With the burst of the bubble economy in the 90’s, Japanese organisations turned towards meritocracy and employees soon changed from coworkers to competitors and lacked unity. My own experiences of working in the IT and finance industry left me feeling disconnected and I urged to push myself to discover my real self and the value of my own existence. I began to reflect on the relationship between the individual self, others and the society.
My thoughts behind UNDOKAI-Ya started taking shape when I was reminded of my college Baseball team, where we had a strong sense of solidarity, mutual trust, respect and good communication. With the realization that the connection between the individual, others and society could be reclaimed through sports, we founded the Non-profit Organization in 2007 to use sports as a tool build relationship between people.
Through trial and error, we hit upon the idea of UNDOKAI (Japanese term for sports festival) and realized that UNDOKAI allows people to express themselves and help overcome barriers that positions/ranks create, by strengthening interpersonal relationships between employees within an organisation.
Having done a successful event with a chain of beauty salons in Osaka and seeing the impact it created on the employees, it became my mission to revitalize companies throughout Japan by introducing them to UNDOKAI. Today, we provide services to educational institutions through our NPO, and to corporates through UNDOKAI-Ya Co., Ltd. We produced more than 240 UNDOKAI in 2018 for companies in Japan.
UNDOKAI aids in creating a positive work environment, however, UNDOKAI alone cannot create a major impact. We asked ourselves, “Is it possible to maintain the same excitement, passion and feeling of oneness experienced during an UNDOKAI in the workplace on a daily basis?” After some speculation, we found the answer in the idea of organisational culture, which comprises organisational philosophy, organisational mechanisms and the climate. Organisations around the world, no matter who they are, face the same fundamental challenges. Thus, it is the spirit of the workers who make up the organisation itself, that matters the most.
UNDOKAI is not just limited to fun. In fact, it’s an educational program for the purpose of developing and improving one’s character, rooted in the Japanese schooling system. The words of the father of quality management, W. Edwards Deming, reflect the educational significance of UNDOKAI – “The general system of management cannot be changed without changing the general system of education. They are one in the same.” We realised that problems to do with management, organisational culture, and education are all connected in a causal relationship and these challenges are experienced all over the world.
Since the start of our international expansion in 2015, we have been seeing the contributions UNDOKAI can make. All problems can be solved with human spirit, and we believe that UNDOKAI can contribute towards the creation of a better society.