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tokyo - reiko chiba

I met Reiko in 1995, when Asahi Shimbun, a huge newspaper conglomerate, wanted me to have a discussion with her for their newspaper as pre-publicity for an upcoming international conference on multimedia (where Howard Rheingold was another one of the featured speakers). When she showed up at my office, she was more interested in playing with the Sun than having a discussion.

She had started her career as a young model, and soon became an actress. At age 16, she became the Pink Ranger in one of the "Power Ranger" series and was an instant teenage idol.

During the interview for the newspaper, I showed Reiko the world wide web. As we talked about the Internet and the future of media, I could tell that she quickly grasped the impact of the Internet and I found that her intuitive grasp of digital technology was way ahead of the businessmen she would be speaking to through the newspaper and at the conference.

Dentsu, the ad agency that coordinated the conference, made a web page featuring Reiko. She was excited by this and the response on the Net was amazing. After the conference, Reiko asked me how hard it was to write html and whether it was possible to have her own web page.

A week later, she was over at our office with a bunch of photos, her CD, some artwork and a head full of ideas. She sat in front of the computer as we walked her though the basics of html. She began keying in the html, scanning her photos, digitizing her music ftp'ing the the pages onto our web site. At 5 am she was finished.

In one sitting she had mastered html and created a site which within a week became the hottest pages on our site.

As her sense of self-empowerment through the Internet increased, so did her frustration with working within the constraints of a talent management company as teenage idol. In July 1995, she hired a lawyer and quit her management company. The industry was shocked. The Nikkei announced her retirement. Japan could not understand why a 20 year old teenage idol at the height of her career would just quit. But the New Breed of digital Tokyo got the joke. Reiko finished her CD-ROM and published it with a company called Momoderas where her manager gone to to become a programmer after Reiko quit her management company. In addition to joining Momodera's as an employee, she joined Digital Garage, a new company that I set up to be a producer of Internet related events and content.

Although some of her Pink Ranger fans feel a bit betrayed, her popularity continues to increase and she is gaining wide support from young women.She is heading the formation of a computer network for young women called "Tokyo Girls Net." Recently she published a book about her experience of creating a home page in the form of a how-to book on web page production. She is in the process of writing a book about relationships and love in cyberspace.

Reiko has become a symbol of the New Breed as well as a voice of representing the youth in the multimedia industry otherwise populated by bureaucrats and marketing men. Reiko is the first of her kind, but not the last if she has anything to do with it.

- Joi Ito

Also in Tokyo: Joi Ito

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