Miyu Fujita – Injecting Wellness, Creativity, and Community into Shibuya via The Hive Jinnan
I was introduced to Miyu via a buddy from back in high school. Upon talking with her for an hour, I was struck by her “what can I do to help” mentality. She brought me by where she worked at The Hive Jinnan in Shibuya after we finished our coffee, and it truly was an awesome place.
The Hive stuck out to me in several ways. Not only was the physical building really cool, but the events they do there were somehow a bit different from what I see typically. Miyu was the driving force behind all this, and I took the opportunity to dive into her head.
Let’s start with where you come from. Where did you grow up and what did you study?
I was born in Yamagata-ken Sakata-shi. I moved to LA shortly afterwards around when I was 1. I was in LA pretty much my whole life from 1 until I went to college which was around 18 or 19. I went to Georgetown University in Washington DC. I studied human science pre-med and then I was a theater minor as well.
I studied human science and pre-med to get into medical school. Becoming a doctor was a dream of mine since I was in 2nd grade and it was just kind of the most direct way to help people. Theater just fell into my lap accidentally, but it was super fun. I got to meet people who were unlike any of my pre-med friends. They were really creative and I love that kind of space and mentality where there wasn’t just one right answer – you had to kind of look inside of yourself to find that. I wanted to connect medicine and theater in a way because theater is the ultimate form of storytelling.
Since I met you you’ve always been in a helping-people mindset. Were you always like that?
Even when I become a doctor – I remember thinking this when I was in college – I wanted to be a doctor for those people who actually really needed it. One of my goals was to join Doctors Without Borders to help those in need. I was planning on going to medical school, but instead of going straight into medical school I wanted to take a gap year to work professionally to see what the world was like and also to live abroad. Japan was one of my choices for moving and I found an NGO in Japan that provided support to children in Tohoku – those who were affected by the tsunami. Given that I’m also from Yamagata in Tohoku, I really felt a pull towards working with them. I sent them a cold email, got on a Skype call, and then the next thing I know I was on a flight to Japan to Sendai.
What brought you to The Hive and to the startup world?
I was living in Sendai for about a year and then the chairman of the NGO wanted me to move out to Tokyo to the headquarters to work directly for him. I started working in the president’s office for about a year and then that’s when I kind of found out about the startup industry and what that was like and what innovation is like and that really hyped up my curiosity.
The job before The Hive was kind of similar where I was running a space and there was a lot of entrepreneurs. I decided to quit to pursue my passion for wellness and medicine a little more but a friend of mine just happened to introduce me to The Hive. Initially I wasn’t that interested, but I decided I didn’t want to give away the opportunity so I talked to HR and they were lovely. The next week I met up with the founder and he was also super personable and what made me want to join The Hive was the fact that The Hive gives me a lot of autonomy in the kinds of events that I want to run and the kind of space that I want to create which is really really refreshing. There’s a lot of freedom here and so I felt like working here would enable me to pursue some of the things that I was interested in like wellness, and also community building is something that I’m really passionate about. Having a space for that is really lovely and also this space is beautiful.
This space really is beautiful and has a great vibe. Can you tell me more about it?
What’s great about the space is that it’s of its own. It feels really intimate and casual. The first thing you see when you enter is the huge cafe bar, a hub for people to gather and converse. This is where I usually like to interact with my members, when they order coffee and I use that waiting time as a way for me to check in, usually to see how their day is going. There’s always people buzzing, staff smiling, English, Japanese, and really all kinds of languages can be heard – and that’s just already special in itself. From the outside, you see the contrast between the brown bricks and green vines growing along the wall. Inside, the large wooden stair case ties together the three separate floors, creating one connected space.
You seem to have a strong focus on how you utilize this physical space. Why is it so important?
The first benefit of having a physical space is it’s a great place for people to meet. I know we can chat online and we have Skype and we’re more connected than ever, but that doesn’t allow for serendipitous run-ins and obviously it’s not the same as face-to-face. So to give you an example, I was giving a tour of the space to my friend and he was actually looking for a good producer for a project that he was working on and he asked me as we were walking and immediately I thought of a member of ours. I try to get to know all our members so I kind of know what their interests are what they’re working on, and I knew she was a really great producer. So when we got down to the cafe floor, I kind of interrupted her, just asked her if she had five minutes and made that introduction. From there they were already talking about exchanging contacts and potentially working on this project together. So just there, a project was formed. Meeting those blank spots that need to be met, I feel like here you can meet and create dream teams. That’s one of the benefits of the serendipitous run-ins and the physical meetups that you can have here.
Another thing is obviously events. When you have an event it’s a really great place for people from all different walks of life to come. Even if they don’t know about The Hive, if they’re interested in the event or the organizer they will come. I’m also a yoga instructor and I teach bi-weekly yoga classes here, because I want to instill that lifestyle for people and provide that opportunity. Not only did I want to just do yoga, but what you eat is also what you are so I wanted to include food. I just thought it’d be great to collaborate with a really great caterer friend of mine to come in to make acai bowls. We also did another yoga breakfast event where I invited an onigiri chef. He makes rice balls right in front of you, like however you want. It was a live, really exciting and also delicious event.
Besides yoga we also do music, combining it with art. We also have a VR station running while there was music running, you know, like performance happening. So just all these crosses and I think that’s so important because we’re not just one vertical. We’re not just, oh I am a doctor and that’s the only thing I am. We are so many different things. I am a daughter. I am a girlfriend. I am also like a yogi. There’s all these interests and identities that people hold and I think we tend to – and probably in Japan as well – we tend to try to categorize one person into one thing. I don’t think that’s how we work, and so we allow people to kind of collaborate and explore their different interests through these events, through organizing their own events, because I’m open to collaborating with anyone pretty much. I think it’s just a really great way to kind of make yourself a more whole person.
The events allows them to tap into some creative projects that they had on the back of their minds, something that they have thought about but had never really executed or didn’t have the opportunity to do so. We’re so open to collaborating and we try to make the fee to rent the space really reasonable. It unlocks opportunities for these people. From there maybe their passion can deepen for that thing that they did. Maybe they can even connect with like-minded people who they can potentially collaborate with for future projects, and I think it’s all in all a really great place. Also the people who come to the events, it opens their horizons.
What kind of personalities does this space and do these events attract?
Very very outgoing people, open-minded people, very friendly. They are always willing to help, especially if people come a little early and we’re setting up, everyone’s like can we help you set up, which is great. We also have very very driven people who are very driven to get something done, to really pursue their passion. And we also have very curious people. They’re always asking questions. They want to know more, which is great.
Where do you see yourself and The Hive going in the next 5 years?
So speaking about The Hive first – we are a co-working space and we’re physically going to be here and that’s not going to change. I think the thing that will change is kind of our community evolving. There’s probably going to be a turnaround in the community and there’s going to be more new people and that will create a lot of synergy and also I think we will be able to hopefully really be a part of Shibuya and the neighborhood, not just this separate entity. Collaborating hopefully with different vendors different shops around Shibuya will create a community that isn’t just within The Hive but kind of reaches outward. I think we are planning to open a couple of locations in Tokyo and potentially in the rest of Japan, so that’s also a really exciting opportunity. We can cross pollinate between different regions of Japan if we do open in different areas.
For myself, like I said, I’ve always been interested in wellness. My life work or my long-term vision for my life is to create a holistic wellness center for people integrating Eastern and Western medicine, more focusing on the body and mind and the wellness of the person and not just the physical. You know – what you eat, how you exercise, where your head space is, and also how you explore your creativity and the arts because I think that could be immensely healing for people.
From 2nd grade till now, is this the path you imagined you would take?
Definitely not haha. But I’m really really happy about it. Hindsight is 20-20. When I was a year or two ago in a rut where I just didn’t know what I was doing, it felt like I was kind of aimlessly wandering sometimes, because I’m a very curious person. I have many different interests so I tend to kind of want to take on new projects and stuff. At times they can seem like they’re not done strategically, necessarily, but looking back, I’m just like oh this piece connects to this. Now the fact that I even became a yoga instructors really opened me up into this wellness side of the world. So all in all like everything kind of worked out and I’m really happy about where I am, and I’m really happy that I’m working here in The Hive.
Before this interview was the yoga class with the acai bowls described above. After the yoga portion finished, Miyu introduced me to all the other participants and gave me a nudge to give my Bazuru sales pitch before she hurried to her desk to get through some important emails. We did the interview, and after we finishing she made sure I had everything I needed before rushing off to her next meeting.
During the yoga lesson, there was a meditation portion where Miyu led the group through a thought exercise about focusing on your goals and not letting distractions and/or failures bring you down or stress you out. This brought it home for me – Miyu is very driven by her goals. She has a strong vision of what type of person she wants to be and where she wants to go.
The Hive Jinnan opened last November 2018. With Miyu at the helm, I’m excited to see how they can inspire the Shibuya community, and Japan as a whole.