Tag Archives: Japan

In Tokyo: New commitments to Japan’s digital future

Google opened our first office outside the United States in Shibuya, a neighborhood in Tokyo, back in 2001. Last year marked 20 years in the city — and in the Asia-Pacific region more broadly — and I am excited to be back this week. While here, I helped launch our new Pixel devices and met with leaders to share more about how Google can support Japan’s digital future.

Sundar stands on stage in front of a screen with a photo of the new Pixel watch

Sundar presenting at the Tokyo Pixel launch.

Something that’s always inspired me on my visits to Japan is how people of all ages are using technology to improve their lives and help others. The last time I was here, I helped open our Campus for Startups, part of our efforts to support generations of entrepreneurs. And today I met with student developers from local universities. Some have already started their own companies, and others are using Pixel and Android to bring their ideas to life.

Our goal is to ensure everyone benefits from the innovation happening in Japan. Today, I was pleased to share the details of our new Japan Digitization Initiative with Prime Minister Kishida. We’re expanding our commitment to build infrastructure, provide digital training and opportunity, and support partners and nonprofits working to bring the benefits of technology to more people.

Two people looking at the camera, in suits, shaking heads.

Investing in technical infrastructure

We’ll be opening our first data center in Japan — in Inzai City, Chiba — in 2023. This will give people in Japan faster, more reliable access to our tools and services, support economic activity and jobs, and connect Japan to the rest of the global digital economy.

The Chiba data center is part of a $730 million investment in infrastructure that began last year and will continue through 2024. That includes the Topaz subsea cable, which we expect to be ready for service in 2023, and will become the first fiber cable to connect Japan with the west coast of Canada. Our existing Google Cloud Platform regions, in Tokyo and Osaka, provide storage and services for Japanese businesses. And according to a recent Analysys Mason study, Google’s network infrastructure investments in Japan, both past and present, could enable an additional $303 billion in GDP between 2022 and 2026.

The exterior of Google’s data center, a wide gray building with grass and trees in the forefront.

Google’s first data center in Japan is in Inzai City, Chiba Prefecture.

As we build this infrastructure, we’ll keep working to support Japanese businesses in other ways. Our Tokyo startups campus is helping Japanese founders build new kinds of businesses, many motivated by solving social and economic challenges — like helping with health diagnoses or increasing access to education.

Providing digital training and opportunity

We want to help Japanese people learn the skills they need to use technology confidently. Since 2019, we’ve supported 10 million people in Japan through Grow with Google, and adapted our training programs to people and businesses affected by the pandemic.

We’ve seen in Japan and around the world how the pandemic has accelerated the need for skills in specific, high-growth jobs, and we’ve created new kinds of training models to meet the increased demand. That includes the Japan Reskilling Consortium, which we launched in June. It’s a collaboration between business, governments and the nonprofit sector, providing skills training in areas like artificial intelligence and digital marketing and a job-matching service to help trainees find work opportunities. The consortium already offers more than 300 training programs with more than 90 partners.

We’ve also launched a new program to help Japanese companies develop a workplace culture that fosters innovation — with support from Google tailored to different businesses’ needs. We’ll keep building on these initiatives and partnerships from here.

Expanding the benefits of technology

Through Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm, we’re committing $6 million to support Japanese nonprofits working to expand the benefits of technology.

As part of this effort, we’re providing grant funding to the Japan Foundation for Aging and Health to help them reach 50,000 older people, with a mix of programs focused on digital training, community building and employment support. We’re also supporting the Safer Internet Association in its efforts to increase media literacy in Japanese communities. Other organizations to receive support will be announced soon.

These new commitments complement the important work our teams in Japan do every day. We’ll continue to bring the best of our products, platforms and devices to the millions of Japanese people who use them, from making Google Maps more immersive to helping Japanese developers on Google Play. And we’ll continue our partnerships with Japanese governments and institutions harnessing AI to confront challenges like climate change and disease.

We look forward to helping more people in Japan benefit from the opportunities technology brings, over the decade ahead and beyond.

Digital skills for Japan’s future

In 2001, Google opened its first overseas office in Shibuya, Tokyo. We’re proud of our contribution to Japan over the two decades since: making Google products more helpful for communities, giving Japanese businesses tools to grow, and supporting Japan’s efforts to advance technologies like AI. Today, we’re focused on ensuring technology plays a positive role in Japan’s future — and in particular, on providing opportunities as technology changes and the global economy evolves.

At this morning’s Google for Japan event, we announced a new initiative to address one of the biggest challenges facing Japan: the need to fill a gap in digital skills that has contributed to Japan’s economy lagging other nations on ‘digital competitiveness’. The Government of Japan aims to close this gap. With their support, we’re launching the Japan Reskilling Consortium, bringing together more than 40 partners from business, local government and the nonprofit sector.

Through a dedicated website, the JRC will offer training programs to help people learn new skills and a job-matching service where they can access a wide range of opportunities. The training programs available will include our existing Grow with Google courses focused on the basics of AI and digital marketing, and a new, intensive course to develop intermediate and advanced AI skills.

Our role in the JRC builds on the work we’re already doing with local partners to support Japanese businesses and workers. It’s part of our wider regional and global efforts to help people find jobs in growth areas, meet businesses’ need for skills, and contribute to technology-driven economic growth.

Google for Japan was also a chance to share updates on our efforts to advance Japan’s digital transformation in a wider range of areas — nurturing a new generation of startups (like Latona), supporting Japanese and global cities’ efforts to become more sustainable, and working with communities on programs to help older people get online, to name just a few.

The most important principle we bring to our work in Japan is partnership. By working closely with partners across the public and private sectors — and with the communities that we serve across the country — we hope to deepen the commitment to Japan that has guided us for the past two decades and more.

The city using Google tools for environmental education

Since launching Google’s Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE) in 2018, my team and I have seen how data can help local governments develop relevant climate plans.

EIE is a free tool designed to help measure emission sources and identify strategies to reduce emissions. In Pune City, India, the local government has used data from EIE to better analyze trip emissions. In Australia, Ironbark Sustainability and Beyond Zero Emissions have developed Snapshot Climate, a community climate tool that incorporates EIE transportation and emissions data — and shares it with local councils and other organizations across the country.

So far, over 320 cities worldwide have made their data available for the public to view through the platform — including West Nusa Tenggara, in Indonesia, the first place in Southeast Asia to adopt EIE.

While we have seen how EIE has helped cities shape their efforts to reduce emissions using data, that’s not the only benefit that the tool offers. Cities like Yokohama in Japan are also using it to educate their citizens.

I wanted to learn more about this initiative — so in the lead-up to Earth Day this week, I sat down with Hiroki Miyajima, the Executive Director of the General Affairs Department in the International Affairs Bureau of the City of Yokohama.

Hiroki-san, it’s wonderful to know that Yokohama City uses Google’s Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE). What motivated the city to use this tool?

I was introduced to EIE back in 2020 and found it to be an excellent tool with visual capabilities and accessible simulation features for us to understand our city better. As we already had data on greenhouse gas emissions, I saw the tool as a great way to build awareness around sustainability among our citizens.

Households in Yokohama generate about 25% of our current CO2 emissions. With our mayor having announced a goal of reducing emissions by 50% by 2030, we need to encourage our citizens to change their behavior as we work towards decarbonization. That starts with education, in particular for children and young people: our next generation. We’ve begun incorporating EIE into education programs from junior high school to universities. By exploring EIE, these students can visualize and better understand the impacts of CO2 emissions.

A male student with a mask on, looking at the Environmental Insights Explorer on his computer.

A student using the Environmental Insights Explorer in class.

What impact have you seen since the education programs have rolled out?

I’ve heard several anecdotal stories from teachers. After attending one class, a junior high school student commented that he would make sure to turn off unnecessary electricity if he saw no one using the classroom. Another student said he plans to incorporate energy-saving ideas at home and share what he learns with his parents.

At universities, we see student teams incorporating EIE data into their projects. For instance, one group created a report on promoting the use of electric vehicles and shared their presentation at an international conference held by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

I’m incredibly encouraged knowing that our younger generation cares about their city and this planet. We can motivate them to take practical action through education, no matter how big or small they are. We look forward to bringing EIE to more institutions.

Why should other cities consider getting on board in using EIE with city planning?

We’ve been collaborating and supporting urban development projects with emerging cities in Southeast Asia. We’ve noticed that many of these cities have not had the chance to calculate the amount of GHG emissions they generate. One reason for this is that calculating emissions can be time-consuming and requires significant funding. However, using EIE, it’s possible to get insightful data efficiently and effectively.

If you’re part of a local government and interested in what EIE can do for your community, fill out this formto get in touch with our team, or visit our website.

Google’s support of the news industry in Japan

Twenty years ago, Google opened its first office in Japan. Today, we are announcing new investments that will continue our support of the country’s vibrant news industry. These investments will help people find quality journalism and contribute to the sustainability of news organizations. They will also help newsrooms engage their readers in new ways, through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Launching Google News Showcase in Japan 

To support news organizations and readers in Japan, we’re introducing Google News Showcase, our new curated online experience and licensing program. News Showcase panels display an enhanced view of an article or articles, giving participating publishers more ways to bring important news to readers and explain it in their own voice, along with more direct control of presentation and branding. The panels will appear across Google News on Android, iOS and the web, and in Discover on iOS and Android. They direct readers to the full articles on their websites, driving valuable traffic to those news organizations and enabling them to deepen their relationships with readers. 

Starting today, News Showcase is rolling out in Japan with more than 40 news publishers including national, regional and local news organizations like The Yomiuri Shimbun, The Asahi Shimbun Company, Nikkei Inc.,The Chunichi Shimbun, KAHOKU SHIMPO PUBLISHING CO. and The Kyoto Shimbun Co., Ltd., together with news agencies JIJI PRESS, LTD. and Kyodo News. This launch builds on News Showcase deals signed with nearly 1,000 news publications in more than a dozen countries, including India, Germany, Brazil, Canada, France, the U.K., Australia, Czechia, Italy, Colombia and Argentina,with discussions underway in several other countries. More than 90% of the publications that have joined News Showcase so far provide local or community news. 

The primary goal of News Showcase is to highlight news publishers that are invested in comprehensive current events journalism in the public interest. We are giving them a new way to curate their high-quality content on Google’s News and Discover platforms, bringing essential news coverage to readers looking for it.

This GIF shows examples of how News Showcase panels will look with the content of some of our news partners in Japan

Examples of how News Showcase panels will look with the content of some of our news partners in Japan.

As part of our licensing agreements with publishers for News Showcase, we're also paying participating news organizations to give readers access to a limited amount of paywalled content. This feature means readers will have the opportunity to read more of a publisher’s articles than they would otherwise be able to, encouraging them to learn more about the publication — and potentially subscribe. 

An example of how some of the news from our partners in Japan will look using News Showcase panels

Example of how some of the content from our News Showcase partners in Japan will look

What our partners have to say about News Showcase 

"We are joining Google News Showcase to deliver high-quality news content in the Chunichi Shimbun and the Tokyo Shimbun to as many people as possible,” says Koji Hirata, Director and Editor-in-Chief of The Chunichi Shimbun, the top regional newspaper covering Tokai, Chubu and the Kanto/Tokyo Metropolitan region. “Apart from daily news, we will select unique stories that capture multiple perspectives and introduce them to users. Through Google News Showcase, we want readers to find a wide variety of information in the Chunichi Shimbun Web and the Tokyo Shimbun TOKYO Web that helps them make better choices for their life and future.” 

“By participating in Google News Showcase, we look forward to extending the accurate and useful news we provide for people in Kyoto and Shiga,” says Tokuyuki Enjo, the Chief Editor of the Kyoto Shimbun, a local newspaper company covering the Kyoto and Shiga area. “In addition, we will work to bring content that touches upon the deep traditional culture and history of Kyoto to a broader audience than ever before.”

“We are thrilled to provide news from Okinawa Times globally through Google News Showcase,” says Kazue Yonamine, Director, Editor-in-Chief of The Okinawa Times, a local newspaper covering the Okinawa area. “Google's cooperation has become indispensable for the development of journalism. We aim to cooperate with each other and deliver useful information for the creation of a sustainable society.” 

“As a local newspaper, our mission has been to deliver global and local news to the community in print. In the digital era, we need to expand our role to deliver local news to a broader global audience." said Seichiro Hanafusa, the webmaster of Shikoku Shimbun, the local newspaper covering the Shikoku region. "Google News Showcase is a tool for us to deliver our news articles across Japan as well as the world, and lets users easily subscribe to our content. With this opportunity, we will work even harder to create valuable content that motivates users to pay for."

Logos of our Japan news partners for Google News Showcase

Logos of our Japan news partners for Google News Showcase

Expanded support through the Google News Initiative

News Showcase is just one part of our overall commitment to Japan’s news industry. We are expanding our Google News Initiative (GNI) efforts in Japan as well.  

Women Will Leadership Program: To promote a more inclusive culture for the news industry, we are launching a news-specific track of Google’s Women Will Leadership Program. Through two months of leadership skills training and problem solving workshops, this program will help women working in news to advance their careers and support companies seeking to drive change in the work environment.   

GNI Local Lab:We’re expanding the GNI Local Lab to support local news publishers in Japan. We will train more than 40 news publishers across regional prefectures with workshops and knowledge-sharing sessions to help news organizations improve their site performance and provide hands-on implementation support to grow digital revenue streams for local publishers. 

Build New Local: We are also supporting Build New Local, a project led by local newspapers to help them use technology to connect and digitally transform so they can become more sustainable and reach new audiences. Through Grow with Google and Google News Lab, Google has provided skills training in areas such as digital marketing and audience development. We also supported an idea hackathon, where local newspapers gathered to solve common challenges by sharing tips on design thinking from CSI: Lab, and a new business idea contest will start later this year.

These programs build on our long-term support for Japanese news organizations of all sizes. Through News Lab we have trained more than 18,000 journalists on digital reporting tools, fighting misinformation and covering Japan's upcoming elections. We’ve provided digital transformation training to publishers on reader revenue, audience and digital ads via the GNI Digital Growth Program, and advanced audience engagement recommendations via the News Consumer Insights tool.  And throughout the pandemic, our Journalism Emergency Relief Fund and GNI Innovation Challenge projects have helped local news organisations to continue providing the information their communities need. 

Japan’s news industry has embraced technology to engage with readers and make data-driven decisions. We believe digital platforms can contribute to a sustainable, independent and diverse news industry, working with journalists, news outlets and news associations. We’re proud to be strengthening our commitment through News Showcase, along with our other News products and GNI programs, to support quality journalism.

Discover the people behind Japanese gastronomy

Last year, we introduced the ‘Meshiagare!’ exhibition, showcasing thousands of photos and videos exploring Japanese cuisine. Today, we’re revealing the second installation of this mouth-watering project, with a focus on the people putting food on the table

In partnership with the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Google Arts & Culture is launching a new projectabout the incredible people behind the uniqueness of Japanese cuisine. You can check out their stories through 48 new exhibitions and more than a thousand unique images and videos.  

Here’s just a taste of what you might find.

Building up small businesses, generation after generation

Discover the stories of small family-run businesses and how over generations they’ve used traditional methods of making typical Japanese dishes, such as harvesting special products from very specific areas. Begin by exploring the history of soba noodles, where you’ll learn about Eiichi Kaneko, the 7th generation owner of Sarashina Nunoya — a shining example of Tokyo's classic soba stores.

A photograph of seventh generation soba maker, Eiichi Kaneko

Innovation and Japanese gastronomy

Discover how technology is used to create new types of food, incorporating tastes and methods from other countries. Stop by the Okaki Farm, where they’re working on the Taste and Beauty of Japanese Shine Muscat by introducing new technologies, as well as researching and developing new cultivation methods like renewable solar power.

A farmer at Okaki Farm carefully checks on the Shine Muscat grapes

Making the food industry more sustainable

More and more agricultural businesses are addressing environmental concerns, and many are changing their methods to reduce their use of chemicals. One example is Yamashita Fruit Garden CEO, Eri Yamashita (pictured at the top of the blog), who shares how Apples Make Us Think About The Environment and Consumerism.

Helping tourists learn about Japanese food culture

Discover how green tourism, traditional guest houses in farms, and teaching courses on traditional Japanese food and manners are more and more used to promote the stunning treasures of the culture of gastronomy — check out how the staff at Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo Ryotei Kinsui teaches the Beauty of Japanese Dining Etiquette.

A Japanese culinary appreciation and etiquette class at Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo Ryotei Kinsui

Still hungry for more? Check out the video of the passionate food influencer Sakiko Hirano receiving Professor Toru Fushiki to teach how to make the famous broth Dashi and Marie Chiba to expound on how to pair sake with Japanese food

This dive into the secrets of Japanese food-making will inspire you to learn more about the unique origins and transformation of incredible ingredients — and the people and businesses that make it all happen. 

Discover more online on Google Arts & Culture, available on iOS and Android.

Bring iconic Japanese characters to life with AR in Search

We all need a bit of escapism sometimes, and there’s nothing like a blast from the pop-culture past to do the trick. Today, we’re bringing characters from classic Japanese anime, games and TV shows to life — from Pac-Man to Hello Kitty — with augmented reality (AR) in Search. 

Japan’s anime and video game culture emerged between the 1950s and the 1980s, as comic books, gaming arcades and home TVs and consoles boomed. But it wasn’t just a Japanese phenomenon. The most iconic characters caught people’s imaginations around the world, and they’re still hugely popular today. 

Which animated icon is most searched on Google? Pac-Man leads the pack by a long way: worldwide search interest in the hungry dot-gobbler is more than double the next most-searched character, Hello Kitty. What might surprise you is that the top country for search interest in Pac-Man over the past five years was...Peru. Hello Kitty is most searched in the Philippines. 

When it comes to the broader trends, anime wins out. It’s more popular than video games worldwide, with interest for anime climbing to its highest peak on record in the past month. That’s pretty amazing — and in fact, search interest for “anime sugoi” (or “anime is amazing”) has spiked 2,300% in the past five years globally.
An animated world map showing search interest in anime characters over the past five years

Now, you can have these characters do their cute thing right in front of your eyes. Take a break to watch ghosts chasing after Pac-Man or Gundam swoop in your living room! Characters that are viewable in AR include Evangelion, Hello Kitty, Gomora, Gundam, Pac-Man and Ultraman. (For die-hard otaku who can read Japanese, check out our Japanese blog with the full list.)

An animation showing how the Japanese anime characters will look in augmented reality on Google Search

How to access and share:

Search for one of the characters on Google using a mobile device and tap “View in 3D” to rotate or zoom in and see it up close. You can then bring the characters from outer space into your space with AR and turn up your volume to hear Hello Kitty deliver a cute message, or Pac-man's retro sound effects.

  • Android: Search for “Hello Kitty” or one of the 14 characters on the Google app or any Android browser and tap “View in 3D.” You can see 3D content on devices with Android 7 Plus and you can see AR content on ARCore-enabled devices.
  • iOS:  Search for “Hello Kitty” or one of the 14 characters on the Google app. 3D and AR content is available on iOS 11.0+ devices.
You can also create AR videos — or recreate your favorite scenes — with the recording option. Don’t forget to tag your photos and videos on social with #Google3D.

Source: Search

The newspaper app helping Japan’s elderly population

Japan’s elderly citizens often live alone, and many have little regular contact with other people. That social isolation not only puts their health at risk, but also makes them more vulnerable during natural disasters, and to scams like fraud and extortion.

Regional newspaper Iwate Nippo wanted to do something to help elderly residents of Iwate (Japan’s second-largest prefecture) access life-saving services and help them feel more of a sense of belonging in their communities. With funding from the Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge, they developed Iwapon, an app created specifically for their older subscribers. 

The app’s safety features include a monitoring system that alerts family members if their relative hasn’t used their phone for more than 24 hours, information on suspicious calls or texts and a disaster information center to notify residents about threat levels and shelter locations during floods, storms, earthquakes and other severe weather. 

But Iwapon also fights social isolation in other ways—for example, by connecting residents to local businesses through virtual coupons, sharing local community and school updates, and giving them the chance to speak to an “on-demand” journalist about any concerns or questions they might have. 

To find out a bit more, we talked to Takuya Watanabe, manager of the digital media strategy division at Iwate Nippo.

How did the idea of Iwapon come to life?

As a local newspaper, we inform people about community problems like social isolation, and we also feel a responsibility to help address them. We already work closely with the police and local government. We regularly receive advance information about natural disasters, evacuation plans and details on fraud and suspicious behaviors to look out for. We thought an easy-to-use app would be a simple way that we could deliver this important information to people at risk, as quickly and accurately as possible.

What has the reaction been to the app?

The app was downloaded thousands of times within only six months. But the impact went beyond that. Monthly new subscribers for the online newspaper increased by more than 50 percent, and local businesses have approached us to become sponsors. Most importantly, the atmosphere within the company has changed. The app has helped increase cooperation within the editorial, advertising and sales departments. It’s also had a huge positive impact on the motivation of younger employees. 

What’s next for Iwate Nippo and Iwapon?

The COVID-19 pandemic affected many local businesses. We are planning to support small- and medium-sized restaurants and shops in the area by promoting them in the app. After the pandemic, the challenges facing our region are changing day by day. Through the app, we will continue to work with the community, tackle local challenges and contribute to protecting the safety and lives of people in our prefecture. 

Japan prepares for a changing economy

This summer, Japan was meant to be hosting visitors from around the world at the Olympic Games. Instead, Japan’s people and businesses are confronting the significant and lasting impact of COVID-19. While the postponement of the Games was disappointing, the immediate task is to make the necessary changes to deal with the pandemic and get the Japanese economy growing again in a sustainable way.  

Despite these challenges, there’s an opportunity for Japan not only to rebuild, but to shape a stronger future. We’re committed to helping in every way we can, building on our programs to expand digital skills and advance technology for good. 

Japan’s digital skills divide

One of the most urgent priorities is to close the divide between Japanese businesses that use the internet effectively and those that don’t. According to Ipsos research commissioned by Google, business owners who have adopted digital tools adjusted better to the impact of Japan’s lockdowns and social-distancing restrictions. 

Among businesses that own websites and e-commerce sites, 56 percent said in the survey that digital tools helped them handle the crisis. Kudo Sakai Dojo, a martial arts school in Osaka, began offering lessons online, while flower retailer Hana-Cupid has analyzed Google trends and used YouTube ads to attract new customers. 

Yet the research also found that just 41 percent of small businesses in Japan currently have an online presence—and fewer than five percent of small businesses launched a new website or e-commerce site during the lockdown.

Infographic on Japan SMB research

Many business owners or entrepreneurs want to take advantage of the internet, but they often don’t know where to start. Changing that has to be at the heart of Japan’s coronavirus response, and we want to play our part.  

Our commitment to closing the gap

Since 2016, we’ve provided digital skills training to 5.5 million people in Japan, running courses in 45 prefectures and working with more than 100 local partners. We’re now expanding these efforts. 

For the past month, we’ve been running seminars to help small businesses understand and adopt e-commerce, partnering with companies like Salesforce and Shopify, the Small and Medium Enterprise Agency (part of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) and Impulse (part of the Central Federation of Societies of Commerce and Industry). We’re adding new permanent courses to our Grow with Google training program, focused on helping businesses get online and promote themselves using platforms like Google My Business

As well as supporting businesses taking their first steps online, we’ve moved events like our Android 11 beta launch seminars to a digital format—so Japanese developers can now get information and support no matter where they live. We also continue to help Japanese founders through Google for Startups. Our most recent accelerator program got underway just as COVID-19 began to hit, forcing classes to move online, but the founders taking part have shown great resilience and flexibility. For example, Omsister, a childcare startup which provides bilingual nanny service, has launched a service offering online English lessons.

Looking to the longer term

Beyond its immediate impact, COVID-19 is raising longer-term questions in Japan—including what the future of work could look like.   

Japanese companies have traditionally required their workers to be in the office full-time, but during the coronavirus lockdown, many Japanese employees had to work from home—including almost half of all workers in the Kanto and Kansai areas (home to Tokyo and Osaka). After we made Google Meet available for free in April, we saw a big increase in Japanese companies and workers using it for video conferencing. 

This shift to remote work has become part of a bigger discussion about the need for more flexible and inclusive ways of working in Japan. We want to continue providing tools to help and sharing insights to inform the discussion, like our recent study on the impact of remote working

At the same time, we plan to deepen our partnerships in Japan in other areas of technology that we know will become more important as the country rebuilds. As major Japanese companies and government departments look to modernize how they operate, we’re working hard to help them adopt cloud computing. And as Japan continues to explore fields like artificial intelligence to solve social, environmental and economic problems, we’re helping through our program AI for Japan. It’s our commitment to train AI talent and advance and apply AI research for good.

In 2001, just three years after Google was founded, we opened our first overseas office in Tokyo, humbled to become part of a long tradition of Japanese forward-thinking. Today, despite the cancellation of the Olympics and the impact of COVID-19, we’re even more optimistic about the potential of technology for Japan’s future. We look forward to helping build that future with our partners and communities.

AI is bringing back balance to Japanese workers

The “Japanese economic miracle” is a term used to describe the fast-paced growth that Japan saw in the second half of the 20th century. Along with the rise to the world’s second-largest economy came a strong mentality for success, and much like other advanced economies, that left a side effect: work-life imbalance, resulting in an overworked population. 

Japanese entrepreneur Miku Hirano founded her startup, Cinnamon, to address this challenge to help relieve the burden on the Japanese worker. Using artificial intelligence, Cinnamon removes repetitive tasks from office workers’ daily responsibilities, allowing more work to get done faster by fewer people. Cinnamon recently participated in Google Developers Launchpad Accelerator Japan. We asked Miku to reflect on her path from becoming an entrepreneur and the challenges she faces in her work. 

When did you realize you wanted to make an impact on Japanese workers? 

I founded my first startup when I was a student in 2006, and it was successfully acquired by mixi in 2011, so entrepreneurship is not new to me. Just three years ago, I read a news story about a young woman in Japan who committed suicide after working too much. I did some research and found this was not an isolated incident, and in fact, we have word, karoshi, which means death from overwork.. 

I was pregnant at the time, and I started to think we should change this current working style for the next generation. Work-life balance isn’t just a “nice” aspiration to have. Consistency with your family, pursuing hobbies and spending time in nature is directly related to health and happiness. 

So how does Cinnamon help restore work-life balance? 

he majority of the time-consuming work that Japanese workers face is the result of “unstructured data.” For example, legal contracts are often 400 pages long, and without a way to quickly summarize it, workers are left to read the entire document, a task that can take up to a week to accomplish. Cinnamon uses artificial intelligence to quickly summarize the document in minutes.  

What we’re building at Cinnamon is a way to use AI to remove repetitive tasks that can give workers back hours of their life each day and increase the quality and output of their work. Advanced technology is the core component that makes Cinnamon work, and Google’s AI tools like TensorFlow and Firebase have been an easy way to allow computers to read and understand a lot of text very quickly.  

Why did you choose to participate in the Launchpad Accelerator? 

We were facing a block on how to develop large, quality AI models effectively and how to build strong teams.  Google’s program was supporting exactly that. 

During our time in the accelerator, we received hands-on mentorship for complex AI model development. We also got to participate in a program called LeadersLab, which gave us in-depth insight into our leadership styles.

What advice do you have for future entrepreneurs?

Start your business today!  There’s no reason to wait. Talk to potential customers immediately and get a sense for if they find your idea valuable. Most importantly, find your inspiration. For me it’s my kids, because they always inspire me with their genuine, fresh eyes and minds.

A new home for Japan’s startups

Google CEO Sundar Pichai meets Japanese founders from Sansan and Cinnamon

Japan has always been a nation of forward thinkers. From the bullet train and the walkman to the lithium ion battery, Japanese ideas have shaped the modern world—and now a new generation of Japanese entrepreneurs is carrying on that legacy, building businesses around technology like artificial intelligence and machine learning.  

To support these talented founders as they grow and scale globally, we’re opening the doors on a Google for Startups Campus in Tokyo. Joining a worldwide network with locations from London to São Paulo to Seoul, it’s a platform for Japanese startups to develop their ideas, access Google resources, and build connections with like-minded entrepreneurs.  

We’ve been supporting Japanese startups for some time now: Cinnamon uses AI to help businesses work more efficiently and Lily MedTech is working on a device that could better detect breast cancer at an early stage. The new Campus means we’re better able to help many more founders as they take their ventures forward. It’s co-located with our new office in Shibuya, so we can offer Google training, mentoring and tools. And it’ll provide a welcoming, inclusive environment for startups from all backgrounds. Over 37% of our Campus members globally are women—a higher percentage than in most other parts of the startup community, but one we’re working hard to increase every year. 

Starting in 2020, the Tokyo Campus will also be home to a new Google for Startups Accelerator, an intensive three-month boot camp for startups working in AI. The goal of the Accelerator program is to give founders with established products the tools to prepare for the next phase of growth, and ultimately contribute to a stronger Japanese economy. We’re confident the program’s focus on AI and machine learning will advance ways of applying technology to tackle social, economic and environmental challenges—an area where we believe Japan can lead the world. Applications open today.

The launch of a Google for Startups Campus in Tokyo is part of a bigger story, with Japan making technology, digital skills, and AI central to its ambitions for the future. Eighteen years ago, Japan was where we opened the first Google office outside the United States. Today, our team here is much bigger, but we're just as focused on making sure Japan has the digital tools and services it needs. We're helping Japanese businesses adopt cloud computing. We're supporting AI research at academic institutions and universities. And we've committed to train 10 million Japanese workers in digital skills by 2022, through the Grow with Google program we launched earlier this year. 

We’re looking forward to Campus contributing to these efforts, giving Japanese startups the opportunity to make their ideas real—and continue shaping the world like so many of Japan’s entrepreneurs before them.