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Report from Japan Society: Innovators Project

On June 14, 2006, Mitsuhisa Ishikawa was invited as one of the 20 guests, to the U.S. - Japan Innovators Project hosted by the Japan Society. The objective of this event was to bring together the social, political and economic innovators from Japan and the US to share opinions and ideas to help make the world a better place. Some of the guests involved the former senior executive from Hewlett Packard, current vice president of IBM, founder of Craig's List, journalist from the New York Times, executive from Google, and such, who are all highly recognized as what I classify as "elites," and "geniuses."

(Group of innovators introducing and exchanging ideas)

After brief introductions, the innovators were called to the front to be each given two canvas boards with different colors of markers. They were to draw what they considered as "hope" and "fear." Ishikawa was taken aback by this exercise. Jumping into a room with completely different group of people as he normally hangs out with, was already a challenge, but having given invitations to speak or comment to unknown topics, almost made him nauscious! Now what is he going to draw on these two boards?

(Ishikawa drawing what he considers "hope" on the canvas.)

As I walked around the room to peek at other innovators' works, I was impressed by their insights and concerns about the world. At least for me, many of these social and global problems were something beyond my reach, but to these innovators, these challenges co-existed with their daily lives, just as "anime" and "udon" did for Ishikawa.

While listening to the interesting and passionate presentations of many different innovators, I saw the limits to my knowledge and translation capabilities, and had to ask the professional translators for help. The topics and contents in discussion were way beyond my academic level to thoroughly comprehend in neither English nor Japanese, although they were all so interesting and educational!

(Maki struggling to translate for Ishikawa)

It seemed at first that Ishikawa wasn't really getting the idea of the whole event, but as he spent more time with the innovators and listened to their intuitions, he started to open up and share his own ideas about how communities and societies could be improved. Soon after, many people started to come around his table, wanting to speak with him.

(Ishikawa speaking with the innovators)

Then, it was his time to do the presentation. He mainly talked about his childhood, and how he became what he is right now. Amongst all innovators who had serious topics to present, Ishikawa's 7-minute presentation was very funny and entertaining with video clips that he had prepared in Japan. I felt that this was the first time that the whole crowd had broken into a big laughter. Ishikawa is not only an entrepreneur, but a true entertainer!

(Ishikawa giving his 7-min presentation)

(Ishikawa showing his drawing to answer questions)

So, the interesting retreat has come to an end, where the innovators talk about who should be the leader of this group, and what Japan Society can do with them to make the world a better place. I thought to myself that since there were so many creative and innovative entrepreneurs perfect to face the new challenges, it would really be a hard call. While they were optimistic and adventurous, they were also very humble. They seemed too reserved and modest to either volunteer as or select one. Just then, the Ritsumeikan University professor raised his hand and spoke slowly and firmly. He said that he couldn't think of anybody else but Ishikawa to be the next bridge to connect the two countries. Anime is the hottest content right now, and through this industry, Japan Society should be able to create something innovative to send the message to help make world a better place. What an honor! Whether or not this brilliant idea was thought out is still unknown, but the fact that we were able to participate in this amazing retreat, and Ishikawa got everybody's attention, will become a big asset for us in the future!
Report by Maki Terashima-Furuta (Production I.G USA)
Photos: Courtesy of Japan Society and Stone Yamashita Partners