Archived: Japan’s Top Companies Look to the Future

What do nineteen of Japan’s leading companies think will be the major problems facing society in 2030? A new exhibition in Tokyo Midtown Design Hub called ‘Changing the World Through Design‘ is using installations to provide visitors with a glimpse of what the likes of Toyota, Mitsubishi and Fujitsu think.

The exhibition’s overall theme is the design of future society, and it explores some of the major challenges facing societies both now and in the future. The space is organised into five broad themes reflecting these concerns: ‘Energy’, ‘Education’, ‘Agriculture’, ‘Resilience’, and ‘Community’.

Each company’s installation is contained in a “light capsule”: a glowing semisphere with two holes, one rimmed in black and the other in white, that allow visitors to peer into the capsule to see the installation from different vantage points. The installations are visual representations of a particular issue or challenge, and each hole allows visitors to literally see both what the company views as its existing challenge as well as a potential solution to the challenge in the future.

Rohto’s Capsule

In the ‘Agriculture’ theme, the capsule for Rohto, a pharmaceutical company dealing with health and beauty products, showed the figures of people ploughing the land through one hole, while the second revealed the entire image of a ying-yang symbol. The installation mirrored the emphasis the company wants to place on mutually beneficial projects between developed and developing countries.

Viewed from the second hole, visitors can see the full installation

In the ‘Education’ theme, Gree, one of Japan’s biggest social networking services that focuses on mobile games, stressed the importance of using technology to teach, and highlighted the potential of games as a learning tool.

Viewed from the first hole, visitors see the back of a girl studying
Viewing the installation from the second hole reveals that the girl is using a smart device to learn instead of traditional textbooks

Tour company H.I.S‘s focused on their role in supporting travel as an important part of education. Their display showcased their efforts to encourage and provide opportunities to Japanese students who want to broaden their horizons by travelling overseas to volunteer in countries like Bangladesh, Burma and Cambodia.

Under the theme of ‘Resilience’, Honda’s installation showcased the company’s focus on projects dealing with making decisions that could save lives in disaster situations. Accompanying the installation was a description of a system which would use smartphones and GPS to identify and inform Honda drivers of locations to escape to in times of disaster.

The use of installations to visually present future challenges and social innovations is quite a unique way of relating the goals and directions of the companies featured. The idea of the capsule is also an interesting one, and it really tries to get visitors engaged with thinking about the future and the present as connected realities.

Through the 19 capsules, each of the featured companies consider the new roles and values they will have to take on in the future, and it is interesting to consider which themes and challenges each company chose to present their installation under. Companies like NEC, Mitsui, JR East and Mistubishi all centered on the issues dealing with the management of resources and energy, while food and beverage companies like Kirin and Watami focused on projects dealing with supporting food production in earthquake-struck areas and sustainable agriculture respectively.

Kirin’s installation
Rebirth Project’s Genki Dama Display

The direction that each company is choosing to take also implies that particular research facilities, technological innovations and assets associated with these companies will also be allocated to particular industries and projects, and this will ultimately play a role in shaping the nature and types of innovation that we will witness in the future.


Participating companies: H.I.S., Gree, Kirin, Toppan Printing, Toyota Marketing Japan, NEC (Japan), Patagonia Japan, JR East, Fujitsu, Honda Motor, Mitsui & Co., Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings, Mitsubishi Corporation, Yamaha Music Japan, Lush Japan, Ricoh, Rebirth Project, Rohto Pharmaceutical, Watami.


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