Learning new technology demands more than just observation — sometimes you just have to learn by doing! At the Digital Architecture Lab (DAL), we are offering executives from leading Japanese firms a hands-on experience centered around web3 and its business applications. What better way to start than by creating your first crypto wallet?

From October 2023 to March 2024, DAL collaborated with the Japan Association of Corporate Executives (Keizai Doyukai) to execute a web3 project as part of our web3 workshop initiative. Keizai Doyukai is one of the three major economic organizations in Japan, along with the Japan Business Federation and the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI). It’s a community for the executives who are leading the Japanese economy to freely discuss and tackle various economic and social issues, both domestic and international, from a standpoint that is not bound by the interests of any single company or specific industry, and to propose their views to society. Our Chief Architect, Joi Ito, also serves as the chairman of the Keizai Doyukai Corporate DX Promotion Committee.

Initially, the two objectives of this initiative were conveyed to the Doyukai as follows:

  1. For executives to “know” and  “feel” web3 themselves, learning its mechanisms and deepening their understanding (e.g., web3 worldview, use cases, token economy mechanisms).
  2. To expand their network while experiencing the excitement and thrill of web3 (e.g., web3 experiences, networking with those actively involved in web3).

We began the six-month project with a web3 workshop for committee members. The workshop provided an overview of web3, including case studies, and lectures on creating wallets and receiving NFTs. Additionally, DAL designed and distributed unique Doyukai NFTs (image below) at monthly committee meetings, allowing members to engage firsthand with web3.

Coin-shaped Doyukai NFTs were distributed at monthly meetings. Two types of NFTs were issued each month: POAPs, which could be minted by all attendees, and NFTs (rotating 3D NFTs), which could only be minted by those who correctly answered the web3 quiz after the meeting.

Then, as a culmination of this six-month project, in April we co-hosted an in-person web3 event with the Keizai Doyukai at Crypto Cafe & Bar. We had about 50 Japanese corporate executives, web3 startup companies, and politicians who gathered to discuss the current state and the future of web3, along with an opportunity to track and use their tokens to join a game.

50 corporate executives who typically wear suits and ties and might not fit your idea of the decentralized web3;  To our delight, though, the Doyukai expressed a desire to have an event with a completely different atmosphere from their usual meetings. So, intending to fully showcase one of DAL’s characteristics, which is “playfulness,” we brainstormed as a team about the event content and games.
We needed to ensure a wide range of participants would enjoy the experience at this event, including those who did not yet understand web3 or did not own any NFTs. Moreover, it was crucial to avoid having participants perceive NFTs merely as a point system or tokens, which posed a significant challenge.

We designed a token-based learning experience that allowed the executives to earn tokens by participating in their monthly seminars, and these tokens could then be used for token gating and as a ticket to play games at the event.

Considering the diverse levels of web3 literacy among the participants, we decided to compose the event in two parts: “Discussions with experts to deepen knowledge about web3” and “web3 experiences incorporating games utilizing NFTs.” The following two discussions were planned as a dialogue between experts.

Discussions with experts to deepen knowledge about web3

For the first discussion, we invited Masaaki Taira, Member of the House of Representatives (Liberal Democratic Party, Chair of the Digital Society Promotion Headquarters’ web3PT), and Hideto Kawasaki, Member of the House of Representatives (Liberal Democratic Party, Secretary General of the Digital Society Promotion Headquarters’ web3PT) as speakers. Based on the white paper published in 2023, they summarized policies related to web3 and the current situation in Japan,  then discussed future strategies for Japan with Joi Ito.

(Left: Joi Ito, Center: Masaaki Taira, Right: Hideto Kawasaki)

The second discussion was a special edition episode of “Weekly gm,” a show hosted by Joi Ito, live-streamed every Friday at 10:00 AM on Joi Ito’s YouTube channel. The show serves as an online discussion platform where companies and municipalities present cutting-edge initiatives related to web3 and NFT. In this special edition, after a summary of web3 news by Comugi (a web3 researcher), they discussed current trends and future scenarios with Mariko Nishimura (CEO of HEART CATCH Inc.). Click here to watch the archived video!

Normally, Comugi is virtual, but on this day, he participated in person at the venue! Seeing “live Comugi” is an unusual occurrence, so it was a special delight.

After the weekly gm, we had cheers! Socializing over drinks is quite rare at the Keizai Doyukai.

web3 experience incorporating games utilizing NFT

The second part of the program was an opportunity to showcase DAL’s skills and networking to help our participants experience web3.

We came up with three NFT plans to allow all participants to experience and enjoy web3, including those who already have multiple minted Doyukai NFT from past meetings, and those who have not yet created a wallet.

1. Doyukai NFT grand lottery

We organized a “Gacha Ball Lottery” using NFTs, allowing participants to draw the gacha balls based on the number of NFTs they owned from the box and take home the prizes, most of which were sponsored by the Keizai Doyukai members. For those who didn’t have any Doyukai NFTs, we let them mint a POAP at the venue, getting them to participate in the lottery at least once. Zoe (DAL illustrator) and Oliver (DAL community designer) who managed to design and operate the lottery

We were quite excited about an idea to prepare a gacha machine that would automatically spin when an NFT was tapped, but we had to give up on it due to technical difficulties and time constraints. But, we would like to try it next time!

2. Visit the booths to earn NFT and Suntory’s Special Highball!

We placed NFT disks at all three booths at the venue: Tokyo Dome, Nishi-Aizu Town (Kokudaka Project), and Suntory. The system was designed so that if participants visited all three booths and minted the NFTs, they could receive a special highball from Suntory.

3. A person who has 4 or more Doyukai NFTs wins a Special 3D NFT!

Motoko Imada, a member of Keizai Doyukai, introduced us to Susumu Namikawa, General Manager of the Customer Experience Creative Center at Dentsu, Executive Creative Director, poet, and digital artist) to design an AR trophy featuring a golden dragon soaring in the sky. This trophy was awarded to holders of four or more Doyukai NFTs.

He also created a website where you can view the AR. Please check it out!→ Experience the AR (viewable only on iPhone Safari/Android Chrome)

This AR trophy is a special 3D NFT and features a golden dragon soaring through the sky. Since this year is the Year of the Dragon, it is auspicious!

Takeaways and moving forward

At first, we were all nervous hearing that around 50 executives from large companies would be attending the event. But the casual, playful atmosphere that DAL creates makes titles and social status irrelevant. We very much enjoyed running the event, and our sense of fun spread throughout the venue, creating a positive atmosphere that encompassed everyone.

The Crypto Cafe & Bar was designed as a “playground for adults,” and it was rewarding to see how that atmosphere contributed to creating an environment that enhanced the goals of the event and incorporated DAL’s sensibility.

We received a lot of positive feedback from participants:

  • “It was good to understand the worldview of web3.”
  • “I had never learned about web3 white papers or the efforts of the DAO association. So, it was good to know that politicians and private companies are gradually taking action.”
  • “It was a great experience of minting NFTs on my own. I don’t normally have a chance to touch upon [this], but this experience made it easier to understand the mechanisms.”
  • “The process of minting NFTs, approving lottery tickets, and redeeming products was easy to visualize in terms of actual business.”
  • “I was impressed by the passion each corporate municipality has for their projects, such as Tokyo Dome, the Kokudaka Project, and SAKAZUKI. Presentations from those involved in the actual work, rather than executives, felt very passionate.”
  • “The venue that allowed us to learn and experience and the program were very much appreciated.”

As the DAL x Keizai Doyukai collaboration moves forward, we aim to continue providing easy-to-understand information on cutting-edge technologies not limited to web3, and offer experiential opportunities. We hope to support each member’s cultivation of digital sensibilities.

Throughout this initiative, I strongly felt that DAL’s practices of creating a flat, free, and playful atmosphere, and designing in-person events to nurture digital sensibilities, are among our most significant strengths. I felt the potential for impacts to Japanese companies that are still very buttoned-up.

When Oliver went out to buy hats for our event, we pictured standard party cones. Instead, he came back sporting these Pokémon headgears! I briefly panicked, wondering how the executives would react. Then it hit me: this is DAL, and it’s exactly this kind of quirky surprise that makes us who we are!

Yudai Kachi is the Assistant to the Chief Architect at DAL (yudai@ito.com)

Illustration: Asuka Zoe Hayashi
Edits: Janine Liberty & Joseph Park