《Hokkaido: the migrants’ choice – from Niseko 》⑩ Representative of an international IT venture, Ono Tomohiro (51) in search of how new companies should exist, based in Niseko

March 19
Ono Tomohiro, who relocated to Kutchan from Tokyo, with his wife Tian and eldest daughter Miyaki on the veranda overlooking Mt. Yotei. February 28.

The Hirafu district of the town of Kutchan in Shiribeshi subprefecture, the center of the Niseko region. It was a part of that holiday villa area to which Ono Tomohiro (51) resettled in August 2020, along with his Chinese wife Tian (40) and their eldest daughter Miyaki (4).

 Tomohiro is the founder and CEO of the venture company Kudan, which is involved in the research and development of artificial intelligence technology. As well as Tokyo, the company also has bases in the United States, UK, and Germany. Employees in each country develop technology related to “the eyes of computers”, which is expected to be utilized in driverless vehicles and drones.

 Tomohiro was born in Osaka. After graduating from university, he was employed by a foreign-owned consulting company and for 11 years, until becoming independent, he spent almost all of his time overseas. After establishing Kudan, Tomohiro lived in the city of Bristol in the west of England. “I never even thought about returning to Japan”.
 Business expanded and, in 2018, the company was listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. In order prepare, the family temporarily moved to Tokyo, and he was searching for somewhere to relocate when the coronavirus pandemic began to spread throughout the world. As moving abroad became difficult, a friend introduced them to Niseko.
 With the intention of carrying out an inspection, they moved there for a month last July, and were taken by surprise. They found a “borderless” community in which people from all countries around the world live amid an abundant natural environment. “It was more stateless than multinational. No-one cares about nationality. Such an environment was so comfortable”. They decided to rent a villa for a year and relocate there.

 Tomohiro takes the company helm and communicates with the employees in each county from Niseko, via a Smartphone app. His decision did not just stop at his own relocation. A comfortable place to live is surely “a place you would want to work”. At the end of 2020, he decided to purchase approximately 3.3 hectares of land in the neighboring village of Makkari.

A technical research facility will be established on the expansive land and, after the coronavirus pandemic has been brought under control, Tomohiro hopes to utilize the facility as a workplace at which employees from all countries will be free to stay and work amid the natural environment. He also believes that Niseko – with its environment in which wealthy people from many countries gather – is a perfect base the company’s newly established investment department.

Tomohiro senses that as remote work is becoming normalized, the way companies exist is also going through a transformation. “It’s no longer necessary to locate companies in urban areas because that’s where people gather. If you locate companies where people want to live, then society will change.” Kudan’s new trials may even reverse the traditional relationships between urban and rural areas. Work to realize the future forecasted by the relocated CEO will begin this spring.


Hirafu district