Kentaro Ichiki
Kentaro Ichiki


Kentaro Ichiki

Creative Director / Film Director / Founder of UNIVERSITY of CREATIVITY

Ferment our urbanization creatively.

Just as Columbus embarked on an ocean voyage and discovered a new continent, throughout history, it has always been human creativity that has driven innovation and creativity. How will the effects of capitalism – the product of the Industrial Revolution, and the rise of AI change our lives and transform our cities? A bacteria called creativity is brewed by the density of the people, which eventually serves to ferment the cities. In this issue, Kontext editor-in-chief Akihiro Matsui talks to Kentaro Ichiki, the founder of UNIVERSITY of CREATIVITY, about the ideal state of cities and the creativity that gives birth to realities yet to be seen, from the perspective of a creative director.

●The main themes of discussion today are “urban fermentation” and “creative direction,” but I believe we have different perspectives on these topics. Can we start by having you share with us about UNIVERSITY of CREATIVITY (UoC), which you are the founder of?
Well, before we talk about UoC, let’s first talk about creativity. In the era ahead, I believe creativity to be the human’s greatest capital. Since 2014, I have been participating in an annual forum known as the Davos Forum (World Economic Forum), where political and business leaders gather from all around the world. Recently, the agenda has been dominated by AI, big data, IoT, and robotics. Everyone was talking about hardware and software, but nobody was talking about “humanware.” I’ve always feared that if things evolve as rapidly as ChatGPT is evolving now, if we’re not careful, there is a great risk of humanity becoming slaves to algorithms. To prevent this from happening, I have always thought that the world needs a platform that explicitly articulates and cultivates qualities humans possess – such as the pursuit of beauty, the desire to inspire, the passion for excitement, and the aspiration to create unprecedented wonders, transcending the boundaries of professions and specialties. Ultimately, a platform to support and foster creativity itself.

●So UoC was the platform to make this happen.
Indeed, that was the initial motivation. In the past, the Arts and Crafts movement began as a reaction to the mechanization accelerated by the Industrial Revolution, which led to the birth of a movement and school called Bauhaus. And in France, Surrealism, led by André Breton and others, sought to redefine and reconnect human imagination and the world. Reflecting on such historical precedents, it becomes evident that at times of significant societal and infrastructural changes, humanity and creativity always flourish. History doesn’t repeat itself, but I strongly believe that now, the world calls for “creativity” more than ever. To further expand upon this, in the first industrial revolution, locomotives replaced human legs, and in the second industrial revolution, they replaced hands. Now, in the third industrial revolution, if we say that the computers have replaced our memory and the hippocampus of the brain, then, the fourth industrial revolution will probably go to levels where optimization and matching to stimulate various actions will take place, both in our work and private life. It seems that we are experiencing an accelerated version of what was expected to happen in 2045 – the so-called “Singularity” – more than 20 years ahead of schedule. Thus, now is the time to redefine human qualities once again and question the grand strategy of the future civilization. At UoC, we engage in research, education, and implementation of creativity. We particularly focus on cutting-edge themes such as research on co-creation with AI and the role of creativity in sustainability, and are conducting multiple seminars and projects aligned with these subjects.

●What are your thoughts on COVID? I ask this because K5 opened in the midst of COVID. So we weren’t sure whether people didn’t come due to COVID or because of the culture and value of our brand itself. Thankfully, it turned out to be because of COVID, but it was a good experience in that it made us think hard about the place and the city in a way we never had before.
In fact, the opening of UoC also happened during COVID, too. It surely made things difficult, but reflecting back, there were lots of positive effects as well. For instance, due to COVID, DX and AI advanced at rates never seen before, and expectations for creativity rose dramatically on a global scale. In addition, new ways of living, creating, and working in the post-COVID era became the topic of conversation and drew a lot of attention. Such new norms of the post-COVID era are based on creativity, and so it was a good chance for all of us to think about value creation beyond optimization, efficiency, and rationalization. At the peak of COVID, the campus was closed, thus, UoC faculties and members were able to dedicate their time and focus on their respective research. In a way, COVID gave us the opportunity to really ferment our thinking and consider long span blueprints for the future.

●How do you define “creative direction?”
A very strong idea and a very strong craft. And architecture that catalyzes them. Whether it be design or content creation, I define “creative direction” as creating unprecedented emotional impact through the multiplication of the following factors – idea, craft, and architecture. But words cannot capture all of the essence of creativity and do not do justice to the power or creativity, so I like to leave the definition ambiguous. Creativity isn’t so simple – it’s almost like a hunt for monsters that pop up irregularly.
But in our daily work, conservative companies and governments rarely ever ask us to create such monsters, because their KPIs are often rational and based on precedents. So, it’s about how we can creatively “wow” the clients and the society, and maximize their emotional impact, while fulfilling the obvious realistic mission of raising sales in line with their strategic objectives, and contributing to the society at the same time. We think about how to move people’s hearts through the chemistry of the best ideas, the best staff, and the best craft. In a sense, it’s like aiming for a “new unexplored continent.” Exploring for a mesmerizing view yet to be discovered, although we don’t even know if it’s actually there. When I’m directing, there’s that sense of uncertainty if we’ll ever reach that view and so actually, I have fear. But when we do, there’s that sense of relief and joy and there’s nothing more satisfying. But well, I have my team keep paddling until we reach that pinnacle, so in the end, we do always discover that view. It’s the commitment to create that “wow” and fascination which makes one’s heart tremble, that makes us different from consultants.

Inspiration constantly oscillates from the interaction and counteraction between the mainstream and street culture.

●Before we discuss ideas and crafts for creativity, should we talk about the society that supports them?
Indeed. Today, it is important to have societal architecture that values creativity. During the high-growth period, clients and companies provided stable platforms for creators to express themselves, so artists and creators only had to focus on how to bring their ideas and craft to life. However, now, it is necessary for us to design architectures that allow for autonomous growth of communities, culture, and business – ultimately global trends and media behaviors. That’s why it’s more exciting for creators these days to initiate projects themselves from the phase of setting the agenda. In other words, we are now in the age of “architectural creativity.” Just as how a cultural movement like K5 emerged from a great business model. I believe that is the kind of creative direction that will become mainstream in the future.

●In an era where reception of information has become so easy for everyone, what kind of individuals do you think are needed for ideal and effective creative direction and city planning?
With the growth of infrastructures like ChatGPT, more and more rational solutions will spread throughout the society. From the past success stories and cases being copied and pasted all across the globe at an incredible speed, everything is becoming homogenized. So first, we must gather those “bad boys” and “bad girls” who resist and stand against such norms and uniformity. I love crazy and unique comrades who aren’t afraid to make noise, suggest pillars which aren’t perfectly vertical, and intentionally leave rusts here and there – those who embrace and see value in the unconventional one of a kind things.

●These days, wherever you go, you are served the same kind of meals at similar establishments. I almost lose track of whether I’m in Tokyo or in Fukuoka. So in order to prevent such homogenization from happening, what kind of architecture do you think is needed?
Well, Mat, you and I, we often bump into each other in the city, don’t we? And it’s usually at those places that resist homogenization, like unique bars and restaurants. The truth is, those places that compete with an aesthetic sense of uniqueness and individuality are often more enjoyable and comfortable for me, and they often exist not on the main streets, but in the hidden alleys. While overly sanitized spaces that emerge from top-down development do serve to attract people, I sense a growing demand for places where unsterilized uniqueness thrives. In the current capitalist system, it’s hard to stop urban redevelopment that increases flatland value and boosts real estate worth by constructing multiple high-rise buildings at limited spaces in front of hub train stations. However, no one can stop the fermentation of architecture that naturally gathers interesting people either, at places such as Maruyama-cho and Hyakkendana in Shibuya, Golden Gai in Shinjuku, Yanaka, Nezu, and Sendagi in Eastern Tokyo, and Noge in Yokohama. We all know that real culture with good vibes is born bottom-up on a human scale on the streets. Take serving wine for instance – there are places where you’re simply handed a QR code menu, but the most enjoyable are places where the bartender has true conversation with you like, “Try comparing different orange natural wines today since I’m in this kind of mood,” and where you are able to hop from such cozy bar to the next, all within the same neighborhood. That mixture is what makes such areas fascinating, don’t you think?

●We can’t stop homogenization, but it’s also unlikely to be completely homogenized, right?
That’s right. Just like in the music scene, when one genre becomes popular, another emerges in counter to it. While a national pop star sweeps away all the charts, club music virally spreads and thrives at underground scenes in counter reaction to it. Then, before you know it, the club vibes mix with rock and hip-hop, giving birth to new forms of expression. Inspiration constantly oscillates from the interaction and counteraction between the mainstream and street culture.

●Counterculture inevitably arises, and so does gentrification of cities.
Yes, that’s right. In Manhattan, New York, there’s a strong backbone formed by Fifth Avenue and Wall Street. But if you go further down south, there’s an area called DUMBO – Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. Originally, under the bridge near the river was a dangerous place, associated with drug dealing. Similar to the area by Williamsburg Bridge in Brooklyn. When I lived there as a student, only artists lived there, but since then, the property value has increased by more than tenfold. In the past, young artists who couldn’t afford to live in Manhattan would cautiously move there and create creative syndicates while mapping out safe zones where they wouldn’t get shot. However, it has ironically become the hippest and most upscale area. It’s a repetition of such irony anywhere, isn’t it?

I believe the charm of an urban city is quite simply its “density.”

●No matter the architecture, the bacteria will continue to spread.
It’s impossible to completely sterilize culture. Those who love the fermenting bacteria of creativity, move day and night, on a hunt for new breeding grounds to reproduce, explode, and spread new sensibilities. As a result, those places become the place to be, and developers enter to capitalize on their cultural value, triggering gentrification. Some make money out of it, while others get bored and leave as the charm of the place gets lost through gentrification. Surprisingly, it is often the top executives from major top-down corporations humbly gathering information night after night at bottom-up establishments, searching for what’s to come next.

●I went to New York several times to persuade Brooklyn Brewery as I wanted to have them in the basement of K5. Gentrification of Brooklyn had already happened by then, but they asked, “Why open a place in Kabutocho, Nihonbashi instead of Shibuya?” It turns out their uncle had a store in Brooklyn before gentrification happened. When their uncle started brewing beer on that land and opened a taproom, people gradually started gathering there, and luckily, there was a bowling alley nearby, attracting even more people to Brooklyn. With beer and bowling available, there was a demand for food, so restaurants started popping up. That’s how the typical gentrification unfolded there.
And how did you end up convincing Brooklyn Brewery to come to Kabutocho?

●Well, I told them, “In the context of transforming the town of Kabutocho, the story your family started in Brooklyn 25 years ago, which successfully fermented the city, can take place here in Kabutocho in the same way, right?” That seemed to resonate with them and so they said, “We’re not so fond of underground spaces, and we’ve never been there, but let’s do it!”
When I used to live in Brooklyn as a film school student, it was right when Brooklyn Brewery was gaining momentum. In terms of fashion and dress codes, in Manhattan, people wore three-piece suits, while in Brooklyn, people wore overalls. What I want to say is, they believed Brooklynites had a stronger “Old New Yorker” spirit and they had great pride in that. In terms of recreating new pride and culture by the riverside – Brooklyn and Kabutocho are very similar. Kabutocho, Nihonbashi is an amazing place. If we go back to the Edo period, Nihonbashi was where the “Five Routes” intersected, making it the heart of cultural exchange. It’s impressive how such DNA is being stimulated on a global scale.

●How do you, as a creative director, view the city?
I believe the charm of an urban city is quite simply its “density.” Cultural density, gastronomical density, economic density, information density, geographical density… You can come across someone you’ve been curious about spontaneously on the streets. You can come across books or records you’ve been wanting by chance. You can encounter a cultural love affair. And all that happens because of the density. About 30% of Japan’s entire population is packed within this small area of Tokyo. Do you know how many people use the Shibuya Station every day? Over two million. Can you believe? It exceeds two million people in a single day. Just by placing a fixed camera at the Shibuya crossing, your cells can burst with excitement. Moreover, it’s not just those visible things, but also the meta-information and tagged information of emotions such as “I miss you,” “I don’t want to see you,” “I like,” “my favorite,” “never again,” and so on, coming and going simultaneously from gigabytes to terabytes to petabytes to exabytes. Now, that’s what I call the density of cities. Some may find it uncomfortable at first, but from an academic point of view, that density lowers the cost of innovation and emotional impact. For example, if Mat lived in Naha, Okinawa and I lived in Hayama, Kanagawa, we wouldn’t be having this kind of meaningful brainstorming session in person right now. Food, bars, architecture, art, film, events, and all sorts of creativity blend together, giving birth to excitement and innovation. Because of the density, collaborations occur, markets are born, consumers become creators, and naturally, the cost decreases. I hope to see such density return to Kabutocho as well.

If we are to apply such analogy to a city, the microorganisms are equivalent to the attractiveness and emotional excitement that people possess. And creativity, too.

●Are people the minimum unit of density in cities?
Yes, definitely. However, it’s not just about the behavior and actions of an individual person, but rather about how many patterns and equations can be embedded into the community for stimulating “intersection and divergence.” One such pattern from a media perspective would be, transforming the exchange of energy into festivity, to give rise to exciting ideas and projects that bring people together. It’s about how we can amplify information and emotions as a medium. Another perspective is, viewing the city as a living organism. City corners are precisely living creatures themselves. They grow and develop based on their initial settings, and they evolve and thrive on the interactions derived from eco, ego, and eros of the people. If left alone once completed, they may rot or age, so we must ferment them and nurture them with care.

●It’s true for scenery, too, but daily landscapes – they change with people coming and going, but rather than such visible movements, I feel it’s more about the atmosphere or the temperature. For instance, the art on the walls or the music playing in the background. It’s those elements that create the vibes, don’t you think?
A city that lacks a sense of liveliness or animality of a living creature is not interesting. It becomes dull without that beast-like temperature and warmth. For instance, who would enjoy being in a town surrounded only by banks? It’s so cold and still. Whether it’s Shinjuku or Shibuya, they are fascinating because the city incorporates diverse temperatures in a layered manner. Top-down systematized large facilities may have uniform temperatures but there’s not enough “life” in them. The presence of such establishments almost always lead to the creation and fermentation of hidden alleyways nearby with their own unique ambiance and culture. Eastern Tokyo is becoming more and more interesting. If the area from Nihonbashi – where K5 is located, to Marunouchi, Kanda, Yushima, Yanaka, Nezu, Kappabashi, and Asakusa can be connected, a walking distance cultural sphere can be newly created, where people can enjoy hopping between bars and cafes. Foreigners also love the scent and vibes of Edo around here, don’t they?

●Eastern Tokyo is flat with no hills and slopes, and so it’s easy to get around even by bicycle, so one can physically experience the change of landscape and culture within the city. In that sense, it’s very fascinating from a mobility and transportation perspective. My hometown is Shinagawa, and my university was in Shibuya. So up until now, Western Tokyo was my hood. Thus, it’s been a fresh experience to be able to feel, appreciate, and spread the charm of Eastern Tokyo in this way. Now, I would like to ask about “urban fermentation.” Can you expand upon the metaphor of urban culture and its fermentation?
First of all, let’s define fermentation as the process of microorganisms breaking down organic matter and making it delicious. If it doesn’t turn out tasty, it’s not fermentation but rather decay. If we are to apply such analogy to a city, the microorganisms are equivalent to the attractiveness and emotional excitement that people possess. And creativity, too. For instance, how about this kind of music or this kind of mural? How about a combination of a standing drinking counter and projection mapping to mix agitation and fermentation? The organic matter of this analogy – the elements to be fermented by the microorganisms, would be the companies and the city corners themselves. And perhaps, the economy as well. We don’t mean to take anything away, but instead, I believe it’s important for us to work with the mindset of breaking things down and rekindling connections for the future.

●What do you think is necessary after the successful initial setup of the place including elements such as art, furniture, and music?
Temperature and humidity control. Creating an environment where communities and cities can ferment and thrive, making little bubbling sounds. A good city always has someone who takes care of such things.

●We don’t really like our temperature and humidity being controlled by others, but we do know the temperature at which we are the most comfortable at.
I agree, I feel the same way. I can already feel the Mat-ism (the Matsui style) aesthetic sense and style in here.

●You think?
Of course! On a slightly more serious note, in an age with Wikipedia and smartphones, it’s meaningless to lock up sensible and imaginative children in their rooms and have them memorize historical dates and geographical names. Why did such type of education start in the first place? Well, simply because in the post-war era, the government just wanted obedient citizens who would solve the problems given to them without questioning anything. For rapid economic growth, they were trying to create a strong government and strong corporations, and in order to do that, they mass-produced people who would do as they are told and solve problems like machines. But today, the society calls not for people who can solve problems like robots but rather people who can come up with and propose the problems to be solved, the agendas to be discussed – those who aren’t hesitant to doubt the society and raise the questions themselves. We can leave it up to the computers to do the calculations and AI to come up with the model answers. The ability to flexibly think outside the box and the talent and skill to initiate projects that go beyond manuals and pre-existing ways are unlikely to be nurtured in top-down organizations or through traditional education systems.

The true aspiration of a city is becoming a “cultural fermentation chamber with density.”

●Those who will raise the aesthetic consciousness of the society are probably the ones who have grown up in a bottom-up culture.
Talented individuals keep emerging from bottom-up culture, and it is absolutely crucial for the evolution of society to unleash their “acoustic live sounds” of creativity. I genuinely want to support them. But it’s the top-down organizations that excel at amplifying those sounds and delivering to a larger audience. So it’s all about finding balance and implementing the best of both worlds.

●Acoustic sounds can reach people in the vicinity with high clarity, but it’s hard to reach those far away. Considering that, in the case of creating new spaces, we must be cautious of the balance of the setup.
Yes, so we must not think about setting up the whole place perfectly, but rather just focus on the initial setup of the architecture, temperature, and humidity – setting up the OS of the place and letting for other elements to ferment on their own. After all, the space is ultimately created upon a series of unpredictable human activities, so it’s impossible to calculate everything from the start and for it to go as planned. It’s important that we recognize the space as a living entity.

●What are the key factors in making a city attractive?
I’m sure that you also feel this first hand, too, but when you travel around the world, you realize once again how cool Tokyo is. And you start thinking like “Why don’t we realize its charm?” and “Why do we prevent it from fermenting in a way that maximizes its unique qualities?” The true aspiration of a city is becoming a “cultural fermentation chamber with density.” Whether it’s digital or analog, it doesn’t really matter. It’s about how we design and nurture the density of information and emotional impact. For instance, creating Tokyo’s 24th ward in the digital space could be an interesting idea. In order to ferment digital culture, the government and funds must work together with creators to ensure cultural preservation and future planning are thought about as a set. For example, connecting together the recycling of antique furniture and its giant warehouses with an online marketplace platform like Mercari. Should that occur, we could overcome the boundaries between the digital and the analog, and urban life would become more vibrant and rich.

●Even if it’s just a theoretical discussion, by envisioning such ideals and discussing them, actions are initiated and things start to gain momentum. It’s the density of a city that makes it possible for such things to happen.
The city is shaped through everyone riding on the initial setup, embracing and expanding upon a mashup of interesting things, and spreading them. The density generates the energy to bring about change, and with it, the culture ferments and evolves. It’s precisely a cultural fermentation chamber with the effervescence of creativity. However, if we only focus on efficiency, much like focusing on capturing the four corners of the Othello board with minimal moves, it will become boring. We shall only draw the grand design, and the rest should be left alone for organic growth and development. That’s the essence of successful urban development – letting things unfold naturally.

I believe it’s important to open up the role of a creative director and encourage talents from diverse backgrounds to come together to openly discuss the future at the same table.

●I believe the role of a creative director (CD) is to define the initial setup. What are your thoughts on having multiple CDs in the same project?
I think it’s perfectly fine. In the past, the CD’s job was up to the point of delivery of the final product. But nowadays, and I believe it’s the same for K5 as well, the real beginning starts when the product is delivered. It’s important to involve people from the community in the project from early on – in the planning, crafting, and architectural phases. By doing so, they will have a sense of ownership and pride and will lead to them spreading the word that they were involved in creating it, too. It used to be “One Voice, One World,” but now it’s the era of “Many Voices, Many Worlds.” By combining everyone’s creativity in a multidimensional manner, the overall vibes can be enhanced and elevated. And when things get tricky, just add a little yeast for a bit of adjustment and realignment to bring things back on track.

●Each CD has their own unique background and they each must have their own approach in carrying out their work, don’t they?
Since I come from a background in commercial planning and film direction, I always focus on directing in a storytelling manner, designing the direction along a timeline. I place and arrange visuals, texts, music, and context on a timeline and aim to take the audience on a journey that they’ve never yet experienced before.

●If you were to envision the future of Kabutocho in 2030, what would it look like?
First, I would gather hundreds or even thousands of historical images and photographs of Kabutocho and write down words that embody and represent the cultural DNA of Kabutocho next to them. Then, I would search for the most powerful combinations of images and words out of them, and draw imaginative and extraordinary visuals of the future. If the CD was an architect, he or she may start by considering about the flow and circulation of the people, the ceiling height, the movement of light in the space, and materials to use. If the CD was a fashion designer, he or she may come up with the future visual using cloths, drapes, or mode symbols. If the CD was a chef, he or she may experiment on the experience of taste buds coming in contact with new local ingredients native to the area. I believe it’s important to open up the role of a creative director and encourage talents from diverse backgrounds to come together to openly discuss the future at the same table.

●To cultivate young talents, figures like CDs are necessary. However, it’s often difficult for young people to come across individuals they can truly admire. But it’s important as such role models tend to have a significant impact on their future.
In my project meetings, the ideas and proposals presented belong to everyone in the room. There’s no seniority or consideration for rank or position, so all ideas are treated equally, and I have everyone join the meeting with a CD mentality. I want for young people to thrive even more, and for them to know there’s no limit to what they can achieve. While they come up with great ideas with fresh perspectives, I feel they lack a set framework, or a fixed mold and approach.

●So are you saying that they should create a set framework, or a fixed mold and approach for themselves while they’re young?
I think it’s better to form a mold early on in your career. For example, in your case Mat, having a background in community and media, led to your interest in architecture, eventually leading to the success of K5 as a new cultural platform. In my case, I’ve been involved in corporate campaigns as a commercial planner and film director for over a quarter of a century, and from there, my interest shifted to architecture. However, to this day, I design and direct projects from a very visual perspective, like drawing storyboards for the future. Whether it’s photography, architecture, or any other field, having a strong mold – essentially a base, gives you freedom and thus you are able to dig deep into it, explore both similarities and differences in ways of thinking with others, and based on that, sometimes even enjoy testing out different approaches.

●So the stronger the mold, the more you can shift your way of thinking.
I think the environment and reality of the current young generation is slightly different from ours in that today, they are not taught to fit into or to create a mold like we were taught. For example, things like drawing 100 storyboards overnight, was a form of training for us which helped to shape our mold, but today, such things would be considered as a harassment of a sort. What used to be the norm for a long time doesn’t apply anymore. Today, having access to video editing software on Mac is nothing ordinary, having programming skills, the ability to compose music using Open AI, and creating professional looking drawings instantly, are things nothing to be surprised about. In such an age, how can we generate new and unprecedented emotional movement and awe? In an era where we are expected to become creative directors of AI, if we are not able to stand on the side that teaches things beyond the horizon of craftsmanship and ideas, we are no use and AI might judge us to be inadequate as directors. Given such circumstances, I worry for the young generation who tend to start out as generalists, because AI is an ultimate generalist.

With all of that in mind, cities are great schools of creativity themselves in that various talents in and aspects of film, music, architecture, food, tech, and others from different generations are layered upon each other.

● Well, young people today tend to be very versatile and have the ability to adapt quickly, but maybe it wouldn’t hurt for them to have a period of intensive training. It’s true that while they have more freedom, there are less opportunities for them to hone their skills and refine their techniques. To be honest, I sometimes question whether I’ve had enough training myself, too.
Oh trust me, you have nothing to worry about! But goodness, you were so young when we first met!

●Kentaro, you always say that, but I was already 22 years old when we first met! Honestly, I can’t pass as being so young anymore, so the true value of my work – with the age factor aside, is being tested. I actually just had a conversation about this last night with my senior colleague.
Is that so? I always seem to forget! But it’s a grateful thing to have someone who can question and criticize you in an honest manner. I personally have been able to grow from being challenged in that way. My mentor once told me, “How you are seen by others in your 20s is determined by your genes, in your 30s, by your work, and in your 40s, by yourself.” And ultimately, you are to become a role model for those following your footsteps. With all of that in mind, cities are great schools of creativity themselves in that various talents in and aspects of film, music, architecture, food, tech, and others from different generations are layered upon each other.

●Kabutocho also needs to serve as a platform for spreading such diverse cultures.
Let’s do something together that only Tokyo creators can do in Kabutocho, too. Maybe it could be a future street food village. We all know the Nihonbashi bridge used to be the heart of Edo and we can sense the liveliness and the vibrance of the city back then, just from looking at the ukiyo-e prints. There were sake brewers, merchants, painters, and sushi restaurants. It had everything – it was a party bridge, making it a revered place throughout all of Japan. But now, unfortunately, it has become just a bridge, dark and gloomy from the highway running over it. We want to bring back that sparkle of the past, in our generation, don’t we?

●Exactly. If we can achieve something that truly moves people through creativity.
I completely agree. It’s not about the traditional vertical divisions like the food and beverage industry, banking, real estate, advertising, and so on. Nowadays, you can be a chef while launching your own fashion brand, or open a natural wine bar while training to be a DJ. There are unlimited opportunities for cross-disciplinary pursuits. It’s an era where possibilities are endless and anything goes. That’s simply just amazing, isn’t it? In the future, all industries will become creative industries. If everyone realizes that, we can instantly expand the realm of inspiration and emotional excitement in the city. The current blossoming of Kabutocho serves as proof of being at the forefront of the era to come. No matter how much AI and robotics advance and evolve, we’ll always be hungry for that “something” beyond rationalization and optimization, as human beings are creative creatures afterall.

Kentaro Ichiki

Kentaro Ichiki

Creative Director and Film Director based in Japan and California. Founder of UNIVERSITY of CREATIVITY since 2020. Film planner and Creative Director at HAKUHODO Inc. and globally repped by Creative Capital Inc. Juror experiences at Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Clio Awards, and Asia Pacific Advertising Festival. Master of Fine Arts from Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. Selected as Young Global Leaders by World Economic Forum at Davos.

Text : Jun Kuramoto

Translation : Honami Iizuka

Photo : Naoto Date

Interview : Akihiro Matsui