell-phone strap. The popular “Kaiyo I” (Ocean No. 1) is sold in souvenir shops in aquariums around Japan.

    Each individual figurine is designed by an artisan called a genkei-shi. The person in charge of planning discusses the specifications of each item – shape, size, etc. – with the genkei-shi and modifications are made until they are satisfied with the product. Up until the product is completed in the factory, strict quality control checks are carried out.

    As a company, Kitan Club has also been active in supporting reconstruction efforts after the earthquake. Since April, 2011, just a short time after the earthquake, a portion of the profits from the sale of the Nature Techni Colour series has been donated. Furthermore, the company has been periodically holding workshops to create dioramas of disaster struck areas using their figurines of living creatures. By turning the tree frog, a local mascot, which is a symbol of reconstruction, into a figurine, and also by returning a portion of sales profits to damaged areas, the company demonstrates its close links with the disaster-struck areas.

    Sato says, “We would be delighted if children from around the world became interested in living beings and nature as a whole as a result of getting their hands on our Nature Techni Colour figurines.”

    Kitan Club Co., Ltd.

    Text: MUKAI Natsuko














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  • 「スキル」を売買できるウェブサービス「ココナラ」

    [From March Issue 2013]


    WelSelf Inc.

    “An illustrator will draw a portrait of you.” “A parliamentary aide will recommend you a suitable gift.” “A professional author will write a novel for you with you as the main character.” “Coconala,” a website where you can make use of these kinds of services for 500 yen, has been gaining attention.

    Coconala is a site where knowledge, skills and experience can be bought. The site was launched in July 2012 and has acquired 33,000 users in about six months. At the time of writing more than 3,700 unique services were up for grabs.

    At 7:3, the proportion of male users far exceeds female users, and the largest age group is 25 to 35 year olds. Business orientated services to improve skills, such as advice on starting up a business, are popular with men. For women, services that give personal advice, such as fortune telling, are popular. Portrait drawing and illustration services are popular with both men and women.

    Calico, an illustrator who offers a portrait drawing service on Coconala, says, “I was working for a company as an ad designer, but I quit because they were not sympathetic about childrearing issues. While thinking of continuing to draw portraits at home, I discovered Coconala where you could offer your services for 500 yen. I made my portrait drawing services available in order to brush up my skills and to reach a wider audience.”

    MINAMI Akiyuki, a representative of WelSelf Inc., the company that runs Coconala, says he would like the site to be a place for “business” rather than for making pocket money. “Business has its origins in bartering. Bartering is exchanging what one has for what another person has in order to improve each other’s life. Everyone has some unique kind of experience, knowledge or skills. By offering these skills, people can help some one somewhere in society.”

    Minami says, “If you are aware that you have a skill to offer to someone in society, your view of society will change. If there’s a system through which you can offer your skills, even if it’s just for 500 yen, what’s going on in society is no longer somebody else’s business, it gives you a deeper sense of involvement. Through taking action yourself you get a sense that this is a place where you can make a difference to society and by doing so you feel less isolated and get a sense of wellbeing. We run Coconala in this spirit.”

    Coconala is now thinking of diversifying their services by setting up a varied pricing system and making the system easier to use via a smartphone.


    Text: TSUCHIYA Emi







    ココナラで似顔絵を描くサービスを出品しているイラストレーターのCalico さんは、「会社で広告デザイナーをしていましたが職場が育児に理解がないため退職しました。自宅で似顔絵サービスを続けようと思っていたときに500円でサービスを出品できるココナラを知り、自分のスキルアップのためと、似顔絵サービスをもっと多くの人に身近に感じてもらいたいという気持ちから、出品を始めました」と言います。




    Calico さん


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  • 非日常を味わう脱出ゲーム

    [From February Issue 2013]


    “Escape games” are popular now. They begin with you suddenly finding yourself locked up in a room. To escape within the time limit you have to decipher codes and find special items.

    SCRAP Co., Ltd., the company behind “Real Escaping Game” has organized dozens of similar games within Japan and overseas. Participants go into a locked room full of clues. Though some people participate alone, it’s also possible for couples, groups of friends and other kinds of teams to play. Some teams are made up of family members from three generations, including grandparents, parents and children.

    You can participate if you understand kanji taught in the upper grade of elementary school and possess general knowledge. You can also enjoy the game with others if you can understand a normal Japanese conversation. The most important ability is to be able to think creatively and to cooperate with your teammates.

    Able to solve this difficult game that has an overall success rate of only 10%, NISHIMOTO Yukihiko recalls the excitement he felt during game play, “It is probably impossible for a single person to collect all the clues and solve the puzzle. I found myself cooperating with people who were in the same team, who I’d just met that day.”

    “Real Escaping Game is like a club activity for adults,” says KATO Takao, representative of SCRAP Co., Ltd. Adults rarely get the chance to cooperate with teammates, or to celebrate their joy by punching the air when they reach their goal.

    Recently, some companies use the game to encourage communication between coworkers as part of their employee training program. This is because many employees in large companies might only know each other by sight and not have actually spoken. The Real Escaping Game is becoming the most effective tool to break down the walls between them.

    The Escape Game began life as a popular game for PCs around ten years ago. Later, with the rising popularity of smartphones, it became known as a game that can be enjoyed easily, anytime, anywhere, and now many escape game apps are being made.

    “DOOORS,” which became the number one “free app/game app” in 25 countries is a simple escape game in which you have to continue solving puzzles in order to open the door and escape from the room you are locked in. Since all the clues are either pictorial or symbolic, language is not necessary, and this means that the game can be enjoyed by people from any country.

    Game developer NONOYAMA Koji of 58 Works, has developed popular games singlehandedly. He says, “I’ve created other kinds of games than escape games, but 90% of my ratings and feedback are about escape games, so I feel these are the ones that really resonate with people.” Though 40% of registered players come from Japan, the rest are from other countries.

    SCRAP Co., Ltd.

    Text: TSUCHIYA Emi














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