Japanese Innovators are Making Amazing Thing and No One was Noticing. The 3.11 Earthquake Changed All That.

We have successfully finished the new product exhibition at SXSW 2018 and returned to San Francisco. Seven years have passed since we first stepped on Austin ground in March 2011.
As I’m sure everyone has realized, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of Japanese people taking part in the exhibiting in SXSW. And not just that, Japanese corporations and educational institutions such as Panasonic, Sony, Deloitte Tohmatsu, Dentsu, Hakuhodo, Tokyo University and so on are slowly beginning to grow their presence locally and steadily nurturing a community that takes on a part of SXSW’s culture.

Originally, performing in an aggressive and bold manner without restriction and where creativity is necessary in a space with a festival-like atmosphere such as SXSW was something that Japanese people and Japanese corporations were uncomfortable with doing. However, by observing the trade show booths and the performances held at “houses” exhibited by some companies, innovative exhibitions and presentations that defied such preconceived notions were executed each day.

Now then, why is this the case? It cannot be that our traits as a nation or corporate culture has suddenly changed, so there must be something that triggered a huge change. I have a hypothesis regarding that.
That is, I think it greatly involves the SXSW INTERACTIVE starting date. Yes, it is the day that the Great East Japan Earthquake took place.

When I landed at the Austin airport in the early dawn of March 11th, 2011, I received a phone call from the CFO of that period in time. “Tokyo is burning up.” What I saw upon landing in Austin in the early dawn after a red eye flight was CNN broadcasting raw footage of Tokyo on fire caused by the earthquake.
“Tokyo is burning up.”

Honestly, it was difficult for me to accept this horrifying news. On top of that, I had no idea if my friends, family and colleagues who were in Japan were safe or not. And even worse, what was going to happen to Japan? I had no idea what the answer to that was. Preoccupied with the thought that I had to do something to help with this situation, I gathered the entrepreneurs who I was on good terms with and who had come to Austin to participate in SXSW 2011 in the lobby of a hotel in the city and together, we discussed what could be done as a countermeasure.

The conclusion that we reached was to work hard to do as much as we could do here in Austin, and make our contribution from Austin to Japan! From there, we thought of a name for our campaign, thought up a logo mark and novelty goods, and hurriedly worked on setting up a donation booth. And so, the hard work of my comrades, executive offices and people who had cooperated with and supported us paid off, and we were able to set up a booth at the entrance of the second floor of Austin Convention Center (which was an excellent location!), and started our fund-raising activities immediately.

The name of that campaign is “Help Save Japan”.
Instead of just money, with the concept of sending “energy” to Japan from SXSW and gathering the power to overcome the suffering from the earthquake from all over the world!, we held a commemorative shoot (we shot smiles and shared them on social media as a form of engagement for this campaign), and distributed many Help Save Japan T-shirts as novelties.
The members of the team led by Mr. Ryo Shimizu from Ubiquitous Entertainment made detailed arrangements and ran the on-site operations, and the booth saw surprisingly heavy patronage and was able to receive a surprisingly large amount of support.

However, what was really amazing happened exactly from that moment. That is, without being directed by anyone, in that location, campaigns and panel sessions to support the Japan’s restoration in response to the earthquake were organized one after another. I participated in one of them, where famous bloggers talked about what they could do in this sort of situation, resulting in a meaningful discussion.

What I felt there left an impression on me that still remains strong. That is, “technology exists for humans. It is used as a tool for humans to pursue happiness.
It was a surprising sight. I felt that they were the embodiment of how technology should be. I received a strong impression that this was the SXSW culture and spirit. Also, it was spread through performances other than interactive ones as well. (SXSW was originally a music festival.)
It was then that I decided to take part in the planning of SXSW every year. I decided through the feedback that I would gain from there, I would pass on various kinds of knowledge to Japanese entrepreneurs&creators and give my support so that eventually, 1,500 Japanese people would come to SXSW. Since then, I have helped in holding SXSW briefing events, workshops and pitch contents domestically.

e.g .VISIONGRAPH inc.(Miraiyoho) started to have many meetups and seminars about SXSW in
collaboration with SXSW Japan Rep. from 2012.

In doing so, I reached the mobilization target in the sixth year, and now, We have reached a level where it seems like that number can be surpassed in a single year. Of course, I personally have only made a small contribution. This result was achieved because many innovators, those supporting them and people from the media, those affiliated with universities and others have diligently worked to raise the standards (in particular, the activities of TODAI to SXSW were a sight to behold), but even so, at the time, I did not think that I would be able to see such progress, so I am truly happy beyond words.
That is why, I feel that Japanese people putting up a fight in Austin on March 11th is our way of returning a favor to everyone, as well as those in Austin.

Coming here in March every year and exhibiting concepts and practices with increasing initiative in order to advance technology and innovation. Expressing that here in Austin every year.
I believe that that is an expression of gratefulness from the depths of our hearts. That is why, we have no hesitation nor confusion regarding performing with more determination, positivity and enjoyment during the SX period. Of course, it is not guaranteed that the Japanese people who came to this year’s SXSW all share the story that I have just told (rather…everyone sees SXSW from a different perspective), I believe that there are many people who feel strongly towards being in Austin at the moment of March 11th. This is what I personally feel after coming back from SXSW 2018. And there is no end to this story.

There is no end to using technology to promote humaneness and contribute to the happiness of humans. And also, in order for Japanese people to become increasingly competent in order to work hard to contribute to SXSW and Austin, and eventually humans all over the world even just a little bit, first, we will work hard each day to improve our products and bring them to Austin once again for SXSW 2019.

Now then, we will return to our everyday jobs and work hard to see progress. And we will meet everyone with smiles once again over at SXSW 2019, and talk and drink together. I am already looking forward to our reunion next year! :D

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DOKI DOKI, INC. CEO & Telepathy Fellow

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