The Way Forward for “a Company in Kyoto”, for “a Company in Japan” (Kyoto Strategy)

Why do you work in Kyoto? Why are you running your business in Kyoto?

== 0. Why in “Kyoto”? ==

Since 2000, when I became an entrepreneur, I have been doing business in Kyoto.

“Why in Kyoto?”

Ten times, or a hundred times, I don’t know exactly how many times I’ve been asked this question. And yes, I understand why you want to ask me that…


Last week, I attended an Event by domestic software companies*.

The topic of the panel discussion was “The number of Startup companies born in Kyoto. What are the shadow and light?”, which gave me an opportunity to reflect upon various things.

I would like to summarize my thoughts and feelings here.

* Workshop in Kyoto, by Made In Japan Software Consortium


== 1. The Reason that Makes You Want to Ask Me Why ==

Why in “Kyoto”?

Questioning “Why?” has a connotation. The only way to reach the “truth” of something new to look for the causes or the reasons. Therefore, I never deny the question itself. On the contrary, I think it’s very good. (Honestly, I do.)

=== 1-1. A place where is not Tokyo ===

Inner voice… “If you start a business, shouldn’t it be in Tokyo?”

One the outside, they are asking “Why Kyoto?”, but what they imply is “Why not Tokyo?”

– Because Tokyo is “the capital”
– Because all “information” is gathered in Tokyo
– Because it is the “center of the economy” where there are many companies

Indeed, it has been said from long ago that “a business can’t get bigger if it not in an urban city”. Although, recently, some people think that “over-concentration” is a social problem, the idea that “Tokyo is the best” is correct to some extent. In reality, there are quite a few ventures that started in Kyoto, but moved to Tokyo later.

Well, there are a few people who tend to say “You must move to Tokyo” or “If you come to Tokyo, sales will go up” or “If you stay in the province, your company would go bankrupt”. (How dare they say such a thing!)
Their arrogance is invigorating rather than infuriating.


I also sometimes wonder “Why this or that rural area?”, when I hear the cases of great success or struggle of “local businesses”… Specially, I tend to question it in the cases when they were struggling because of their location.
Yes… in terms of “Regional revitalization”, this question probably is “an important question worth asking”.
(There are many reasons inside the heads of the people who are working hard in the province.)

=== 1-2. Mysterious Place ===

Inner voice… “What is there in Kyoto?”
This is a harmless and naive question. Should I dare saying there is a sense “awe” for Kyoto? There is a trend for trying to find out more about Kyoto.

– Because it was the capital?
– Because there are a lot of temples?
– Because there are a lot of students?
– Yes, there are definitely many famous companies…

Actually, Kyoto is pretty special. I have been living here for about 20 years, and I have noticed many things. I’d say “felt” rather than “noticed”. There is a sense of “mystery”. It is difficult to put into words… (Sometimes I would like to ask “What is there in Kyoto?”)

By the way,

there really are a lot of the so-called “cutting edge companies”. If you search for them, you will immediately see that they are all distinctive. The fact that there are many “scholars doing research on Kyoto companies” in Economics or Business Administration is even more convincing that there must be something.


And, also in the last few years, in the activities of the Local Chamber of Commerce, Mr. HORIBA and Mr. TATEISI have had a strong influence on local businesses. (I am influenced too.)


==2. Searching for the Answer ==

Why “Kyoto”?

Basically, there is no need for a reason for subjective statements such as “like” or “dislike”. Therefore, there is no need to answer, really.

– Why do you like golfing?
– Why are these clothes your favorite?
– Why do you like this food?
– Why did you choose your wife?

(How can I answer these questions?!)
No, wait… I like what I like. There is no reason…

=== 2-1. Because it is an Ancient City? ===

> Questetra,Inc.’s Web Site
> Why in Kyoto?
> Kyoto is entirely different than Tokyo. Kyoto was the capital of Japan for more than 1,000 years and is a well-balanced blend of the old and the new.
> Kyoto is, we think, the best place to foster innovative thinking.

Yeah, it seems to be on the right track.

In a poster created by Kyoto city government, there is an advertising slogan saying “I’m glad there is Kyoto in Japan”. There are lots of historic sites that have been registered as a World Heritage. There are lots of national treasures, even world’s treasures.

I hope this will beg the question… or persuade you…

Q: Why “Kyoto”?
A: Because it is an ancient city!

=== 2-2. Because Population is relatively low? ===

– There are too many people in Tokyo…
– Commuting in Tokyo is like hell…
– You can go around by bicycle or on foot in Kyoto

Personally, I agree with these. There are many people who prefer a location where [population density] is not too high and see this as a property (attribute) of a place. Certainly, although it is about personal preference and taste, to seek for “low population density in the work environment” as a company is not bad because “corporate organization” is what “individuals” have gathered for after all.

I hope this will beg the question… or persuade you…

Q: Why “Kyoto”?
A: Because population density is moderate.

=== 2-3. Because there are many Colleges and Universities ===

– It was the capital for 1200 years (Heian-kyo)
– Even now, there are many headquarter-temples.

Considering that, even when, historically, “the center of the economy” and “the center of politics” moved to Tokyo or Kamakura, Kyoto has continued to be the “center of culture”. This fact is significant. As a result, there are many “Universities with a long history”.

Q: Why “Kyoto”?
A: Because there are many Colleges and Universities.


== 3. There is no Rational Reason ==

There is one thing that I always think whenever I have a “discussion” of this kind.

If the discussion was about “What kind of city do you like?”, I can tell that “I like a city with some particularities”. I mean, I can answer by mentioning this attribute (property). If you are discussing about, for example, “What is your favorite type of man?”, you would give some attributes such as “Tall, dark, handsome and rich…”

However, if the discussion was about “Why do you like Kyoto?”, I think answering by mentioning its attributes does not make sense. I’m not really sure how to express this, but they sound more like “Excuses” to me.
My English teacher would have scold me if I answered without “because” when I was asked using “Why”. But I can’t help it. I like Kyoto just because!

=== 3-1. Logic behind I can’t help loving it ===

“Who is the fairest of them all?”

If you are searching for it, it will take you a lifetime. Once you get find your inspiration, you have to believe in it. Human can only live so much.

=== 3-2. Logic behind Cannot Be Free from a Relationship ===

“My computer is broken and it doesn’t work” => OK, “Let’s buy a new one”
This is reasonable.

“I got sick and I cannot work anymore” => OK, “Let’s hire a new employee”
This is NOT unreasonable.

Humans are creatures which have a social nature. Whether is by blood, by place or Alma Mater… Once you have got some sort of Relationship (by chance), you cherish them. That’s the way to live.

// Of course, the organization will follow the aforementioned strategy in a chain-style business. But there are also cases in which the strategy follows the organization.


== 4. Embracing Kyoto Identity ==

I have no choice but accepting its “characteristics”.

Although I used the somewhat negative expression “no choice”, there are so many great aspects about Kyoto. I think this is true to every city, that there are always good aspects.

(And the good aspects of Kyoto go well with me, even more than as a corporation.)

=== 4-1. Freedom from Market ===

After all, a sense of moderate distance is good.

It is a “tragedy” for a for-profit organization that being away from the market. After all, being away is an overwhelming disadvantage in terms of competition following the idea of “Market-in”. I should be “Product-out”.

You’d better not be an “Outsourcer”. Otherwise, you will have quite a hard time.

Instead of listening to the customer for their needs, think about the needs which customers themselves have not noticed. Never answer to “requests”. Think up “surprises”.
(However, an “Outstanding company” could be born as a result of their struggle, otherwise, it is destined to stall.)

=== 4-2. Freedom of Thought ===

In Kyoto, there is freedom. As I think it is truly illustrated in Kyoto University motto “Academic freedom”, a person is free from anybody and is able to challenge for anything here in Kyoto. There are many people who misunderstand this “Freedom” and study nothing at all. However, there are also people who explore unexplored matters.

Not only in research activities, but also in business activities, there is a similar kind of atmosphere.
The following is a rough “comparison”, and a fairy “figurative expression”. Suppose I say, for example, I want to create a software which no one has ever heard of. The reaction of people in Osaka and Tokyo is like follows.

– Osaka: You shouldn’t do it. Why don’t you create something more marketable? Like a “CRM” or an “SFA”…
– Tokyo: You shouldn’t do it. Now, “Games” are the trend! Or “IoT”. You’d better go for those.

Whereas in Kyoto, people would say nothing. If they do, they would only say “Are you sure about its novelty?”

“I am doing it because nobody tells me to stop.”

Although this may sound rather dangerous, there can be such a place. And I am proud of being in such a place.


== 5. Conclusion ==

I am working in Kyoto.
And I am going to work alongside the “characteristic of Kyoto”.

In Tokyo there is “Control”, in Kyoto we “Let it be”.
In Tokyo it is “Rational”, it is “Irrational” in Kyoto.
In Tokyo it is “Cool”, it is “Uncool” in Kyoto.
If they say “Go with the flow” in Tokyo, then I would say “Don’t go with it” in Kyoto.
If they say “Money” in the world, then I would say “Compassion” in Kyoto.
If others do “for a motive”, I would do “because I want to”.


Also, for there are words like “Rebellious” and “Pioneer” that the world is impermanent.


Well, anyway, I personally believe “There are a lot of missions imposed on Kyoto”.
If the world is chasing “Fashion”, let’s go for Kyoto’s “Cool”.

Instead of “Staying hungry, Stay foolish”,
“Stay hungry, Stay COOL!”

By the way, “There’s no use assimilating the world” said Kazutoshi Ono, President of APPRESSO in a speech at a workshop held by MIJS. “Let’s appeal to the world with Nipponese quality and accuracy!”

Yeah, I truly agree with that.

Thank you!




About IMAMURA Genichi

CEO & Founder - Questetra, Inc. ||
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