Earlier this summer in Japan, Rakuten Optimism 2019 showcased world-class speakers from a diversity of fields, such as sports, mobile, entertainment and travel. Industry leaders took turns over the 4-day premier business event held in Yokohama to share their perspectives on how the advent of the 5G era will shape our lifestyles going forward. Panel sessions and keynote speeches weren’t the only highlights for attendees: Right next door to the “Global Visions for the Future” business conference was the “Future World” interactive event and festival where many of these visions were brought to life for visitors to experience.

A group of Future World visitors show off their panda spirit in Yokohama.
A group of Future World visitors show off their panda spirit in Yokohama.

Gateway to the future

During the conference, Rakuten Chairman and CEO Mickey Mikitani talked about Rakuten’s optimistic view of the future. The positivity was almost palpable throughout the halls of Pacifico Yokohama, one of Japan’s largest convention centers. Upon walking through Future World’s colorfully illuminated hallway entrance, visitors were greeted with a festival full of interactive booths and exhibitions.

To the left of the entrance, sports fans got to experience how augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will shape the future of the fan experience; to the right, the Discover Visions for the Future pavilion demonstrated how 5G technology will transform the world. Straight ahead, digital pandas danced next to a group of young Jedis-in-training.

At the Star Wars Jedi Academy, kids aged 5-12 had the chance to become a padawan learner, honing their (balloon) lightsaber skills with the help of a Jedi Master.
At the Star Wars Jedi Academy, kids aged 5-12 had the chance to become a padawan learner, honing their (balloon) lightsaber skills with the help of a Jedi Master.

Understanding the transformational power of 5G

“Welcome to the 5G era — Discover visions for the future.” This essentially summed up the technical emphasis of the event as it aimed to tangibly demonstrate how 5G era-led innovation will transform a wide variety of fields, including e-commerce, sports, entertainment and more.

The 5G tech area not only attracted conference attendees ⁠— it drew speakers as well. AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes, who shared the stage with Rakuten CEO Mickey Mikitani on day two of the event, dropped by several of the techiest booths to learn more about how the company is leveraging cutting edge technology to empower its members.
The 5G tech area not only attracted conference attendees ⁠— it drew speakers as well. AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes, who shared the stage with Rakuten CEO Mickey Mikitani on day two of the event, dropped by several of the techiest booths to learn more about how the company is leveraging cutting edge technology to empower its members.

With all its interactive and informative displays, visiting the 5G technology area was like taking a day trip to the science center. Visitors learned how the technologies work, which tech leaders Rakuten has partnered with, and caught a glimpse of why the company’s upcoming end-to-end fully virtualized cloud-native network will be such a game-changer for the industry ⁠— and even society as a whole.

A young footballer passes the ball to Vissel Kobe star David Villa at a customized augmented reality booth.
A young footballer passes the ball to Vissel Kobe star David Villa at a customized augmented reality booth.

5G’s impact on the spectator experience

Many people are familiar with Rakuten’s global partnerships with La Liga powerhouse FC Barcelona, NBA’s Golden State Warriors and more. Future World also demonstrated some of the technological innovations developed with major sporting partners that aim to redefine how we experience sports. From virtual passing drills with Vissel Kobe stars and experiencing the Rakuten Cup from pitch level through VR, to the impact of 5G on cloud gaming, the interactive exhibits showed festivalgoers how 5G tech is poised to revolutionize the fan experience at live events.

Dancing with the panda

Rakuten’s Okaimono Panda (or Shopping Panda) mascot has quite a following in Japan, which explained the crowds of fans aiming to score adorable goods and deliciously themed sweets at the event.

Festivalgoers lined up for a chance to take part in a virtual dance routine with the ever-popular Okaimono Panda.
Festivalgoers lined up for a chance to take part in a virtual dance routine with the ever-popular Okaimono Panda.

Even the beloved Okaimono Panda was hard at work demoing emerging technologies. The Panda Dance exhibit completed a 3D scan of participants and then superimposed their likeness into a fully choreographed dance routine with the mascot.

Rakuten Optimism 2019 was a completely cashless event.
Rakuten Optimism 2019 was a completely cashless event.

The heart of the Rakuten ecosystem and cashless payments

While the business conference focused mainly on demonstrating the transformative potential of 5G, Future World spotlighted even more stars of the Rakuten Ecosystem. This included mouthwatering sweets, meats and other treats from top merchants at the Gourmet and Shopping Festival, Rakuten Travel booths promoting some of Japan’s best travel destinations and many other goods and services that make the company’s ecosystem globally unique.

Visitors sampled culinary delights from a selection of Rakuten’s most popular merchants at the Gourmet and Shopping Festival.
Visitors sampled culinary delights from a selection of Rakuten’s most popular merchants at the Gourmet and Shopping Festival.

Yet even here, in what might be considered the more traditional area of the Rakuten Ecosystem, the company demonstrated how its past strengths are seamlessly connected with its future vision. In a move reminiscent of its pioneering shift to completely cashless payments at the home stadiums of Rakuten sports franchises, this Japanese leader in cashless technology made Future World an exclusively cashless space.

Optimism achieved

Rakuten Optimism was a 4-day extravaganza that lived up to its name. The conference engaged and excited visitors with the potential of 5G and other emerging technologies to fundamentally transform society. It entertained them with a pair of performances from the one-of-a-kind Yoshiki. And finally, it gave attendees the opportunity to actually see, touch and try the technologies for themselves, showing them firsthand why Mikitani and Rakuten have such an optimistic outlook on the future.


Learn more about the Rakuten Optimism event held in Japan from July 31-August 3 here

For more information about the upcoming Rakuten Optimism event in San Francisco on October 23, please visit this site.