Terrie's Take 873 (Tourism Edition) - From Robots to Dinosaurs, Japan is On the Way to Becoming Largest "Disneyland"

Terrie's Take terrie at mailman.japaninc.com
Mon Nov 14 08:08:55 JST 2016

* * * * * * * * TERRIE'S (TOURISM) TAKE - BY TERRIE LLOYD * * * * * *
A bi-weekly focused look at the tourism sector in Japan, by Terrie 
Lloyd, a long-term technology and media entrepreneur living in Japan.

Tourism Sector Edition Sunday, Nov 13, 2016, Issue No. 873

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+++ From Robots to Dinosaurs, Japan is On the Way to Becoming Largest 

I've often thought that for foreign tourists coming to Japan for the 
first time, the experience must be surreal, almost like visiting a 
Disneyland. You get interesting stories, colorful costumes, safety and 
orderliness, unbeatable props/scenes, lots of visual vignettes, and a 
feeling of being in another world. In fact, if you look at the values of 
the Magic Kingdom, such as innovation, customer experience, attention to 
detail, etc., Japan has all the right components to become another 
Disneyland, although it still has a thing or two to learn about 
supporting the customer experience.

I thought it would be interesting to match up Disney's success factors 
with some of Japan's and identify those gaps that still need work. Of 
course I'm assuming here that Disneyland could be a role model for the 
Japanese government in terms of how to keep visitors enthralled despite 
the crowds, and how to keep them coming back. The following list is 
borrowed from Businessbrief.com and reworked by me.

* http://bit.ly/2fKArQR - full Disney success factors list:

Mapping Disney success factors:
1. Providing a promise, not a product. Walt Disney always focused on the 
experience of enjoyment between the rides, not the just the thrill of 
the rides themselves. Visiting Japan is also full of constant surprises 
and experiences in between the "big" events of Tokyo and Kyoto.
2. Always exceeding customers' expectations, Disney was a relentless 
perfectionist. Omotenashi anyone? Now all Japan needs to do is to 
explain just what Omotenashi actually is.
3. Pursuing a vision with complete passion. Walt Disney went bankrupt 
more than once, leveraging everything he had to build his dream. In 
contrast, the Japanese government hasn't really committed itself to 
tourism yet, seemingly wanting it to happen organically rather than 
setting an end goal. Although with the blow-out of the Olympics costs, 
maybe 2020 represents a similar if temporary level of obsession for the 
Tokyo Metropolitan Government...!
4. Staying true to one's mission and values. Disney was famous for 
saying, "I hope that we never lose sight of one thing - that it was all 
started with a mouse." In Japan's case, it was all started with 
Astroboy, sushi, and the Walkman. Now Japan's pop culture is everywhere, 
creating new generations of curious young (non-Japanese) adults.
5. Differentiating the destination's value proposition. Every facet of 
Disney's operation is unique and builds on the quality of its employees 
and their ability to help create a dream vacation for customers. If you 
compare Japan's work culture and end product, they look remarkably 
similar to the values of Disney for its workforce, although in Japan's 
case, there are 127 million people who think this way. Just go out to 
any suburb in the morning to see the population sweeping leaves and trash.
6. Lead by example and delegate. Disney was the artist who originally 
sketched Mickey Mouse. He also spent countless hours experiencing his 
own parks, through the eyes of visitors. Hmmm, OK, well this is 
something that Japan's bureaucrats don't do well, and certainly need to 

Last year a European PhD candidate, Abby Waysdorf, posted an interesting 
discussion on just what it is that brings fans to theme parks like 
Disneyland. Waysdorf concludes that although society generally considers 
theme parks to be tacky, when there is an imaginary world with a 
sufficiently large fan base and enough detail for the fans to discover 
and obsess together, then visiting a physical manifestation of that 
world can still be stimulating enough to make the experience compelling 
- whether or not it is believable. Certainly we can see this phenomenon 
at work at Cosplay and anime conventions - which are huge around the world.

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BUT what if on top of the imaginary world you could serve up to fans an 
immersive experience which is also authentic and genuinely surprising 
(in terms of functionality, sensory input, and detail), then you would 
have the makings of a really great destination. Waysdorf sees the Harry 
Potter attractions at Universal Studios as one destination that is so 
well done that it has become a mega-hit, a destination that has even 
caused Disney to sit up and take notice. You can see her post here:


Keeping the Disney metaphor in mind, I went looking for 
destinations/attractions that embody the same values and which if 
repeated could pull crowds to other physical locations. Within the 
current travel boom period, I think probably the first deliberately 
concocted attraction targeting foreign tourists was the Robot Restaurant 
in Kabukicho, Shinjuku, which kludges a less-than-technically-perfect 
show of robots and human actors with old fashioned stage props and 
music. It's raucous and kitsch, but it's strangely compelling and very 
weirdly Japanese. At our travel agency, the Robot Restaurant has become 
a number one request -- it's become that famous.

BTW, a tip of the hat to Neil Butler and his team over at Metropolis 
magazine - since they were the first foreign media to pick up the 
restaurant and work with it to get the message out.

http://bit.ly/2g4bAeE (Metropolis' 2013 video at the Robot Restaurant)

Now that the Robot Restaurant is an established hit, there are many 
other entrepreneurs and entertainers working on similar gigs. The Night 
Aquarium at Nihonbashi 
(http://en.japantravel.com/tokyo/art-aquarium-in-nihonbashi/30205) is a 
good example. This annual temporary installation (closed in October, but 
wait for next year) is a great example of how an artist's fertile 
imagination can be married with nondescript real estate to bring a 
destination alive. The aquarium designer, Hidetomo Kimura, combined an 
amazing light show and sound system with 5,000 goldfish in an upper 
story floor of the Coredo building. The place was packed nightly as 
guests sipped on cocktails and enjoyed the club-like atmosphere. Not 
sure if goldfish were on the menu... ;-). Then of course you have ninja 
villages, art villages, and theme restaurants all over the country.

More recently a new player has gone viral on the internet, the On-art 
Company, which is apparently building a venue which will be a mini 
Jurassic Park. The Japanese do love their dinosaurs, and On-art has done 
an amazing job of building free-moving dinosaurs around human actors, 
using extremely realistic carbon fiber exo-bodies to look like 
Tyrannosauruses and other bipeds. Here is a compelling video doing the 


You'll notice that the actors need a bit more practice at working the 
legs, but the rest of the dino body actions are extremely convincing. 
And of course the fact that they can move around and pretend to attack 
the audience is sure to make them a huge hit. No animatronics in these 
babies. If On-art are still looking for financing, they should 
immediately go talk to Blackstone, the fund that owns Merlin 
Entertainments which in turn owns Madame Tussauds. The fit is perfect 
and On-art could help the grand madam make a transition from "go look" 
to "go experience". And it's the experience part that gives Disney has a 
70% repeat visitor rate to its parks.

...The information janitors/


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Written by: Terrie Lloyd (terrie.lloyd at japaninc.com)

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