As you can imagine, Japan has changed a lot since we founded our little company offering wacky bento boxes and Hello Kitty personal massagers and thrice-weekly slice-of-life emails from Japan. The year was 1996, and new companies like Yahoo and Netscape and Amazon had all just been founded. Instead of “Googling,” people were doing web searches with Alta Vista, the first halfway decent search engine that crawled web pages for content. Then, as now, it was common for Japan to take a “wait-and-see” attitude about new technology, and everyone here was wondering if this new “Internet” thing was going to stick around, but I was pretty sure it was. Japan was in the middle of its “lost decade,” the long period of economic malaise after the busting of the Tokyo land bubble in 1991, and everything was in flux, which was probably a good thing, now that I look back. At the time the idea that a gaijin would start a corporation doing business in such an unorthodox way was unthinkable, especially out in rural Japan where we’re located, but the rapid changes of recession-racked Japan and the Internet helped us realize we could achieve anything. The role of women has also changed a lot in the last 15 years. Back then the idea of a company run by an intelligent, capable female president would have been quite rare — we’d have probably been on televisionJ- — but now perceptions have really changed.
It can be fun to reminisce about the early days of the Intern- ARRRGH!!!