Joi Jams

Joi Ito updates us on The Further Adventures of Digital Reiko

I met Reiko over a year ago when Asahi Shimbun, a huge newspaper conglomerate wanted me to have a discussion with her for their newspaper as pre-publicity for an upcoming international conference on multimedia. When she showed up at my office, she was more interested in playing with the Sun than having a discussion. Her manager, who was a programmer turned talent manager, had his face in a video game the entire time.

Reiko told us that she hated the daylight and preferred sitting in her room with her computer at night.

She had started her career as a young model, and soon became an actress. At age 16, she became the pink ranger in one of the "Power Ranger" series and was an instant teenage idol.

Her manager, Ikeda-san, was a computer programmer and a video game addict. During the long waiting periods in the studio, they would talk about games and computers and Ikeda-san soon hooked Reiko on video games and computers.

Reiko Chiba's New BOOK
Later, Reiko went out with guy who worked in a video game parlor where she was able to play video games for free and polish her skills to become an video game wiz.

As the video game computer industry looked for a mascot, Reiko found her work turning more and more to representing such companies. SNK, the game company that made Dragon Quest, Maxell floppy disks, Tokyo Digital Phone and Bandai are among the companies for which Reiko has endorsed their goods.

During the interview for the newspaper, I showed Reiko the world wide web and the obligatory NASA broadcast over CU-SeeMe. As we talked about the Internet and the future of media, I could tell that she quickly grasped the impact of the Internet and I found that

her intuitive grasp of digital technology was way ahead of the businessmen she would be speaking to through the newspaper and at the conference


Reiko, contrary to what some experts had predicted, made an elegant shift from teenage idol to a role model for young women in Japan. Although some of her Pink Ranger fans feel a bit betrayed, her popularity continues to increase and she is gaining wide support from young women. She is heading the formation of a computer network for young women called "Tokyo Girls Net." Recently she published a book about her experience of creating a home page in the form of a how-to book on web page production. She is in the process of writing a book about relationships and love in cyberspace.

Reiko has become a symbol of the New Breed as well as a voice of representing the youth in the multimedia industry otherwise populated by bureaucrats and marketing men. Reiko is the first of her kind, but not the last if she has anything to do with it. She is the living symbol of the unstoppable force of young people in Japan empowering themselves to shake loose from the hierarchical, factory-style system of post-war Japan.

Dentsu, the ad agency that coordinated the conferenc,e made a web page featuring Reiko. She was excited by this and the response on the Net was amazing. After the conference, Reiko asked me how hard it was to write html and whether it was possible to have her own web page.

A week later, she was over at our office with a bunch of photos, her CD, some artwork and a head full of ideas. She sat in front of the computer as we walked her though the basics of html. She began keying in the html, scanning her photos, digitizing her music ftp'ing the the pages onto our web site. At 5 am she was finished.

In one sitting she had mastered html and created a site which within a week became the hottest pages on our site.

At about the same time she was learning how to use the Internet, she began to question the future of her career as an Idol. She began to work with Ikeda-san, developing an educational CD-ROM title, and she made frequent visits to our office to update her page.

She came up with the idea of a "Digital Reiko" that could answer questions for her and be a talent in her place. As her CD-ROM idea and her sense of self-empowerment through the Internet increased, so did her frustration with working within the constraints of a talent management company as teenage idol. She had a conference area in NiftyServe where she communicated with her fans. The talks that she gave during her public appearances began to focus more and more on the Internet. She soon found that her fans had a hard time keeping up with her change and the gap between her career as an idol and what she really wanted to be began to reach a critical point.

In July 1995, she closed her conference on Nifty Serve, hired a lawye,r and quit her managment company. The industry was shocked. The Nikkei announced her retirement. Japan could not understand why a 20 year old teenage idol at the height of her career would just quit. But the New Breed of digital Tokyo got the joke. Reiko finished her CD-ROM and published it with a company called Momoderas where her manager gone to to become a programmer after Reiko quit her management company. In addition to joining Momodera's as an employee, she joined Digital Garage, a new company that I set up to be a producer of Internet related events and content.

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