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Echigo-Tsumari Art Field - Official Web Magazine

Story / Me and Echigo-Tsumari, vol.4-2

I realised how important it is to appreciate with body and mind, rather than according to logic.

CEO of asoview inc. / ETAT Official Supporter  Tomohisa Yamano

CEO of asoview inc. / ETAT Official Supporter

Tomohisa Yamano

The second in the interview series is with Tomohisa Yamano, the founder and CEO of asoview inc. (an on-line booking site for plays and programs) and the member of ETAT Official Supporter. We find out his aspiration to contribute his expertise in the digital field to this art festival which connects nature and art.

Text by UCHIDA Shinichi, Photo by TOYOSHIMA Nozomu, Edit by UCHIDA Shinichi, MIYAHARA Tomoyuki, KAWAMURA Kei (CINRA.NET editorial team) / Translated by Miwa Worrall

30 March 2020

Expand the circle of ETAT with the knowledge of the digital domain

We asked how shocking the first visit to ETAT was to Yamano and how he came to becoming a member of the ETAT Official Supporters, which consisting of diverse prominent people including journalists, fashion models, and managers of IT companies. The way they offer support is different for each member.

While sharing an overarching agenda of “supporting ETAT”, there are no rules for everyone to follow. It is up to each individual to do what he or she wants to do. This is the smart approach taken by our leader, Kohey Takashima (CEO of Oisix Ra Daichi Inc / vice-director of NPO Echigo-Tsumari Satoyama Collaborative Organisation). For example, Rina Tanaka, a fashion model, makes the best use of her own social network connections to spread the word about the festival to younger generations. Those who have their own businesses invite their acquaintances and expand the circle of fans – some of those have led to financial sponsorship with the operation of the festival.

Experience planting rice with members of the ETAT Official Supporters. Dai Tamesue (former athlete / CEO Samurai), Koichiro Yoshida (President and CEO of CrowdWorks Inc., and Yamano, from left in the front)

Young managers amongst the member provide support with the festival and Echigo-Tsumari region in their respective ways.

Koichiro Yoshida, CEO of CrowdWorks Inc. which provides an online platform to connect people working from home with potential employers has become an owner of Matsudai Tanada Bank, operated by NPO Echigo-Tsumari Satoyama Collaborative Organisation, and sends harvested rice to clients as a mid-yeargift. It is a true regional contribution, isn’t it? Kana Bougaki from Makuake Inc which runs crowd-funding platform and Toshiki Abe from Ridilover Inc which organises special tours highlighting social issues make the best use of their services to attract visitors to ETAT as well as to provide opportunities to learn in the region.

The official website of ETAT offers an on-line channel to make bookings with guided tours.

What Yamano aims to achieve is to establish connections online between ETAT with visitors utilising the knowledge and experience of asoview, inc.

He thought he could make use of “asoview”, a platform which sells tickets for various amusement facilities and activity programs. In other words, he has arranged to trade the content of ETAT such as guided tours and events on the asoview platform and try to increase the number of sales of this content through digital marketing.

What led to the launch of “asoview” was an idea that Yamano had – the internet should be able to trade not just things but also serve people who would like to have “experiences”. ETAT is an initiative which treasures the experiences of visitors. Yamano set up a special team supporting ETAT in the company. They organised a digital promotional campaign, expanded the sale of tickets available online and managed to achieve the target number of visitors.

Art festivals in Japan in general are not yet equipped to utilise digital technologies. On the other hand, we have a certain confidence in having sold various experiences in different regions through making use of digital and online platforms. I soon realised this combination had a way to move forward and thus what we could do was obvious. Generally speaking, while I believe “good content” will definitely sell well, it can reach more people as long as we know when and how to provide the most appropriate information to where. I am very pleased to make a contribution to delivery of information through utilising digital channels.

I began to shift from logical thinking to appreciation through body and mind.

In recent years, asoview! has also been engaging with ETAT as a participating artist. In 2018, asoview collaborated with a videographer and presented their work at Hojoki Shiki 2018, a special exhibition during ETAT2018. They provided a playground making digital “snow of Echigo-Tsumari” in the midst of the summer. ETAT has received such wonderful support from Yamano and his team. We wondered if he was concerned about the management risk of deciding to support ETAT when the company had busy staff members dealing with over 20,000 plans of more than 7000 companies under partnership contracts.

Surely there were such opinions. However, I had a faith that the festival and asoview could mutually stimulate each other to grow when the energy of both were combined. The festival has a robust “core concept”andheart-warming stories that would be supported by everyone, and we know that they should exist in society. I concluded “making a decision of not to engage with the festival while knowing what we have could contribute to improve it would become a risk to the company in the long run”. Of course we invest our resources, including the support of our staff members, and it is not ideal if we make a loss. However, we have been continuing our engagement by focusing on its future prospects rather than immediate profits.

asoview is in charge of producing contents for this web magazine, “Art from the Land”. They have been providing rich information as a guide of a journey to Echigo-Tsumari.

Looking back I was almost like the embodiment of logical-thinking before. I always tried to think through and resolve situations. As if how you feel was irrelevant. However, in the last three to four years, I have come to think that “the world doesn’t operate like that”. In reality, I sometimes think that it is often the case that the body and mind understand things much earlier and logic is used as a communication tool to retrospectively support such appreciations. Such shift in myself is not unrelated to why I am participating in ETAT now.

How does Yamano as CEO of asoview inc. sees the future of ETAT?

Contrasting with entertainments that have an emphasis on novelty, which epitomise the 20thcentury, the demand for refreshing experiences through directly touching the long history and soil and air of a place, such as offered by ETAT, will expand in future. In particular a growing number of city dwellers would feel so. As asoview, we hope to bring the benefits of the digital domain to this multi-faceted festival in the way comfortable to us. This has wide potential, including working on the production of artworks by artists, as well as building better working environments for local people.

As an example of an image of this ideal combination, Yamano talked about the film Laputa: Castle in the Sky.

 

Laputa: Castle in the Skyis a film ultimately exploring the possibility of combining nature and technology. Presently, ETAT has managed to integrate the community with art through the tireless efforts of those who have been involved. At the same time however, digital technology seems to be regarded as something unfamiliar, like an alien. Once these elements are integrated, I would imagine we could succeed in building a world view that is close to the ideal scenario in this movie. As I think that has not been realised in any art festival yet, I would like to give us enough time and explore the best way forward with everyone.

At the end of the interview Yamano smiled and told us “I am actually keen to play the role of producer of the festival in future. Not sure how long it will take to realise my wish.” Through interview, we felt that it would be wonderful to experience the festival that Yamano produces one day.

Q1. What is an artwork you have a special feeling for?

“Where the River Has Gone” by Yukihisa Isobe (2000 / 2018)

A large-scale artwork comprising approximately 600 yellow poles, tracing the original flow of the Shinanogawa River before the development of the area by humans. It can be seen as an antithesis to changing lifestyle if we regard the area as place where the flow of river and its ecology were changed for the convenience of humans. On the other hand, there are fields and rice paddies that support many people’s lives and they produce abundant rice, and the sky above is blue and beautiful. What would occur to my mind as I stand there and the light breeze touches me – this is is a big question, as if I am engaging in a Zen koan.

Photo by Osamu Nakamura

Q2. How do you describe ETAT in one word?

Not logic but heart

Talk of the “meaning of art” sounds rather empty to me to be honest. However, ETAT is not like that. It is a place reminding me that affection and emotion are important. (I could have also said “love”. but I have chosen these others words as I felt slightly shy.)

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