Interview with Peak 1 President and CEO, Yasuo Maeda

Peak 1 celebrates it’s 23rd anniversary this month which is a great opportunity to get to know the person who started it all – Mr. Yasuo Maeda.


What were you doing before peak 1? What led you to entrepreneurship? 

After graduating university, I started to work for a PR agency as a creative director. The company was helping Japanese enterprise companies aiming to get into US’s markets. I was engaged with the PR promotion in the US for Hitachi Ltd. and created many brochures and ads for them such as annual reports, company brochures and ads for Wall Street Journal. Through those projects, I found that I could present my own thoughts and ideas through creative work, and in creative work it was very important to have a will of what I wanted to express, what I needed to make. Also I learned many things from people outside of the creative team such as designers, photographers, copy writers, printing company…

Three years passed, I left the PR agency and started the creative business in the small company being operated by my acquaintance. For about 8 years, I was managing the creative division in that company helping many clients. I had learned what real business is there and what I should do for my client’s success. And in 1994, I established my own company Peak1.

What were some of the biggest hurdles you faced when building peak 1?

Money, business reliability and network. Actually I tried to start my own company just after leaving first company. But I did not have enough money to start and maintain the business and I didn’t have any clients to order any creative work through me. I needed to have time to save money and build the reliability between clients as well as gain experience managing a creative company.

2_1996 year end

Who has inspired you in your life and why?

One designer, 12 years older than me. He acknowledged my passions for creativity first. He recommended me to start the company and encouraged and helped me all the time before and after building the Peak1 business. He taught and conveyed to me how the top of management behave in some cases, and how to be refreshing.

Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the best in your career or something that helped shape peak 1 into the company it is today.

Interactive event; Microsoft’s Strategic Architect Forum

Big event; Microsoft’s REMIX

Creative work; Nisshin Steel’s Photobook for hiring new graduates.

What qualities does peak 1 value most in it’s employees?

We stand by the client and consider the situation from the client’s point of view, what we need and should to do for client first.

How do you define success for peak 1?

Not wavering from the concept and keep pursuing the message.

Where would you like to see the company in 5 years?

Diversity in all things – business field, nationality, method, culture, value… We can understand, accept, use and respect all of them.

What kind of books/ material do you regularly read?

My favorite author is Kohtaro Sawaki, non-fiction writer. I love reading documentary books.Kohtaro Sawaki

What would your best friend say is the most interesting thing about you? 

If reborn, I would like to live like Maeda-san.

I have no idea of the reason, but it seems that in his eyes I look free (^-^;)









Teams that Play Together Stay Together

What does your company do for fun? Perhaps it’s not the first thing you think about when you picture your job, however there are many reasons why dedicating time with your colleagues outside of actual work is good for the company’s overall success.


Getting to know each other better is crucial for workplace harmony. Sure, you don’t need to be best friends with your coworkers, but when you feel comfortable around someone or at least understand how they tick, you are better equipped to solve the everyday workplace issues without things escalating into problems.

When you collaborate with people you are comfortable with, you are likely to share ideas more freely and openly – allowing for more creativity which translates to more successful and innovative ideas.

Improving communication among colleagues is one of the most important things team building accomplishes.

Normally wages are the biggest expense of a company so keeping your employees happy is a critical investment to make as it is much more cost efficient to retain quality people than continuing to source, hire and train new ones. Besides strengthening the bonds between the team, employees are often motivated and refreshed after a team building activity resulting in higher productivity and better results.

Many times, company sponsored events are viewed as a waste of time. Make sure to add value to these events with well thought out activities or a quality guest speaker. Another option to consider is to take out the corporate stuff altogether. Find the balance between fun and productive. You want to create a memorable event that doesn’t feel like time at the office or time wasted.

To give you an example, peak 1 has done a few activities over the last few months. As you might have seen in our previous post, we volunteered together. Volunteering not only serves a purpose for the greater good, it provides an opportunity to work together in new and unique ways separate from how you might work together in the office.


When the fiscal year began, we held a kickoff event. We rotated teams a few times throughout the day, sharing ideas on how we can be more productive, more creative and more efficient. Although this particular event was more company focused, it was organized in a way that concentrated on personal growth rather than the bottom line. At the end of the day, we had dinner and drinks at a restaurant near by. Being able to relax, talk openly and reflect on the day made it even more effective.

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One other event I’d like to share with you is a barbecue party our CEO hosted at his house in the mountains. Although this event was optional, on a Saturday and over 2 hours away, almost every employee attended, some with their families. This has become an annual event and something everyone looks forward to. It is an opportunity to interact in a different environment, cook for each other, get to know new people (spouses, children) and new things about the people we spend a significant amount of time with during the week.

Investing time into the people that make up your company or organization is invaluable. Make the time to create memorable events throughout the year that your employees can look forward to. Create annual events and balance them with new and unexpected activities.

Being the Bridge

If you’ve seen our website, you know that with our global team in particular, we strive to be the bridge between our clients and local vendors and teams here in Japan. I spoke with our global team manager, Jeremy Doccola about this topic specifically. There are many ways we are able to bridge the gap, as managing events overseas can bring about a unique set of challenges. It is rewarding for us to over come challenges together with our clients and partners, making each event stand out in the best way.

Expo for a Global Hotel Group

This an event that had been done in Japan for many years, but the APAC marketing manager in Singapore, always had to leave the design and set-up of the event to the Japan team as she could not directly communicate with the local event vendors. When she found peak 1 she could communicate her requirements of the event directly to us in English

starwood expo

Global Tech Company with Japanese HQ, Tour

In many cases even if the client knows which venues they would like to hold their gala dinner at or which hotel they would like their group to stay at they can’t communicate with the local managers in English. We often help in between the client and the venue during site visits so that if they have any questions we can get the best answers to help them decide which venue or hotel to have their event at.


 Global Computer Company, Incentive Trip

When we do incentive tours we have to be aware that most of the guests will be coming to Japan for the first time. So we have to prepare some activities that will provide them with a satisfying Japanese experience. For welcome activities we have girls in kimono welcoming them, taking pictures with them and serving them drinks. During dinners we have interactive samurai or ninja shows for some exciting entertainment. Other cultural experiences include tea ceremonies, onsen or rickshaw rides.

Picture2Global Computer Company, APAC Regional Event 

Another challenge when welcoming many guests to Japan is dietary restrictions as guests come from all over the world we welcome vegetarians, gluten-free, or guests with other food allergies. Such diets are not that common in Japan so we must prepare ahead of time with hotels and restaurants so that all guests are taken care of.


Israeli Tech Company 

Another part of being a bridge between an overseas client and local venues and vendors is managing expectations. Clients may have grand visions for their event, either in decorations or stage production that are just not so common in Japanese events. Even if the local staff may not be used to doing such events we have to educate them of why the client is requesting such things. The end result is often creating a new environment that is unexpected for the Japanese guest. On the other hand, if we are unable to do something in Japan do to cost or availability of equipment or staff we must explain to clients why we can or can’t do things they may be used to doing in other countries.


Japan’s Rainy Season

Japan is a country that experiences 4 true seasons, 5 if you consider the rainy period of summer it’s own season. Tsuyu in Japanese, is the especially rainy season typically between the end of May until the end of July. This year, although rainy season was officially announced in the first week of June, we really didn’t feel the affects of it until last week when sudden heavy humidity, along with warmer temperatures and thunderstorms rolled in. I can’t think of one person who considers rainy season the best part of the year, as it can be very tiring dealing with the weather during this season, however there are things you can do to beat the humidity and wet days during tsuyu.

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Dress Accordingly

Although typically hot and humid, when the rain storms roll in it can cool down quickly. The best way to dress is in light layers with breathable fabrics. Not only does it cool down with rain, it also can get rather cool at night or inside air conditioning so it’s best to bring a light scarf or sweater with you.


There is a lot to do indoors while you’re visiting or living in Japan, particularly in a big city such as Tokyo. Visit one of the many museums – there is surely something to suit your taste. From art, to history, science, pop culture and special pop up exhibits that are always changing, you won’t get bored. The department stores around Tokyo are also worth checking out. Even if you’re a window shopper, you will enjoy the fantastic displays and cool air conditioning. Shibuya, Shinjuku and Ginza have massive department stores on most every corner what will surly impress.

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There are people who prefer to visit onsens in rainy season. You can find Japanese onsen (natural and man made) all over Japan. I personally prefer to visit onsen in the winter, however the cloudy gloom of rainy season attracts many people during tsuyu as well.

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During rainy season, more often than not it is necessary to have an umbrella with you. Conveniently, in Japan there is no shortage of umbrellas. There are convenience stores on every corner selling the clear plastic umbrellas and many specialty umbrella shops too. Japan has many unique, stylish umbrellas in all price ranges and sizes. Grab yourself a folding, pop-up umbrella to stick in your bag and you’ll be good to go!

Image result for umbrellas in tokyo

Image result for umbrellas in tokyo

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One of the great things about the changing seasons in Japan is all of the different flowers that bloom throughout the year. When rainy season rolls around, you see hydrangeas pop up everywhere. You’ll be able to spot the blue, white and purple flowers from the train, in neighborhoods, temple grounds and even the big city streets. Tokyo has a few spots well known for hydrangeas so if these colorful flowers put a smile on your face, be sure to stop by Hakusan Shrine in Tokyo’s Bunkyo ward. To be honest, there is actually not much to see here except the hydrangea flowers. During the rainy season there are over 3,000 hydrangeas in bloom and a festival in honor of these flowers every year in mid-June.

Hakusan Jinja

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If you want to skip out on rainy season all together, you might consider visiting Hokkaido which is a region of Japan that barely is affected by rainy season, if at all.

There is a bullet train you can take from mainland Japan to Hokkaido but the more common way to get there is by flying. Hokkaido summers are known to be cool, with no humidity and beautiful mountain scenery. There is a famous lavender farm in Furano, lakes, ocean side towns, seafood, and more. Prices from mainland Japan to Hokkaido can vary greatly depending on when you book – so if you’re flexible play around with the dates and times until you find a good deal.

Image result for hokkaido summer

Image result for hokkaido summer

Although rainy season is perhaps not the most ideal time of year in Japan, there is certainly a bit of Japanese culture that has been built around it. I hope that if you have the chance to spend time in Japan during tsuyu, you enjoy it!

Japanese Traditions & Your Event

Japan is a country rich in culture and tradition. I’d like to share a few traditions unique to Japan that can add a lot of character and atmosphere to an opening ceremony or product launch event.

Shinto Blessing Ceremony 

This ceremony is not commonplace at events, however it is rich in meaning and adds a level of formality and respect to the occasion. It is most appropriate at a grand opening of a business with a newly constructed building or facility.

The Completion Ceremony is a formal event to express gratitude for the safely completed construction, and to wish for the safety and prosperity of the new building in the future.


Following the ancient style, the ceremony is  traditionally believed to expel mischievous spirits.

0234When attendees arrive, they will be asked to rinse their hands in the traditional way so that they are clean and pure for the ceremony.


The priest will make offerings to the nature spirit using bows and claps and chants. The chant is a deep humming which everyone can participate in, led by the priest.


There will be a sake offering which is meant to sweeten up the evil spirits, keeping them from holding a grudge after being scared off later.


Kagami Biraki

Kagami Biraki is a Japanese traditional ceremony that date backs over 300 years and literally translates to “Opening the Mirror”. It is associated with good luck in Japan and the round lid of the sake barrel represents harmony. Today, it is performed at weddings, sporting events (it is particularly popular in martial arts), opening ceremonies of new companies, and other significant events.

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Kagami biraki used to be a samurai tradition back in the 15th century when the army Shogun ordered a barrel of sake before an important battle. The battle was successful so the custom of ordering sake barrels for good luck became popular.  In addition to special events kagami biraki ceremonies take place in January to welcome the New Year.

「kagami biraki」の画像検索結果

During the kagami biraki ceremony, the lid of the sake barrel is opened using a kizuchi (wooden mallet). Then, a hishaku (wooden ladle) is used to fill the masu cups with sake from the barrel. Masu is a unique-looking wooden cup which is square in shape and was traditionally used to measure rice. The masu are made from Japanese Cypress or “hinoki”. When you drink from it, you’ll taste the woody aroma.

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As an added touch, you can custom order the masu for each event and can include your company name and logo which the attendees can take home as a keepsake for the event.


The atmosphere when doing kagami biraki is fun and lighthearted. People smile and laugh, as it is a moment of real celebration.

Ribbon Cutting

Ribbon cutting ceremonies are popular around the world, but in Japan they are very popular and add formality to any opening event – big or small.


In Japan, you will be presented white gloves and gold scissors for the occasion.

glovers and scissor

These are just a few Japanese ceremonies you can incorporate into your next event. There are also some fun options for entertainment that are uniquely Japanese. Look out for another blog post introducing traditional Japanese entertainment!

peak 1 works with D-ships to understand barriers


Last week we had the opportunity to work with an NPO here in Tokyo called D-Ships that educates people on accessibility for people with disabilities. We were able to learn through doing, which means we were provided wheelchairs  and were set free on the streets of Tokyo for an hour to do some community service.

As an event company, must think about  logistics and accessibility for all. The experience was very eye-opening and showed us a totally different point of view of Tokyo.

First we had basic training on how to use the wheelchair. We learned different ways to turn based on the situation, different signals to use and ways to stop and go. We also learned proper techniques to push and support the person in the chair.

We were tasked with picking up trash while we were out and about. We broke into teams and each group had a wheelchair and a trash bag. We took turns riding in the wheelchair and experiencing daily life things – like using the bathroom, buying something from the store, going to a cafe, using a vending machine, etc. It was also your turn to pick up trash when you were in the wheelchair.


We found out how difficult everyday things really can be with limited access.


Everywhere you go you see ramps into shops and restaurants and think they are accessible by wheelchair. However, most of the ramps are at an extreme angle and very difficult to manage without assistance. Even going down is very difficult.

We had fun and got lucky with beautiful weather. I remember thinking what it would be like having to do this same activity in the rain. It would be so much MORE difficult.


We took the exercise and the competition seriously and collected lots of litter and cigarette butts. The team with the most won a prize.

Afterward, we had a discussion about what we experienced. Our mentor throughout this experience, Uehara-san was very insightful, optimistic and educational. He is a para Olympian who has lived life in a wheelchair since birth and has experienced much more than many of us are able to do in our lifetime.


“A problem brings new opportunity” said Uehara-san.  He also discussed how the barriers can be a good thing because they promote communication between people in everyday life who would otherwise not necessarily communicate. We was very impressive.

After talking together, we all realized how we weren’t really able to appreciate the difficulties or notice the barriers until we experienced it first hand. Even the smallest bump can become dangerous from a wheelchair. Familiar roads seemed totally different with this new perspective.

We are thankful to have experienced this and look forward to helping plan barrier free events in the future.


Meet our New Global Team Member!

Keiyin is the newest member of the Global Team at peak-1.

She will assist in communicating with clients overseas to bring their promotions and events to Japan. Below is a little Q&A with her.


How long have you been in Japan?

A: 5 years now. The first year was for preparation education before college, then the second to fifth years were for college education.


Of course there are many reasons you have chosen to stay in Japan but tell us about a few of the main reasons you like living in Japan.

A: Firstly, I love Japanese food such as sushi, sashimi, ramen, yakitori etc. Of course I can enjoy these food in other places as well, but Japanese food in other places are more expensive and less delicious than those in Japan. That is why I stay here for enjoying the cheap and delicious food whenever I want.

The second reason is the beautiful scenery in Japan. For example, Kiyomizudera Temple is one of the places I always went for capturing beautiful scenes of Japan when I was living in Kyoto. I can always enjoy myself in this peaceful place in different seasons throughout the year. The atmosphere of Kyoto or that of Kiyomizudera Temple just changed totally along with the weather. This is something I can never be bored of living in Japan.

The third reason is the convenience stores in Japan. I just like spending time in convenience stores, especially checking if there are new products of Jagabee and Jgariko over there. Besides the snacks, I think the convenience store just introduced me a whole different level of convenience that a convenience store can provide. Like I can always buy daily products (e.g. lotion, maybe shampoo sometimes) when I happen to need them immediately but all the drug stores are closed. I think convenience stores in Japan are always my lifesaver.


For someone who has never been to Japan before, planning an event here or even a trip can seem like a daunting task. What would you say to someone who is trying to decide between Japan or another location in the APAC region?

A: As I have mentioned above, the scenery in Japan changes along with different seasons. For example, we can enjoy variations of natural scenery throughout the whole year, cherry blossom in spring, fireworks in summer, autumn leaves in autumn and snowy weather in winter etc. Sometimes we can enjoy autumn leaves and snow at the same time in Hokkaido. That would be something amazing to people who enjoy capturing nature. So, I think people might want to come to Japan at least four times if they would love to see and enjoy the change of scenery in Japan. Maybe people would feel they are in a whole different country when they come to Japan in each season. I guess this is something would make people choose Japan over other countries.


You are fluent in Japanese, English and Chinese. How has this shaped your existence in Japan?

A: I don’t know if this is related to your question, but knowing these three languages gave me many opportunities to take a role as a “bridge” between Westerners, Chinese people and Japanese people. Like one of my volunteer works I was doing, I went to primary schools in Japan and helped the foreign kids (2 from the US, and 1 from China) to fit in the Japanese community (e.g. mainly teachers don’t speak English) and with his or her classmates as well. Luckily, they were fitting in gradually with my help and I heard they are still doing great and have so many Japanese friends. I am sure they would not have been able to fit in as soon as they did without their Japanese language teachers as well. When I spent time with them, I shared my experience to those kids and  put myself in their shoes, then helped the teachers to understand what those kids were going through. By doing this volunteer work, teachers, foreign parents and kids can have a better mutual understanding, I felt happy because I helped people communicate with each other and helped avoid as many misunderstandings.


What advice do you have for businesses wanting to work with or within Japan but don’t speak Japanese?

A: Japanese people are being more open-minded to foreigners and know the importance of English speaking ability, compare to a decade ago. I think my advice for those people who want to work with or within Japan might have to learn a little bit of Japanese for simple conversations, and understand their culture, not just traditions but also business manners.


What types of events are you most excited to work on and why?

A: Maybe a launch event or a gala dinner for clients, because I love watching people networking. All the new projects or new ideas, new opportunities start from here, and it feels like I am watching a product which is like a baby who is going to grow. I hope you understand what I mean.


Japan is known for having 4 distinct seasons. What is your favorite and why?

A: Autumn maybe, not too cold or hot. Perfect weather for hiking or doing outdoor activities.


A lot of people like to live like the locals when they travel. What is something you recommend in Japan that would give someone this experience?

A: I might recommend people to go to an izakaya for drinks and Japanese bar snacks. Maybe watching live performances on the street is also a local thing in my opinion, like artists (singers, painters, dancers, etc).


What is your favorite tourist attraction in our around Tokyo? Or in other words, what is a *can’t miss* activity?

A: It is quite hard to pick one, Skytree, Ghibli Museum, USJ are the top three on my list. I know USJ is not in Tokyo but I just think it is way better than Tokyo Disneyland Resort. If I had to pick one place in Tokyo, I think visiting Skytree is kind of a must-do thing. People can enjoy the landscape of Tokyo and see the “heartbeat” of Tokyo from the observation deck.


Anything you would like to add?

A: I am a Hokkaido-freak, I just love everything related to Hokkaido. Especially the sweets in Otaru, I just can’t resist them. This is the only one thing I want to add.


Thanks Keiyin! We are excited to have you on our team!



Japanese Culture Uncovered: Hina Matsuri (Girls Day)

Hina Matsuri,  literally translated means Doll Festival (also known as Girls Day), is celebrated March 3rd in Japan. Small porcelain dolls, dressed like court nobles from the Heian period are displayed in the homes of families with daughters.

I did a little digging to find out a bit more about the background of this day along with how it is celebrated in modern Japan.

Image result for doll festival


The origin can be traced back 1000+ years (!!!!) to the Heian period which is known to be the last division of classical Japanese history, running from 794 to 1185. The Heian period is named after the ancient capital of Japan and capital of that time (Kyoto).  This time period was a peaceful era and also considered the peak of the Japanese imperial court. It is noted for its art, especially poetry and literature. Up until this time, China influenced Japan a lot, however this was a period where society focused more on Japan itself and less on foreign influences. This is also the period before and leading up to Samurai coming to power. I did a little more reading on the Heian period and found that women were valued very highly and were said to be more powerful than men. Female authors were highly regarded and even served in court.

Back then, straw hina dolls were sent down a river to sea, taking away bad spirits, health problems, or any troubles with them. This part of the tradition does not happen anymore because the dolls would get caught in fisherman’s nets. In Kyoto still today, the Kamo Shrine will still celebrate by sending the little straw dolls straight out to sea (avoiding the river all together) and then later bring them back to the shrine and burn them once everyone leaves.

Image result for hina matsuri dolls for sale

It is too bad this part of the tradition has disappeared because it seems to be the most significant part in the origin story. Apparently it comes from an ancient Chinese practice where the sin and misfortune of a person, body and spirit, are transferred to the doll and removed by sending it down the river.

It was during the Edo period (1615-1868) when the tradition of displaying hina dolls began. The third day of the third month of the year was a holiday in Japan before that time, but there are no earlier records of doll displays on this day.

Food & Drink

Below I have described the food associated with this day, although not so many people actually have them.

Hishimochi: A diamond-shaped colored rice cake. They are usually red or pink, white and green. The red is for chasing away evil, the white is for purity and the green is for health.

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Arare: Little bite-sized crackers that are either sweet or savory, depending on the region of Japan.

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Ushiojiru: Clam soup. It is a simple salt-based soup with small clams still in the shell which represents unity and a good marriage.

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The traditional drink is called “shirozake” which is made from fermented rice like sake except it is nonalcoholic so children can drink it too. It is a cloudy white drink and tastes like sweet wine.

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I found a great article from the Japan Times going into detail about the different foods associated with Hinamatsuri that even includes recipes if you want to try your hand at preparing a traditional dish yourself.

Modern Hina Matsuri

Families generally start to display the dolls in February and take them down immediately after the festival, literally by midnight. Superstition says that leaving the dolls past March 4 will result in a late marriage for the daughter. This legend seems to be taken the most seriously of all, everyone is sure to take down there dolls for fear their daughters won’t marry.

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Typically, it is traditional for the grandparents to buy the dolls. The dolls are not cheap either! A set costs around $1500 USD and can go up to $100,000 depending on the size and quality. Most homes just have one set of a couple, it saves on space as the average home is small without much room for storage.

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Price of this set converts to $4000 USD


What are your thoughts on Hinamatsui? Does your culture have a holiday that is similar?


If you are hosting an event for less than 100 people and looking for a high class event space in central Tokyo, Wadakura Fountain Park Restaurant could be a great option for you.


The history here is nothing less than royal. Created in 1961, Wadakura Fountain Park was built to celebrate the wedding of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan.  It was renovated in 1995 for the union of Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako.

I spoke with one of our Account Managers here at peak-1, Sachiko Koyama, who attended a wedding at this event space. She told me about what stood out to here and why she has been looking forward to hosting an event here with clients in the future.

Location/ Atmosphere

Although Wadakuora is located in the heart of Tokyo, it is right next to the Imperial Palace with greenery all around making for a calm, peaceful atmosphere. The venue itself has floor to ceiling windows and high ceilings making it open and airy. The 5-star Palace Hotel Tokyo, overlooks this venue, adding to it’s convenient location and its luxury.




Because of the high ceilings the acoustics are outstanding, making this a great venue for live music and performances. Any event would do well here – from a press conference, to a launch party, company party or mini seminar. Day or night the fountains offer an ambiance you won’t easily find around Tokyo.


It is no surprise that the website is written all Japanese, but if you would like more information on holding an event here, please feel free to comment below!

Venue Pick: XIV Karuizawa

I asked our COO Makoto Ono, about some of his all time favorite venues. For something outside of the city, Ono recommends XIV Karuizawa. If you’re like me and don’t read Japanese, their website is a bit challenging to navigate. However I have asked Ono to answer a few questions about the space and this what he said.

What makes XIV Karuizawa special?

It is an exclusive property for XIV club members and/ or their guests. It has a good atmosphere and lots of activities to choose from like golf, tennis, shopping, hiking, and quality local food and wine to enjoy. The chefs take care to use fresh, seasonal ingredients in all their dishes.

There is a gym, pool and spa and outdoor bath where you can enjoy nature.


What kind of events to you recommend in this space?

  • Executive Seminar for up to around 100 people
  • Workshops, or Round-tables

This is the perfect location to combine leisure activities with seminars or workshops for a getaway that would refresh and motivate your team or clients.


How do we get there?

It is 60 minutes from Tokyo Station by bullet train and an easy getaway from city life.