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Air Mobility Business Soaring into the Future of Tourism
“The Entrepreneurial Pro” Vows Contribution to Okinawa

Blue Mobility inc. & Ryukyu Wellness inc.

Takanori Michihiro

Mar 20th,2024 publication date

Some services make you wonder, “Why didn’t this exist before?” We often encounter inconvenient situations but accept the inconvenience or fail to recognize its value, thus the situation remaining unknown.Discovering such hidden “potential” and striving to contribute to Okinawa is entrepreneur Takanori Michihiro, CEO of Blue Mobility Co., Ltd.

Elevating Transportation to Entertainment!
Helicopter Buses Changing Travel in Okinawa

The traffic congestion in Naha during the peak season is notorious. Even if you drive in a rental car, you’ll encounter traffic in the city and on the expressway. Reaching the northern part can take up to four hours if you’re unlucky. With many tourists visiting the island, this is a severe issue for tourists and islanders who rely on cars daily.

“Currently, the traffic congestion in Naha is inevitable, but if we don’t do anything about it, tourists will be left with unpleasant memories. If nothing is done, visitors will eventually stop visiting,” said Michihiro, with a brilliant smile and a serious gaze. Concerned about the future of Okinawa, he started the “Helicopter Bus” service, which has dramatically transformed the tourism experience.

You can enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view of the island and the beautiful sea below from the helicopter.

The helicopter bus operates on the weekends. If you book in advance and pay on your smartphone, a staff member will greet you at Naha Airport, and you’ll be taken directly to the heliport without waiting. Unbothered by the traffic congestion, you’ll ascend 200 meters above ground, where you can enjoy a stunning panoramic view. Reaching Onna Village and Nago takes about 25 to 30 minutes.

Moreover, compared to existing helicopter charters, a one-way fare is remarkably low, ranging from 20,000 to 30,000 yen. It has been frequently featured on national TV, attracting attention as a new form of transportation and tourism.

“When we started the business, I didn’t know anything about aviation laws, but I was excited by the prospect,” says Michihiro.

“Not profitable! But I’ll do it!” 
For the beloved future of Okinawa

When asked why this undoubtedly highly demanded business didn’t exist previously, Michihiro responds eagerly, “Simply put, this business is incredibly challenging.”

It achieved 160% of its target goal on the “Makuake” crowdfunding site, ending with great success (image courtesy of Makuake).

“For example, in Okinawa, we often experience squalls. During heavy rain, for safety reasons, flights are naturally canceled based on the pilot’s discretion. Considering these various risks, the finances simply don’t add up. So, as a standalone business, it’s not sustainable. For Blue Mobility, we’re exploring seven other projects alongside the helicopter bus to balance our finances,” he laughs. 

The reason for pursuing the financially unsustainable helicopter bus business lies in Michihiro’s concerns about the future of Okinawa.

“If tourism is confined to areas where cars are unnecessary in Naha, it will lead to economic disparities between the city and the northern regions. I dislike the idea of Okinawa becoming a place where there’s no diversity in tourist areas, and visitors don’t return. Despite the wonderful attractions like the nature of Yanbaru (the northern mountainous area including Nago City and Kunigami Village), there is a missed opportunity when tourists don’t explore beyond what’s provided.”

The air mobility business was not a long-standing idea; his wellness business, which Michihiro wanted to achieve in his lifetime, was the origin. The wellness business deeply connects with Michihiro’s experience of being saved by the nature of Okinawa while working in Tokyo.

The encounter with “wellness” 
The entrepreneur pro starting from scratch in Okinawa

Let’s examine his background for some context on Michihiro and his business. 

He started his career at Recruit Agent (currently Recruit Co. Ltd.), then at CyberAgent, where he was the Head of Advertising Business Division, Business Manager, and Organization Activation Manager. He launched several businesses worth billions of yen and founded his startup support and consulting company. Later, he became an executive officer at Hey Inc. (currently STORES Inc.), where he increased sales tenfold within three years. Michihiro is a professional in business launching.

Working at full throttle, his days were fulfilling, but as success grew, so did the pressure, which sometimes outweighed the excitement of the job.

“At that time, I felt like ‘if I don’t keep delivering results, my existence doesn’t matter. I have to work even harder.’ There was a conflict between that feeling and the need to speak from a managerial position rather than personal emotions, and I gradually burnt out. But visiting northern Okinawa, surrounded by nature, my thoughts became incredibly positive. So, I would return to Tokyo recharged and repeat this cycle,” says Michihiro.

Michihiro has been utilizing Slack and Chatwork for over ten years. During the interview, all employees were also present on screen.

In 2022, amidst the easing of the COVID-19 pandemic, Michihiro relocated to Okinawa, where his wife’s family resides. Initially, while the decision to “start a business in Okinawa” was made, the specifics were uncertain.

“Since I had zero acquaintances or friends in Okinawa, I met with about 100 people during the summer of that year,” he said. He expanded his network and knowledge with his inherent initiative and communication skills.

“In the midst, I came across the concepts of ‘wellness’ and ‘well-being,’ and I became curious. ‘Wellness tourism’ is a global trend, and considering my experience of being healed by the nature of Okinawa, this seemed like a suitable business.”

With this in mind, Michihiro founded “Ryukyu Wellness Co., Ltd.” in January of the following year after his relocation.

What is wellness tourism?

Wellness tourism is a type of travel aimed at health and relaxation. It provides health-promoting activities and facilities such as spas, yoga, and mindfulness to improve travelers’ physical and mental health.

A journey of returning to the basics to heal the mind and body and gain vitality for tomorrow – “wellness tourism” from Okinawa to Japan and the world.

The target clients of Ryukyu Wellness are Japanese executives, corporations, and affluent individuals from overseas. The company aims to help people driven by responsibility and pressures regain their physical and mental health and introduce them to the beauty of Yanbaru’s nature and culture, where they are based. Furthermore, this endeavor is also expected to bring economic benefits to this region facing depopulation and aging.

The “Helicopter Bus” is handled by Blue Mobility for marketing, system development, and operations. The operation is managed by Space Aviation Co., Ltd., which has a proven track record in helicopter operations.

“Blue Mobility came into being as I wanted to create a helicopter service to transport customers of Ryukyu Wellness to the northern part of Okinawa. Through a mutual acquaintance, I was introduced to Mr. Yasuda, the CEO of Space Aviation. As we talked, it became clear that we could develop this helicopter business into a service that could contribute to Okinawa as a whole and ultimately to Japan.”

First and foremost 
“To contribute to Okinawa”

“The only thing I had decided when starting a business in Okinawa was to contribute back to Okinawa,” says Michihiro. When asked if there was any backlash from existing content providers or related regions while entering the tourism industry, he smiled and shook his head.

“The tourism in Okinawa has been market-driven, primarily based on bringing large crowds to tourist destinations at a low cost. The tourism we are initiating is the complete opposite. It’s a model that services a limited few with high added value and costs, which is distinct from existing providers or tourism businesses. Of course, we explained it properly to those we met, listened to their opinions, and proceeded very carefully.”

At Blue Mobility, there are plans to increase the number of heliports and expand services throughout Okinawa, including the surrounding islands. Additionally, they have an essential mission of serving as a tourist transportation system and participating in the region’s disaster prevention system, such as transporting relief supplies during disasters and injured individuals.

This interview and the company registration took place at the coworking space “C.O.L” in Naha. “While meeting people is important, we didn’t want to create a company that focuses too much on physical locations or offices.”

Michihiro aims to create a significant path forward by developing high-value-added, high-priced wellness content and air mobility in response to the challenges regarding inbound tourism in the Japanese tourism industry.

“If the model we create in Okinawa could be deployed in Hokkaido or other regions in Japan and established as viable businesses, it would enhance Japan’s productivity, wouldn’t it? I believe this holds tremendous value,” says Michinori, his eyes gleaming with the long-term strategic vision. While cherishing his aspiration to contribute to Okinawa, his gaze extends far and wide, akin to an aerial view from a helicopter, toward the future of this country.

Interview and Japanese Text by Minako Narabayashi

Blue Mobility inc. & Ryukyu Wellness inc.

Date of Establishment
April 2023(Blue Mobility inc. )
Capital stock
8 million yen(Blue Mobility inc. )
Takanori Michihiro
Blue Mobility inc. :Air Mobility Business (Helicopter Bus/Taxi)
Head Office Location
2nd Floor, KA Candy Building, 3-9-22 Mekaru, Naha City, Okinawa

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