Sophians Talk about Japan and the World

Sparking Diversity of Thought through Our Work

Koichiro Shima
(Editor and Creative Director, President and Joint CEO of Hakuhodo Kettle, Inc.)

Boiling Up New Appetites

Koichiro Shima Editor and Creative Director, President and Joint CEO of Hakuhodo Kettle, Inc.

The Japan Booksellers' Award is now in its 13th year. I was one of the founders of the award, and still serve on its executive committee. This year the award went to Hitsuji to Hagane no Mori (A forest of sheep and steel) by Natsu Miyashita, who attended Sophia ahead of me. I am doubly delighted because the novel, which had a print run of 7,500 copies in the first edition, has become a bestseller running to 500,000 copies as of June 2016, and demonstrating the fitting success of the Booksellers' Award.

It all started when we were creating a website for Hon no Zasshisha, a publisher where Yoshitsugu Sugie, another founder of the Booksellers' Award, worked. We heard a lot of booksellers saying, "If I were a member of the Naoki Prize selection committee, I would have chosen this book rather than the one that won the prize." I was prompted to help establish the award by the thought that if we could fulfill booksellers' wishes by setting up such a prize, they could sell more of the books they wanted to sell, and as an advertising exec I sensed new appetites and needs. I also thought my experience at Hakuhodo in design, web production, and event organization would be useful.

Of course, when we first set up this unpaid project with willing booksellers, we never dreamed that it would grow into the kind of prize where one award-winning book after another becomes a million-seller. The advertising agency I run is called Hakuhodo Kettle, a name reflecting our desire to do work that "boils the world" like a kettle, and I think the Booksellers' Award has also achieved this kind of result.

Our motto at Hakuhodo Kettle is "All's fair in love and war." Advertising used to be all about TV commercials and newspaper and magazine ads, but now media are diversifying into the Internet and other areas. Our role is to consider and propose the optimal information vehicles for making our corporate clients more popular and growing their sales, without limiting the options.

We also edit a cultural magazine called Ketoru (Kettle), produce radio shows, and operate a bookstore called B&B. When I was in high school I loved magazines and radio and wanted to be involved in such media in my future career. The reality is far beyond my youthful dreams of working for a publisher or radio station.

Law Faculty Studies Put to Use in Advertising

Koichiro Shima Editor and Creative Director, President and Joint CEO of Hakuhodo Kettle, Inc.

My university memories are of having limitless time and watching all my favorite movies. In any case, they were happy days. But I studied quite a lot too.

I was in the international politics seminar taught by Professor Kuniko Iguchi, who was later elected to the Diet and became a government minister. In her classes we examined issues like the conditions under which wars begin and why global hegemony shifts from one country to another, and we learned extensively about academic methods and research processes for constructing and verifying our own hypotheses. When I look back now, I sometimes think these methods are similar to those used in advertising and marketing work, where we analyze phenomena in society through our own eyes and discover people's new appetites.

Part way through my third year I took a year off (which actually turned into more than 18 months) to study in Israel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and this decision was also influenced by Professor Iguchi. Of course I could have studied international politics at an American university, but I thought that the Middle East was the place to go if I wanted to know about the situation in the Middle East, and this focus on what is actually happening on the ground is still my style.

With many immigrants, Israel has very advanced methods for teaching Hebrew, and I was surprised how quickly I picked it up. Unfortunately I've only ever been able to use my Hebrew skills once, when doing some work for the Israeli government's tourism agency [laughs]. I also studied Arabic, and I remember that the textbook used frighteningly realistic sample sentences like "a bomb exploded."

After these experiences, I thought I might go down the path of becoming a researcher. However, soon after I returned to Japan, I hastily jumped into job-hunting part way through the recruiting season. I visited a Sophia graduate working at Hakuhodo who seemed like the ideal role model for me, and I eventually decided to take a job there.

At Hakuhodo, people often talk about "diversity rather than conformity," and I think this idea also expresses the spirit of Sophia, where each student's individuality stands out. Recently I held a panel discussion on the Yotsuya Campus with Sophia alum writers and media people including Bin Konno, who has also written an article for this page, and I was reminded of this thought when I listened to the panellists.

Useless, Unrelated Information Can Spark Innovation

Koichiro Shima Editor and Creative Director, President and Joint CEO of Hakuhodo Kettle, Inc.

Since I have been involved in work such as magazine editing, bookstore operation, and the Booksellers' Award, you might think that I am really attached to print media, but actually that's not the case at all.

Digital media are rapidly replacing print media, and there is no stopping this trend. As a consumer, I make plenty of use of handy digital media such as e-books. And of course we use all kinds of media to produce ads.

However, I don't think digital media are almighty. For example, at present the search function only brings you the information you want. Lately we have often heard management scholars stressing the importance of a talent for linking unrelated information in order to trigger innovation. Sometimes real experiences are better than digital ones at bringing us into contact with unimagined information.

For example, you could say that Ketoru, the magazine I edit, is full of useless information. No one is about to go searching for information on where to find the bookstore at the highest altitude in Japan [laughs].

Five minutes spent surfing the web cannot be compared to the overwhelming shower of information you encounter in five minutes looking around a real bookstore. Such a wander around shelves might spark interest and curiosity in something you had never noticed before. You could say that a good bookshop is one that sells books on uncharted fields.

Such chances to encounter things that seem useless at first glance and miscellaneous, seemingly unrelated information not only enrich our lives, but also trigger ideas and innovations, for the reasons I mentioned above. So analog media like magazines, newspapers, and books, together with bricks-and-mortar bookstores, should continue to play important roles. I hope that the Booksellers' Award will help them to do this.

In other words, we may need to restore some diversity of thinking to a society where conformity has gone a bit too far.

Koichiro Shima Editor and Creative Director, President and Joint CEO of Hakuhodo Kettle, Inc.
Koichiro Shima
Editor and Creative Director
President and Joint CEO of Hakuhodo Kettle, Inc.

Koichiro Shima was born in 1968. He graduated from the Faculty of Law (Department of Law) in 1993, and joined Hakuhodo Inc. the same year. He started his career working on corporate public relations in the Corporate Communications Division. In 2001 he was assigned to The Asahi Shimbun Company and appointed as editorial director of Seven, a newspaper targeting younger readers and sold in outlets such as Starbucks coffee shops. From 2002 to 2004 he was chief editor of Kokoku (Advertising), published by Hakuhodo. In 2004 he was involved in establishing the Booksellers' Award, and currently serves on the executive committee of the NPO that oversees the award. In 2006 he established Hakuhodo Kettle, Inc. to engage in communication unfettered by existing methods. He is actively involved in producing media content as chief editor of the cultural magazine Ketoru (Kettle) and the local news website Akasaka Keizai Shimbun (Minkei News Akasaka). In a joint project with Shintaro Uchinuma, he opened the B&B Bookstore in Tokyo's Shimo-Kitazawa district in 2012. His publications include Childlens (Children), Little More, 2003; Shima Koichiro no Aidea no Tsukurikata (How Koichiro Shima makes ideas), Discover 21, 2007; Kikakuryoku (Planning skills), Shoeisha, 2009; Kono Tsuito wa Oboete Okanakucha (Tweets not to forget), Kodansha, 2010; Hito ga Ugoku Mono ga Ureru Henshujutsu Burando "Media" no Tsukurikata (Editing methods to activate people and sell goods: how to make brand "media"), Seibundo Shinkosha, 2010.

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