The Japanese “mercenaries” who make the star of TikTok

TOKYO (AP) – They are your Japanese “salarymen,” hard-working, welcoming, friendly and rather regular.

But the CEO and general manager at a tiny Japanese security company is among the country’s biggest TikTok stars, with 2.7 million followers and 54 million likes and has been honored with awards as a trendsetter on the video-sharing app.

The Daikyo Security Co. account, which brings together silly dances, instant noodle dishes and other everyday dishes, is the brainchild of the company’s president.

Despite his unassuming demeanor, Daisuke Sakurai is very serious not only about strengthening his brand power, but also about recruiting new people to his company, a challenge he sees as a matter of survival.

Founded in 1967, Daikyo has 85 employees, 10 of whom work at the headquarters, tucked away on the second floor of a dark building in an alley in central Tokyo.

“Our work is among what is called the ‘Three-K’ in Japan,” Sakurai said, referring to “kitsui, kitanai, kiken,” meaning “hard, dirty and dangerous.”

A common job for Daikyo guards is working on construction sites, directing traffic with a flashing stick, making sure trucks come and go safely without passing pedestrians.

It’s not a job that requires too many special skills, but no one wants to stand outside for hours. As many as 99 security firms vie for each hire, as opposed to two potential employers for office workers, Sakurai said.

And this is happening in rapidly aging Japan, where every sector is suffering from labor shortages.

So why not turn to social media, the place where young people are supposed to flock? Sakurai started posting on Twitter and Instagram. But when he took to TikTok things went viral.

In one successful segment, General Manager Tomohiko Kojima flicks sheets of gel, each emblazoned with the eyes of various comic book characters, onto his boss’s face, just above his eyes.

“What is this character?” the subtitles ask in english.

No cuts are used, they proudly say. Kojima had to keep trying until the strip landed just right.

“I don’t practice during my work hours,” he said with a laugh.

The clips have a clear message: They defy the stereotype of strictly hierarchical, perhaps even oppressive, Japanese companies. At Daikyo, a worker slaps gel sheets on the CEO.

Before TikTok, the number of people applying for jobs at Daikyo was zero. After TikTok, the company receives dozens of applicants, including those people who want to work on the videos.

Some of the videos, such as one in which workers cook a mouth-watering omelette, unfold to the sounds of upbeat songs such as “World’s Smallest Violin” by American pop trio AJR.

All depict the happy but humble lives of uniformed men and women at work who don’t take themselves too seriously.

They are the good guys of Japan. And it’s clear that they really like each other.

Their success contrasts with the image of Japan Inc. that it lags behind digital technology, especially old men who are set in their ways and cannot embrace new technology.

These days, TikTok is flooded with attention-seeking businesses, from pubs and izakaya salons to taxi companies.

Sakurai has his eyes on global influence now, hoping to attract workers from places like Vietnam and Indonesia and allow them to work in English.

And so a recent video features gel sheets with flags of various nations on them, a clip that has garnered thousands of comments and millions of views.

Blow a flag from Mongolia and viewers from Mongolia comment with gratitude. Others ask for their favorite flags, be it Lithuania or Lebanon.

It’s a sign that TikTok has helped Daikyo overcome language and cultural barriers by simply wrapping it up and laughing.

“What makes my job worthwhile is that it’s about people,” Kojima said.

“What attracts me is people, not things.”


Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter

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