Focusing on people who open up connections between individuals to overcome division: POCKETMARCHÉ [Part2]

COO Mikio Yamaguchi

Please tell us about the idea behind your business.

It was the Great East Japan Earthquake that triggered the launch of this service. The coastal areas of Iwate already had an aging population and many  people were leaving those areas, and then the earthquake and tsunami hit. When I went to the area to help with reconstruction efforts, I became friends with farmers and fishermen for the first time and found their way of life and thoughts very interesting.

Mr. Takahashi, the representative of our company, was thinking about how to help Iwate on a daily basis. A lot of people from different places came and shared their impressions on social media, saying things like, “Everyone’s food was delicious.” In the past, people only focused on whether something tasted good or not, and whether it was expensive or cheap, but by learning the story behind the food, the value of the food increases. The moment when the divide between cities and rural areas, and between consumers and producers could be overcome was at the site of reconstruction after the earthquake.

What were some of the discoveries you made when you met the farmers and fishermen?

There were three things that I noticed. The first is that they are not only growing food, but also protecting the local community. They have all kinds of know-how on how to recover when a disaster occurs. For example, things like “If a tree falls, that person has a machine.” I felt that there is as much value in their actions to protect the community as there is in supplying food, and that it is the existence of the farmers and fishermen that keeps the community alive.

Secondly, there is the economic difficulty. Even those who produce foods that are considered high-class ingredients at ryotei (Japanese restaurants) may not have enough income to live in Tokyo. Even so, I was moved by the way they live their lives, saying they love their community. I was moved by hearing them talk about why they became farmers and why they became fishermen.

Thirdly, they have an excellent sense of beauty. They know what beauty is, such as the sunrise at a certain angle at a certain time. I was attracted by their sense of cherishing the beauty in nature.

Please tell us about how you met the CEO, Mr. Takahashi, and your impression of him now.

I met him at the place that was hit hardest by the tsunami. When I talked with Takahashi, he was thinking about the same thing as I was. That is the theme of “fragmentation”.

I had been thinking about “fragmentation” before that, when I went to Tohoku, I felt its reality again. When I went to Nairobi, Kenya, I became friends with the local people and could feel the division of information and people. At the site of the disaster and in the city, criticism of bureaucrats and politicians was spreading on social media. However, there were not many people with criticism like that around me. This is because I am a graduate of Tokyo University and have many friends who are bureaucrats. I know how hard the bureaucrats worked at that time, and how they worked themselves to death. I was thinking it would be better to experience more of what is happening in each place and try to understand another’s situation.

In the winter of 2012, I was asked if I would be interested in working with Tohoku Eat News. At the time, however, I felt that I could not contribute as much as I wanted because I was feeling inadequate, but I told him that I would like to work with him if there was an opportunity.

My impression of Mr. Takahashi was that we had the same social orientation. Our perceptions of each other have not changed.

What kind of people are working at your company?

There are many people who share Mr. Takahashi’s mission and vision Along with people who like food and cooking. We share the food we make with each other and we also have a kitchen in our office where we can gather together.

Please tell us about your hiring criteria.

Pocket Marche is a start-up that needs to grow quickly and properly. Therefore, we do not want to train new graduates, but rather hire people who have skills. We value empathy with the mission and vision as a real experience, and we check that for each person when we hire.

Do you have any particular benefits that are unique to your company?

We provide transportation subsidies to visit the producers. Our aim is to encourage people to go and meet the producers as entertainment, and also to have a relationship with the producers so that they can learn about their lives and thoughts.

What kind of people would you like to work with?

We have some non-Japanese members in our company in Japan. When we expand overseas, we need to have a deep understanding of the local area, so we would like to hire local partners.

Please give a message for our readers.

When I was working at SONY, I was mainly doing business with our main factory in Malaysia. Malaysia is becoming more and more urbanized, and at the same time the gap between the rich and the poor is widening, so I think the theme of “division” applies to Malaysia’s current economy. I like culture that remains deep-rooted in its historical and religious background. I think it fits well with the spirit of Pocket Marche, and it is a place I would like to develop in Asia. I would like to exchange opinions with anyone who is thinking about global warming and well-being.


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