In early October 2008 the Virtual Kira Institute made its debut in Japan when Piet Hut made a presentation at a bar called “Bar Tube” in Tokyo in a large crowd of heavy SL users, IT journalists, and metaverse planners. Weekly Japanese bar talks at the Kira Cafe in Second Life started soon afterward and now has typically 10 or more regular participants.
Second Life is still quite new for the Japanese, however there is great potential as Japan is technologically advanced with a well-developed infrastructure for virtual worlds. During recent visits to Tokyo, Piet Hut and Eiko Ikegami had a number of meetings with key players in the Japanese language SL, and visits to various labs such as the National Institute for Informatics, a group of scientists devoted to the development of virtual communications, and Uchida Yoko, a company that specializes in promoting educational uses of virtual worlds. Although business and institutional uses of virtual worlds have attracted attention, the social potentials of SL for communication are not yet well recognized in Japan. Kira Japan, as a branch of the Kira Institute, has a unique role in the current landscape of SL Japan, to demonstrate effective uses of the virtual world for enriching our cultural life through events organized by grassroots networks, as well as to potentially bridge the gap between Japanese and English language users.
Kira Japan is now run by a core group with assistance provided by an advisor group. The core group includes: Piet Hut (Pema Pera), Eiko Ikegami (Kiremimi Tigerpaw), Yuko Wada (Almond Andel), Rina Yamada (Rianna Demina), Michio Ozaki (Panda Kidd), Richiko Beppu (Marube Oh) and Hiromi Ogawa (Haruka McMahon). The advisor group includes the above seven plus: Jason Link (Banzai Linden) of Linden Lab Japan, Nao Noe (Naoyoshi Shimaya) and Jun Doi (June Steampunk) of Metabirds, and Hisa Oyen of Com Lab, an SL based research institute,Yuki Saeki (Weasel Gough) from Genkii, and Kazuko Hashimoto (Cazy Cascarino).
The Kira Japan website, thanks to the efforts of Yuko Wada and Rina Yamada, is available http://www.kirajapan.org/. For news clippings on Kira Japan see Kira Japan In the News.
This picture was taken courtesy of of the Educational Center, Uchidayoko in Tokyo, Japan. The photo was taken by Hiroto Takahashi. Pictured here from the left are Sumiko Wada of Uchidayoku and members of Kira Japan: Eiko Ikegami, Yuko Wada, and Piet Hut standing next to Eiko and Piet's Second Life avatars (Kiremimi Tigerpaw and Pema Pera).