The Hot Seat

The Hot Seat: Interview of Toshiyuki Inoko

Featured on The Hot Seat, Jan 21, 2011

teamLab CEO, Toshiyuki Inoko. teamLab is a creative group that made the news and blog portal site “i z a” of Sankei digital, the search engine by musicians of Ticketpia and so on. This company started with five people, but it has over 150 employees now. If you read Inoko’s previous interview, you might have the image of the eloquent owner. But Inoko who showed up in front of me was thinking deeply for 20 minutes. If I thought so, he started to talk with the phrase he just came up. While he suddenly became talkative, he left the innovative word.

Mr.Inoko. I heard you don’t have your home and you are living like the Nomad. What is the reason?

Inoko: When I was little, I learned the world “food, clothing and shelter” from my school. I wanted to know how important it is because I heard it is the most important things in our life. I thought I would be able to know if I don’t have it. It has been about 2 years living without home.

How about it? Did something change?

Inoko: It doesn’t bother me at all because Tokyo is too amazing. Moreover, because I have my company, I can put some stuff in here. In the way, it doesn’t mean I just don’t have home. In that sense, if there are my company and Tokyo, I can be fine.

Tokyo is really amazing. When I go to meet someone great, I think I need to shave my bear. And there is a shaver for 100 yen and a restroom is clean too If I go to a convenience store. I can wash my face and brush my teeth because recently there is a wide restroom. Then every entertainments of my life are in my computer. If there is something else, Tokyo gives me. There is also full bath like LaQua. I can stay anywhere. I don’t have too much trouble.

You don’t give up a “food” and “clothing”, don’t you?

Inoko: If I give up a “food”, I will end up dying. About a “clothing”, I have thrown away all of my cloths without the one I was wearing at that time even if naked is cold. Then It was interesting. Because I threw away all, I am wearing the one l like the most everyday. After I did so, I was told, “Fashionable” more times than before. If I have lots of cloths, I may wear something that isn’t my favorite the most because I have a choice. Then I surly wear the cloths I don’t like every once two weeks. Probability is not stable. Because I wore the cloths I like the most every time, people thought I was fashionable. The people I meet everyday don’t care about such a superficial thing. If you are fashionable everyday, you will be popular. (Laugh)

There is the benefit and by-product. It’s better to recommend to the world.

Inoko: No. I can’t recommend. (Laugh) If I am asked which one is better between having “food, clothing, and shelter” and not having them, I will definitely say having one. I didn’t say even one word that it was good. I said I was fine unexpectedly if I didn’t have them. It’s better to have them. But there is something you can realize for the first time when you don’t have them. And its purpose was to discover.

Do you plan to have your home again someday?

Inoko: But I also feel that a person gets lazy if there is a house. If not, it seems imminent. The feeling of imminent may increase the power of the life. And then it probably keeps the power. It is essentially good to have the strong power of the life absolutely, isn’t it? I need to have a weapon like an imminent.

What did you want to be when you are little?

Inoko: I didn’t have something I want to be, but I didn’t want to be an adult.

What made you think that you build your company?

Inoko: it’s a kind of confusing to speak. When I was in my middle school, electromagnetic wave came and Japan needed to rebuild. (Laugh) I needed to do something at least because it was scared not to do anything toward the rebirth. I checked various. There were the former conglomerates, the former state-owned, and regulated industries of licensing system in the top 30 of market capitalization. To be among these, I thought to get married with a rich is the only way. Then a son-in-law was the president of some big general contractor company, and he graduated the University of Tokyo. That’s why I decided to go to the University of Tokyo and I did. But I got into know the Internet right before the examination of the university. So, I thought it wasn’t the time to look for a rich.

The Internet is amazing. Because it’s first in history that a person can send information freely and get information from the world freely, it’s so romantic, isn’t it? I thought to commit the area of technology or the cultural thing because surly the society turned into the way. But I didn’t know where those kinds of companies are. I didn’t know where to get a job to have those works because I just got to know about the Internet or digital. So, I build my company with the one more reason that I wanted to be with my friends. It’s good to have lots of friends. It’s hard to make conversation with male friends without a purpose not like female friends. So, I thought it was good to have the same work.

As you just told, it’s possible to send information to the world these days. In your opinion, what does Japan need to send to the world?

Inoko: In Japanese culture, there are many peculiar phenomenon. I think these phenomenon, things that were created around the phenomenon, and the idea behind the phenomenon have led to will be good. For example, “the little devil ageha.” Because I like “the little devil ageha,” I have bought every magazine from a convenience store. This is interesting. Every character is a hostess.

Their faces all looks same.

Inoko: It’s what foreigners say when they see Japanese. For example, think about the Eskimo. There are lots of names of snow. They can figure out the details because they are interesting in the snow. For a long time ago, Japanese people had high feelings of color. That’s why we have tons of the names of colors. The reason that people think all the models have same faces is they are not really interesting in them or they have lower feelings of them, isn’t it? (Laugh)

Talking about the culture. The culture is completely different by the area. Everything like Hatsune Miku, comics, and idols is revivals and restorations. Until now, the intellectuals have been affected by the western. But most of people are not really so. The result comes up to the front side and it is winning for the first time. Japanese are originally not very interested in substance and not a real principle. It can’t be figured out which one is the real logo on the cover of “the little devil ageha.” Every time, it is used a different font, color, and even sometimes see-through.

I make things easy to be imitated, but I think it shouldn’t be things are not imitated. “The little devil ageha” is just like so. Because the logo is cool, people want to copy it and somehow they do. But it becomes slightly uncool one. What is cool and what is not cool? You can’t figure out if you are not in their cultural area, can you?


Inoko: The things that have the cultural background are interesting as industry things. It may be fissional things or can be electronic things. It will be cool if there is a digital camera that automatically generates something like the ageha’s cover after you take a photo. Maybe it is possible to imitate the skills, but it is hard to copy the feeling of the appropriate taste. Moreover, the feeling changes every day and it’s not a weird thing. It won’t probably change tomorrow, but I think it will be a year later. That’s why being the cultural area can be the strength.

Originally, the perception and idea that Japan has should be very good match with 21st century. Japan is different from Europe and the United States. Japanese don’t have the sense for globalism and objective thought if I say in the overall framework. All phenomena are only subjective. Justice is subjective as well. The western people have the thoughts that a person can take relative things as objective things and take as objective things. That’s the different point.

For example, if you see the way to make contents, no one is justice and no one is evil in the Japanese comics and animations. Justice is only a subjective. In the animation “Princess Mononoke”, the princess Mononoke is right in her side and the people in the Tatara place are right in their side. There is a dispute because they are in the different position. If there is an objective thought like a Hollywood movie, the hero is the justice and approximately beat up the devil character in the end because it is the system to beat up the devil. The hero destroys the devil. There is no such destruction in Japanese contents. In the “Princess Mononoke”, the hero Ashitaka try to find the compromise while going back and forth between the two parties. But there is no compromise. However, they are living on. This is the ending.

One more example is the character. It’s called “font” for the western and “書(calligraphy)” for Japanese. A font is objectively beautiful. In other words, it is the shape of the beauty. If there are no feelings included, the calligraphy isn’t good one. Even if the same calligrapher writes same character, it seems different. And the differences are even better. It is sure to be different because it is subjective. In addition, let’s write with letters and emoticons, “I will be waiting.” If there are only texts saying, “I will be waiting,” Japanese can’t stand it. We put marks of heart, angry, and smile with the texts because we think it is not completed without putting in the objective emotions.

The reason that I’m saying that these thoughts should be good match with 21st century is that the objective idea and mass media happened to have very good match with the society after the industry revolution. In the information society, now every one is connected and can take communications. So it is no long cover the world with something objectively. People have become to feel uncomfortable with the contents based on the objective ideology.

One more reason is that there was no concept of the limitation in Japan. Things were infinite. But I think the western people took things were limited. I think digital things are good match with Japan because it is unlimited.

What is the better way to let overseas know such phenomenon itself?

Inoko: Japan has a high purity of the culture. New cool things, the way to show fashion, and so on are coming out. About these kinds of things, I think it is good that the government makes people think ‘Cool Japan’ together. But it’s going to be difficult if they tie people even while they are waiting. If we are talking about ageha, how about bring ageha’s makeup items or fashion stuff only because it is the most interesting to go with the phenomenon itself? But such phenomenon is done by personally, or the business is too small capital. How about make it big?

Now there is an entertainment group called “Ayaman Japan” who acts based on parties. They perfectly make people excite and get no payment. I have no idea why they do the activity. But it is the one of the Japanese original thing, I guess. Not for money, it’s for fun. Japanese like these kinds of things.

Inoko: That’s right. It’s hard to figure out what the point is, and there are a lot like this these days. They have all different phenomenon or rule. In the result, something created from that becomes global things. Japanese companies in the past said, “Employees are a family” which was a weird opinion from the world side. But they became global companies with the weird management policy. But they are no longer global companies after they were saying, “compliance.” It needs to be unique to be global in the information society.

I see. Mr. Inoko. Is there a place you often go in Tokyo?

Inoko: Kabuki-Cho, maybe. Kabuki-Cho was the most interesting place in 90s. If you are talking about now, it may be “Giragira Girls” and so on. Akihabara is also interesting. By the way, I like Thailand the most. I go to Bangkok several times in a year.

What is the good point of Thailand?

Inoko: If you have never been there, you don’t know half of the world. (Laugh) The reasons are Thailand is only country did not become colonized in Asia and not affected by the western. Japan didn’t have the experience of being colonized but have lost the war. But Thailand has not lost. In other words, it is rare to be able to find a country hasn’t gotten affected by the Jewish, Christ, and Islam in the world. Compares to other countries in Asia, you can realize that Asia was great for real.

Only this lofty reason? (Laugh)

Inoko: Nope. But if I speak more details, it will take 70 hours. (Laugh)

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