From Tokorozawa Sakura Town to the World – KADOKAWA’s Own SDGs

Digital Publishing Innovation to Achieve a More Sustainable Content BusinessFrom Tokorozawa Sakura Town to the World – KADOKAWA’s Own SDGs

Tokorozawa Sakura Town held its grand opening on November 6, 2020, opening the doors to a new multipurpose facility belonging to one of Japan’s premier multimedia entertainment companies: KADOKAWA. Featuring a museum, a hotel and more, Tokorozawa Sakura Town is not only a hub for bringing pop culture to the masses, but also serves as a nexus for KADOKAWA’s ongoing efforts to promote Digital Publishing Innovation. In this article, we will introduce KADOKAWA’s vision for a more sustainable content business, as well as their efforts related to SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), with Tokorozawa Sakura Town at the heart of these efforts.

Located in a midsize suburb of Tokyo, Tokorozawa Sakura Town is just a ten-minute walk from JR Higashi-Tokorozawa Station. The first thing to catch your eye as you approach is sure to be the Kadokawa Culture Museum, which was designed by the renowned architect Kengo Kuma. Designed to resemble a giant boulder, the building houses the main culture museum, an anime museum, a library full of manga and light novels and an enormous (approx. 8m tall) bookshelf that can hold some 50,000 books, which is called “Bookshelf Theater.” Kadokawa Culture Museum serves as a major landmark for Tokorozawa Sakura Town.

The massive (approx. 40,000m2) grounds of Tokorozawa Sakura Town are also home to an anime theme hotel, two event halls (large and small), an outdoor event terrace that can accommodate up to 1,000 people, restaurants, shops, a Shinto shrine and more. As one of the largest pop culture hubs in all of Japan, Tokorozawa Sakura Town is rapidly becoming a must-see spot for anime tourists making a pilgrimage of famous anime sites in the Tokyo area.

At the same time, there is another side to Tokorozawa Sakura Town as well: it also serves as KADOKAWA’s “Tokorozawa Campus,” with office space for up to 1,000 employees as well as manufacturing and logistics facilities replete with the latest digital printing equipment. Bringing together an office, a factory and a distribution warehouse, Tokorozawa Sakura Town is a one-stop publishing shop where content is planned, created, printed and shipped all in one place. This one-stop approach, combined with Digital Publishing Innovation, will help to overcome some of the major issues facing the publishing industry, such as excess inventory and the mass disposal of unsold books. In fact, Tokorozawa Sakura Town is not only the heart of KADOKAWA’s entire content business, but is also a facility that embodies the spirit of SDGs by aiming to achieve a sustainable content business.

The “Tokorozawa Campus,” KADOKAWA’s office at Tokorozawa Sakura Town, takes up an entire floor, which provides some 9,000m2 of office space. In addition to high ceilings and a spacious open floorplan, Tokorozawa Campus is also full of plants and other little touches intended to create a more pleasant work environment for employees.

Come to think of it, why did KADOKAWA, which already has many offices in central Tokyo, decide to build a new multipurpose facility in the suburbs? Actually, for quite some time, KADOKAWA has had a book printing factory and a distribution warehouse in the Tokorozawa area. However, both of these facilities had already been in service for over forty years, and were quickly becoming obsolete. At the same time, the company also had an urgent need for new equipment in order to push forward with their ambitious plans for digital publishing. Just then, KADOKAWA learned that the City of Tokorozawa was looking for ways of putting idle public land to use. And so, the company began thinking about what they could do with a large plot of land, looking into various possibilities for the construction of an office that would foster new workstyles, a museum to create culture and so forth, in addition to manufacturing and logistics facilities.

Meanwhile, facing a declining population, the City of Tokorozawa was quite keen on revitalizing local industry in order to shore up its working age population. And so, following an open call for proposals, the city decided to sell the land to KADOKAWA, and the sale was completed in 2014. After the sale, the company and the city began working together on the “COOL JAPAN FOREST Initiative,” a joint project based on KADOKAWA’s proposal and undertaken with the aim of “creating communities where nature, culture and industry coexist in harmony.” Coexistence with the local community of Tokorozawa is an important theme in terms of Tokorozawa Sakura Town’s overall SDGs efforts.

The opening of Tokorozawa Sakura Town is expected to create jobs for the local community for years to come. KADOKAWA has also put much thought into creating an environment that is friendly to workers here, such as opening on-site after-school childcare facilities for working parents. In addition, the KADOKAWA Cafeteria, which is open to the general public as well as employees, serves meals made with various locally sourced ingredients alongside fresh-roasted coffee supplied by a special subsidiary that actively hires people with disabilities. In this way, KADOKAWA strives to account for SDGs throughout the management and operation of Tokorozawa Sakura Town in the hope that it will become one of Japan’s leading hubs for SDGs. And at the heart of KADOKAWA’s SDGs efforts is Digital Publishing Innovation, in combination with the abovementioned one-stop approach to the content business in the form of a one-stop shop for everything from content planning and creation to printing and distribution.

  • The first thing that one sees upon walking into the office lobby is an enormous (7.94×2.408m) LED monitor, which displays KADOKAWA content and general information, etc. in high resolution, changing the whole feel of the lobby from moment to moment with a constant stream of dynamic images.
  • Rather than relying on doors (which are kept to a minimum), the office space instead favors the use of varying designs or differences in floor and ceiling elevation to distinguish the function of each area. For example, a space set aside for people to concentrate on their work sits atop a small four-step staircase. The idea is that the change in elevation will also bring about a change in mindset.
  • Throughout the office, one can find many chairs and tables in various shapes and sizes, which employees are free to use as suits their mood or the occasion. This open space with terrace steps is a great place for presentations or other company gatherings.
  • At the Lobby Café, the coffee is quite popular. The café staff who always roast the coffee beans with great care are employed by a subsidiary of KADOKAWA that aims to promote diversity by providing people with disabilities the opportunity to put their skills to use while engaging in rewarding work.
  • At the Kadokawa Cafeteria, an “employee cafeteria” that also happens to be open to the public, the specialty curry is a perennial favorite. Members of the local community and even tourists will often stop by the cafeteria for a bite to eat. The cafeteria not only strives to use locally sourced ingredients, but also actively engages in efforts to reduce food waste.
  • Sitting adjacent to Higashi Tokorozawa Park, Tokorozawa Sakura Town can almost be seen as an extension of the local park, or vice versa. While many Japanese companies build walls around their facilities to keep people from coming and going freely, Tokorozawa Sakura Town is the kind of place that locals can pass through without a second thought while out on a walk. It is truly a place that is embedded within the local community.

We sat down with the Representative Director and President of KADOKAWA, Mr. Masaki Matsubara, to discuss what the company aims to accomplish with Tokorozawa Sakura Town within the context of its overall efforts to create a sustainable content business, with Digital Publishing Innovation at the forefront.

Next:Interview article “Tokorozawa Sakura Town as a Base for Creating a New Industry Standard”

Originally Published in Volume 2 (Winter 2020) of MIT Technology Review Japan (Publisher: KADOKAWA ASCII Research Laboratories, Inc.)
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