Japan startups cash in on e-learning demand spurred by COVID
Nikkei -- Jan 07
From cooking to playing instruments, education businesses are cashing in on growing demand for online study as the pandemic dictates that people spend more time at home.

Staff at startups have been racking their brains to find ways to retain customers and improve lesson quality to prevent demand from diminishing once the global health crisis comes under control.

Tokyo-based Phonim launched online music lessons services in July. And for Hiroto Shishido, the company's 26-year-old president, the pandemic was the "tailwind" that launched the service.

The University of Tokyo graduate, himself a piano devotee, had been working on how to offer convenient and high-quality music lessons to busy workers since establishing the company in 2017.

He figured out that focusing on providing lessons solely online is the key to success as tenant fees for buildings with soundproof chambers are a major burden for music lesson providers. "If we can cut out tenant costs, we can offer more money for first-class musicians to teach our students," Shishido said. In fact, Phonim's instructors are well-known musicians who have won awards in music competitions overseas.

Shishido made lessons as simple as possible so busy students can easily continue learning. Each lesson takes six minutes or less, with students uploading their assignments and teachers sending them feedback after.

The service is based on two main revenue sources: lesson subscriptions and rental fees for 'silent' music instruments that students can play in an apartment at night. Lesson fees are 1,980 yen ($19) a month or more, while rental fees are around 5,000 yen a month.

As of December, Phonim had hundreds of subscribers, mostly in their 30s or 40s which is comparatively young given that the majority of students who attend music schools offering face-to-face instruction are in their 60s or older.

Junko Nakagawa, a Phonim user, said she could finally start learning violin, an instrument she had longed to study for years. She takes lessons late at night after work and while doing housework. "Phonim is a good fit for me as it enables learning the violin while working and raising a child," said Nakagawa, who plans to keep using the service even after the pandemic ends.

Shishido said the company remains unprofitable for now, but he is aiming for a turn into the black by spring and increase total subscriptions to 2,500 by the end of 2021.

Japan is in the middle of a third wave of coronavirus infections as daily case numbers hit a record high. The government on Dec. 14 decided to suspend its Go To travel campaign of discounts to encourage people to move about the country and boost the economy through domestic tourism.

But with the suspension, people are again staying home and many are expected to avoid some end-of-year customs such as traveling to their hometowns or visiting their parents. For them, online hobbies are one of the best options for filling lonely hours at home during the holiday season.

News source: Nikkei
Jan 20
With an unemployment rate below three percent and a reputation for a strong social safety net, Japan also appears well placed to weather the pandemic's economic fallout. (yahoo.com)
Jan 19
A person taking Japan's new standardized university entrance exam on Saturday was disqualified for failing to properly wear a mask to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. (NHK)
Jan 18
A person taking Japan's new standardized university entrance exam has been disqualified for failing to wear a mask properly to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. (NHK)
Jan 17
Suicide rates in Japan have jumped in the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly among women and children, even though they fell in the first wave when the government offered generous handouts to people, a survey found. (theguardian.com)
Jan 17
This is a story of a Japanese family at the end and beginning of the year. (Kimono Mom)
Jan 16
The state of emergency in Japan to curb COVID-19 has drawn mixed reactions. Many Japanese are questioning how effective it will be. (CNA)
Jan 16
Independent watchmaker Masahiro Kikuno makes each of his wristwatches almost entirely by hand, and by himself. In this video, find out how his dedication and passion sustains his craft, and how he hopes to share Japanese culture with the world through his creations. (CNA)
Jan 16
Japan’s new unified university entrance exams started Saturday across the country, with organizers taking anti-coronavirus measures, such as requiring test-takers to wear masks and disinfect their hands, and ensuring that venues are well ventilated. (Japan Times)
Jan 16
A survey has found that university seniors in Japan are having trouble getting jobs, due to the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. (NHK)
Jan 16
Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa said Friday that she will ask an advisory panel to consider law revisions to secure expenses for child support after divorce. (Japan Times)
Jan 15
Counseling is a varied and interesting career path and is especially rewarding for those that love helping and working with different people. (newsonjapan.com)
Jan 14
Domestic violence cases in Japan hit a record high of over 130,000 in fiscal 2020, with people more stressed and worried about life as the coronavirus pandemic forces them to spend more time at home, according to a government survey released Tuesday. (Japan Times)
Jan 14
More than a million people in Japan turn 20 this year, the age at which they can legally drink alcohol, smoke and get married without parental approval. (WION)
Jan 14
With a workforce consisting of more than 18 million people, the healthcare sector is a major employer in the U.S. (newsonjapan.com)
Jan 11
Japan’s new unified university entrance examination is set to take place for two days from Saturday, in an unprecedented situation amid the rapidly growing spread of the novel coronavirus, which has led the Tokyo metropolitan area to be put under a fresh state of emergency. (Japan Times)
Jan 11
The Japanese education ministry has opened a section on its website providing information on jobs at schools in the country as a way of supporting efforts to maintain employment by companies affected by the fallout of the novel coronavirus epidemic. (Japan Times)
Jan 07
From cooking to playing instruments, education businesses are cashing in on growing demand for online study as the pandemic dictates that people spend more time at home. (Nikkei)
Jan 07
Former drug addicts and alcoholics cast aside by society find refuge in a nursing care facility run by a man who walked the same path. (NHK)
Jan 06
Could COVID-19 level the playing field for women workers in Japan and South Korea, countries known for a rigid corporate culture? (eco-business.com)
Jan 06
When you’re trying to lead your happiest and healthiest life, one great path to self-fulfillment and reward will always be the act of giving back. (newsonjapan.com)