Hitoshi Kinoshita

Back to Contents of Issue: July 2000

President, Shotengai Network

by Daniel Scuka

Time was, you didn't get to head your own company in Japan until, oh, about age 50 or so. But the Net is turning many received wisdoms on their heads, and, in some cases, tossing them out altogether. Hitoshi Kinoshita, a student at Waseda University Senior High School, was selected recently to become president of a new nonprofit organization called the Shotengai Network, a consortium of some 40 online "shopping streets" operated by student groups nationwide. He turns 18 this month.

"To run a company, a president needs an office space, a cell phone, a laptop computer, and the time to talk with people," says Kinoshita. The company he serves, the Waseda Shoten Kai, is a nonprofit org for shops that sell food, clothes, and other local specialty items online primarily as a means of exposing student participants to the real world of commerce. "Waseda's Shoten Kai is a meeting place for students who want to become entrepreneurs," Kinoshita says, "and our principal and staff are very supportive." The Waseda Shoten Kai now boasts some 40 head members of the nationwide Shoten Kai, and is the leading organization in the new national network to be launched in August. Kinoshita, as a senior member of the local organization, was a natural choice for the national chair. "I can code some HTML and a little Java script, but I'm no genius," he says. "I started using PCs when I was in my first year of middle school and surfing the Net when I was in high school, and now I'm actually quite interested in the Internet." Hitoshi's interests outside of the Net include playing the electone, especially Jazz and traditional Japanese music, and keeping up with the latest world news.

The national Shotengai Network, meanwhile, has ambitious plans to include other products and get even more young people involved with running their own businesses. "Although we're still not yet an official NPO, it's possible for us to learn how to do business. Lots of students want to learn entrepreneurism, but they still follow the old patterns."

Kinoshita has big, if not concrete, plans for the future. "For university, I haven't decided on a particular course of study," he says. "Ultimately, I want to use the Internet to facilitate communications between people." Looks like he's well on his way to achieving that.

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