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JAMCO Online International Symposium

31st JAMCO Online International Symposium

February 2023 -March 2023

Thinking about the Meaning of Life in a Time of Global Crises


Daisuke Hasegawa


Davao City in Mindanao in the Philippines and Yerevan in Armenia are the places where I have set up and have been running businesses. Mindanao saw an ongoing struggle for independence and greater autonomy triggered by the gradual dispossession of the majority Muslim residents by the Christian settlers who appeared in the region from period of US rule. Armenians sufferedgenocide under the Ottoman Empire in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and present-day Armenia while Armenia today is locked in a struggle with neighboring Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Although we did not actively go to set up and run businesses in places regarded as unstable or torn by conflict, commercial opportunities indeed exist in such places and the people in such communities require jobs and employment. We also believe that the creation of jobs and employment can contribute to community development and help sustain peace. Allow me to share about what we are doing and the challenges we face in the process.

  • Business opportunities tend to arise amid instability rather than stability
  • Creating jobs and employment can be the means for bringing development and peace to a community


I started doing business in the Philippines about eleven years ago in 2012. Let me touch briefly on how this came about. Prior to this I had been working in Davao City for a Japan-based non-government organization. The NGO was concerned with the social rehabilitation and education of the Nikkeijin (Japanese emigrants), who had been in the Philippines before the Second World War, and their descendants. Among other things, it set up and ran places of learning from kindergarten to college level. The college was established in 2002, but we eventually faced a new problem when the students began graduating around 2006. There were very few jobs in Davao where they could use the Japanese language skills and knowledge they had acquired in college.

The data is a bit old, but as of April 2014, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Mindanao (JCCM) had nineteen regular members, which was very small compared to the 537 members of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Philippines, Inc. (JCCIPI) in Manila, and the 118 members of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Cebu (JCCIC). It would appear that the major reason for this is that Japanese firms associate Mindanao with conflict, and the Japanese Foreign Affairs Ministry puts the region on level three in terms of danger (urging Japanese nationals not to travel there) or level two (only go if absolutely necessary). Few other Japanese firms have invested in Mindanao nonetheless.

Many of the students attending the college set up by the NGO consequently sought employment in Manila or Cebu or else in Japan after graduation. Working in the city in one’s home country or experience of working abroad is, I believe, quite useful for advancing one’s career prospects or achieving one’s dreams. However, the continuing loss of talented people for negative reasons, because, for example, there are no jobs for them even if they want to remain in the community or even if they want to come back after working abroad or in another city, inevitably causes a loss of vitality for the area, and it can lead to a vicious cycle characterized by the loss of tax revenues, job losses, greater crime, and a further outflow of talent. Creating employment for the graduates, therefore, was a matter of utmost urgency.

That was the background and my perception of the problem at the time, and it so happened that I set up a translation agency to harness the language skills of the local graduates. Initially, we were tasked to provide constant translations of social media posts of Japanese idol groups, localizing them into English and making them available for a wider international audience. We also localized and provided customer support for computer games, as well as translated and typeset books and manga. We focused on language services and services connected to Japanese subcultures like computer games, manga, and anime. We got a steady increase in job orders. At the beginning, we only had a employees. Today, we have over 150, including part-timers. We do not only have translators, but also people involved with design and graphics for manga and anime, and even voice-recognition technology., This means tha we are able to provide employment for the graduates of the local colleges and universities, including the college set up by the NGO, and also help provide employment for the people coming back from Manila, Cebu and Japan.

The reasons our employees give for joining us are various. They relate to skills, such as making use of the language skills and knowledge they acquired, or because of the location – they like Davao and want to work there. There are reasons relating to the nature of the people – they want to be with their families. There is also the matter of preference, a great liking for the subcultures of Japanese anime, manga, games, and so on. Our current CEO began working for us part-time as a student. She says she very much identified with our corporate philosophy, vision and mission. She feels firms can help resolve the social problems in the Philippines and Davao, and she. has an active desire to work for the sake of community development.

The quarantine measures adopted in Davao City after the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 were among the toughest in the Philippines. Regulations were implemented restricting the movement of people. Restaurants and fitness clubs were shut, employees were banned from offices and their workplaces, while children were unable to attend school for more than two-and-a-half years. People were only allowed outside to buy the minimum necessities and essentials. By April 2020 unemployment in the Davao region stood at a record 17.9%. People were losing their jobs. Fortunately, all of our employees were able to work at home, given that the work can be done there by anyone with an internet connection. Our workload increased because of the growing demand for the likes of manga, anime, and computer games. Ultimately, we added over 50% more jobs compared to prior to the pandemic, thereby contributing to the creation of employment in the community.

  • A change of thinking is essential – if there aren’t any jobs, create them
  • Jobs arise from connections – chase after opportunities and always meet people
  • Be skeptical of set ways of doing things – be flexible in any situation


Acquiring and fostering talented people is one of the issues we face in doing business in the Philippines. As I touched on briefly when I was talking about how we got started, a society and a community don’t make progress when there is an ongoing drain of talent. Having said that, we didn’t know how many talented people we would be able to attract when we first started out, when we had little capital and were unknown. Offering attractive salaries and conditions are an effective means of getting talented people, but we didn’t have that kind of leeway in the beginning.

Accordingly, we transformed our thinking. We focused on getting people who could identify with what we were setting out to do and what we considered to be the problems and issues of the community, and resolving them. We came up with a corporate philosophy, vision, mission, and core values. Let me describe them below.

Corporate Philosophy:

  • Create a New Story

    There are limitless options in Japan. However, the values are uniform, and society as a whole can feel stifling. It can seem that lifestyles, lives, and character all come in prepackaged form. Indeed society seems to be running according to some kind of set manual. In this kind of society, how can people who don’t meet or can’t fit in with the prescribed values lead a worthwhile life?

    The Philippines, in contrast, has few rules or models to follow, and one’s options are also limited. However, the plurality of cultures makes for openness. Japan and the Philippines both have their problems. A happy society requires more options and at the same time a greater diversity of values for inclusiveness. New hope arises in societies where there is a diversity of values and where there is mutual respect for them. We seek to expand the options for the future, one by one, by joining hands with the people we work with, our clients, and the people around us. Creating a project creates employment and human resources, and those human resources go on to create new projects. This in turn brings more options to the community and offers new values. We aspire to create this kind of cycle and a society where the people involved can create new stories for the future.

Mission and Vision:

  • Generating more employment in Davao

    Poverty and inequality are major problems in the Philippines. We believe they can be alleviated by education and by fostering employment. Expanding one’s operations and creating more employment are the mission of many firms. We not only want to create employment through our firm; we have a broader vision for increasing employment in Davao by helping other firms invest and expand their operations there.

    Expanding operations in Davao

    More than ten million Philippine nationals work abroad, and that number is increasing. While there is nothing wrong with working abroad, it’s only a burden for those who would like to remain in their homeland, but who have no other choice but to go abroad in search of work. The internet, however, makes it possible to involve oneself in overseas work while remaining in one’s own community. We launch new services in Davao and bring in more opportunities by encouraging Japanese firms to invest there, and by expanding the amount of business process outsourcing, and by launching small-scale projects.

  • Expanding human resources in Davao

    By human resources, we mean the people to whom we can provide work by expanding operations in the community. Fostering people who can create business and employment, however, is something only firms are capable of; it can’t really be done by the conventional institutions of learning. The Philippines has vast inequalities in income, and there is also a lack of managerial education for people in the middle class and below it. We aspire to be an organization that can enable our ordinary staff to become business leaders. By increasing the number of business leaders, we hope to break down class consciousness and dispel the negative social perceptions of people viewing themselves as being poor or middle class. Accordingly, we are increasing the amount of human resources in Davao by providing the necessary education and producing people who can be definite models.

  • Core Values:
    • Support self-actualization
    • Quality first
    • Open, fair and flat
    • Good mood
    • Give & give

    Support self-actualization

    We aim to be an organization that supports its members to have a rewarding personal and career life and with each member feeling a high degree of satisfaction at work by having him/her demonstrate his/her own ability in achieving his/her goals.

    Quality first

    As a partner, we provide high quality service and offer something useful to our clients and team members, who are considered to be our closest clients. As an organization, we prioritize quality, and discover and resolve issues by ourselves to support the success of our clients, partners, and team members.

    Open, fair and flat

    In an open, fair, and flat organization, there are no barriers, making it easy for all team members to approach each other, share and resolve issues faster, thereby resulting in building and strengthening mutual trust. The budget and the authority can be transferred to the staff, leading to the team’s growth and independence.

    Good mood

    A positive work environment easily yields creative work and high productivity. When team members are in a good mood, cognizance to problem identification and resolution is heightened, making it easier to develop the team. As such, we aim to continue having team members in a positive frame of mind.

    Give & give

    The better version of the Win/Win principle is the Win/Win/Win principle, and a much better version of the latter is the Give & Give principle. With the Give & Give outlook, we are an organization that wishes for the happiness of the community, including the staff and their respective families.

Aside from the abovementioned corporate philosophy, vision and mission, and core values, in order to encourage employees to understand that the firm is theirs, we created a system for tapping able, capable, and accomplished employees for leadership positions after three years, and for managerial and executive positions after five years. In 2018, I and the others in the founding team stepped back from the frontline and brought in a new executive team, including the senior officers. Our current CEO helped out as a student part-timer at the time of our foundation, and stayed with us after her graduation.

This was colored by a desire on my part not to have foreigners like myself directly involved on a permanent basis and a desire for local people to make their community a better place by confronting the local problems and issues as something that directly concerns them. I am putting into practice my belief that building a sustainable community is an effective means for community development and for bringing peace. It is a cycle in which the local people are creating jobs and employment, and the ensuing jobs and employment are fostering more talent.

  • Firms are ultimately people
  • If there is no capital, increase the number of people sharing the same ideals
  • The corporate philosophy, vision and mission, and core values are at the heart of running a business


Very few Japanese would have a clear idea of where Armenia is and what the country is like. According to the Japanese Foreign Ministry, the country covers an area of 29,000 km2, making it the size of Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, and Tochigi prefectures combined, or 1/13th the size of Japan. It has a population of about three million, and a diaspora of about eight to nine million – the largest number being in Russia, but with large numbers also in Eastern Europe, as well as in Western Europe and North America. The Armenians were the first people and the first country to adopt Christianity officially, doing so in the year 301.

The country is surrounded by the great powers of Russia (in the north), Iran (in the south), and Turkey (in the west). There is historic animosity with Turkey over the Armenian genocide that occurred at the time of the Ottoman Empire, and Armenia has a lingering territorial dispute with its eastern neighbor Azerbaijan over the control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Many Armenians were caught up in and died in the military confrontation that erupted with Azerbaijan in September 2020.

Armenia finds itself in an uncertain situation. The government wants to arrest the shrinking population by making the country a center for information technology, by focusing on the revival of the technologies and IT industries that were developed during the Soviet era. According to the World Bank, Armenia’s Gross Domestic Product has grown at an average of around 5% annually since 2010, and in more recent years between 2017 and 2019, recorded annual growth of around 7%. The economy contracted by 3.3% in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But Armenia quickly picked itself up from COVID-19, achieving an astonishing recovery in 2021, growing by 5.8% growth. The country has a great deal of potential.

Leading IT firms around the globe, in fact, began investing and moving into Armenia after 2000, contributing to the employment of local engineers. Among them, US giants like Synopsys, National Instruments, Microsoft, Oracle, Mentor Graphics, VMware, Amazon, IBM, Picsart, and Cisco, as well as D-Link and Samsung. Japan established an embassy in Armenia in 2015. But as far as I know, aside from our firm CCC International LLC, Japan Tobacco Inc. is the only other Japanese firm doing business there.

  • There are opportunities to be had in being a pioneer in something nobody else is doing or knows about
  • Value the importance of seeing for oneself, sensing, thinking, and acting


We moved into Armenia in October 2019. We started a pilot project in 2016, working through a local firm with a view to registering ourselves in the space of three years. Our on-site investigations gave us an understanding and grasp of some of the points in common between the Philippines and Armenia. This played a big role in us subsequently setting up and doing business in Armenia. A Japanese language teacher whom I had known from my NGO days before becoming an entrepreneur was what led me to invest in that country. Before working as a Japanese language teacher in Davao, he had been involved in Japanese language education in Columbia. He has traveled to more than ninety countries around the world.

We became kindred spirits during our time in Davao, and wondered whether we could subsequently do something together in the Philippines. Shortly before his term of employment was up, even though he was very reluctant to do so, he decided to return to Armenia, saying he had unfinished business there. He left Davao after the end of his term. We were subsequently maintained in periodic contact with one another, but a turning point came in 2016 when I suddenly got the opportunity to visit Armenia, and learned that it has problems similar to those in Davao. Unemployment was also high at more than 15%. The population was falling, because the lack of jobs and employment made people go abroad in search of work.

Despite such a situation, I was aware of the rich pool of human talent, which is one of the resources for doing business. There were a lot of people with skills in other languages, particularly the European ones, such as Russian, English, but also French, German, Italian, and Spanish, as well as Arabic, since many people were seeking work abroad or had come back after spending time there. Our firm had ideas of localizing computer games and translating manga and so on, not only for the Asian and US markets, but for the European ones as well. We started off by outsourcing work to a local firm.

We found out similarities also exist between Armenia and the Philippines in the economic sphere. According to the International Monetary Fund, the Philippines had a per capita GDP of US$3,252 in 2018 compared to the figure of US$4,200 for Armenia. Armenia was looking to raise that figure with information technology people in the foreign firms, but prices and wages were almost the same as in the Philippines. We subsequently decided to move into Armenia in earnest. We got underway when we completed our corporate registration in October 2019.


In regard to Armenia, an executive and general manager of our firm in the Philippines, who happens to be ilipino, was sent out to become CEO , to introduce the projects we had been pursuing in Davao. She was tasked, of course, with getting more assignments in the European languages and creating employment, as well as nurturing people who would be able to assume leading positions in the firm, as is the case in the Philippines. It was also her mission to, make the employees familiar with our corporate philosophy and culture.

Our firm was keen to bring in speakers of different languages, ; not only the local Armenians, but also the people who have fled the current war between Russia and Ukraine, the civil war in Syria, as well as the people who had been driven from their homes in the clash with

Azerbaijan. Together with the firm in the Philippines, we have grown into a firm that can regularly handle more than thirty languages. However, there are quite a few issues. The rapid growth means we have a shortage of leaders, managers, and such. The training process is lagging behind and can’t keep up with the pace. Furthermore, there have also been rapid changes and issues in the domestic situation.

Owing to the Soviet connection, there is free-visa travel and no tough employment restrictions between Armenia and Russia. In normal times, Armenians tended to go to Russia as migrant workers. However, many Russians and Russian businesses are now seeking refuge in Armenia on account of war, conscription, and the sanctions imposed by the West. This is upsetting the balance of supply and demand, pushing rents, prices, and so on.

Unlike Japan and the Philippines, energy prices haven’t been subject to sudden fluctuations because of the steady energy supplies from Russia. However, the relative growing demand for transactions in rubles has led to the unusual international situation of the Armenian currency, the dram, strengthening against the US dollar. The exchange rate in February 2022 prior to the war in Ukraine was 480 drams to the dollar. In the space of only eight months, the dram appreciated by 20%, leading to a rate of 400 drams to the dollar as of October 2022. As we carry out transactions in US dollars, the sudden changes in the exchange rate are causing losses for us.


Let me talk about our subsequent developments and ideas for the future. In 2018 we set up a holding company, KID-T Holdings Co., Ltd., in Malaysia for setting up and moving firms into different countries. There are currently four firms under its umbrella:

  • Creative Connections & Commons, Inc. (established in 2012 in the Philippines and handles translation, localization and customer support for computer games, translation of manga)

  • Pistacia, Inc. (established in 2015 in the Philippines and handle local business expansion and business consulting services)

  • Hello World Tours, Inc. (a travel agency in the Philippines acquired in 2021)

  • CCC International LLC (established in Armenia in 2019 and handles translation, localization and customer support for computer games, translation of manga)

The holding company will lead the way in looking at possible investment and expansion in other countries and territories. We are seeking to expand into new fields in the Philippines and Armenia, where we already do business, in order to expand our employment and operations. Specifically, it would entail expanding our manga business, anime-related work, setting up a manga production studio, and suchlike. We are also looking at actively investing in and helping businesses that our employees want to get into. We handle a multitude of different languages, and are actively looking to hire people of different nationalities and ethnicities, as well as people with language skills.

We have now come to the last part of this paper without me properly looking back or summing up on what I have done, but I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Makiko Kishi at Meiji University’s School of Global Japanese Studies and Tadao Sakomizu at the Japan Media Communication Center for giving me the opportunity to write this article. While I was writing this, they brought to my attention and helped me deal with the ambiguities and helped me sum up my subsequent lines of thought. I apologize for the poor writing, but I would like to thank those of you who have read it through to the end.

City of Davao, Philippines

Company staff in Davao

Yerevan, the capital of Armenia

Yerevan street scene

Party for the founding of the new company in Armenia

Daisuke Hasegawa

Daisuke Hasegawa


  • Founder and operator of Davao City-based Creative Connections & Commons Inc., which is involved in the translation of anime and manga, and translation and customer support for computer games.
  • Founder and operator of the abovementioned company’s European base in Armenia, CCC International LLC
  • Founder and operator of Pistacia, Inc., which runs Davawatch, a portal providing information about Davao, information technologies and human resources.
  • Member of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Mindanao, Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Japan Translation Federation.
  • Born in Tokyo.
  • Previously worked for a non-government organization involved in international cooperation. Resides in Davao City, Philippines.
  • Favorite maxims: “Humans can always achieve what they are capable of imagining”, “ Think outside the box ”.

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