| Ryuzo Suzuki |
NAGANO, Japan (The Yomiuri Shimbun) — A former Japanese inn, or ryokan, in Nagano, Japan, that was built more than 80 years ago has been taken over by a smartphone game and content developer based in Tokyo.
Asobism renovated the vacant wooden Japanese-style inn with a total floor space of about 280 square metres and opened its Nagano branch there in 2013.
Founded in 2002, the company is known for popular games such as “Dragon Poker”, which is said to have been downloaded more than 3.5 million times in Japan.
The Nagano branch is the company’s second base, following its Tokyo headquarters where about 80 people work.
Eight employees — whose ages range from 24 to 39 — work at the Nagano office. They include staff who relocated from Tokyo and locally hired programmers and designers.
Tomohisa Ote, 40, the company’s chief executive officer, decided to open a branch in Nagano, a temple city where the long-revered Zenkoji was established nearly 1,400 years ago, as he was struck by the sight of people working in spacious sites with lush greenery when he visited the headquarters of Google, Facebook and Apple in Silicon Valley three-and-a-half years ago.
Ote chose the inn, envisioning it as a place to foster the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that results in the planning and development of new business.
“You can create interesting games based on valuable real-life experiences, but not on the experience of other games,” he said.
Hiroaki Yajima, 25, works at the Nagano branch and is in charge of public relations.
“It’s a very comfortable work enviro-nment. There’s a warm atmosphere here, unlike the average office building,” he said. “Downstairs, you can even hear footsteps on the second floor, which creates a feeling of unity.”
Ote said he intends to establish “an office in the woods” by purchasing a large plot of land in a nature-filled area of northern Nagano Prefecture.
Before opening the Nagano branch, Ote made his home in the prefecture because there was a good kindergarten there for his daughters. He visits the Tokyo headquarters about once a week.
“The office is an important place where people spend many hours of their lives. I’d like to propose a new work style where people can strike a balance between jobs that utilise their expertise and childcare or hobbies,” he said. “I want to bridge the digital and analogue worlds interactively.”