The First Ideathon Mr. Hima Furuta, Representative Director, umari Inc.
The first Ideathon was held on Tuesday, May 29. The university invited Mr. Hima Furuta, Representative Director of umari Inc., as guest, and he delivered the kickoff speech for Ideathon, the gist of which is given below.
To create spots to get connected, not tourist spots
I have tried creating new things. One among the various things that I tried is the Morning University of Marunouchi. Some 20,000 people have taken the courses. The idea was to create a forum for learning in the morning time and it started with utilization of unused meeting rooms in the Marunouchi area during mornings. This resulted in the birth of a community and became an opportunity for bringing people together.
The basic idea is “won’t create anything, won’t destroy anything.” Something new will be born when you look at something from a different angle. It is not the issue in front, but the issue that is buried deep and to begin with, it is important to consider the issue as an idea.
At Morning University of Marunouchi, we have created spots to get connected, not tourist spots, in collaboration with more than 50 regions so far. Majority of tourism is over once you visit the place, but if you offer an opportunity to build a relationship with the region, the person would end up visiting there repeatedly.
Global and community
We are also engaged in regional revitalization. While large ad agencies disseminate using mass media, our idea is to make the region as the media. We are carrying out a regional producer creation project with Kirin Brewery.
The antonym of global is not local, but community. In global business standards, a small hut in the beach has zero real estate value, but it could be a valuable hut for a surfer. Even if you bring a global business to the local level, it would not connect.
When a nucleus forms in the community, you are able to do a lot of things. In the Kirin Brewery project, we launched beer tourism based on the concept that a beer company can also be a travel company. Various things can connect to tourism. As going on a pleasure trip, it is a waste if the only perspective is going for tourism for the sake of tourism.
Possibilities in transport
You can use your ingenuity also in transport, and not just going from one place to another. One idea is to have a restaurant bus. An open top double-decker bus with tables and chairs at the top and kitchen in the first level. In Niigata, we offered lunch at 14,000 yen. Some 70% of the travelers were local people, and many have become repeat customers. The local people are backing it as they can enjoy delicious food locally instead of going to a Michelin-starred restaurant in Tokyo by spending money for transportation. Currently, we have four restaurant buses, and we plan to increase that to seven by the time the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 start. We would like to collaborate also with various towns in Tokyo, but we are apprehensive as the regulations on advertisements in Tokyo are strict.
We are also managing the Kyoto Tango Railway, which is a local railway service. People have stopped using many local railways for their daily travel, but we felt that there are other ways of using it. Consider the entire railway line as a restaurant and offer one dish each at every station. The guests can enjoy a full course meal over the entire length of the line. It is not about creating something new, but inventing something depending on how you look at the line.
Multifaceted nature of value
Recruit used to publish free handouts called “R25” and I came up with a project titled “D30”. At that time, I weighed 135kg. I wanted a cool name for obesity and named it “D”. “D30” targeting obese people whose body fat percentage is 30% or more. It had a great response and 35 companies offered to sponsor it. Fees were paid in the form of meat to people involved in the project. It was a meat-standard system. It is far more exciting for us to get Tanba Beef than getting 10,000 yen in cash. This is exactly what economy is, isn’t it? Say, a ball boy at the finals of the World Cup football - there are many football fans who do not mind paying several millions of yen to become a ball boy. However, for those who are not interested, it is justa labor. The question is who finds it valuable.
Santiago in the West, Kumano Kodo in the East
Of late, the topic has been inbound tourism, and there are lots of foreigners. Even though you say Europeans and Americans, there are different types. Though the French and the Italians have different preferences, don’t you tend to paint them with a single brush? When Kumano Kodo traildeclared a World Heritage site, a Canadian Brad Towle promoted it along with Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route. He advertised it as pilgrimage sites of Santiago in the West and Kumano Kodo in the East. Since Santiago was already famed as a pilgrimage site, it was an excellent idea to sell Kumano Kodo to the visitors to Santiago. World Heritage fans travel, not to the country, but to where the heritage sitelocates. They are travelling to see the world heritage. Yet, most of Japanese tourism PR is based on administrative units of prefectures and cities. It is necessary to clarify who you want to sell it.
Regional initiatives are becoming brands. For example, Portland in the U.S. and San Sebastian in Spain. Samso Island in Denmark, an island of 4,000 people, switched to 100% natural energy. People from all over the world visit there for observing the green island. When an initiative becomes a brand, tourists keep coming, but in the case of an event, the tourists stop coming once the event is over.
It is imperative that you take care of the field where new things arecreated. Similar to entrepreneurs flocking to Silicon Valley, the Iwase region in Toyama Prefecture is attracting numerous glass industrial artists and authors. Why? Because they have a chance of getting recognized. Talented people would not come to the placewhere they have no chances to get acknowledged.
High Added Value and Other Added Value
You often hear about high added values but now other added values, instead of high ones, are in demand. I was engaged in the branding of an udon noodle when helping out a local trading firm in Kagawa Prefecture. A bowl of udon is about a few hundred yens. There is a limit to high value addition even if you use the top quality wheat. So, we created a special education kit for Sanuki udon for children. We made into an educational material that children learn by utilizing their five senses but not food. We sold 500 sets within few weeks of its launch. How many of such can we create?
Concepts and Ideas
A concept is why you do something, while an idea is how you do something. Most regions lack one of these. Even you have a concept that says “creating a city where children are full of smiles,” there may not be any concrete action plans. While many regions try doing various things such as Yuru-Chara (mascot characters for PR purposes), local celebrities, cheap but tasty local food, world heritage, period drama series, and marathon races, in many cases it is not clear whythey do it. So, you should not forget that ideas come after concepts with the region unique conditions.
Highly Evaluated Projects / Products
I believe the highly evaluated projects and products have six key points (SMAPSV).. First of all, it has to be simple (Simple). Next is mismatch (Miss Match). Also it has to have a gap such as a restaurant but a bus, or Roppongi, but a farm. The feeling of being in the action (Action) and the spontaneous urge to take a photograph (Photogenic) are needed too Another thing is that you feel like sharing it (Share). And finally it should have a vision (Vision).
The point is how much you can imagine behind something you see, not just see something as it comes into your sight When you think of new tourism, it is important to look it from a distance. Agri-tourism is a product created when agricultural work became tourism. Things that used to be nothing to do with tourism could turn to be tourism. I would like you to create new tourism with these six points.