It was around 3pm, strolling along the streets of Nihonbashi, one could sense history in the air. Nihonbashi first emerged in the 17th century from the residential and commercial areas called ‘chonin-chi’ that gathered around Edo castle.
The Nihonbashi Bridge is an iconic symbol of the region. It was first built in 1603, the same year that the Edo Period shogunate was established and the Bridge acted as the terminal point for Japan’s five Gokaido roads, enabling crossroads, following of goods and services in and out of the city that would serve to become the Tokyo we know today. Deemed as an Important Cultural Property of Japan, one could sense how well the buildings and environment are preserved as much as new developments arise.
source: japan-guide.com /meijishowa.com
Perhaps of significance is the role of Nihonbashi and its’ role in the economic boom, and how Nihonbashi developed business, arts, culture and cuisine. Many people would know of Nihombashi which would include the Mitsui Echigoya Kimono Shop, now known as Mitsukoshi amongst others.
So as I was on my way to X-Nihonbashi as many people have spoken to me and telling me this is where the NewSpace hub is developing. I was previously invited to an event before and I could not make it, so on this occasion, I was very curious to know how was this place like.
source: alamy.com /ehagaki.org
Firstly, I was surprised and impressed by the central location. It is literally across Mitsukoshi and on the main street. Secondly, it was on one of the top floors, which I guess gives one an idea of where they place themselves. Thirdly, was the space itself.
My understanding is that the vision for X-Nihombashi is no different from any other co-working space for startups and entrepreneurs. It is about gathering people, holding events, seminars and providing opportunities for businesses to flourish.
What was interesting for me is looking at X-Nihombashi from the context of two things:
Firstly, as part and parcel of the Nihonbashi Revitalisation plan and secondly, as part of, or more accurately an extension of the Life Science Innovation Network Japan (LINK-J).
The Nihonbashi Revitalisation Plan aims at ‘Restoring Vitality to Nihonbashi in the 21th Century’. Their mission as led by Mitsui Fudosan is to “…united government, business and local community to energise and bring about new attraction to Nihonbashi under the concept of ‘Proceeding to Create While Retaining and Reviving.”
Alongside buildings, hotels, resorts, logistics facilities, Mitsui Fudosan has developed a Venture Co-creation project. Launched in April 2015, it aims to provide office space, for entrepreneurs to “Co-Create” and overcome challenges as a new venture. One can see that the support is there to create a community for startups.
How about NewSpace?
If we take it a step back and look at LINK-J on their website, we can see that there are members and there are numerous activities such as seminars, workshops, events, blogs and news.
My sense is that X-Nihonbashi for space could adopt a similar model of success that has already been achieved in LINK-J.
Having engaged in discussions with the management at X-Nihonbashi, we are on the same line of thinking when it comes to NewSpace.
NewSpace requires non-traditional space players and entrepreneurs interested or engaging in space as part of the much needed ecosystem.
A few months ago, my assessment was not as clear as it is now. And having a venue and an ideal location is a great starting point. The next steps is finding entrepreneurs interested and willing to engage, interact and make things happen.
Some events are already happening:
- Slush Tokyo is coming to Tokyo 23 February and so there would be plenty of entrepeneurs local and abroad present in Tokyo so would be a great opportunity for networking
- X-Nihonbashi could benefit from international exposure of startups and entrepreneurial events and it could be an ideal location for such a hub
It seems like X-Nihonbashi is designed as space for Newspace to grow naturally and I would say it is a consciously thought out. Rather than setting up a preconceived idea of what the Newspace environment ought to be, I think as long as the community and key players are open to new ideas, players, startups X-Nihonbashi could play a very important role to fostering NewSpace, knowing the Newspace sector. I should also note that X-Nihonbashi is not proactively marketing themselves, rather they prefer to be known by word of mouth and grow organically.
When I started my journey of finding where is the NewSpace hub in Japan, I really wasn’t sure, and perhaps X-Nihonbashi could be one of those hubs.
Next week I would be visiting Nagoya and Kyoto to meet NewSpace startups and entrepreneurs. So let’s see what we find.
Written by Helen Tung
Emergent Tech Advisor/MINERVA Fellow
#X-Nihonbashi #startup weekend #NewSpace2060 @EUJapanCentre