Cool Japan Festival 2015 has been a success thanks in part of those who attended the festivities & experienced the fun. From the products offered to the experience of making sushi or tasting takoyaki and okonomiyaki, and to the performances from Akishibu Project and Alodia Gosiengfiao to AKB48’s Team 8, the group’s first ever performance in Manila.
It seemed that everyone who attended, who came from different places and countries, even some from Japan, were satisfied with the booths and the entertainment that organizer Hallo Hallo Alliance took notice of the long lines that snaked from the entrance at the TriNoma Activity Center.
But for Maxim Beatty, the Chief Operations Officer (COO) of Hallo Hallo Inc., the line of people meant that they have exceeded their expectations, despite the little promotion that they had in the lead up to the event.
In an interview with Anime Pilipinas, the executive shared his insights about the event, as well as the future plans of the Hallo Hallo Alliance, and the Cool Japan Shop in particular.
120 stores within two years
As reported earlier, the Hallo Hallo Alliance is planning to build a Cool Japan Mall in Manila which is going to be an entertainment center that will consist of different shops & amenities like a big theater to house the planned MNL48 girl group, shops coming from Japan, and other related amenities, among others. The mall will also house the flagship Cool Japan Shop branch as well.
The alliance is also planning to open 120 Cool Japan Shops in Metro Manila alone until March 2017, and has opened their first store at the Festival Supermall in Alabang, Muntinlupa. A second store is due to open at TriNoma sometime this month.
“Every few months, we will be opening a few stores, as we pick up the pace,” Beatty says. “Initially, what we’re doing is we’re putting out stores to see which part, I mean obviously, not everywhere will be viable. So we want to get the idea and the possibilities are [in] setting up stores strategically in the Metro Manila area.”
Unique Japanese goods for Filipinos
The Cool Japan Shops, Beatty adds, serves as an outlet for Japanese Small and Medium Entrprises (SMEs) to market their goods to the Philippine market via an established network.
“Basically were’s giving them a small space into our store where they could sell their particular merchandise and do that in a grand scale,” Beatty says.
He also says that in the long run, they will expand their shop items to other items not commonly seen in other Japanese themed-stores, which includes food and electronic goods, among others.
“We’re looking at expanding the range as quickly as possible,” Beatty says. “The things that we are covering, traditional Japanese food, confectionery, electronic goods, we’ll be getting a lot more cosmetics, traditional handicrafts, a lot more interior goods. Basically everything Japanese, so basically we don’t want to sell the same stuff that everyone sells. We want to find stuff that has not been sold.”
Beatty also added that the Cool Japan project in the Philippines entails three different phases, the aforementioned Cool Japan Shops, the Cool Japan Mall, and the Cool Japan Restaurant which will be a chain of authentic Japanese restaurants.
First Animate store in Manila
Beatty said that when the Cool Japan Mall opens in 2017, the center will boast of different stores and amenities that will cater to both Japanese pop culture fans and regular mall goers, and one of these stores would be Manila’s first Animate store.
Animate is an anime and games merchandise store which opened first in Akihabara and Ikebukuro in Japan. To date there are 117 stores worldwide, with its first Southeast Asian store set to open in Bangkok, Thailand in 2016 in partnership with the Japan Manga Alliance.
“When we open the Cool Japan Mall in 2017, we will have a theater which will show Japanese films, and anime will be included in that, we will have an AKB48 theater, we’ll be having the Animate store… Yeah, the whole theme is related to Japanese popular culture,” Beatty says.
The Animate store in Manila will be opened in collaboration with Pixiv, the Japanese photo-sharing service which is a part of the Hallo Hallo Alliance.
Beatty declined to reveal the final location of the Cool Japan Mall as the negotiations regarding where the mall will be built are still ongoing, but he revealed that there are certain locations that are in consideration.
Aside from Hallo Hallo, the mall will be built in cooperation with the Cool Japan Fund, a Japanese-government backed investment fund that aims to support and promote the development of Japanese products and services.
Beatty said Hallo Hallo is acting as a “conduit” or a medium for the Japanese culture to be introduced to the Filipino market. “Basically, what Hallo Hallo is [doing] with all of these, we’re a conduit so that Japanese culture can come to the Philippines, so that’s where our connections to Japan run very deep, and we’re able to tap into that and use that to pick [investors],” Beatty says.
One Account, Endless Discounts
The Hallo Hallo Alliance, which includes portals Hallo Hallo Mall, Hallo Hallo Job, Hallo Hallo Town and affiliates teamLab, Movie Stars Cafe, RyoAki Taxi and Pixiv, among others, serves as a gateway for all the services that Hallo Hallo offers.
The alliance enables users to register for one account to use on Hallo Hallo’s online platforms. These users get rebates (called Hallo Hallo Points) when they transact on the Hallo Hallo platforms Hallo Hallo Mall, Hallo Hallo Town and Hallo Hallo Job. These points can be used as equivalent discounts for use in other sites under the Hallo Hallo Alliance.
“For example, when you buy something on Hallo Hallo Mall, (you) get a points rebate, and then use that points rebate when you buy a coupon for Hallo Hallo Town. That’s how it basically interconnects,” Beatty says.
In the future, the points system will be used as well to the Hallo Hallo Town‘s restaurant index, the Cool Japan Shops and Movie Stars Cafe for discounts and rebates.
To reach more potential customers in the Philippines, Hallo Hallo used the power of media through its mini-show Hallo Hallo Cafe, which airs weekdays on TV5. Beatty said that they are willing to expand the partnership if given the opportunity.
A Collision of Two Worlds
Beatty was surprised at the reaction that was elicited throughout the stage shows, most specially that of AKB48’s performances, where the fans knew by heart the “cheers” made by the members.
“I guess I didn’t realize how many otakus there are, I was telling you about passionate Japanese fans but there were passionate Filipino fans who are just as passionate as the Japanese and could now bow the words and understand, definitely there’s a lot of depth that goes on into that culture,” Beatty said.
He also described the people who attended the event as an “eclectic bunch”, further noting that the mix of cosplayers and Japanese music fans made it a “collision of two worlds”.
“I thought it was very interesting how when Alodia (Gosiengfiao) was playing, most of the audience were cosplayers and then they kind of exchanged it with the AKB48 fans midway through, I thought it was an interesting mix.” Beatty said.
In the end, Beatty offers his invitation to everyone to come and visit the Cool Japan Shops in Festival Supermall, TriNoma and in other locations in the future.
“The Cool Japan Shop is the place to go to to get your Japanese fix. We’re selling stuff that you won’t get anywhere else,’ Beatty says.
Anime Pilipinas is an Official Media Partner of Cool Japan Festival 2015. We would like to thank Mr. Maxim Beatty of Hallo Hallo Inc. for accommodating us for an interview.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer do not necessarily reflect the views of Anime Pilipinas, its members, partners, and colleagues. If you have comments or reactions, please email at [email protected].