Column

ADVENTURE WORLD

Kinan Art Week Curatorial Story

We are pleased to announce the release of “Curation Story Vo.1”, a series of articles introducing the curation at Kinan Art Week. For the first installment, we would like to introduce Wakayama Adventure World, a zoo and theme park that is the pride of Japan. As it will be the venue for the Kinan Art Week exhibition, we will take a deeper look into its origins, history and philosophy.

Wakayama Adventure World
https://www.aws-s.com/



AWS  CO., Ltd.
https://www.ms-aws.com/

Photo: Taken from Nanki Shirahama Adventure World 40th Anniversary Magazine

Photo: History of AWS  CO., Ltd.
https://aws-40th.com/history.html

Wakayama Adventure World 40th Week Magazine ”Smile – Seeing the world through the eyes of both humans and animals – “

Photo: from Wakayama Adventure World 40th Week Magazine
https://ntj1993.com/works/478/

Guest :

AWS Co., Ltd.
Masashi Yamamoto, President and Representative Director
We have developed a well-defined “philosophy” and have implemented a management philosophy that aims to “realize a bright and prosperous society full of smiles”, which is the goal of each employee’s happiness.
Message from President Yamamoto
https://www.ms-aws.com/about/message/


Interviewer :

Kinan Art Week Executive Committee Chairman
Yuto Yabumoto


Kinan Art Week Executive Director
Manabu Shimoda

Editing :
Kinan Editorial Department by TETAU
https://good.tetau.jp/


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< Table of Contents >

1. Who we are at Adventure World
2. Human-animal relations
3. An axis to cherish
4. Mr Yamamoto’s Story
5. The future of Adventure World
6. Is Adventure World an art?

1. Who we are at Adventure World

Yabumoto:
My mother was an orca trainer at Adventure World, so I have had a connection with the company since I was a child, and I am very grateful for this opportunity.
Can you tell us a little bit about the history and story behind Adventure World?

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/3O_2r-87WDY7Y9pJe8lwXrrCF8YHUX9UCqETcTIzFKINW-OeS0qpiWroj92Q0fO1VU2xDceSFLAOgEGvTOTjTyotecbs5Bvlyc9hcG1nlt6dqYe1TpHibhdyg4LAs2FV9Aqy-Hbm
Photo: AWS /How far we’ve come/ 1979 https://aws-40th.com/history.html

Mr Yamamoto:
AWS  was founded in 1976. I was born in 1977, so I grew up almost as the company grew.
I heard that my grandfather, Sueo Yamamoto, started a construction company as a carpenter’s apprentice and took on the construction of Adventure World. It was originally planned to be a golf course, but at the time, safari-type zoos were beginning to be built all over the country, so the owner started it under the name “World Safari”. The zoo was very popular when it opened, and despite the fact that it was a five or six hour drive from Osaka, the zoo attracted 1.3 million visitors in its first year. It was very popular when it opened, but the number of visitors gradually decreased due to inadequate reception and facilities. The construction costs were twice as high as originally planned and the financial situation became very difficult. In the end, about a year and a half after opening, I heard that we would be taking over management.

Yabumoto:
This was before the bubble economy and the oil crisis (the first oil crisis was in 1973), wasn’t it? You took over the management of a company that was originally a contracting company. How did you manage to take on a business in which you had no experience?

Mr Yamamoto:
Since the openings were beginning to lose popularity,  it became  difficult to manage the business afterwards.

Yabumoto:
Is your decision to take on this project related to the importance of respecting others ?

Mr Yamamoto:
I heard that my grandfather, Sueo,  was originally not very fond of animals, (Laughs) but  he always believed in doing business with people, whether it was in the construction business or the entertainment business. He was the epitome of a charismatic businessman.

Yabumoto:
My mother also became an Orca trainer with the idea that it would be fun to see a girl riding  on an Orca. I am grateful to her.
So the management policy of the construction company has been taken over by AWS , and the corporate philosophy has been clarified and expanded.

Mr Yamamoto:
The original company was a group of animal lovers with a passion for animals, but  as an organisation it was probably still in its infancy. That’s why they introduced the organizational management system of the construction industry. I think that the founder’s existence themself  is a philosophy, and the second and third generation had to  make the founder’s thoughts clear in some way.

Yabumoto:
My day job is mainly in infrastructure and PPP (Public-Private Partnerships). I’ve seen that Japanese companies can no longer do it just by contracting out, which is the reason for  this Art Week.

2. Human-animal relations

Yabumoto:
What were the key elements in the creation of the park?

Mr Yamamoto:
The theme of the park is “interactions between people, animals and nature”.

Yabumoto:
That’s quite an amazing theme.

Mr Yamamoto:
Twenty years ago, zoos were just a place to watch, not to interact with the animals. With this theme at the heart of the park, we introduced a unique feature  to the park: the “petting line”.
The larger animals, the giraffes and elephants, are kept safe while the staff act as a bridge between the guests and the animals.

Photo: Tour Attraction / Marine Live “Smiles”
https://www.aws-s.com/attractions/detail?id=att001

Mr Yamamoto:
Normally, a safari can only be viewed through a car . We said, “Let’s go in on bicycles, let’s go in on golf carts”. There is no other zoo where you can walk around, even though it is limited to the herbivores.

Yabumoto:
It’s because you’re a private company that you’re able to do such things!

Photo: Tours and Attractions / Cycling Safaris
https://www.aws-s.com/attractions/detail?id=eve018

Yabumoto:
I’d like to dig a little deeper into the “human-animal relationship” – is it related to the “Smile” that appears so often on your website?

Photo: ANIMAL Animals / Carnivores
https://www.aws-s.com/animals/

Mr Yamamoto:
Only human beings are able to recognize the relationship between humans and animals. In order to recognise ourselves, we need the presence of others. I have a theory that one of the reasons why people go to the zoo is to recognize themselves.
There is too much information in our daily life, so I think that by seeing and interacting with animals, which are extraordinary, we can simply confirm our own existence. Ultimately, I don’t think that animals and people can be separated.

Photo: “ANIMAL” Animals / Sea dwelling animals
https://www.aws-s.com/animals/

Yabumoto:
Buddha’s world view, for example, that there are no boundaries between people, animals and nature, is also reflected in Adventure World. I think the success of the giant pandas and their breeding is also related to this.

Mr Yamamoto:
If you look at the keepers while they’re working , they are really observant and they help the animals to do things that they can’t do themselves. When you see them interacting with the animals, it’s interesting to see how they translate what the animals are saying at the same time.

Photo: “ANIMAL” Animals / Giant Panda
https://www.aws-s.com/animals/

Yabumoto:
When you see a dolphin show, you will be amazed at how much they can communicate without words! When I see a dolphin show, I am moved. I’m sure there are many people who cry.

Mr Yamamoto:
I’m happy to hear that. I think it’s important for people to be able to notice things they didn’t notice before by watching the dolphin show, or to be able to think about ”how they want to challenge themselves more” or ”how they want to live their lives”. We aren’t just saying “they can jump!”,  we also try to include questions.

Yabumoto:
I think that dolphin shows are truly an art form because they are so moving, including the overwhelming effort, ideology and storytelling behind them. I am very interested in how we can convey so much more.

Mr Yamamoto:
Each of our keepers has a different approach to the animals, but it is clear that their main concern is “for the animals”. I ask them to think about ”what they are doing the dolphin show for” and ”why they are keepers”. I believe that being aware of this will change the way we express ourselves.

Photo: Tour Attraction / Marine Live “Smiles”
 https://www.aws-s.com/attractions/detail?id=att001

3. An axis to cherish

Yabumoto:
I think that’s exactly what you’re  trying to do, and your website has a great view of the world. How did  you create your management philosophy?

Mr Yamamoto:
I think my grandfather was  a charismatic manager. My father was a warm-hearted, cool-headed businessman who was good with numbers, who valued steady, gradual growth, and who would never let his company go under. When I compared myself to my father, I thought, “I don’t have enough brains and I can’t do things the same way he did.” I thought about how to make the best use of all the employees’ abilities, and as a result, I arrived at “philosophy management”. Konosuke Matsushita created it as well , didn’t he? At that time, I was reading the book “Mission” by Mr. Iwata, former CEO of Starbucks, and listened to his lecture. I was told that Starbucks also had a track record of happy employees as a result of its philosophy-based management.
Our philosophy is the axis of what we value. The only thing I do is to make this clear and understandable, and to cherish it thoroughly.

Yabumoto:
That really is the role of the president, isn’t it.

Mr Yamamoto:
If you and your employees think based on the principles, you will be going in the same direction, there is no need to look at the president.
It’s a philosophy that says, “I think in terms of principles, and I’d like you to do so as well. If we can all do that, anything is possible.”

Yabumoto:
In integrated  studies, it is said that the idea or concept is the unifying  force. It means that you can create an organisation that is proactive with strong relations. .

Mr Yamamoto:
Many companies have a clearly stated philosophy, but sometimes it is just words, or words and actions are not connected.
I think it’s just a matter of putting it into words that everyone can understand, being blunt and thorough.

Yabumoto:
I’d like to change to another topic. What  is the essence of “Smile” that is often used?

Source: Representative message / prologue
https://www.ms-aws.com/about/message/

Mr Yamamoto:
The term “Smile Company” originally existed in our company. However, different people interpreted it differently. We  defined it as “Smile = Happiness” so that there would be a common interpretation. Since  happiness is different for everyone, we defined it in three different orders (not in order of priority, but in order of creation). First we make ourselves happy, then we make our guests happy, and finally we make the society happy. If we are not happy, we cannot make our guests happy. First of all, I  try to make my employees  think “What is their  happiness? If they  don’t think about it, it becomes superficial. I believe that a person’s strength is the ability to think deeply. If you don’t think about it, even if you satisfy superficial happiness, I think you are not really happy. First of all, we need to find out what our happiness is. You have to ask yourself, “What is my happiness?” If you don’t have an idea of what you want to be, you won’t be able to take action. If you don’t take action on the answer you’ve found, what you’re doing and what you want will be far apart. I think this can lead to stress and poor relationships. I think it’s important to start by thinking deeply.



<Corporate philosophy>

Source: Representative message/prologue
https://www.ms-aws.com/about/message/

<The three hearts>

Source: Smile circulation (value creation) model https://www.ms-aws.com/vision/smil


Yabumoto:
The  word “Kokoro” is often used. What  do you mean by the three hearts?

Mr Yamamoto:
What is the “heart”? The question I wondered if this was a trait that our employees possessed. I  asked my employees , “What kind of mindset do we have? When I  talked to them , I  found out that many of them had the three “elements” of the heart, such as an “honest heart”.
We want to hire employees who have these three elements of the heart.



<The relationship between heart, time and Smile>

Source: Representative message / MESSAGE03
https://www.ms-aws.com/about/message/

Yabumoto:
The company name “AWS ” (アワーズ  awāzu) is a combination of “ours” and “hours”.

Mr Yamamoto:
We’ve asked a lot of people for their opinions, and we’ve stripped away a lot of words to make it simple. We want to make it easy for our employees to find their way around.

Yabumoto:
That’s exactly what the President does. It’s really great!

4. Mr Yamamoto’s Story

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/uONtbnEK2SaJrZpPIV69RWNtNHsSM80rgvvbDAtaJcCUZ4zsmk0Ax5ZdTE8GOtbrGf8OHEZ3sSXiuGU-i1Bm7F3hBbS5JZALcwEunTFE4wqnECHb25oSDe1wvnr658cQGj6o2BVi
Photo: Representative message / MESSAGE01
https://www.ms-aws.com/about/message/

Yabumoto:
We’d love to hear your own story of how you grew up, Mr Yamamoto!

Mr Yamamoto:
I grew up all my life in the suburbs of Osaka (Matsubara City). Elementary, middle and high school were like a greenhouse. I didn’t do anything at university during the moratorium period. I worked part-time and played golf. (laughs) At the time I thought it was a waste of time.

Yabumoto:
I had a complex about not being a lawyer, but I used that as an advantage and studied Eastern thought to get ahead.

Mr. Yamamoto:
I liked computers, so I thought I would become a system engineer . As it turned out, it didn’t work out so well, so I joined my father’s company.
I’ve been walking on rails for a long time, but from the age of 35 or 36 I feel like I’m finally walking on my own feet.

Yabumoto:
Among  the companies with which I am associated in my main business, I often feel the friction between the second and  third generation and the founding president. The founder of the company would often say to me, regarding overseas business development,  “You are the same age as the third generation, right? Mr. Yabumoto  I’d like you to  take care of this one thing,” but it has never worked out.

Mr Yamamoto:
At first I thought  of creating a philosophy from scratch, without following the old ways, but  there was a point when I felt that I needed to carry on the ideas of my predecessors, my grandfather and my father.
Until then, I think I hadn’t been able to take care of my employees because I was so keen to be approved and to win people over, and I thought it was natural to think of the guests first because we were in business. It’s a good product and service for guests, but why? Why don’t my employees understand? I thought.
At that moment, I asked myself again: “Do I want to win?” No. “Do I want to be approved? No. “What do I  want to do?” I want myself, my family and my employees to be happy,” I thought, and that’s how we came up with our philosophy. It would be strange to create a new philosophy from scratch. We wanted to stick to what had always been important to us.
All we have to do is to create a system based on our philosophy. The rest of the action is created by our employees.

Yabumoto:
As for myself, how I ended up in integrative studies, I went to the temple after a period of bad relations with my employees. It was there that I realised the value of monks and their way of thinking.  I wouldn’t have been able to make the transition if I hadn’t had a bad relationship with someone or hit a wall.

Mr Yamamoto:
There was a time when I was struggling for about 10 years. No matter what I did, no matter what training I did, nothing worked.
When I joined the company at the age of 25, I was assigned to the Group General Affairs department, where I trained new employees, even though I was also a new employee (laughs).
I didn’t know anything and everyone taught me.
There was a course in philosophy management that I wanted to attend.  There I was asked, “What is your philosophy?” I couldn’t answer. I didn’t like myself and my self-esteem was low.
“Imagine yourself at a funeral when you die, and look at it objectively. Who is grieving?” This was a further question that made me realise that I had to make myself important. I finally understood that contributing to others is a way of taking care of myself. That was the turning point for me.

<The five messages>

Source: In the representative message
https://www.ms-aws.com/about/message/


5. The future of Adventure World

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/VOP5Mpc8RQ5zcvBEuxNJI8EqXEVdi-d6SQhEDTw1IVr0LAY9M3JXbRmWLhLRuAFiHElSp1ITvx8PaBxonD6NcefDG0WApcRFhNir88UfKjw6T_tIAQsxuGOmf8uZVAV6V2GL__P2
Photo: In the employee gallery
https://www.ms-aws.com/recruit/gallery/

藪本:

Yabumoto:
I would also like to ask you about the future, what do you see in terms of 100 or 300 years? What kind of state do you want AWS  and Adventure World to be in?

Source: Smile circulation (value creation) model
https://www.ms-aws.com/vision/smile/

Mr Yamamoto:
In these times of rapid change, it is difficult to talk about the next 100 years for a company, but I believe that we have to think about what society will look like.
We have to be sustainable, otherwise  we can’t achieve our principles. The Corona disaster may have stopped the planes, but it has not stopped globalisation. For better or worse, the barriers between worlds are disappearing. There is a good side and a bad side. Today I’m having  a meeting with Mr Yabumoto in Thailand (laughs). If the world is going to become one in the future, individuals, companies, the Shirahama  and Kinan region must take action to solve the world’s problems. That is why we are working on the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) as the basis of our business.
The core of the business is to make the people around you happy, though it  should have been to solve some local problems. From now on, I think it will be meaningless unless the region can take action for the global issues.



Source: Smile circulation (value creation) model
https://www.ms-aws.com/vision/smile/

Yabumoto:
The intention of Kinan Art Week is to “export”. We believe that the philosophy of AWS  is so universal that it can be exported abroad immediately.
Is there a necessity for being in Kinan?

Mr Yamamoto:
I don’t think there is a pattern that will help local development. . I don’t think it can be achieved by standardisation. There would  only be similar regions in distant places.

Yabumoto:
I agree. The countryside is fine as it is, though I think it would be good to brush it up and export it.

Mr Yamamoto:
We want to be unique. We have a saying in our company: “Everyone is a Kiraboshi (shining star)”, which means that our employees, customers and animals are all shining. I think it’s the same for the community. I think it’s important to be a shining community for society and to think about what that community can offer. Then we can see the future. AWS  is really a company that is built on the humanity of each and every one of its employees. If we can export that, that’s the best thing. It’s about creating a business model and a platform.

Source: Smile of the employees
https://www.ms-aws.com/philosophy/employee/

Yabumoto:
What can you do because you are in the Kinan region?

Mr Yamamoto:
There are a lot of things that are taking place  in Kinan and Wakayama now… Workcation, rocket, tourism… I’m still thinking about how to move forward.

Yabumoto:
The connection with the Kinan region is very important, and I think that the combination of Kinan and the AWS philosophy, which goes back 5,000 years, will go a long way.

Mr Yamamoto:
We have a dolphin show at night called “LOVES” and I have suggested that we should show  the history of Wakayama. Right now we  are trying to find a way of expressing the history and culture of Wakayama by using the strengths of the region.

Yabumoto:
The concept of Kinan Art Week is “Port Culture” and “Caged Culture”, and I feel that “Smile” is a universal and strong message. I heard that there used to be people from the Jōmon period  living in Kinan. I wonder if the people who lived around those  shell mounds also had the concept of  “Smile” (laughs). It would be interesting to combine these contexts.

Mr Yamamoto:
Or rather, what were the thoughts of the Kumano pilgrims as they made their way to the shrine?
For example, there was a Noh stage at Ise for worshippers. The essence of Noh is to create something new in the moment, i.e. entertainment, and to make people think about the way life should be. We hope that we too can express something that is relevant to modern society and modern art.

Yabumoto:
The Noh play “Ou” is a kind of “Marebito ” according to Nobuo Orikuchi, a spiritual or divine essential being who comes from the other world at certain times. Perhaps Adventure World will play a role in giving us new experiences and perceptions in our time.
We hope that you will create a chemical reaction with the Kinan region and become a company that exports the concept.

Mr Yamamoto:
I’ll think about it!

6. Is Adventure World an art?

Yabumoto:
Finally, is Adventure World an art form?

Mr Yamamoto:
Do you have a definition of art other than “emotion”?

Yabumoto:
The fact that it cannot be defined is one of the best things about art.

Mr Yamamoto:
It is, isn’t it.  What  do I  think about art? Well, I think it’s about “thinking” about why something is being expressed in this way, and how it makes you feel.
If that’s what art is, then that’s what we want to be.
We want to be a place that inspires you, but also a place where you can learn to grow. We want to be a place that inspires people to think and grow. I guess you could say this is art.

Yabumoto:
Also, the AWS  website is so beautiful! I think the aesthetics that go into these things are amazing!

Mr Yamamoto:
In design management, the method behind how we  communicate thoughts and feelings are necessary and important. There are many examples of foreign companies using it well, but I feel that Japanese companies are not so good at communicating their ideas.

Yabumoto:
We would like to ask you if there is anything you can expect from AWS  to Art Week.

Mr Yamamoto:
Art is necessary in the context of education. In the field of education, we hope  that the exhibition will provide an opportunity for children and adults alike to think.

Yabumoto:
We were surprised to hear the word “education” as the first word from the manager. We also think that education and economy are very important and we would be happy to collaborate with them in some way.
On the other hand, regarding the economy, are there any new management measures?

Mr Yamamoto:
We’re  struggling at the moment.
Before Corona, we were trying to “maximise” our branding and public relations, to see how we could carry on and extend what we had done before. Just before Corona, we achieved our best ever result and our second best ever result since we opened. With this profit, we were planning to create a business model for the next 10-20 years and make  a soft landing, but then Corona came along and we had to change direction at once.
We are still struggling to do this, but our strengths are still with people, animals and community, so we will continue to focus on new values and education based on these. We are also focusing on video and YouTube, but we are not trying to make money from it, it’s just part of our preparation.

Yabumoto:
I use Disneyland as a benchmark: they only export intellectual property from their head office, but leave the running of the theme parks themselves completely to the locals. I’m wondering if you could  create a model like that.

Mr Yamamoto:
Yes, though . Disneyland in Hong Kong or France is something completely different, isn’t it?
We want to do these things, but we can’t yet. We don’t have any intellectual property. The animals don’t have portrait rights (laughs).
If it were possible, it would be a philosophy-based management system, though I’m not sure where it would fit in.
At the moment, 80% of our visitors are from the Kansai region. We have a good idea of what Kansai visitors are looking for, but our marketing is still weak.
At the moment, we are helped by the compassion  of each of our employees. I wish I could export that.
After all, the overwhelming value of AWS  is its people. People often ask us, “Why don’t you build a park overseas? “ but we don’t know what the locals are looking for, so we don’t do it.
We believe that the Tokyo Disneyland magic can only be found at Tokyo Disneyland.
We also have to be able to create business models and platforms.

Yabumoto:
There are very few companies that have systematised their philosophy to such an extent.

Shimoda:
In the course of our conversation, we felt that the keepers themselves are “art”.
Earlier, you mentioned that the keepers observe the animals very carefully and act as simultaneous interpreters between them and the animals, and one of the qualities that is valued in the world of nature guides is to have a sense of wonder. I think that sense is very close to artI think that the keepers are practicing this world every day.

Yabumoto:
We would be delighted to speak  with the keepers in the future.

Mr Yamamoto:
This discussion  may give you a chance to rethink what you are doing. Please come and join us.

Yabumoto:
Thank you very much for your valuable talk today.

Photo: in the representative message / MESSAGE04
https://www.ms-aws.com/about/message/

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<Related article>

Dialogue project #6 “What is the ideal relationship between animals and humans?”