【Second Round】What will travel look like five years from now? We ask KATACHI.Lab’s Hidekazu Imatani.

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The New Buds of Tourism, Exploring the Shape and Future of Tourism Five Years Ahead

This column aims to pinpoint new buds of tourism (the latest trends and changes in traveling) that are to come. However, the column isn’t limited to just the travel industry, but feature people an interview format from a variety of industries. Today we’re talking with Hidekazu Imatani, a professional who works off the fundamentals of intentional design, overcoming the limits between the digital world and the real world. His works include restaurant interior design, digital media strategy on the internet, establishing the Future Standard Laboratory for Daimaru Matsuzakaya Department Store, and more.

Mr. Hidekazu Imatani
Mr. Hidekazu Imatani

After entering Nomura Co., Ltd., Mr. Imatani started to work on interior design for restaurants and eateries. He then switched companies to Itochu and started work on development projects for residences and shopping centers. Later, he joined Dentsu Inc. as an interior producer – in charge of digital media strategy and online advertisements. In 2015, he joined Daimaru Matsuzakaya and convinced the management that a marketing department was needed in 2017 and thus established “The Future Standard Laboratory.” He currently operates the planning and development office KATACHI.Lab and the share kitchen within the office.

We Should Think of Online and Reality Complementing Each Other, Not Competing Against Each Other

Interviewer: Mr. Imatani, you’ve been working in the digital strategy industry for a very long time since the beginning of the internet. What do you think is the value of “reality” that only exists on the internet?
Mr. Imatani: The internet allows us to view things that we want to see when we want to see it. That’s a unique characteristic of it, and now it has become a necessary item in our lives – something we need to use. But what’s different is the touch, feel, smell of the space. When you’re communicating with people, you can see their expressions on online meetings, but you won’t be able to catch those small nuances of their true feelings. When you’re in the same space with them though, you’re able to feel and sense something – that’s very exciting.
When you buy something on the internet, you can see its color, shape, specifications, and price – then you’ll often buy it based off these details, right? On the other hand, when you buy something at a department store, you’ll touch it, feel it, talk to the shop assistants with their vast knowledge, feel and learn about the maker, history, and background before deciding. Thinking of it that way, the internet, and reality should be used together to complement each other – not compete against each other, it’s not a decision of either or.


The Important Thing is to Continue to Keep Your Values and Cherished Things Close to You, Whether Online or in Reality

Interviewer: You were chief of the “The Future Standard Laboratory” for Daimaru Matsuzakaya and currently have established an office in Nara and rent out a part of the office as a share kitchen – that’s quite a lot of different projects there. Is there something you cherish or hold dear to you in work?
Mr. Imatani: I cherish the charms of the local region and the values they have, and I give that advice to my clients. For example, even when restaurants raise their prices, I tell them to say, “we only use produce from Nara.” You’ll become exhausted when you compete on price only.
The Future Standard Laboratory is Daimaru Matsuzakaya’s marketing department. We built it Yanesen* which is not a new town development but because it has history to it. The area from Yanaka to Ueno was a flourishing town built around Kan’ei-ji during the Edo period. Matsuzakaya was the place that dedicated kimonos to Kan’ei-ji. There are no other department stores that continue to keep them in the space place for over 250 years.
*Yanasen refers to Yanaka, Nezu, and Sendagi, areas of Tokyo that cover Bunkyo-ku and Taito-ku.
Interviewer: Do you mean to say that if we put our values that we hold and the most cherished things to us to good use, those things will become acknowledged in due course?
Mr. Imatani: People understand what makes it good will come visit with a passion. There’s no need for anything flashy.


*Outside of the KATACHI.Lab and the share kitchen. Dishes featuring the vegetables grown on site also available.

Travel is a Present for Your Future Self

Interviewer: I’d like to talk to you about travel. Mr. Imatani, do you travel usually?
Mr. Imatani: Up until recently, I went to Europe every year but ever since COVID-19 and its restrictions, I haven’t felt like going. Recently, I’ve mainly traveled within the country, often going to places for work as well. It’s a waste to travel somewhere far just to go for work.
Interviewer: There are more people doing workcations and traveling as they work. Do you have anything that you’re particular about when you travel?
Mr. Imatani: One thing I’m clearly particular about is not going to tourist sights. Of course, it’s fine to go to those sights but I don’t make it my main goal. My main purpose when I travel is visiting people and places that make things I’m interested in. I don’t visit places recommended by guidebooks but rather enlarge Google Maps and find places on the map. That’s very interesting to me.
While I travel, I also remember things for my own mental inventory that I can use later. They don’t have to be helpful to me immediately, but I do that while I travel and have fun.
Interviewer: Are those things something that could be useful to your future self if you keep them in your mind for now?
Mr. Imatani: It’s not a present for my future self but I hope those points connect the dots some day. I’m not too hopeful though (laughs). You might say that I’m collecting thoughts to give as advice later on.


Mr. Imatani: For me personally, I travel to see people. I have people I know all around the country because of my interests – which connects me to a community. If I tell them I’ll be going beforehand, they’ll tell me things I don’t know and tell me where to get some good food too. It’s fun to talk to people even if it’s only for an hour. There’s a sense of completeness when you meet someone you know at your travel destination – even if it’s only one person.

Going Forward, Travel Where You Blend into the City

Interviewer: While I believe there’s more people who travel to meet people and travel not to go on pleasure jaunts, like you, do you think there are more people who travel to cherish what they hold dear to them?
Mr. Imatani: I think more people are traveling to experience the local town, local life by spending longer times in the same place. This travel isn’t the luxurious type of travel you saw during the bubble era when people spent a lot of money, it’s a type of travel where people blend into the town while focusing on their hobbies and interests – I believe there are more people doing this.
Interviewer: I believe you’ve done a lot of this type of travel, but what would you like to say to people who haven’t done this type of travel? What are the charms of doing so?
Mr. Imatani: That’s a tough question (laughs). When I upload pictures on social media, it looks like I’m traveling and having a lot of fun, but it’s done after work. Many people commented that it looks fun though.
Interviewer: Just as you said, it might be a good idea to focus your viewpoint on a present for your future self.
Mr. Imatani: Yeah, that’s right!

The Buds We Found in This Exploration

We feel that “travel is a present we give to our future self” is a very important discovery we found in this exploration. For example, that energy you receive when you travel and that experiences you get when you travel all are presents for your future self. That hazy yet fun feeling you get when you travel to your destination are actually presents for your future self. When you think about it that way, don’t think travel is a wonderful thing? Travel might give you new ideas for your mental inventory too. Think about your next trip like that and you might find a new way to travel and explore.