The 2011 Sendai earthquake had a huge impact on Japan, both economically and personally. One scientist noted that it literally made the Earth move faster on its axis – the day was shortened by a fraction of a second. The tsunami that the earthquake caused was 30 feet high and raced towards Japan with the speed of a jet plane. More than 150 miles of coastline was devastated. All told, the economic loss exceeded $200 billion and more than 19,000 people died. As Japan picked up the pieces, a new generation of entrepreneurs was born.
After the devastation, Kohei Fukuzaki went to a convention center in Yokohama in search of a friend who had been evacuated. He was stunned by the amount of people who were now homeless and needed to find safe shelter until they could pick up the pieces. He created roomdonor.jp to match people with empty rooms with people who needed places to stay. The website was designed to be searchable, so people could find out the number of rooms available and even find out if they allowed pets. With the government’s emergency response city overwhelmed, this system helped thousands of people find places to stay.
Yosh Kanematsu channeled his passion for the environment into an entrepreneurial business. He operates several businesses, all built around a web-based magazine focusing on sustainable development and environmental news called Greenz. Among his other businesses are Green Drinks, a beverage company, and the Green School, which conducts seminars. Even the people employed at these businesses are entrepreneurs; in addition to their salaries they own a stake in the Green empire.
As the Japanese people struggle with their modern identity, they are forging new pathways to happiness. Facing slow economic growth, young entrepreneurs are building businesses based more on influence than affluence. Yosh Kanematsu notes that, with fewer traditional jobs available, his generation “wants life work instead. This is work with a purpose, something that gives meaning to your life.” This shift in priorities reflects the entrepreneurial spirit shown by Japan's new generation.