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[ISHES Newsletter #20]Kayac Inc.: The Making of a Cool Company and Cool Community

2020/03/25 16:54:33

ISHES Newsletter #20
March 25, 2020

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Copyright (c) 2020

Institute for Studies in Happiness, Economy and Society, Japan

Dear Readers,

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is having significant impacts around the world. We sincerely hope that anyone who becomes infected will recover quickly and that the crisis will be resolved before much more time passes.

In this March 2020 issue, you will find the following articles:

- Kayac Inc.: The Making of a Cool Company and Cool Community
After a few years headquartered in Japan's political and economic center, this company made the big move from Tokyo to Kamakura, an ancient capital that symbolizes Japan's exotic past. They wanted two things: to create a "cool" community while continuing to grow as a company. What in the world were they thinking?

- New article from the Research Institute for Creating New Paradigms based on Eastern and Western Wisdom

This time we provide an article from the "Learning from eastern wisdom" column, entitled the "Essence of Confucius and Confucianism: "Li" and "Ren," which has been uploaded to the site.

- Recommended articles from the JFS Newsletter on sustainability issues in Japan

Nine years have passed since the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011. A disaster preparedness program that taught children the "three principles of evacuation" saved many lives from that disaster. This JFS article provides some food for thought on how to prepare for and seek safety in a disaster.

Kayac Inc.: The Making of a Cool Company and Cool Community

By the Institute for Studies in Happiness, Economy and Society (ISHES)

Omoshiro Hojin Kayac (Kayac Inc.) is a Japanese web-content developer that creates games, advertising, and various web services. It was initially established by three university friends who felt that "who" was involved was more important than "what" the company would actually do. The founders wanted to create a "cool" company and make life "cool" for other people. In Japanese, the adjective "omoshiroi" (which they adopted as part of their company trade name) can have many interpretations. The most common definition in English is "interesting." It could also be "hip" and many other things, but for this article we capture the spirit of the word as "cool." The company defines a "cool society" as follows:

-A society that respects diversity (every person can manifest their own talents)
-A corporate society in which each company is special and unique
-A society in which each community is special and unique

Kayac is running its business based on the concept of "community capitalism," to create a "cool society" and also to realize the prosperity of the company. What is "community capital" and how can it accomplish both of these objectives?

Thoughts on Being a "Cool Company"

Omoshiro Hojin (which we translate as "Cool Company") is used as part of the company's trade name. It was created to reflect three stages of thought: First we want our own lives to be cool (and/or interesting), then we want others to see our lives as cool/interesting, then we want to make life cool/interesting for others too. The company has created unique internal systems to embody these thoughts.

For instance, employees roll the dice to determine the amount of salary bonus each person will receive every month. The underlying concept is that there is no perfectly fair measure for people to evaluate other people, so leave it to "the heavens" to make the final evaluation.

Another example is the idea that "everyone belongs to the human resources department." The point is that all employees have a role to play in recruitment and training as "members" of HR department. Yet another example is the "staff retreat where everyone is CEO." At this overnight staff retreat twice a year, all employees regard themselves as CEOs and exchange ideas for the company's internal systems and future vision. The point is that all employees can be involved in or concerned about the affairs of the entire company, and not just focus on their own daily duties.

Why Relocate the Head Office to Kamakura?

When Kayac was established in 1998, the head office was located in Tokyo. But in 2002, the company relocated to the city of Kamakura in Kanagawa Prefecture, about 50 kilometers south of Tokyo and surrounded by a rich natural environment featuring verdant hills and the sparkling ocean. Kamakura is famous as an ancient capital of Japan, with a rich history and traditions. On the ground, it is divided into two contrasting areas of old and new.

If economic rationality was the only consideration, it would definitely be more efficient and advantageous to have the head office in the major global business center of Tokyo. But Kayac chose Kamakura. Their reasoning was that because the world is exploring new forms of capitalism in the aim to create a sustainable society, it is not necessary for everyone to seek only short-term economical rationality. If businesses can exhibit their own unique character and grow in their own communities by making the most of local character, they can revitalize their host communities and also address some of the problems of capitalism, including global environmental pollution and the widening gap of inequality.

What is Community Capitalism (Kamakura Capitalism)?

Kayac believes that one of the problems with capitalism is that one sole indicator (GDP) is typically used to measure happiness and well-being. The company came up with the idea of creating different yardsticks besides GDP, and that gave rise to the idea of "community capital." One function of corporations is typically to increase capital and corporate value. Kayac's idea was that "capital" is something that a community should try visualize to enhance the well-being of people's life, and then try to increase it.

The three types of "community capital":

-Economic community capital: Sources of wealth and productivity (what we do)
-Social community capital: Connections among people (who we work with)
-Environmental community capital: Nature and culture (where we do it)

Among these three types of community capital, often only economic capital is quantified. But by increasing all three types of capital in a well-balanced manner, everyone can benefit, including businesses, shareholders, and the community. Kayac believes that if it can contribute to Kamakura as a company, it can increase community capital more quickly, and when that happens, its own corporate value will also increase.

Why "Kamakura" Capitalism?

Kamakura has a tradition of accepting diverse values. For example, after the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan's Tohoku region on March 11, 2011, religious leaders from different religious backgrounds and sects in Kamakura, including Shintoism, Buddhism and Christianity, got together in mutual respect and jointly organized the Kamakura Religious Council to spread the message about the mind of prayer.

One of the charms of Kamakura is its strong independent mindset about protecting the local environment. When the forested hills behind the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine were threatened by residential land development in 1964, a citizens' movement was born. Citizens and the municipal government contributed the funds needed to purchase a portion of the land and create what could be considered Japan's first national trust. Kenchoji, one of the original Zen temples in Japan and the most prominent among the Kamakura Gozan Temples (five great Zen temples), still attracts many faithful visitors.

Kayac believes that all these features make Kamakura the ideal place to demonstrate its ideas of community capitalism, and that makes Kamakura the ideal launch pad for its messaging about this new style of capitalism.

Community Capital in Kamakura:

Kamacon is a local community initiative that aims to boost or empower Kamakura and contribute to the city. With a wide variety of participants, a monthly regular meeting is held to get them into action. At each meeting, three or four participants give presentations on projects to "make the city cool." Every time, about 100 people join the meeting, and they brainstorm to exchange ideas on each theme. Working in small groups to come up with as many ideas as possible in a short period of time is also part of Kayac's corporate culture and driving force.

Kamacon was launched by representatives of seven IT companies based in Kamakura, including Daisuke Yanasawa, CEO of Kayac. The name Kamacon was originally inspired by the idea of "Kamacon Valley" (named after Silicon Valley), and was first used by the Kamakura Religious Council in which people with different values and interests could work hand in hand and respect each other's views even if people had different beliefs. Inspired by the ideas of "cooperating instead of competing" and "respecting diverse values," the seven founders agreed to work together to promote Kamacon.

They also reached out to municipal government officials and citizens' groups. With their steady efforts, a wide range of local groups have joined the activities of Kamacon. Participants contribute their own talents and strengths to various projects to make Kamacon a diverse community of people participating above and beyond their individual interests and status.

Kamacon has launched a variety of initiatives. One was a project to create a website to compare candidates and boost voter interest in the local municipal election. Another project created a restaurant especially for local working people. Yet another was the "iikuni," a crowdfunding project to raise funds to make community dreams come true in Kamakura.

Community Capital in Kamakura: The Machino ___ Series

"Kamakura capitalism" involves increasing community capital, and this includes concepts such as social capital (creating connections) and environmental capital. Kayac launched a series of initiatives dubbed "Machino ___" ("machi" meaning town, followed by "fill in the blanks") to increase social "connections," Kamakura style. Below are three examples of initiatives in the series.

Machino "Shine" Shokudo (Town's Staff Restaurant) (since April 2018)

This is a restaurant where people working in Kamakura can enjoy casual dining for lunch and dinner. It is open five days a week, Monday to Friday, and chefs from local restaurants rotate every week preparing menu items. Kamakura is also a tourist area, so lunches at local restaurants tend to be on the expensive side. The Machino Shine Shokudo was established not only for Kayac employees but also for other people who work in Kamakura, so they can have reasonably-priced meals while also getting to know each other.

In 2018, Kamakura was selected as one of the SDGs Future Cities for its proposal, "SDGs Future City Kamakura: Creation of a Sustainable City Administration," which included the Machino Shine Shokudo. The SDGs Future Cities program is run by the national government to profile cities that are modelling the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Machino Hoikuen (Town's Nursery School) Kamakura (Since April 2018)

Aiming to increase the numbers of people working and/or living in Kamakura, Kayac launched a company-led child day care project in cooperation with Toshimaya, a time-honored local confectionery company. The second floor of the day-care center has a meeting room that can be rented for activities that support local parents raising children. The place is also available for the parents' activities related to the child care operations, offering networking opportunities for parents with children.

Machino Jinjibu (Town's Human Resources)

The Machino Jinjibu was established as a "Human Resources Department" for the community, so that companies based in Kamakura can cooperate when they recruit employees, increase the number of workers in Kamakura as a whole, and make the city a place where people can find happiness in their work. It organizes various initiatives, including joint recruitment fairs and joint trainings for HR staff and business owners and managers to learn from each other and share insights. It also provides opportunities to match local businesses in Kamakura with experienced current or former executives of major corporations.

Kamacon has expanded its activities to 30 areas outside of Kamakura. This growth is evidence that Kayac's approach to participation in the local community is gaining recognition for helping to increase the level of happiness of people who live in Kamakura and beyond. Perhaps this company's philosophy and approach to "community capital" can inspire other efforts in Japan and around the world. Stay tuned for future reports!


New articles from the Research Institute for Creating New Paradigms based on Eastern and Western Wisdom

In this section we introduce the articles posted on the website of the Research Institute for Creating New Paradigms based on Eastern and Western Wisdom.

This link brings you to an article from the "Learning from eastern wisdom" column on the Research Institute's website, entitled "Essence of Confucius and Confucianism: "Li" and "Ren," introducing Confucius and two key concepts. We hope you enjoy reading it.

Essence of Confucius and Confucianism: "Li" and "Ren"

Please note that the Research Institute's website is currently not being updated. Once new material is posted, we will notify our readers here.


Recommended articles from the JFS Newsletter on sustainability issues in Japan

In this regular section of each issue of the ISHES Newsletter, we recommend past articles from Japan for Sustainability newsletters. The non-profit JFS was active from August 2002 until July 2018, sending out information to the world with the aim of moving society in Japan and the world toward sustainability and greater happiness.

Nine years have passed since the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident that struck Japan's Tohoku region on March 11, 2011. Even today, 48,000 evacuees are living away from the region. The world is facing increased risks from climate change and we are seeing growing impacts from extreme weather events. Perhaps we can learn something from 2011 about how to protect human lives. What are the so-called "three principles of evacuation" and can they help in any disaster? This article introduces disaster prevention efforts that saved many lives when the tsunami struck the town of Kamaishi in 2011.

The 'Miracle of Kamaishi': How 3,000 Students Survived March 11


Institute for Studies in Happiness, Economy and Society

*The Institute for Studies in Happiness, Economy and Society (ISHES) is an organization based in Japan that is working to build a happy and sustainable society. To this end, we need to think about happiness, the economy and society together by learning from, analyzing, and thinking about theories and cases in Japan and around the world on what happiness is and what kind of economy and society will create and support happiness.

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