List of examples

Favorite Open Secret — Sustainable Coffee Shop Takes Root in the Local Community

While awareness of environmental issues grows year by year, ONIBUS COFFEE (Meguro, Tokyo) is putting ideas into action by testing new projects in sustainability. Derived from the Portuguese word for public buses, ONIBUS represents the goal to provide a public service. As a local business, ONIBUS COFFEE is committed to taking root within the local community, and has managed to establish a firm presence in an industry that sees a high rate of failure for similar businesses.

After opening its first branch in the Okusawa neighborhood of Setagaya, Tokyo, ONIBUS COFFEE has grown into a popular local chain with five branches in Tokyo and one branch in Vietnam. We talked with Director Atsushi Sakao about his experience with branding and developing a coffee shop with a devoted fan base.

Enjoy the experience of travel while at home thanks to Ouchi Sokutabi, a delivery service designed to bring the good food and local charm of travel destinations to your doorstep.

With the aim of “making meaningful experiences out of travel’s chance encounters,” Orange Co., Ltd. (Narita, Chiba Prefecture) developed Sokutabi, a one-stop travel service that offers everything from deciding on travel destinations to arranging tickets and accommodation. Orange’s managing director, Kotaro Kai, gradually expanded the business by making use of the knowledge he had gained from working in travel planning and promotion.

However, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic struck and the service came to a standstill. It was during this time that the company launched Ouchi Sokutabi, which offers home delivery of goods such as local specialty products, sweets and artisanal jizake along with related tourist information. We asked Mr. Kai how this initiative came about, what kind of response he’d seen from customers, and the company’s future prospects.

Surviving the Slump - Online Events and Other Ways to Adapt Keep Children’s Bookstore Busy

On February 11th, 2023, over 800 people visited Book House Cafe, located in the historical bookselling district of Jimbocho (Chiyoda, Tokyo).

Opened in 2017, Book House Cafe is a multipurpose facility that combines a bookstore dedicated to children’s picture books, an art gallery, and a coffee shop that transforms into a bar at night. Although the store is celebrating its sixth anniversary in 2023, half of its operating history was overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic. As the light of hope has finally returned to daily life and business, we talked with Director Yoshiko Imamoto about her experience and how the bookstore adapted during the pandemic.

With the development of workation-style accommodation and “lizovation” tours, a reopened hotel has become a base for regional revitalization in the Tokachi area.

Tetsuya Kashio, the founder of Tokachi City Design Co., Ltd. (Obihiro, Hokkaido), was born in the city of Obihiro. After graduating from university in Kyoto, he found work as a lawyer in Tokyo. During this time, he felt a growing need to do something to help his declining hometown, and so he launched a number of initiatives in the Tokachi area. Some of his projects include making a film that reveals the charm and beauty of Tokachi and reopening a shuttered hotel.

We spoke with Mr. Kashio about the impact of COVID-19, the workation facilities that he opened during the pandemic, and the strengthening of urban ties. What are the “experience values” that can be gained from taking advantage of the region’s strong points?

With its mobile bread shop, Masuya Bus, hot air balloons and a horse-drawn sleigh, this bakery is delivering a little bit of happiness with its bread.

Masuya, a bakery founded in 1950 in Obihiro, Hokkaido, has set its sights on turning the Tokachi region into a “bread kingdom” by 2030 and using only Tokachi-sourced ingredients in its products. While the bakery has worked tirelessly on food education and other activities related to sustainable development goals (SDGs), it has seen its sales drop by up to thirty percent due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although badly affected, the company has risen to the occasion by introducing a mobile bread shop and holding various outdoor events.

“We’re doing this in the hope of bringing a smile to the faces of our customers,” says Masuya’s head of public relations, Norihiro Okawahara.

A long-established souvenir shop where 90% of the customers are tourists takes on the challenge of creating a cafe that appeals to local residents.

Many industries have been badly hit by the pandemic, but the food and beverage and tourist industries have been particularly affected. Ippukudo in Yugawara, Kanagawa Prefecture, is no exception. In business for seventy-two years, the company runs a souvenir shop and eateries in front of Yugawara Station.

However, in the summer of 2022, it opted for a different approach and opened Yugawara Cafe, which has its own coworking space equipped with both work desks and private rooms for videoconferencing. We asked company representative Tomomi Goto about this new venture for Ippukudo, which continues to maintain its presence in front of Yugawara Station.

Sharing the story of Hiroshima through cycling tours – Online tours for school groups!

Hiroshima is one of the most popular destinations in Japan for both domestic and international tourists. Among all the options for class trips, group tours and private travel, cycling tours offered by Sokoiko! (“Let’s go there!”) are gaining attention. Traveling by bicycle allows visitors to see not only the atomic bomb memorial sites, but normal daily life in downtown Hiroshima.

Although the tour was initially aimed at international visitors, the program became popular with domestic tourists due to the efforts made during the COVID-19 pandemic. We talked with tour guide and Company Director Satoshi Ishitobi about the background of this project.

The star-filled night sky of Kozushima, certified as Tokyo's first dark-sky preserve, has been turned into a tourist attraction with the help of government subsidies. Efforts are also being made to expand the summer-intensive tourism into a year-round industry.

Located almost in the center of the Izu island chain is Kozushima, a picturesque island where — legend has it — the gods of Japan once met to discuss the distribution of fresh water. In recent years, it has been officially recognized as Tokyo's first dark-sky preserve thanks to its low light pollution and dazzling night skies. After a chance visit to Kozushima, Kentaro Tanaka and his wife Ayano fell in love with the island and decided to move there in 2016. The following year, they opened Vacation House Familia (Kozushima, Tokyo). We spoke to the couple about how the COVID-19 pandemic struck just as their business was taking off, and how this spurred their efforts to move away from a business centered on the summer months. We also asked them about their future prospects.

With customer numbers falling due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an AR app has been created that combines technology with tradition in order to offer a new way of enjoying yakatabune.

The Tokyo Yakatabune Association (Taito, Tokyo), which comprises thirty-six operators of yakatabune pleasure boats, is engaged in various activities aimed at improving safety, customer service and the proficiency of its members. Against the backdrop of the pandemic, which has had a huge impact across the industry, a new way of enjoying yakatabune has been developed in the form of an AR (augmented reality) app called Oedo no Kawa Asobi e Oide Nanshi (lit. Come play on the rivers of Edo).

Taxi driver with over 100,000 followers on social media opens door to recovery for business in the red

Sanjo Taxi Co., Ltd. (Sanjo, Niigata Prefecture) is a community-based taxi company that was established in 1943. For eighty years, it has been a successful business providing lifts to local people, especially the elderly.

However, the spread of COVID-19 in 2020 had a huge impact on the company. With people no longer leaving their homes or taking taxis to go out drinking, business plummeted.

Rookie driver Hiyori Kariya, popularly known as Hiyorin, turned to social media to help her get through this tough time. We asked Kariya and Sota Watanabe, president and CEO of Sanjo Taxi, about what prompted this, the changes that have come with it, and the company’s future prospects. What were the new measures the company took during the pandemic?

Despite the loss of tourism income due to COVID-19, a variety of measures prevents sales from dropping — with flexible responses and proactive actions turning crisis into opportunity

Nousaku Co., Ltd. (Takaoka City, Toyama Prefecture) manufactures Buddhist ritual implements, tea ceremony utensils, flower vases, etc., using casting techniques passed down in Takaoka. While preserving traditional techniques, the company also works on product development featuring sophisticated design, and has come to be well-known in New York and other parts of the world.

Tours of the factory that’s attached to the head office, as well as a workshop in which visitors can experience casting hands-on, have garnered good publicity and it’s now one of the most popular spots in the prefecture, with 130,000 tourists visiting annually.

We asked Senior Managing Director Chiharu Nousaku about new initiatives that they began in earnest during the pandemic, as well as the circumstances behind how, despite operating fourteen directly managed stores on top of the tourism business, they kept sales losses to only four percent from the previous fiscal year.

Popular with domestic and foreign travelers and designed to coexist in harmony with the beautiful nature of Ishigaki Island, Beach Hotel Sunshine Ishigakijima is taking new initiatives in sustainability

In 1979, Beach Hotel Sunshine Ishigakijima (Ishigaki City, Okinawa Prefecture) was opened with locally-sourced funds. This oceanfront resort hotel is located about ten minutes by car from the center of Ishigaki Island. Surrounded by lush forest, it attracts many international and domestic tourists.

Since before the pandemic, the hotel has been making the most of the charms offered by Yaeyama’s breathtaking starry sky and working hard to cut down on light pollution in order to protect the natural environment. It’s also implemented sustainable initiatives such as the ‘local food’ movement, purchasing goods and ingredients from local sources wherever possible.

Not only that, but it was registered as an “Okinawa SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] Partner” in February 2021, thanks to its environmentally friendly acts such as water conservation and replacing plastic straws with paper ones.

As the tourism industry has taken a hit due to the pandemic, how can hotels best attract foreign and domestic travelers? We asked Ms. Yoko Akagi, the general manager of Sunshine Co., Ltd.

New approach to hiring staff and attracting visitors relieves labor shortage and boosts local tourism

Generations of visitors have loved Fuji Lake Hotel (Minamitsuru, Yamanashi) for 90 years and counting, ever since it opened in 1932 on the shore of the lake at the base of Mt. Fuji. It has been a popular destination for both domestic and international tourists, and has hosted an impressive number of guests over the years. Hotel duties during peak season have always been covered and passed down by the short-term assistance of college students from nearby schools. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, this tradition was suddenly halted, and the hotel found itself suffering from a serious labor shortage. We talked with Director of HR Keita Iwatsuki and Advertising Leader Kiyo Ara about how the hotel solved its challenges while boosting tourist numbers.

Virtual tours for international tourists, with online forest bathing in the Japanese garden of a famous hotel!

The NPO itswellness (Chuo Ward, Tokyo), whose name is stylized in lowercase, plans and sells wellness tours with a focus on “forest bathing.” Established as a travel agency in February 2020, they were immediately hit by the COVID-19 pandemic — circumstances that caused each new step they took to stall. Faced with these challenges, the company changed its approach to offer virtual tours online. First, they delivered their “Tokyo Now” program to would-be international tourists who were unable to visit Japan. We talked with Yukako Kimura, Director and Travel Coordinator, and Kenji Murai, Strategic Planning Leader, about the background of their business and their innovative forest bathing virtual tours.

Breathing new life into Tama campgrounds with the aim of increasing overnight visitors, and launching sustainable community development with tours that teach about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Good Life Tama Co., Ltd. (Tachikawa City, Tokyo) operates a website and designs and produces brochures with information about the Tama area of western Tokyo. They hope to enrich the lives of people living in the area through the sharing of area-specific information. The company’s managing director, Makoto Takagi, has launched a new initiative to make the Tama area an attractive place many people will visit, with the income produced from it used to help create a sustainable community. We asked him about the circumstances that led to the initiative and the company’s future outlook.

At a lodge at the headwaters of the Shimanto River, a sustainable rural revitalization program is capturing guests’ desire to live among nature, breathing new life into a depopulated village

Sun Clair Co., Ltd. (Fukuyama, Hiroshima Prefecture) was established in 2015 to create an “unprecedented accommodation venture” based on 30 years of experience operating business hotels. Each of its five newly opened hotels is a one-of-a-kind accommodation whose design revolves around the following question: “What makes a hotel cherished by its guests?” Among them is Morinokuni Riverside Lodge (Matsuno, Kitauwa, Ehime Prefecture). Located near the headwaters of the Shimanto River, the lodge is an important indicator of the company's future direction. We spoke with CEO Masayuki Hosoba about his thoughts on coexistence with nature and rural revitalization.

To bring smiles to customers and the local community with “deliciousness, fun, and joy” — a wish, unchanged for over 30 years, now delivered in hands-on “experience kits”

Hokkori Farm (Okagaki Town, Fukuoka Prefecture) offers hands-on experiences for food education, in which visitors can learn about food systematically by growing crops in a natural environment and cooking them themselves. In May 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was raging in Japan and the whole country was preoccupied with coping with an unknown virus, Grano 24K Inc., which runs Hokkori Farm, launched its “Adventure Marushie” project without delay. It was based on the idea that “experiences can be purchased online,” and born of the desire to make people’s time spent at home more fulfilling as well as to promote food education and cultural heritage, and to bring smiles to local producers. We talked with Masako Yoshida, who is in charge of product development at Grano 24K, and Yuka Sagara, who goes by the nickname “Ratcho Sensei” and teaches the online hands-on class.

Cancellations turned into opportunity: behind-the-scenes bus depot tour delights hardcore fans and captures the hearts of new ones!

Meihan Kintetsu Travel Co., Ltd. (Chuo Ward, Nagoya, Aichi) was founded over 90 years ago as Ogaki Motors. Following a January 2020 brand merger with bus tour operator Mie Kotsu Company Ltd., it expanded operations to include bus tours in three central-Japan prefectures under the name Kakko Palook. Almost immediately afterwards, however, the COVID-19 pandemic worsened and most tours were canceled. The company responded by creating of a new day tour that allowed guests to see up close the out-of-operation buses lined up in the depots. Bus enthusiasts gave their overwhelming support, and the tours sold out despite the pandemic. We talked with the staff about the project background, their personal experiences, and how they transformed strange circumstances into a successful product.

No one leaves until each task is cleared! “Master Writer Lockdown Plan” takes inspiration from COVID and puts a twist on “stay-at-home”!

Inspired by their appreciation for the techniques of Japan, including traditional crafts, performing arts, and local specialties, Yasosuke Corporation (Taito Ward, Tokyo) is dedicated to sharing the unique culture of Japan to a domestic audience and beyond by planning events that bring out the best of local neighborhoods, and by promoting sales of traditional crafts and local specialties. When events started to be canceled across the country due to the spread of COVID-19, they managed to host regular events for a contactless overnight escape room game called “Master Writer Lockdown Plan.” We talked with CEO Tomoko Kaizu about her work during the pandemic and the creative minds behind these events.

Historic sake brewery reduces product line and expands recognition of the Chie Bijin brand, growing in domestic and overseas markets. Thanks to international fans, exports reach twelve countries.

Atsuyuki Nakano is the sixth-generation owner of Nakano Shuzo (Kitsuki City, Oita Prefecture), a historic sake brewery that has operated since 1874. This brewery has been known as the maker of Chie Bijin, which was named after the wife of the first owner, for 148 years. Despite the heavy impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and a shift in modern society away from drinking sake, the forecast for their future is bright following bold decisions to reduce the product line to a single brand and to leap into the international market. We talked with Nakano about the inspiration behind their business strategies.

“Mountain Lodge Link” — local wisdom and cooperation helps family hotel with 100 years of history transform into mountain lodge that revitalizes the local community

Evolving from a manufacturing business that was begun in 1919, Travel Inn Yoshitomi (Takeda City, Oita Prefecture) opened as a ryokan in 1947, and continued as a family business after conversion to a hotel for business travelers in 1982. The 100th anniversary just happened to be exactly when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020. In order to meet the challenges of the next 100 years, how should the business continue to be passed down? We talked with manager Mayuko Inoue about the initiatives that she and her employees brainstormed together.

Long-established hot spring inn attracts corporate offices to its 66,000-square-meter site. Breaking new ground, this ryokan becomes an innovator for the whole region.

Famous for its hot spring water said to beautify the skin, Ureshino Onsen (Ureshino City, Saga Prefecture) is home to long-established Wataya Besso, a large ryokan that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was forced to close for the first time since its founding in 1950. Although sales plummeted and the ryokan’s prospects were grim, Kohara Yoshimoto, who took over as general manager in 2013, decided to launch a new initiative that had been in the planning stage for some time in the hope of attracting businesses to the ryokan. We asked Kohara about how this innovative idea, which breaks new ground in the accommodation industry, came about.

A contactless smartstore that opens in response to the coronavirus pandemic also helps to solve the issue of staff shortages.

Roadside Station Ichikawa (Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture) is known as the closest “michi no eki” roadside station to central Tokyo. Not only do its shops offer rows of fresh vegetables and processed goods made from locally grown produce, but the site also features a fashionable Italian restaurant and café. Ichikawa Go, which opened on February 1, 2022, is a contactless smartstore without staff, housed in a portable facility similar to a shipping container, where the entire shopping process, from entry to payment, is conducted by smartphone. We spoke with store manager Aso Taketo, who works for Nihon Meccs, the company that operates Roadside Station Ichikawa, about how Ichikawa Go was developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and what its future prospects are.

For the day when demand for overseas travel recovers, a smartphone app that eliminates travel concerns all at once

Event Lab Co., Ltd. (Shibuya, Tokyo), which operates Turkish Air & Travel, is one of the few travel agencies in Japan specializing in travel to Turkey. Thanks to the excellent quality of its tours and its personable service, the company has enjoyed steady growth; right up until the COVID-19 pandemic, it was providing support to 3,000 people a year traveling to Turkey. In 2020, however, just as the company was going from strength to strength, the pandemic struck. We spoke with Turkish Air & Travel representative Cem Cakaloz about how the company came up with a smartphone app as a contactless means of providing the same high-satisfaction service.

Ramen, reborn! Popular ramen shop returns as a food truck after being forced to close due to the pandemic.

After more than 50 years in business, Ajiyoshi, one of Sendai’s well-established and well-loved ramen shops, closed on April 18, 2020. Located in Kokubuncho, the biggest nightlife district in Tohoku, this shop always stayed open late to offer a “closing” bowl of ramen after a night out drinking, until the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Ajiyoshi closed despite the protests from its many loyal customers, but Tsuyoshi Ujiie, who worked side-by-side with the founder throughout its peak years, couldn’t ignore his passion for the restaurant industry. We talked with Ujiie about his journey leading up to when Ajiyoshi reopened as a food truck, and his commitment to their many loyal fans.

Palace Hotel Tokyo reaches out to its fans through its reimagined online store to provide high-class service in a contactless world

Palace Hotel Tokyo (Chiyoda City, Tokyo) is famous as a sanctuary for VIPs from around the world. The only Japanese hotel to have been awarded a 5-star ranking in an internationally respected travel guide six years in a row, it is highly esteemed by the international community as a foremost luxury hotel. Due to the pandemic, however, demand from international visitors dropped dramatically. Soon after, company banquets and events also started to be delayed indefinitely or canceled completely. In order to please customers who are unable to visit in person, and to gain new fans, the hotel engaged in a new project to reimagine their online store. We talked with Kenji Tomita, the restaurant director and external sales division manager, about the project.

Shops open in Tokyo with aim of making Toge no Kamameshi kettle rice an everyday dish, attracting new fans during the pandemic

Oginoya began in 1885 as a ekiben (“station bento”) shop selling omusubi rice balls at Yokokawa Station in Gunma Prefecture. Oginoya’s flagship bento meal, a kettle rice dish called Toge no Kamameshi, was conceived in 1957 by the company’s fourth-generation owner. Defying conventional wisdom, the meal was sold in ceramic pots while still warm, and quickly became the standard for ekiben throughout Japan. Ever since Toge no Kamameshi was launched nearly 70 years ago, Oginoya has helped make many travelers’ journeys that much more memorable. As with other tourism-related businesses, however, it has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. We spoke with Keizo Urano, deputy general manager of Oginoya’s Tokyo-region division, about how the company came to open Oginoya Gen (Chiyoda City, Tokyo), a new shop in the Yurakucho district, at such a time, and about its future prospects.

Lilies are given a new purpose after cancellations of wedding receptions and school ceremonies, through a project to attract customers in a world “with” COVID-19

Deep in the snowy country of Niigata Prefecture, where in winter piles of snow may reach four meters in height, the town of Tsunan is known as one of Japan’s major producers of lilies. The Yukibijin (“snow beauty”) variety, an Oriental Lily also known as Casablanca, has long been a favorite for weddings, school entrance ceremonies, and graduations due to the gorgeous appearance of its large, elegant flowers. But in 2020, the spread of the coronavirus led to the cancellation of most of those events. Even when orders for lilies were completely stagnant, the Tsunan Lily and Cut Flowers Association (Nakauonuma District, Niigata Prefecture) was dedicated to finding a way to overcome these circumstances. We talked with Association Vice President Taro Kawada about a project that was made possible through cooperation between the association, Tsunan, local hotels and restaurants, the agricultural co-op, and the local tourism association.

Sharing traditional ceramics with the world via cross-border online store! Virtual showroom plans in progress

When thinking of traditional crafts and ceramics, some people may picture “old” items from past generations. The sophisticated designs of the ceramics sold by You LA Holdings Co., Ltd. (Chiyoda City, Tokyo), however, bear no resemblance to images from a bygone era. You LA sells mugs with original designs, tea incense burners, flower pots, and more, and they were busy with many foreign tourists and buyers every day. With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, however, the steady flow of customers all but dried up. We asked Ms. Ayumi Sasaki, President and CEO, about the background behind the company’s decision to open an e-commerce website despite its past devotion to getting people to physically touch the products at its stores, as well as the company’s future outlook.

In-truck strawberry picking service launched for residents of welfare facilities unable to go out due to the pandemic

Okuda Farm Co., Ltd. (Hashima City, Gifu Prefecture) has spent 13 years creating Bijin-hime (“beautiful princess”), a strawberry variety notable for its color, luster, sweetness, fragrance and size. Okuda Mikio, the owner of the strawberry farm, handles a constant stream of orders that come in not only from the local area but from across Japan. After hearing from an employee at a nearby welfare facility that the residents there were unable to go out for recreation due to the pandemic, Mr. Okuda launched a unique in-truck strawberry picking service. We asked him to tell us more about this new venture.

Food truck sales rescue long-established Okinawan tofu shop during the pandemic, as the crisis offers an opportunity to search out new demand and partner with restaurants.

Founded in 1983, Sandaime Ikedaya (Ikeda Shokuhin Co., Ltd., Nakagami, Okinawa) is a long-established store in Okinawa Prefecture that makes shimadofu. Household consumption of tofu in Okinawa is higher than it is on the Japanese mainland and freshly made yushidofu and shimadofu, both traditional tofu dishes, are widely available at supermarkets. Among Okinawans, they are seen as “soul food” and are an essential part of a meal. While the spread of coronavirus has led to a decline in sales at most food manufacturers due to restaurants’ curtailed business hours and public advisories for people to stay home, Sandaime Ikedaya has boosted their sales through the use of food trucks. We spoke with the company’s representative director, Zukeran Hiroshi, about the reasons for this and about Sandaime Ikedaya’s sales initiatives.

“Workation,” a new style of working during the pandemic that balances work and leisure, promotes the island lifestyle of Shikinejima and contributes to local revitalization.

At a time in which preventing the spread of coronavirus and boosting the economy are both essential, a new style of working known as “workation” has been attracting a lot of attention. “Workation,” a portmanteau of “work” and “vacation,” means to take a break from working at the office or home and instead work while on vacation. Shikinejima, one of a number of Izu islands administered by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, was an early adopter of the workation concept. We spoke with Shimoi Katsuhiro, a key figure behind the Shikinejima Area Management Coworking Space initiative (Niijima, Tokyo), about how the workation venture came about and its future prospects, as well as his thoughts on regional revitalization.

Italian restaurant opens during the pandemic and launches a consignment cooking service for publicity.

Trattoria e pizzeria Cosa mangi? opened in April 2020 in the center of Sapporo, the prefectural capital of Hokkaido. Owner and chef Nishimura Kosuke, who learned his trade in Rome and Sicily, started the restaurant after 10 years of planning, in the hope that Japanese diners could enjoy an informal approach to authentic Italian food. With the threat of coronavirus fast approaching, Mr. Nishimura came up with a novel method of getting his business up and running. The restaurant launched a takeout consignment service, cooking food on request using ingredients brought in by the customers. We spoke with Mr. Nishimura about how he has kept the restaurant going while enduring states of emergency and grappling with measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

Calls for businesses to temporarily close and people to stay home result in mountain of returned souvenir items. Kyoto and Osaka confectionery makers work on project to overcome this predicament.

Kyoto is one of Japan’s top tourist destinations. Kyonishijin Kasho Sozen has its flagship store in Nishijin, a Kyoto district steeped in tradition. The store was opened in 2000 with the hope of preserving the taste and traditional methods of making arare, a bite-sized cracker made from glutinous rice and flavored with soy sauce, as part of Japan’s confectionery heritage. The people behind Kyonishijin Kasho Sozen are passionate about arare, which has played a role in Imperial court culture since the Nara period (710-794). Following its launch in 2000, the company saw its sales steadily increase. Six more directly managed stores were opened, mostly in places that attract tourists, such as Kyoto Station and Kyoto department stores. However, as the coronavirus pandemic took hold in 2020, sales at Kyonishijin Kasho Sozen plummeted. Unable to bear the thought of throwing away returned products, Yamamoto Sozen, the company's CEO, took a decisive step.

Discovering the charms of Kochi and its environs to promote the area through experiences and sales of local products. Winning over future customers with the idea of a hotel that they want to visit someday.

While the coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on many accommodation facilities since 2020, 7 Days Hotel (Kochi, Kochi Prefecture) has pushed the boundaries of conventional hotel operations by offering its guests hands-on experiences and specially selected local products. We spoke with the hotel about its efforts to continually adapt to attract customers during a pandemic that has lasted much longer than initially forecasted.

Small portions and limited lineup are unique selling points for offal sold through vending machines by meat wholesaler

“This is no good. We’ve got to change the way we do business.” In April 2021, as Japan’s elderly began to receive their first coronavirus vaccinations, Saeki Yosuke put an idea he had into practice. Mr. Saeki is president of Benefit Foods Co., Ltd. (Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture), a meat wholesaler that sells to the restaurant industry. The idea he had was to use a vending machine to sell small portions of motsu offal, and the resulting product was named “Choi Motsu.” Through social media, this novel sales method was picked up by TV shows and newspapers and led to an unexpected customer response. We spoke with Mr. Saeki about how the idea came about and the sales of the products.

After 4-month shutdown, hotel holds remote cooking class that prioritizes customer relations over profit

Tokyo Bay Tokyu Hotel (Urayasu City, Chiba Prefecture), which is situated close to a world-famous theme park, operates limousine buses to both Haneda and Narita, Japan’s two major international airports. Thanks to its prime location, business at the hotel went well following its opening in May 2018. However, as the coronavirus pandemic took hold, the hotel was forced to suspend normal operations for about four months following a request from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare to lease the property. Even after the hotel reopened, the continuing pandemic kept many customers away. With the hope of providing such customers with a special meal and an experience that was somehow similar to actually staying at the hotel, plans were put in place for a remote cooking class. We asked the hotel employees involved to tell us more about this.

Local residents’ wish becomes reality with concept of “village of 700 as one hotel.” Spaced apart, kominka hotel accommodation is ideally suited to coronavirus era.

Located in the eastern part of Yamanashi Prefecture about 30 minutes by car from Otsuki Station, Kosuge is a beautiful village surrounded by lush nature that thrives at the headwaters of Tama River. However, acute depopulation and aging have reduced the number of villagers to around 700, one-third of the population at its peak, and has led village inns and family-run guesthouses to close one after another. The hotel Nipponia Kosuge Genryu no Mura (Kitatsuru, Yamanashi Prefecture), operated by Edge Co., Ltd. within a traditional kominka house, has been established to help bring relief to the village’s dire circumstances and preserve the nature and local culture for future generations. The hotel has been attracting attention as a destination for so-called “workations” and micro tourism, travel styles that are ideally suited to the coronavirus era. We spoke with the hotel’s manager, Taniguchi Shunya, about how the hotel came about and his thoughts on local revitalization.

While main restaurant business slows, company develops smartphone-focused reservation, order, and payment system that is ideal for the coronavirus age, resulting in new business line

Ishida Masanori, CEO of Ishida Shoji Co., Ltd., operates four abura soba noodle shops near Waseda University. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the restaurants were always full of life, with students eating at them every day. However, after the university was forced to close its campuses, the steady stream of customers suddenly dried up. With business slow, Mr. Ishida decided to develop a system that would allow customers to make reservations, order food and drinks, and pay using their own smartphones instead of in-store tablet terminals. We spoke with Mr. Ishida about the system, which is ideally suited for the coronavirus age, and the next-generation restaurant he opened during the pandemic, Teppan Oyazy (Musashino City, Tokyo).

Hotel kitchen utilized to develop “ghost restaurant.” Food delivery business props up sales hurt by coronavirus pandemic.

One of the industries hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic is the hotel industry. Having suffered a continuous fall in guest numbers, Asakusabashi Belmont Hotel (Taito City, Tokyo) is no exception. Amid this crisis, the hotel set out to expand its market with the launch of a “ghost restaurant” business. While the Belmont has continued its day-to-day hotel operations, its kitchen now takes in orders from a food delivery company and meals prepared by the hotel’s chefs are delivered to local residents. We spoke with hotel representative Suzuki Takao about how this new initiative came about.

Taking full advantage of social media and Internet leads to V-shaped recovery and offers the fun of shopping anytime, anywhere

Komono in Mie Prefecture is known as the home of Banko ware, a style of pottery that originated some 280 years ago. In 2014, Yamaguchi Pottery Studio, a local manufacturer of table and kitchenware for over 50 years, launched its own brand, Kamoshika Doguten. Since then it has opened an online store, as well as a brick-and-mortar outlet, and won many fans through successful online and social media branding. We spoke with Yamaguchi Norihiro, the second-generation company president, about the many initiatives he has introduced in order to stay connected with customers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Special dining courses developed with local restaurants boost hotel occupancy and contribute to regional revitalization

Located at the entrance to Katsuura Bay in southern Wakayama Prefecture, the island of Nakanoshima covers a total area of some 68,000 square meters and has a circumference of about 1.7 kilometers. Aokishima-no-Yado Kumano-Bettei Nakanoshima (Nachikatsuura, Wakayama Prefecture) owns the whole island, which reopened on April 19, 2019, newly branded as a “one island, one resort hotel.” The venture got off to a good start but soon foundered due to the continued spread of coronavirus. We spoke with Mr. Hama, head of marketing, about the hotel’s collaboration with local restaurants as a strategy to boost guestroom occupancy and customer satisfaction.

Use of room service doubles as special promotion launched during state of emergency offers choice of 120 food items and 300 different drinks

Hotel New Otani (Chiyoda City, Tokyo) opened in 1964, the year of the first Tokyo Olympics, but even this prestigious establishment has not been immune to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. After Japan’s first state of emergency was introduced in 2020, the hotel saw a fall in guest numbers and temporary closure of its restaurants. However, when a stricter state of emergency was imposed in April 2021, one that included restrictions on serving alcohol, the hotel came up with a plan to diversify its lineup of food and drink items available as room service. While providing a safe and secure dining environment for hotel guests, the plan led to room service usage doubling in May 2021 from the same month in 2019, before the outbreak of the virus. We spoke with Ms. Obuse, who is involved in public relations at the hotel, about how the plan came about.

One-month accommodation subscription scheme proposed by young staff member succeeds in filling hotel guest rooms

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the city of Nagasaki (Nagasaki Prefecture) was a popular destination throughout the year for both Japanese and foreign tourists. The ongoing large-scale construction project at JR Nagasaki Station is in line with plans to open a segment of the West Kyushu route of the Kyushu Shinkansen high-speed railway line in 2022. Overlooking this area is the 15-story Hotel Nagasaki BW Premier Collection, where the pandemic has given rise to a special accommodation scheme that is attracting a lot of attention. We spoke with the hotel’s deputy manager, Moriuchi Keigo, about how the hotel came up with its accommodation subscription scheme and what the response has been.

From online training to attracting tourists to Okinawa, karate tourism evolves during coronavirus pandemic

Ageshio Japan Co., Ltd. (Naha, Okinawa Prefecture) is a travel company that offers karate tourism services, such as karate-themed dojo stays and tours of Okinawa, the birthplace of the martial art. In collaboration with over 400 karate dojos within the prefecture, Ageshio Japan provides karate practitioners and enthusiasts living overseas with various opportunities that combine Okinawa tourism and karate. In line with this, a four-day seminar the company held not long before the outbreak of coronavirus succeeded in attracting some 200 participants. Now, impacted by the spread of the virus, the company has come up with the new idea of online training.

Hotel mystery-solving event offers guests peace of mind, safety, and fun even during coronavirus pandemic

With the hospitality industry hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, hotel-sponsored events are receiving a lot of attention as a new way of attracting customers. Events that take place within hotels while maintaining social distancing, and therefore can be enjoyed safely, are an attempt to increase guest numbers. Among these, the one event that has really taken off is, “An evening of mystery-solving through literature: A challenge by mystery writer Sengoku” at Hakone Sengokuhara Prince Hotel (Ashigarashimo, Kanagawa Prefecture). We spoke with the hotel’s planning manager, Okumura Manabu, who has been supervising the event from behind the scenes.

New markets developed with “Sugomori” fruit series launched by tourist-oriented fruit farm

Hirata Kanko No’en (Miyoshi City, Hiroshima Prefecture), a fruit farm catering to tourists, grows some 150 kinds of fruit throughout the year. About 10 years ago the farm shifted focus away from conventional all-you-can-eat fruit picking to so-called “experiential consumption,” developing new services such as farming and cooking experiences. To overcome the impact that coronavirus has had on its business, the farm has come up with a new initiative.

Restaurant reduces crowding through introduction of “dynamic pricing” that adjusts prices depending on time of day

The most distinctive feature of Oshokuji-dokoro Asatte, a very popular restaurant in the Kita-sando district (Shibuya City, Tokyo), is its menu, which consists solely of one set meal that changes day to day. This successful eatery is frequented by people of all ages and a line of customers waiting to get in was, until recently, not an uncommon sight at lunchtime. However, in March 2020 the store was forced to close due to the outbreak of coronavirus. We spoke with the restaurant about the “dynamic pricing” initiative it has introduced to protect customers, staff members, and the restaurant itself during the pandemic.

Utilizing various business formats to launch new food delivery service with French toast prepared at izakaya restaurants.

RedefineDining Co., Ltd. (Shibuya City, Tokyo) is the company behind the izakaya eatery chain Motsukichi and high-end bakery Dondake Jikochu. The company's new service, home delivery of Dondake Jikochu bread products baked at Motsukichi outlets, is attracting a lot of attention. We spoke with Mr. Toshin, an executive at RedefineDining, about the company’s so-called “ghost restaurant” venture, a brand goods sales initiative that emerged during the coronavirus pandemic and requires no brick-and-mortar store.

Experience authentic yakitori at home with “Veranding Toriko.”

Tokyo Restaurants Factory Co., Ltd. (Meguro, Tokyo) is the company behind the izakaya restaurant chain Toriko. With so few people choosing to dine out due to the coronavirus pandemic, the company launched online sales of its “Yakitori Meal Kit,” a set of chicken skewers and a special grill that allows customers to enjoy authentic yakitori at home. Cumulative sales of the kit surpassed 10,000 units in January 2021. We spoke with Takahara Masahiro from the company’s e-commerce division about the new initiative.

Effective use of downtime after lunch – Exploring new possibilities for bars and restaurants by renting out tables as telework spaces

Places to eat and drink, especially those that mainly open at night, are struggling because of the restrictions on opening hours imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic. In the midst of this, a promising new service has emerged. Launched by Wine Bar ESOLA Shinjuku, it offers business people the use of telework space within its restaurant area. We spoke with the manager, Mr. Hidaka, about the new service and the hurdles he faced in launching it.

Reinventing remote work by proposing an amusement-park workation.

At Yomiuri Land, (Inagi City, Tokyo) they propose a lifestyle that values fun just as much clothing, food, and shelter. Their concept that embraces fun and playing as a core value has attracted much attention. They even went as far as promoting the idea of “amusement workation.” We spoke with Mr. Yamada, the director of the public relations department, and Mr. Okutani, the chief of the public relations department, about the background of their unprecedented efforts to introduce their pool and Ferris wheel as workspaces. (This initiative ended on December 23, 2020. The resumption date is currently undecided.)

Implementation of phone-order shopping service with Matsuya’s unique request order service

In November 2020, the fresh food section of Ginza Matsuya (Chuo City, Tokyo) started a “shopping agency service” that accepts orders over the phone and delivers them on the same day by taxi, in partnership with Checker Cab Co., Ltd. Ginza Matsuya is loved for its high-quality and distinctive product lineup, such as Ozaki beef, of which only 2 cows are produced every month. We interviewed Mr. Katsutoshi Imai, the organizer, about this service.

“Selling experiences, not accommodation” – Use of technology generates new value and more profit than previous year.

In 2020, a year in which the hotel industry was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, SQUEEZE Inc. posted higher profits than in the previous year. We asked Chief Operating Officer Mr. Yamaguchi about the company's initiatives, which center on the theater park Theatel Sapporo (Sapporo City, Hokkaido), a next-generation entertainment space that opened in July 2020.

New sales channel developed as alternative to rural accommodation brings ryokan experience into the home through blowfish cuisine and virtual reality footage.

Teshima Ryokan (Yamaguchi, Yamaguchi Prefecture), a traditional inn that has been in business for over 50 years, is attracting attention with a novel initiative launched during the coronavirus pandemic. Teshima Ryokan now offers a service called “VR Teshima Ryokan & Fugu Kaiseki” through which it ships its popular blowfish dishes, with customers given access to a virtual reality video of the ryokan, or traditional inn, as a reward. We spoke with the inn’s manager, Mr. Teshima, about this new initiative.

With digitalization of order system, long-established hotel and originator of “Viking” buffet creates new style.

The all-you-can-eat buffet style known as “Viking” originated at the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo (Chiyoda, Tokyo). The Imperial Viking (today known as the Imperial Viking Sal), Japan's first buffet restaurant, opened in 1958. For diners, the real thrill of such a restaurant is being able to eat as much as they like of whatever they like. We asked Hiraishi Rina, the head of the restaurant department’s marketing section and initiator of new measures, about the restaurant’s efforts in response to coronavirus.

Publicizing the safety of Tokyo’s sightseeing buses by sharing a fact that is common knowledge in the industry — buses can be fully ventilated in 5 minutes

The chartered bus industry has been badly affected by postponements and cancellations of group tours and restrictions on movement brought about by Japan’s state of emergency. Bus companies belonging to the general incorporated Tokyo Bus Association (Shibuya, Tokyo) are no exception, with a significant reduction in income having been forced upon them. Under these circumstances, the association has taken steps to publicize the safety of its buses regarding coronavirus based on information that is common knowledge within the industry. We spoke to Mr. Ueda, the association’s chairman, about these initiatives and asked about the current situation and future of the tour bus industry

Remote sightseeing bus tour of Komatsu in Ishikawa Prefecture attracts 67,000 fans during coronavirus pandemic.

In May 2020, during Japan’s nationwide state of emergency, staff at Dwango Co., Ltd. (Chuo-ku, Tokyo) launched a remote tourism initiative by driving around tourist destinations in a bus and broadcasting what they experienced live on Dwango’s own Niconico Live video-sharing service. We spoke with Noguchi Yutaro, the man behind the project, about how the initiative came about.

Free from the “Three Cs” of closed spaces, close contact and crowds, tea field terraces and wedding plan attracts a rush of bookings.

Enjoy freshly brewed tea and spectacular views of the Shizuoka countryside from a privately reserved open-air tea terrace in the middle of a tea plantation. Developed by Suruga Bureau of Planning and Tourism (Aoi-ku, Shizuoka, Shizuoka Prefecture), the experience-based program has attracted a lot of attention since its launch in May 2019. We talked with Suruga bureau producer Ms. Suzuki about the new initiative, which has taken off despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Arousing curiosity and making infection controls fun

With more than 3 million visitors annually, Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium (Motobu-cho, Kunigami-gun, Okinawa Prefecture) boasts the largest number of visitors of all Japan’s public aquariums. Until 2019, more than 30 percent of visitors were from other parts of Asia, mainly China, Taiwan, and South Korea, and nearly 60 percent were from Japanese prefectures other than Okinawa. However, in January 2020, as coronavirus suddenly began to spread, the number of visitors fell sharply. As of December 2020, Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium had already experienced three temporary closures. Let’s take a look at the efforts being made by one of Japan’s leading tourist attractions to tackle the virus.

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Okinawa Commemorative National Government Park (Kaiyohaku Park) Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
* Information correct as of December 2020

With so few store visitors, a unique opportunity arises – a new style of shopping service provides new customer satisfaction.

Souvenir shop Ebiya Shoten (Ise, Mie Prefecture) opened in 2016 as part of the long-established Ebiya Daishokudo restaurant. Since then, the store has become much loved by tourists and locals alike for its popular original items based on well-known Ise products and traditional crafts. To overcome the current coronavirus crisis, Ebiya Shoten has come up with an ingenious style of customer service.

Citizens’ group supports local businesses with vending machine mini markets and “Made in Ota” catchphrase.

Ota City Market Executive Committee (Ota, Gunma Prefecture) is a citizens’ group that holds “Marché” market events as a way of promoting the city. The committee brings together “Made in Ota” local products to create new appeal and brand value for the municipality. Here we look at the potential of vending machine mini markets – a new way of selling local products that have come about due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Labor-saving contactless check-in system results in a 50 percent cut in labor costs

Namba Ebisu Hotel opened in Osaka’s Nishi-Nari Ward in October 2019. Benefiting from its location only one station away from Kansai International Airport and served by limited express train, the hotel got off to a flying start targeting Asian tourists mainly from China and Europeans planning long-term stays in Japan. However, very soon after the hotel opened, coronavirus struck. We asked the hotel about initiatives, such as contactless customer service through a tablet terminal check-in system and operational reforms, that it has introduced in order to overcome the current difficulties.

Attracting tourists with cutting-edge technology: Highly immersive virtual reality video promotes “Kyoto by the Sea.”

NTT Learning Systems, based in Minato City, Tokyo, is a solutions provider for various learning environments, such as corporate training and school education, that is also engaged in creating video content. In collaboration with the city of Miyazu in Kyoto Prefecture, the company recently produced a virtual reality video for tourism purposes with the concept of “Kyoto by the Sea.” The project has been attracting attention as a new initiative to boost tourism during the coronavirus pandemic and even after.

Coronavirus countermeasures lead to town’s new PR initiative of a raw tuna online tour

Nachikatsura Tourist Organization was founded in April 2020 as a new body responsible for promoting tourism in the town of Nachikatsura in Wakayama Prefecture. Ahead of this, a regional destination marketing organization (DMO) preparatory committee was established. Just as the tourist organization finally came into being, the coronavirus pandemic struck. With all planned sightseeing and town events canceled, they found out about a raw tuna online tour held as a demonstration that has managed to attract offline tourism.

Six Gotanda eateries join forces to launch “Gotanda Eats,” a food delivery service with no delivery charge.

“Gotanda Eats” is a new service in which small restaurants deliver food using their own staff, free of delivery charges (customers pay a 100-yen-per-item service charge). At the heart of the venture is Oriental Foods, based in Tokyo’s Shinagawa City. The company, well-known for running a university food court that is said to be the best in the country, is also behind the Gotanda restaurant Tokyo Kitchen. Under the banners of “Aiming for added value with more than just food” and “Connecting with the community through food,” the company is attracting attention from across Japan’s food and beverage industry.

Regaining the trust and reassurance of both locals and tourists – Akigawa Valley travel companies make their coronavirus countermeasures visual.

The fears of Motohiro Minami, chairman of the Gokaichi Showakai storekeepers association, were realized at the start of May with the advent of the first long public holiday since the government declared a state of emergency. Visitors to Akigawa Valley could be seen enjoying barbecues along the river without wearing facemasks and then leaving trash behind when they went home. Akiruno City Hall received numerous complaints from local residents about the behavior of visitors at a time when people across the country were being urged to refrain from leaving home unless absolutely necessary. “We needed to take immediate action to put local people at ease again,” Mr. Minami recalls.

Aiming to cut costs, expand sales channels in Japan and overseas, and increase the number of repeat customers through cashless payment and cross-border e-commerce.

Amid increasing digitalization, stationery store Kakimori(Taito-ku,Tokyo) opened in 2010 with the hope of conveying the wonder and enjoyment of writing by hand. The store sells original goods such as made-to-order notebooks and inks that are tailored for handwriting.

The speedy introduction of an online Zoom store has boosted the number of customers even as the coronavirus epidemic continues.

The motto at Ikeuchi Organic(Minato-ku,Tokyo), a textile manufacturer founded in 1958 in Ehime Prefecture’s Imabari city, a city famous for its towels, is, “Maximum safety and minimum environmental impact.” The company mainly produces towels, items that most customers like to touch and feel before choosing. We looked at how the company has overcome this issue and achieved promising results through online sales.

A new rickshaw tour for sightseeing in Asakusa; the launch of an online rickshaw ride that can be enjoyed even during the coronavirus pandemic

Shohei Miura works as a shafu (rickshaw puller), showing visitors around the Tokyo district of Asakusa. Although he had already quit pulling rickshaws before the pandemic, the advent of coronavirus made him want to give something back to the community, so he returned to Asakusa with the idea of a virtual rickshaw tour (guiding online viewers around the area with a camera attached to a rickshaw). He set up an online business as part of the company Fukuroya(Taito-ku,Tokyo) and is now running tours.

Bringing Japanese technological prowess and exquisite detail to the world. Original coronavirus countermeasure “Fight Back COVID-19” announced.

Small Worlds Tokyo(Koto-ku,Tokyo), the world's largest indoor miniature theme park, opened in Tokyo’s Ariake district in June 2020. The facility, which was established as a “prototype to showcase Japanese technology,” is now presenting itself to the world as an “indoor facility prototype” in terms of the measures it is taking to combat coronavirus.

A long-established and popular inn introduces AI technology, offering information on overcrowding, and providing peace of mind to its guests.

Furuya Ryokan(Atami-shi,Shizuoka) has introduced artificial intelligence (AI) as a countermeasure against coronavirus. The long-established inn, which has a history of over 200 years, uses artificial intelligence to analyze the situation in regard to the number of people using its large communal baths or congregating around its front desk and transmits this information in real-time, providing peace of mind to its guests.

Contactless, non-face-to-face service made possible through introduction of check-in, checkout facial recognition system.

Mitsui Fudosan Group is a developer of numerous mid- to high-end brands for a large target audience in the hotel and resort industry. At a time when lifestyles and values are changing and more importance is being placed on individuality, Mitsui Fudosan has launched “Sequence,” a new brand(Shibuya-ku,Tokyo,and so on.) that aims to provide hotel guests with unprecedented value. This means a new style of hotel that offers contactless, non-face-to-face service while enhancing customer satisfaction.

Noodle shop succeeds in avoiding “Three Cs” – closed spaces, crowded places, close-contact settings – and attracting new fans with reception desk and wait-your-turn system.

Chuka Soba Takano(Shinagawa-ku,Tokyo) is popular for its soup, which is characterized by the deliciousness of its seafood and meat dashi stock, and its first-class noodles, which are famed for their aroma, springiness, and texture. This ramen shop has won so many fans that there is always a line of customers outside waiting to eat. However, with the shop having adopted a wait-your-turn system, the lines have disappeared. “People lining up is proof of our popularity, but customer safety is our top priority,” says the owner, Ms. Takano, when asked about the new waiting system and its impact.

The taste of Finland, at the café or at home – creating new demand through Instagram

The Robert's Coffee Chitose Karasuyama Café(Setagaya-ku,Tokyo) opened in April 2019. It is the first Tokyo café for Robert’s Coffee, the largest coffee chain in Finland, a leading coffee-loving nation. Located in the popular residential area of Chitose Karasuyama, the café offers a relaxing space that has steadily attracted more and more customers. After about a year of smooth sailing, unprecedented chaos struck in the form of coronavirus. With life having changed for so many people, what was Robert's Coffee's new strategy to be?

Restaurant introduces first-ever contactless system.
Ordering from the table via smartphone puts diners at ease.

Café restaurant Park Community Kibaco(Koto-ku,Tokyo) opened in Kiba Park on August 7, 2020. “Kibaco” stands for “Kiba community” and the aim of the restaurant is to create a community space where customers can feel at ease even during the current coronavirus pandemic. As part of this effort, the restaurant has installed a state-of-the-art ordering system.

Superfood green papaya has been commercialized! With the opening of an e-commerce site, sales of the fruit have gone from a café of 10 seats to nationwide.

Som Tum Caffe specializes in the Thai-style green papaya salad known as som tum. Green papaya is believed to be the only food rich in catabolic enzymes. This remarkable fruit is gaining attention as a detoxifier and immunity booster. Health-conscious customers returned again and again to Som Tum Caffe, which, since opening in September 2019 in the Tokyo office district of Tamachi, had been doing well.