We knew heading into 2017 that it was going to be a big year. On the calendar, we already had the kickoff of Rakuten’s partnership with FC Barcelona to look forward to, but that turned out to be just the beginning. Here is a look at our favorite Rakuten.Today stories from 2017.

Rakuten Drone delivers hot meals to Fukushima customers

Drone stories were consistently popular in 2017, but none more so than this article about Rakuten Drone’s partnership with the Lawson convenience store chain to deliver meals by drone in an isolated rural community in Fukushima, the region still recovering from the Great East Japan earthquake and the subsequent nuclear power crisis. It was, quite literally, our most popular and uplifting story of the year.

FC Barcelona’s Messi and Pique at Rakuten headquarters

In July, Rakuten Crimson House played host to some very special guests as FC Barcelona superstars stopped by to introduce the Rakuten and FC Barcelona partnership. It was a special moment, particularly for Rakuten employees who were there in person, but the occasion also clearly resonated with Rakuten.Today readers.

Rakuten partners with the Golden State Warriors

Rakuten surprised everyone yet again with this partnership announcement with the reigning NBA champions, on the heels of kickoff of the FCB partnership. The popular stories featured shots from the press conference with team management and stars Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala. It seems our readers are also looking out for that  unique connection between tech and sports.

Rakuten partners with the NBA

Hot on the heels of the partnership announcement with the Golden State Warriors, Rakuten doubled down on basketball by securing exclusive rights to NBA coverage in Japan and becoming a global marketing partner of the NBA.

7 reasons Lukas Podolski will love Japan

Shortly after Rakuten-owned Vissel Kobe announced the signing of German footballing legend Lukas Podolski, Rakuten.Today published a list of some of the best that Kobe has to offer. Poldi liked it so much that he shared it with his 3.5 million followers on Twitter.

Rakuten Ichiba brings the best of Japan to the world

Amidst the glitz and glamour of global sports partnerships, it can seem a little surreal that it was only twenty years ago that Rakuten out started with 13 merchants and a new internet marketplace model called Rakuten Ichiba. This story took us back to those roots of empowering merchants – this time for a global audience, with Rakuten Global Express.

Six ways AI is making e-commerce smarter

AI continued to be a big buzzword in 2017. Here, the head of the Rakuten Institute of Technology outlined how AI is already revolutionizing online shopping.

The mountain climb

Rakuten’s annual executive hike up Japan’s deadliest mountain is not an adventure for the fainthearted, but throw in heavy rain, dense fog and strong winds and you have a hike for the ages. This is how we bond at Rakuten.

Driving innovation in the medical world: Making new cancer treatments a reality

Rakuten founder and CEO Hiroshi “Mickey” Mikitani conducted a sit-down interview with Dr. Hisataka Kobayashi, who is behind one of the most exciting breakthroughs in cancer treatment of recent times.

Who is Mr. Kurowashi? Rakuten Tohoku Golden Eagles’ new deadpan fan

In one of our most unique stories of 2017, Rakuten.Today investigated a very distinctive new mascot with a unique deadpan expression. He has quickly became a Rakuten Eagles fan favorite and something of a good luck charm for the team.