Photo: Courtesy of Mariko Nishimura
executive impact

Entrepreneur Mariko Nishimura bridges tech and culture


Mariko Nishimura wears many hats: programmer, marketer, media creator, businesswoman and entrepreneur. She makes them all look good, combining a high-energy, outgoing personality with a deep-seated curiosity about the world.

After coming up through corporate giants like IBM and Adobe, Mariko Nishimura has been running a two-person creative consulting firm Heart Catch for nearly a decade, looping in willing players from her vast network to dream big and realize large-scale projects.

Her newest venture is the startup Naro, which produces on-demand streaming courses about Japanese culture. They’ve snagged big-name collaborators to teach, including Konishiki for sumo, Mamoru Oshii for anime and Zaiyu Hasegawa for Japanese cooking. Nishimura hopes the courses can contribute to Japan’s standing in the world by raising the profile of otherwise reticent masters.

Are you from Tokyo originally?

Yes—I was born in Tokyo. Suginami is my hometown but I’ve lived in a lot of places because of my father’s job. He was transferred a lot, so I’ve lived in Osaka and Nagoya too. I went to four different elementary schools.

Is that what made you so outgoing?

I was forced to meet new people every year. At first it was hard, especially when I was eight and nine years old, often changing schools and friends. I even got bullied and had bad days but those experiences made me very strong. Now I feel as if I have no hesitation in meeting new people.

Were you always interested in tech?

My father worked for the Japanese telecom NTT back in the day. He had a first-generation cell phone — it was around 1980 at the time so it was the kind with the big box attached. We also had personal computers, which were new at the time, around the house too. My father also really loved making things. He often created things around the house both digital and not. I learned a lot from him and my curiosity for making things and creating something digital grew from there.

What did you study at university?

My major was international studies, but I also belonged to the stage lighting club where I used a computer to make simulations for the stage. It was a hobby, but it did get me into digital creation and programming. It also got me curious about the internet, digital tech and layers like applications and hardware networks. So, for my first career, I went to IBM as an engineer.

What did you work on at IBM?

I worked with a global team to make the IBM support page. Not only did we work on the user interface but creating the search engine too. I actually hold a patent for global search terminologies from those days.

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© Savvy Tokyo

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Good for her, but so what?

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

on-demand streaming courses about Japanese culture

Not exactly a blockbuster idea, but good luck

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

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