Three years ago, SoftBank and Mapbox announced a joint venture to transform maps in Japan. The team celebrated their office anniversary back in March, and now we are taking a moment to recognize our team and reminisce on some of our favorite moments.
To help us tell that story, we interviewed a couple of Mapboxers who are based in Japan: Yoshi Yazawa - Senior Director, Technical Account Manager, and Chiaki Yamaga, Public Relations and Marketing.
Yoshi, you were one of our first employees based in Japan. What was your focus when you first started?
Our first mission was onboarding our customer Yahoo! Japan (YJ) to the Mapbox platform. To establish strong communication, I connected our engineers in the US with YJ.
This was a challenge since there were two new migrations that needed to happen across two different languages and cultures. The first was migrating data and the other was working with YJ on how to use the Mapbox Tiling Service (MTS) to fit their needs. Both of these changes have become fundamental to our services in Japan and have succeeded in migrating over 30 services for YJ.
You were instrumental in opening our Japan office. Tell us about the decision making process and role you played with this location/office opening?
Since WeWork provides bilingual services that help companies like Mapbox open office space in Japan, we utilized their services to open our office right in front of the Tokyo station with the help from the US team.
For the first two months, I was the only local there but I had tons of visitors from the US and Singapore office visit me almost every week. I had over 15 people visit at one time while I was the only one based in Japan! Now, the Mapbox Japan team has built a brand new office in the Toranomon area which serves 50+ full time employees in Tokyo.
Over the past three years, what has been your favorite memory or accomplishment?
My favorite memory has been hosting a lot (and a lot) of dinners with our Mapbox team, partners, and customers. It’s a great way for us to get to know each other more deeply - and it’s so much fun sharing our Japanese culture with colleagues from all over the world.
One of the reasons for joining Mapbox was that I was really interested in location gaming. I noticed that in the early locations games, map was the key factor in making the game interesting.
When I first met Young Hahn in San Francisco, I actually unofficially pitched going into the gaming industry at a company party. After years of understanding this market, my favorite accomplishment was making this dream a reality and helping bring our first gaming customer to Mapbox in 2022!
Chiaki, you have been bringing exciting events to Mapbox Japan through your work in the PR and Marketing team. Tell us about your most favorite memory so far.
One of my favorite memories was actually most recently during the Tour de Tohoku in September 2022. The "Tour de Tohoku" is a cycling event organized by Yahoo! Japan Corporation and Kahoku Shimpo which is a local newspaper company. Since 2013, this event has been focused on supporting the recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake and to preserve the memory of the disaster for the future.
Mapbox Japan sponsored the event as a Gold Partner and produced a real-time tracking map to enhance the event. Our engineers and other team members worked together to build this real-time map, which was very popular with the event’s audience. Working together on the event and the map project helped to develop teamwork and cross-functionally within the Mapbox Japan office.
We are planning to sponsor the Tour de Tohoku again in 2023 and plan to involve more employees this year. It will be Tour de Tohoku’s 10th anniversary this year, so we are expecting the event to be more exciting!
What is a major milestone for the team that you’ve worked on?
One of the biggest projects I’ve worked on was the Maps Ad Network Conference in August 2021. This conference was a culmination of collaboration with seven other companies related to the Map Ads platform. It was also the first time we released a beta version of Ads product to the public. I was in charge of preparation and coordination for this big project. I was thrilled to be the one involved when Mapbox Japan was featured in the media for the first time!
Thank you for sharing your stories. For everyone out there interested in joining Mapbox in Japan or anywhere across the world, can you tell us why you are at Mapbox?
Chiaki: My favorite thing about Mapbox is that I can challenge myself with new types of events and work. This is one of the great places where I can grow and develop myself! Our product is flexible to be used regardless of industries and capable of supporting people and their business - the range of possibilities is one of the best features of our products, from my perspective.
Yoshi: My background was in professional services for a web and digital content management company, providing consulting to build business logic. So, my background had nothing to do with maps but my hobby was location games such as INGRESS by Niantic. Now Mapbox is also in the gaming industry as well, as I imagined almost three and half years ago.
From day one, the work and people at Mapbox have just been fascinating to work with. From scrappy beginnings, we now have over 50 full time employees at Mapbox Japan and this growth of the team and the location business has been extremely motivating.
Interested in working at Mapbox? We have open roles in all our locations! Visit our careers page for the full list.