Featured on B-maga, Feb, 2011

The structure of happiness is “literally simple.”

 The last interview of the series for meeting people who making news among the media industry, hosted by Fukuda Jyun from SONY marketing. Thus far, many prominent guests have appeared to this interview series as following; 1st guest was Suzuki Makoto, the president of Niwango, Inc. (well known for Nico Nico Douga, a popular video sharing website), 2nd guest was Takiyama Masao, the president of Animax Broadcasting Japan, Inc., and 3rd guest was Shigemura Hajime, the president of Nippon Television Network Corporation. Therefore, editors were sorely perplexed to choose the last person to invite. They remembered their underside mission:”take a look in succeeders’ mind.” Then decide inviting a man who we’re interested to hear his account. That is Inoko Toshiyuki, the president of teamLab co. a group of Ultra Technologists that have been active in Hongo, Tokyo.
 teamLab’s work includes: the planning and developing of; “iza”a news portal site; an original “interesting and amusing algorithm” for collecting information to be shown on teamLabs “Sagool” search engine; “Flower and Corpse” an artwork for the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and France at the Kansai exhibition in Paris; 3D computer graphic animations; and a wide variety of art and technology works.
 Atsushi Fukuda writes of Inoko Toshiyuki; “Inoko Toshiyuki is a young charismatic genius who from childhood has a picked up the “signals” to revive Japan. From a point of ingenuity, from the simple enjoyment of making something, or even to his theory of TV playback, Inoko is able to find opportunity for entrepreneurship”.


My dream no to become an adult has come true!?

Fukuda(F): Guest for the last interview is Inoko Toshiyuki, CEO of teamLab co. According to B-maga editors, Mr.Inoko appeared in the TV program which invites young entrepreneurs as panel of experts called “Asa Made NamaTV” in 2010, and became famous right after that. Also I’ve heard that since you appeared in the same program again on New Year’s Day, you’ve been asked for many sessions and interviews. If you say frankly, why do you think that people pay attention to you?

Inoko(I): I don’t know much about that….but it maybe because I’m like some sort of dead air or something.

Everyone: (Laugh)

F: This is not our first meeting, but since I’ve hear that you are from Tokushima, I found something congenial with you. I’m from Osaka, so I thought “it’s close.”

I: Yeah, I understand that feeling. People in Tokushima, they all think that they are part of Kansai area. Because the weather forecast of Tokushima is displayed in TV with Kansai, and we are connected with Hyogo by land.

F: Are your parents both from Tokushima?

I: Yes.

F: I know it can’t be said definitely, but how do you see the regional characteristics of Tokushima?

I: Hmmm….Maybe they have many strange (different) people.

F: Are you also the one of those different people, since you were kid?

I: I was a kind of nihilist, a kid with no dreams, like wanted to be nothing particular. I didn’t really want to become an adult at all. I had so much fun in each day, but hate having “tomorrow.”
 When I was in elementary school, I made a list called “Things I get in trouble if I die.” I wrote the list not because I wanted to die, but to get the “want to live” feeling. Then I added the list things I would be stumped if I die, like “Mom gets sad” or something similar. But I realized that I wouldn’t know whether my mom gets sad or not after I die, because I’m already dead. So I scratched off the sentence. Kept erasing those things and sentence that has been left at the end was:”I want to know the next story of Dragon Ball.”

F: Haha, you only care about the Dragon Ball which has been serialized in weekly comic magazine Jump then. How realist you were! But things you’ve said first that you didn’t want to become an adult, seems like it came true, isn’t it?

I: What is that supposed to mean?!

F: In a good way, I mean (Laugh). Because you’ve build office like a kid’s hideout in such a quiet district of Hongo, and set some video game at the reception area. It was quite surprising though.

Editors: You play the game to call for people in the office, right?

F: Really? I thought I have to win the game if I want to enter the office (laugh).


Received a message saying:“Regenerate Japan.” And so start to run business.

F: Anyway, Mr Inoko, you established teamLab when you graduated University of Tokyo in 2001, from the Department of Mathematical Engineering and Information Physics (Faculty of Engineering), with 5 other members. Why you choose to start-up the company instead of finding employment?

I: I often talk about this story…..When I was a junior-high school student I received a electronic message (Dempa). It’s not a metaphor, but really the message saying:”Regenerate Japan.”

F: The time should be when the Dot-com bubble bursts, right? Was it like, one day you got the idea that come from out the blue?

I: No, I felt it rather longer. It was flabby as it sounds something like “Deeeemm.” I majored in science so I couldn’t understand and so freaked out with such unscientific phenomena. I had no choice but to obey the voice.
 Later, in 1996, right before I enter the university, first time I heard about the internet and connected to PC. I was absolutely shocked with it. Remember thinking: wow, this is amazing. For the first time in human history, people have the power to freely receive and transmit information to and from all over the world, moreover, it’s cheap.
 Originally, people’s interests and thoughts are different in various ways, so that one’s values definitely differ from others’. Users can make their own choice for information by the internet, and people are able to receive the core information about anything from all over the world. I thought the event brings historical change and transform the whole society, to such a happy age.

F: And society rapidly transformed to the information-age.

I: I want to clarify that technology and cultures are the essential element for the national strength. Especially Japan, a country with meager resources, we absolutely depended on those two elements. However, the industry construction have changed by appears of the internet, so we have to start from zero again. In that respect, what is the most important thing? Of course, technology and culture are. The words are the same as before but they mean totally different, because all types of technology will change. We can’t use the same old techniques and ideas.
 At the same time, when I graduated from University, I couldn’t find the company that takes role for both technology and culture. Therefore I decided to get involved to both technology and culture in the digital domain, establish the company where is able to make experiment of technology and creativity. I still had the ideological threats by Dempa, and I also thought it would be wonderful if new culture and creation could emerge from Japan.

F: How did you implicate your friends to start up the company?

I: I didn’t really implicate them but kind of cheating (laugh). We have to start with situation of no money and no connections, so couldn’t pay much. But if you are student, money is not really a big matter so I thought they won’t realize the inconvenient (laugh). For me, starting business was not a dream but an obligation. And I wanted to make the process of job more exciting and enjoyable, so I considered carefully then figures out the most exciting things; share the process of achieving a certain aim with people I like. Don’t you think the structure of happiness is literally simple?
 Now a day, mobile media is making a big hit. This was in-expectable in former days, but this kind of reversal phenomenon will keep happening from now on. I believe there are still chances for small personal media, and want to produce a work which is like the mobile content that follows by movies, TV, and magazines.


Change the restrictive mood to the tolerant messages by the potential of TV power

F: For last topic, this magazine is a trade magazine for people who work at multi-channel industry, communication industry, and internet industry, so I want ask Mr.Inoko about the future of TV. Recently, it is said that young people are leaving TV behind, and using mobile and internet instead. Why do you think so?

I: At time that TV was the king of media, when some interesting content comes out, small number of people enthusiastically supported the content and they lead it to others. Then the content expand to mass, stimulate the market and such circumstance was producing a big hit. However, those small number of people’s interests moved to internet which is more free and capable to provide core information. As a result, even one interesting TV program has produced it disappears before it reaches market. Therefore the content with all marks average but nothing outstanding has been increased recently.
 For another reason, I would like to mention that the society became restrictiveness. First, when we consider about the process of creating unique culture before global age, one unique thought produced unique sense of beauty and law. Then the unique law helps to create the unique culture. However, after global age, society enforces the global ethical view on people and people started to commit self restraints because they don’t want to break the lines or be bullying by others. Intolerance of society derives the freedom of expression.

F: I see. Society with intolerance nip off their own buds and people commit self restraints to avoid getting trouble. Then TV, once the head of mass entertainment, becomes boring that young people stop it. TV broadcasting companies are explaining YouTube, NicoNicoDouga, and Ustream as “video sharing site”, as they are taking things too easy, but in terms of people’s time spent for TV, those websites are obviously deprive a lot time from TV. As Mr.Inoko said, diversification of people’s interests and thoughts is clear. However, TV broadcasting companies misunderstand that their media is the one users demand the most.

I: Still, TV industry has the enormous brand power and highly capable human resources. Therefore, the important points are; 1. Unbending will of producers for keeping create new entertainment. 2. Providing opportunity for those producers. To say further, I believe it is possible to change the society’s restrictive mood to the tolerant messages by the potential of TV powers. That will unchain the creation possibility and there will be a lot of chances to improve for TV industry……Am I talk big too much?

F: No, not at all. It’s very suggestive opinion. It is easy to say things about merging of broadcasting and communications, people hardly find the specific business pivot. From Mr.Inoko’s opinion, we may find some clue for the business and new possibility of visual expression in internet-age. Above all, Mr.Inoko tells us to remember the very first place that producers and designers should have fun if they want customers to enjoy the amusement tools.
 It was my pleasure talking with you. Thank you very much.