Letter from the CEO
My name is Nao Kodaka, the CEO of Tokyo Otaku Mode. Since I am not sure which country those of you who are reading this may be in, let me greet you by saying good morning, good afternoon, and good evening.
I created this page to provide you with a better understanding of what exactly Tokyo Otaku Mode is and also to convey the ambitions and intentions we as a team have for Tokyo Otaku Mode and how we plan to expand our service. I would like to directly convey to you in my own words when and why we started Tokyo Otaku Mode, the reason for expanding our service overseas, and our goal for the Tokyo Otaku Mode Shop.
The Bud that Sprouted Before the Creation of Tokyo Otaku Mode
Have you ever seen a 40.1 meter tsunami?
On March 10, 2011, I was working at an advertising company and on a business trip in Fukushima Prefecture. Tohoku is an area in the northern part of Japan. On that day, I had finished my work faster than I had thought I would. I boarded the bullet train, gazed out at the Tohoku scenery through the window, and took a small nap. The next day, I attended a business meeting at the office. Everything was normal.
Then, the earthquake hit.
Everything was flying off the shelves, and the shaking was so strong, it sounded like a scream. The ground was soft and flexible like a trampoline mat. I tried to keep calm, but it felt like the soles of my feet were on fire, and I was scared. After the shaking had stopped, we turned on the TV and the announcer was giving a warning: “A large 8.8 magnitude earthquake originating in Tohoku has struck. Everyone in the area should evacuate immediately.” Many people either lost their lives or went missing due to the earthquake and the resulting tsunami. Cities were swallowed by the waves of the tsunami that rose up high in the sky. One such city was the one I had been in the day before. The white shirts of the clients I met on the business trip, the smiles on the men’s faces who worked at the hotel, the red tiled roofs bleached by the sea breeze, the sound of the tires on the taxi I rode to the station squeaking to a stop. Even now, fragments of such memories from the city come to mind. And most of these were dragged away from reality by the earthquake and tsunami. My right index finger shook uncontrollably as I watched the TV.
At that time, there was something else I was striving for other than work. That was starting up Tokyo Otaku Mode’s Facebook page. Basically, the idea was to transmit to the world representative otaku content like anime and manga. I ironed out the concept of Tokyo Otaku Mode with my colleagues, and, with the desire to somehow convey the current trends in Japanese content by utilizing our advantage of being in Japan, we thought up the idea that otaku content would be great as content delivered through Facebook to overseas countries. So, we came up with the plan to launch a Facebook page at the end of March, and we steadily started preparing. But then the earthquake happened and we thought about postponing the launch.
In the days following, tragic news concerning the earthquake was reported on TV and in newspapers throughout Japan. I also saw despairing comments regarding Japan even in overseas news reports. Even online, blatantly inaccurate information like “So-and-so manga artist died in the earthquake” was running rampant. What was really going on in Japan was not being properly conveyed.
I talked with my colleagues once more. We wondered if there was something we could do, something we should do. We ultimately decided to launch the Facebook page we had been thinking about due to what was going on at the time. We wanted to be the first to convey to people all over the world the same enjoyment we had experienced from anime and manga up until then.
Even today, I remember the sprouting of a powerful determination along with those feelings that matched our mission. Thus, two weeks after the earthquake, on March 24, I, along with my colleagues, launched Tokyo Otaku Mode’s Facebook page.
Tokyo Otaku Mode: From Street Presentations to Silicon Valley
Tokyo Otaku Mode was primarily started by several members, myself included. Even today, all of us are active in the company as founding members.
At first, we started by introducing content related to the subcultures of Japan on Facebook. Looking back on it, it was a meager attempt, like something someone would make out of hobby. We went through a harsh time at the beginning where we weren’t getting any fans. Even still, we proceeded in trial and error and continued to persevere and update the page with information on Japan’s subcultures and pictures of cosplayers we would take by attending otaku-related events. By doing so, our number of fans slowly increased up to us having several million. Our continuing conviction of having this service be for the benefit of people all over the world had paid off.
However, even though our number of fans continued to increase, I was still employed elsewhere, as were the other members. Even at the time when Tokyo Otaku Mode had several million fans, we were still treating it like a recreational activity, doing it between working and on our days off. At that time, I had a certain encounter that would change that. In the winter of 2012 (February), I had the chance to meet with Dave McClure, founder of 500 Startups, a small-investment fund that actively invests in businesses that are just starting out, which came about by us giving a street presentation in Shibuya. We desperately explained Tokyo Otaku Mode, and after listening to our presentation, Dave recommended us to come to Silicon Valley. In other words, he was going to invest in us.
I immediately quit the company I was working for and made the jump to America. And just like that, my colleagues came along and on April 10, 2012, more than 10,000 kilometers from Tohoku in Silicon Valley, Tokyo Otaku Mode officially became a company. Three-hundred and ninety six days had passed since the day when I first saw on TV the devastation of the earthquake.
Becoming a Service and Place for News to Satisfy Both Fans and Creators
Before Tokyo Otaku Mode became a corporate body (around 2010), thinking that I should understand overseas market economies, I used my own money to go to Shanghai, Vietnam, Philippines, and San Francisco to observe companies. In other words, I was able to see many things. As a part of these trips, I would do things like check to see what Japanese content and services were popular and listen to what the natives of the area had to say. Among all this, there was one thing that struck me, that being the circulation of pirated anime and manga. It differed by the areas in each country, but there was the same level of proliferation of pirated content, the source to which was unknown. People were buying these copies even though they knew they weren’t authentic… In subtle ways, well-known anime and manga were being altered and sold. I had heard of the existence of pirated copies before, but I was astonished by the reality that works having been stripped of their original rights and values were being offered by people overseas.
A pirated copy of a work is an illegal replication. There are pirated software and anime that ignore the rights of the works’ creators that are sold and distributed online. Because most Japanese anime and manga is created in Japanese, translating them to other languages to circulate them overseas is unavoidable. Therefore, do translated pirated versions really convey the creator’s intent? Among manga that have 10 volumes, there may be a volume that becomes hard to find anywhere. Because fans in this instance won’t be able to keep up with the work’s story, they may feel disappointed and think “This isn’t fun,” and this may be the basis for fans losing interest in anime and manga. By observing things overseas, it has strengthened my complicated feelings toward pirated copies. I think that those reading this have a love of Japanese anime and manga and a desire to enjoy what is to come. If that’s the case, I hope that you would show your understanding of the fact that by giving creators the value they rightfully deserve, you are helping them to continue creating.
There are fans who want to happen upon new works and creators who want to create even better works. By viewing things overseas, the question “If content could be supplied in a more legitimate way, would that make people happy?” came to mind. Tokyo Otaku Mode is our answer to that question. We are trying to create a worldwide platform that meets the needs of both fans and creators, a place that is unburdened by economic conditions and social issues of any single country or area, a place that anime and manga fans the world over can enjoy.
Thus, through our service, we want to increase the earnings of anime with a production cost of $1 million to $2 or $3 million (By the way, there is a lot of deep otaku content in Japan. It is Tokyo Otaku Mode’s mission to also introduce this with everyone.). We want the works we introduce to be known throughout the world, and even for related products to steadily sell well; to timely offer information on products and works, regardless of country or area; and to return to a place where creators and manufacturers gain profits for their works. If we are able to do that, I believe that we can create a positive influence on all those related to producing works and that they will continue to create high-quality entertainment.
The People of Tokyo Otaku Mode
The people who manage the Tokyo Otaku Mode service were brought together mainly through the founding members’ personal connections.
This includes not just the programmers who can be called the lifeline of managing the website, but also members who support the creators, members who manage the shop, cameramen, and editors. In other words, the site was established through assembling people from all kinds of fields in order to spread otaku content to people all over the world and to create an environment that creators can immerse themselves in.
By the way, we use the catch-all term “creator” to refer to anyone who produces creative work and has the skills to make people enjoy it, whether they are illustrators, cosplayers, Vocaloid producers, manga artists, or something else. I want creators to thoroughly immerse themselves in creating their works. Occasionally, they slip into the world of a work that seems like it’s at the bottom of the ocean. They are so focused that they can’t hear anything around them, and they create worlds that no one has seen in form that everyone can see. Giving a work such form takes extraordinary ability and time.
However, even though many young creators possess skill, they lack money. It’s difficult to eke out a living on just independent creations without cooperating with manufacturers and companies and establishing a sales route. To make ends meet, many must get second jobs. In other words, they have no choice but to scale back how much time they can devote to creating works. Even though they want to create work, reality won’t allow them to. Many creators have been burdened by this dilemma throughout history, even though they possess talent that would most likely bloom if only they had time to devote to it.
That is why we lend our support to these creators. Basically, we do this by offering them a platform on which to show their works, help them to communicate with fans all over the world by translating their messages, and try to return the profits and rights to those who can’t spread their works to the world. We are doing a lot to collaborate with them, which also involves producing posters, T-shirts, and other original products of their works.
Through their products, the creators can make a profit. Thus, they are able to devote more time to immersing themselves in their creations, which I believe heightens the possibility of them creating even better works. I want the wonderful works crafted by creators of such skill to be more highly known by everyone all over the world.
Well, doesn’t that make you excited? What kind of new works will be created and what will the future hold? I want to happen upon a work and think “I’m so glad I found this work,” and then to spread this joy by sharing the work with everyone around the world.
This is how all of us at Tokyo Otaku Mode feel.
Tokyo Otaku Mode’s Mission: To Change the World’s Course By a Single Millimeter
The Earth’s diameter is 12,742 kilometers. Though the Himalayas and Africa’s Great Rift Valley are a different story. We at Tokyo Otaku Mode want to create a 1 millimeter shift in the world of someone born somewhere on this vast Earth. This may be something that many people also think. Art, services, religion, love––it’s true that people and companies try to convey various thoughts to others. We understand that for those captivated by subcultures like anime and manga, enjoying such works and products brings about feelings of peace. It’s difficult for humans to feel depressed when they are enjoying something. It’s also difficult to feel sad or cry when you are happy and smiling. It is for that reason that the attitude of otaku who enjoy things from deep within their being may be the foundation for creating more peace throughout the world. We at Tokyo Otaku Mode believe in this possibility, and we want to steer the world in a better direction through elevating the level of familiarity and values of otaku culture.
Our mission on a more concrete level is to deliver to the world Japanese otaku content. To say it a different way, we want to promote all otaku values and create a place and opportunities for each individual to be able to reflect upon the joy of being otaku. Another mission of ours is to discover and support talented creators in order to construct an ecosystem of creations being continuously realized. I may be speaking too grandiose, but we aim to create a new art culture that will in turn elevate the status of otaku culture.
We merely propagate a variety of things to people around the world; the value of that is up to them. It is not our intention to arbitrarily push our own values. The world will be changed by the otaku that populate it; we are just laying the groundwork.
Tokyo Otaku Mode Shop
Finally, I’d like to talk about the Tokyo Otaku Mode Shop.
The thought of starting the Tokyo Otaku Mode Shop was born through our mission and our own personal experiences. An environment where people, things, and products that should be valued will surely be valued; a place to make both fans and creators happy. As an extension of these thoughts, the idea of establishing a shop service––through which we could not only deliver to fans all over the world authentic products from Japan, but also deliver to fans’ hands creators’ works in the form of products on top of transmitting information and sharings creators’ works––began to blossom.
Everything we sell on the Tokyo Otaku Mode Shop was procured through legitimate means. We received permission to sell each and every item, which we offer to everyone living overseas.
This has always stayed constant, whether it’s an introduction to a creator’s work on the Gallery page, or distributing otaku news on the News page. What we do on the Shop page is the same as our overall mission: to deliver Japanese otaku content to everyone around the world. The Shop page is just a more tangible representation of this mission; it can be held, touched, and seen adorning nearby walls as canvas boards and posters. It’s a way to distinctly feel those merits. That is one of our desires for our shop service. We’d be happy if our shop is stocked with things that you enjoy.
If there is something you can’t find, please send us an inquiry. We understand that for every 100 otaku, there will be 100 different things that they enjoy. Therefore, we’d like to hear requests from everyone around the world as to what kind of products they would like. I don’t know if we will be able to fulfill 100% of those requests, but we will do the best that we can.
We want everyone around the world to look forward to receiving products they desire and relish the moment of finally getting those products and being so happy that their heart skips a beat. That is one of the highlights of being otaku. Artwork, check. News, check. Products, check. We at Tokyo Otaku Mode will continue day after day to offer fascinating otaku content for everyone in every area of the globe to enjoy. And we will proceed in changing the direction of the world. Yes, even if it’s only a millimeter.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. Everyone here at Tokyo Otaku Mode would like to convey their thanks for embracing this place, cooperating with us, and helping us to grow up until now and into the future.