ALL NIPPON AIRWAYS (ANA) / SAMURAI AVATAR
Where traditional craftsmanship meets technology
Preserving craftsmen and traditional skills in Japan’s aging society.
Japan’s elderly population is expected to reach 40% by 2060, which will have skyrocketed from just 12% in 1970. Simultaneously, the percentage of children under 14 is expected to drop from 18% to less than 10%. While other developed countries face aging populations, Japan is aging at an unprecedented rate. Additionally, the problem is exacerbated by Japan’s sub-replacement fertility rate. This situation presents a challenge for Japanese to pass down traditional culture, skills and craftsmanship. Only five or six kacchu-shi (Japanese armor makers) are still living in Japan for example. And it can take over a year to produce a single suit of armor. While Japan’s traditional artisan culture was passed down for hundreds of years, the media didn’t cover these craftsmen because they believed it too difficult for the public to understand. The lack of exposure kept the culture hidden from young people, preventing them from seeking it out on their own. To preserve and spread Japanese culture abroad and increase travel to Japan, ANA introduced the “IS JAPAN COOL?” campaign featuring traditional Japanese craftsmen including swordsmiths, armor makers, ink artisans, dye artisans, Edo Kiriko craftsmen, food model makers and traditional Japanese carpenters.
WHAT WE INVENTED
Invited the world to experience Japanese craft
In Japanese, the word “craftsmanship” means both a person who creates things, and also a way of life spent in devotion to refining one’s skills. In our SAMURAI AVATAR project, we focused on elite armor makers with long-cultivated skills unmatched in the world. SAMURAI AVATAR lets the user digitally experience the process of creating armor that usually takes decades of experience passed down through generations. The process was fun and intuitive, letting users focus on the fun of creation and the splendor of the results. Japanese culture doesn’t only need to be carried on by Japanese people, so the platform warmly welcomed anyone in the world to join.
Create your own custom armor.
To create a set of one-of-a-kind armor for their samurai avatar, a user simply uploads a photo of their face and then chooses a helmet, gloves and body parts from over a trillion possible combinations before finishing their design with favorite colors and a family crest. The finished samurai avatar can then be viewed in detail in 360 degrees and its data is available to download for free to create a full-color 3D figure. The completed 17 cm tall figure (plaster recommended) lets you appreciate the vivid design and impressive craftsmanship. After each samurai avatar is finished, it is immediately added to the SAMURAI GALLERY which can be viewed around the world. Selecting any country on the map reveals all the avatars created in that country. The website also includes seven documentary videos focusing on traditional Japanese craftsmen which are also available on all ANA flights, Japan’s leading airline (as of March 2019).
A march of 10,000 samurai around the world.
The website instantly gained global attention through over 530 articles in 60 countries. Within the first three months, over 380,000 people accessed the website from 140 countries and our movies were played 12 million times with 50,000 SNS shares and 5.5 million impressions. After Steve Aoki posted a video of himself making a samurai avatar on Twitter and Instagram, SAMURAI AVATAR became a phenomenon reaching his 15 million followers and other influencers worldwide. This contributed to over 10,000 samurai avatars being created within half a year of the website’s launch.
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