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Former Club Producer Ventures into New Territory

June 30, 2000
Comsn care managers visit elderly people at home to check on their welfare. (PANA)

After turning down a commission upon graduation from the National Defense Academy of Japan, Masahiro Origuchi, 38, joined a trading company, where he produced a disco club, Juliana's Tokyo, which became an immense success. He later left the company to launch Velfarre, another club that became wildly popular, earning him the title "emperor of discos." Afterward, Origuchi founded a temporary employment agency and, most recently, has ventured into the home nursing care business, looking to become a leader in businesses targeting Japan's rapidly growing elderly population.

Unique Formula for Success
Origuchi has had somewhat of an unconventional career. As an entrepreneur, he is unique in an age where information technology is the buzzword in venture start-up businesses. Although the pace of new business creation in Japan is still relatively slow and there is still much anxiety over the sluggish economy, Origuchi has received much praise for his enterprising spirit and original approach to business.

Lately, Origuchi has been concentrating his efforts on Goodwill Group, Inc., a human services company of which he is president. With the start of Long-Term Care Insurance in April 2000, Goodwill, through its subsidiary company Comsn Co., has launched a full-scale initiative into the home health care services business. Investors seem to approve. Goodwill Group's market value has appreciated considerably since its stock was offered on the over-the-counter market in July 1999.

Cultural Icon
Origuchi grew up in a wealthy Tokyo family, but prior to graduating high school his family's fortunes turned, and he ended up attending the National Defense Academy, where tuition is free and students receive a monthly allowance. There he studied in the school's department of science and technology, but after refusing a military commission, he took a position at a major trading company. A few years later in 1991, he made a name for himself as producer of Juliana's Tokyo. Under Origuchi's direction, the disco, which featured lines of women clad in revealing miniskirts dancing and twirling fans on a platform, became something of a social phenomenon and Origuchi a symbol of Japan's bubble economy.

After the bubble's collapse, Origuchi left the trading company and started Velfarre. Though labeled a trend setter for the youth market, he founded Goodwill in 1995 and ventured into a whole new range of businesses, including temporary employment services, outsourcing, and health care. Known for having a keen nose for new trends, Origuchi created a stir when he announced plans in 1999 to enter the nursing care business, leaving people to wonder, "Will the emperor of discos become the god of heath care?"

New Opportunities in an Aging Society
In a rapidly aging Japan, the human services industry, including nursing care, is universally acknowledged to be a field overflowing with potential. Recently, Origuchi purchased a company that has already made inroads in the home nursing care business and offers 24-hour home care nationwide. Comsn has service bases set up throughout the country, each with care managers who design care plans and helpers to take care of actual care duties.

Origuchi believes that having helpers assigned to families' homes opens the way to offering a whole host of related products and services, such as delivery of health care products, home remodeling, and making travel arrangements for people in need of nursing care.

The biggest obstacle facing Origuchi's venture is the need to rapidly increase the number of workers for his service bases and customers' homes. Origuchi has responded with a large-scale recruitment campaign through newspaper and other advertising, but he must still contend with the all-important issue of how to maintain and improve the quality of this growing labor force.

Though Japan is the second country following Germany to introduce a public system of nursing care insurance, there are still a variety of problems surrounding its implementation. The nursing care industry may not be immune from the effects of these difficult problems. On the plus side, however, nursing care could be an industry ripe for the picking for young entrepreneurs bubbling with new ideas.

Trends in JapanCopyright (c) 2000 Japan Information Network. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.