Pot-bellied Japanese security guards achieve TikTok stardom
TOKYO (AP) — These are your ordinary Japanese “workers,” hard-working, pot-bellied, friendly and pretty regular.
But the chief executive and managing director of a small Japanese security company is among the country’s biggest TikTok stars, attracting 2.7 million subscribers and 54 million likes, and winning awards as the creator of trending on video sharing app.
The Daikyo Security Co. account, which collects goofy dances, gobbled instant noodles and other everyday fare, is the brainchild of the company’s president.
Despite his unassuming demeanor, Daisuke Sakurai is very serious about not only enhancing brand power, but also recruiting young people into his company, a challenge he sees as a matter of survival.
Founded in 1967, Daikyo has 85 employees, 10 of whom work at the head office, tucked away on the second floor of an obscure building in an alleyway in downtown Tokyo.
“Our work is among those labeled ‘Three-K’ in Japan,” Sakurai said, referring to “kitsui, kitanai, kiken,” which means “hard, dirty and dangerous.”
A common job for Daikyo guards is working on construction sites, directing traffic with a flashing stick, making sure trucks come and go safely without running over pedestrians.
It’s not a job that requires too special skills, but no one wants to be out for hours. As many as 99 security companies compete for each recruit, unlike two potential employers for office workers, Sakurai said.
And this in a rapidly aging Japan, where all sectors suffer from a shortage of labor.
So why not turn to social media, where young people are supposed to flock? Sakurai started posting on Twitter and Instagram. But it was when he went to TikTok that things went viral.
In a blockbuster segment, general manager Tomohiko Kojima slaps gel sheets, each decorated with the eyes of various comic book characters, on his boss’s face, just above his eyes.
“Who is this character? the subtitles ask in English.
No cut is used, they say proudly. Kojima had to keep trying until the tape just landed.
“I don’t train during my working hours,” he laughs.
The clips have a clear message: they challenge the stereotype of rigidly hierarchical, even oppressive Japanese companies. At Daikyo, an employee places gel sheets on the CEO.
Before TikTok, the number of people applying for jobs at Daikyo was zero. After TikTok, the company receives dozens of applicants, including those from people who want to work on the videos.
Some of the videos, like the one in which workers cook a delicious omelet, unfold to catchy songs, like “World’s Smallest Violin” by American pop trio AJR.
They all depict the happy but humble lives of men and women in uniform at work who don’t take themselves too seriously.
These are the good guys from Japan. And it is clear that they love each other very much.
Their success contrasts with Japan Inc.’s image of being behind in digital technology, especially older men who are set in their ways and unable to embrace new technology.
These days, TikTok is awash with attention-seeking businesses, from “izakaya” pubs and barbershops to taxi companies.
Sakurai now has his sights set on global influence, hoping to attract workers from places like Vietnam and Indonesia, and allowing them to work in English.
For example, a recent video features gel sheets with flags of various nations on them, a clip that has attracted thousands of comments and millions of views.
Strike a Mongolian flag and Mongolian viewers comment with gratitude. Others ask for their favorite flags, be it Lithuania or Lebanon.
It’s a sign that TikTok has helped Daikyo overcome language and cultural barriers by simply pounding on him and laughing.
“What makes my job interesting is that it’s about people,” Kojima said.
“What attracts me are people, not things.”
Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama