The Mechanics of Marunouchi’s Evolution: Integrating “Soft” Enterprise and “Hard” Real Estate

Collaboration between companies and the public and private sectors is essential for the creation of innovation, but collaboration will not progress if left unchecked. In order for people to connect, they need a community. In the Otemachi-Marunouchi-Yurakucho area (referred to as the “Daimaruyu area”), one of Japan’s most prominent office districts, the Tokyo Marunouchi Innovation Platform (TMIP) and the Otemachi-Marunouchi-Yurakucho Machizukuri Council play a key role.
These organizations share a vision for the city with diverse stakeholders in the area and support them in creating innovation. In 2020, as part of the Smart City Project, they conducted a proof-of-concept experiment on public roads with LUUP, a startup that provides electric micromobility.
What kind of neighborhood is the Daimaruyu area, the center of business in Japan, going to change into? We asked two representatives from the two organizations about the role of TMIP and the Council, and their vision for the future of the Daimaruyu area.
*The top photo is a graphic representation and is not true to life.


Organize Daimaruyu’s stakeholders and act as the flag bearer.
Our job is to coordinate and support this process.
The secret to bringing stakeholders’ opinions together is to “go through the process together.”
Establishing a cycle of discussion, demonstration, and evaluation to create a new Daimaruyu.
Key points

Soichi Yamashita
Mr. Yamashita joined Mitsubishi Estate Co., Ltd., in 2010. He launched and has managed the Tokyo Marunouchi Innovation Platform (TMIP) since 2019 and works to support collaborations between major companies, startups, government, academia, and the city in order to create an innovation ecosystem in the Daimaruyu area.

Takayoshi Araki
Smart City Promotion Committee, Otemachi-Marunouchi-Yurakucho Area Planning Council
Urban Planning Department and Area Management Planning Department, Mitsubishi Estate Co.
Mr. Araki joined Mitsubishi Estate Co., Ltd., in 2017. He has been responsible for developing the smart-city vision for the Otemachi-Marunouchi-Yurakucho district and promoting various initiatives to realize the vision.

Organize Daimaruyu’s stakeholders and act as the flag bearer

――First, please tell us about the role of TMIP and the Community Development Council. What is their purpose, and what do they do?

Yamashita: “TMIP is an organization that supports open innovation in the Daimaruyu area.
The Daimaruyu area is one of the most densely populated areas in the world with 4,300 business locations and 280,000 workers a day before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Innovation is said to be ‘the combination of knowledge and knowledge’, and we believe that there are businesses that can be operated only in the Daimaruyu area, taking advantage of its location that connects people with people. Our mission is to connect organizations and create an innovation ecosystem.”

――How do you form an ecosystem?

Yamashita: “We believe that it is important to connect companies, regardless of size, because in the Daimaruyu area, there are surprisingly few horizontal connections between major companies. On the other hand, simply connecting major companies is not enough to create an ecosystem. That’s why we are also involving startups in our projects.
Fortunately, there are many VCs in the Daimaruyu area, so we are working on collaboration between major companies and startups with their help.
In order to create an ecosystem, we also need to have relationships with the government. In the proof-of-concept experiment for an electric kickboard that we started recently, we promoted a public–private partnership between LUUP, a startup that operates an electric micromobility-sharing service, and Chiyoda Ward, the local government, and created the opportunity for implementation.”

――Meanwhile, what is the role of the Community Development Council?

Araki: “We are an organization made up of property owners in the Daimaruyu area, and our mission is to work together with various stakeholders in the Daimaruyu area to promote urban development.
For example, the Otemachi-Marunouchi-Yurakucho Area Town Planning Council, which consists of Chiyoda Ward, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, East Japan Railway Company (JR East), and the Council, works in cooperation with the public and private sectors to update the ‘Town Planning Guidelines’, which outline the future vision of the area, and to promote town planning based on the guidelines. The Council’s role is to promote the updating of the city and the strengthening of its international competitiveness by coming up with and communicating a vision for the city and taking on new challenges such as LUUP.”

――How do TMIP and the Council interact with each other?
Yamashita: “We are partners in creating the vision for the Daimaruyu area. As various stakeholders are involved in the creation of open innovation, we have asked the Council to partner with us and participate in the meetings.
There is a wide range of projects that will take place in the Daimaruyu area, and some are large-scale initiatives with government involvement.

Our job is to coordinate and support this process.”

――Using LUUP’s proof-of-concept experiment for electric kickboards as an example, please tell us about the roles of both organizations in the proof-of-concept experiment. In this case, the demonstration is being conducted on public roads, and I understand that the aim is to ease the restrictions of the Road Traffic Act.
Yamashita: “We need to consult with the National Police Agency regarding permission to use public roads, and LUUP is negotiating with them. We supported the installation of the bicycle parking port by involving the relevant department of Mitsubishi Estate, a TMIP member.
We believe that having people involved see the milestone of deregulation will help smooth the way for subsequent moves. LUUP took part in the negotiations with the government for this proof-of-concept experiment, so TMIP was not able to demonstrate its capabilities (connections with the government). However, we made arrangements for the Marunouchi Police Department to be present at the launch presser.”

――I see, you are supporting media coverage by liaising between the parties involved.
Yamashita: “That’s right, and I believe that TMIP’s involvement will lower the hurdle for the proof-of-concept experiment.” TMIP will be able to support our activities and make it easier for us to communicate with stakeholders.

――So it’s useful for those times “when you have a vision and an idea of what you want to do, but don’t know whom to talk to about it.”
Yamashita: “People tend to think that the Marunouchi area has high barriers to proof-of-concept projects, but we are open to new ideas. If you ask, ‘I’d like to do a project in the Daimaruyu area; would that be possible?’ If you ask us, we may surprise you, and tell you, ‘Yes, as a matter of fact, we can!’”

――After hearing about the activities of TMIP and the Council so far, some readers may be thinking that they would like to consult with you. Are there any conditions that make it easier for this to happen?

Yamashita: “It will be easier for us to work with people if they have an idea of what they want to do over the next 1–2 years. It is easy to imagine how we might be able to help with that kind of timeframe. In the case of LUUP, the objective was clear: we wanted to collect actionable data in a large business district to launch our service.”

――That’s fairly specific!
Yamashita: “Yes, LUUP was an easy project to discuss.”

Araki: “The LUUP case was in line with the Council’s vision. Thus, it was easy to get through to the people involved.
The Council has formed a smart-city consortium with Chiyoda Ward and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to create a vision for a smart city and to redesign the area within that vision. Things went smoothly because we were able to present the vision to the members based on the vision concept ‘When electric micromobility is installed in the city, the last mile of travel will become more convenient, and the area will change to be more accessible.’”
Yamashita: “LUUP is a very successful case study, but first of all, we would like you to pitch your ideas to us. LUUP is an example of a project that worked very well, but we would like you to first pitch your ideas to us, such as ‘I want to do something in the Daimaruyu area’ or ‘I want to discuss something using the framework of TMIP and the Council.’ It is our role to help you make it happen.”

The secret to bringing stakeholders’ opinions together is to “go through the process together.”

――There are various stakeholders involved in the visioning process of the Daimaruyu area. How do TMIP and the Council involve these stakeholders?
Araki: “We believe that the process of developing a vision together is important. For example, in 2020, the Council held three meetings of the Vision Planning Committee with the cooperation of experts and members of the Council. The results are compiled, and the direction is shared with the property owners in the neighborhood.”

――I see. So it is difficult for opposition to arise because the stakeholders are invited to participate from the conceptual stage, and the vision is presented?

Yamashita: “That’s correct. TMIP also holds committee meetings, and in fiscal 2020, we discussed three themes: the idea of a ‘Circular Economy’, ‘Smart Mobility’, and ‘Healthcare’. Without a theme, it will be difficult to know how to structure discussion, and so it is important to create a space to say, ‘Why don’t we discuss these themes?’”

Establishing a cycle of discussion, demonstration, and evaluation to create a new Daimaruyu.

――Finally, could you tell us about your goals for the future of the Daimaruyu area?

Yamashita: “I want TMIP to be an innovation platform for the area. People will gather, and new businesses will be born. We want to create a business cycle with a variety of stakeholders, and innovation will be born in the Daimaruyu area. This is the end state that TMIP is aiming for.”
Araki: “I would like to encourage the Council to support the ecosystem formed by TMIP. The use of technology and data has achieved social momentum, so we see this as an opportunity to realize a smart city. If we enhance the hardware and use IoT to acquire data, we can evaluate it quantitatively. The stronger the neighborhood’s reputation, the more value it will add, and the easier it will be to attract investors and companies to the area.”

――What do you think is necessary to realize this vision?

Yamashita: “I think we need to build a community, and in 2020, we were unable to hold a real event due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is very important to have a frank and horizontal relationship with people in order to create innovation. If you look at other local governments, those that are doing well have created opportunities for in-depth discussions.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, we used to have lunch meetings and drinking parties in the Daimaruyu area, so as soon as the situation calms down, I would like to continue building a community where we can talk openly.”
Araki: “We also need to use data. As smart cities become smarter, big data will be collected, and issues that were previously invisible will become visible. We would like to create a cycle of discovering issues, solving them, and improving the value of the city, and we would like to develop our expertise in solving local issues in other areas.”

Yamashita: “Our role as a platformer is to create encounters between people and between the government and the people. This LUUP should become a case study with a tactile feel.
If it’s just a one-off, it won’t lead to the next step, but I think we will be able to see the issues facing the city as we implement it. If we can appropriately solve the issues as we see and communicate them, it will lead to the next demonstration. Rather than seeing each project as a failure or a success, we will continue the cycle of discussion, verification, and examination to create a new Daimaruyu.”

Key points

・TMIP aims to connect organizations to create an innovation ecosystem.
・The Community Development Council aims to work together with various stakeholders in the Daimaruyu area to promote community development.
・In the case of LUUP’s proof-of-concept experiment with electric kickboards, TMIP acted as a liaison between stakeholders.
・TMIP will serve as the point of contact to support these activities and streamline interactions between stakeholders.
・Plan movements for about 1–2 years, and be a resource when asked about being active in the Daimaruyu area.
・The key to engaging stakeholders is the process of collaborating to develop a shared vision.
・We will continue the cycle of discussion, demonstration, and evaluation to create a new Daimaruyu.