Nothing better illustrates the theme of this blog than the Kidzania concept in Japan. A children’s role playing theme park which began in Mexico City has successfully crossed over the globe to Tokyo, Jakarta and now Koshien, Osaka, with plans to open this year in Madrid, Dubai and Seoul. Further expansion is confirmed for China and India in 2010. The brainchild of two Mexican entrepreneurs with a passion to give kids the opportunity to have a “real life” experience, Kidzania shows that creativity and innovation have no boundaries and are not the exclusive preserve of the Japanese, Americans, French or Italians. After all we have a Spanish retailer, Zara, and a Scandinavian lifestyle store, IKEA, as great examples of big ideas from smaller countries that have proven to be successful everywhere they go.

Kidzania has all the elements of a real city with Police and Fire Departments, Department Stores, Job Centers, Beauty Salons, Banks, restaurants, FM Station, newspaper, express printing center and even a Train Station and real size Airplane. Kids enter the Park and are given a card that they can exchange for money at the nearest Bank or ATM. They can use the money to visit more than 50 Pavilions but must start a job when the money runs out. Parents are not permitted to enter the Pavilions with the children but are allowed to watch through the windows outside.

Now you may ask what this has to do with East West Hospitality. Well everything!! Here we have a concept begun in South American (The West) which has successfully transplanted itself to Japan (The East) but with a clear Japanese twist. The Japanese have taken the concept to a whole new level of quality and hospitality. Where in the world can you find such construction craftsmanship that replicates a real city down to the manhole covers with such a level of detail? And the hospitality is just fantastic with enormously sweet and attentive part time young Japanese to take care of their customers, the kids! Anyone who has lived in Japan will understand what I am talking about! The kids are getting an experience that they just cannot get anywhere else except perhaps in Tokyo Disneyland.

There is also another interesting story behind the two people who first brought Kidzania to Japan, Ron Lavoie and Einousuke (Eddie) Sumitani. Ron was introduced to the concept while at Lehman Brothers in Tokyo and was excited about the prospects. He then went about looking for the right person to actually make it happen and was able to convince Eddie Sumitani to take on the challenge. Both Ron and Eddie are friends of mine from my previous residence in Japan so it is enormously satisfying for me to see this success – a true collaboration of East and West! One also wonders how many other interesting concepts there are in the world that could successfully cross over the Pacific. I will do my best to find them and report about them to you!


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