Kidzania opens in Japan

The concept of children having fun while learning by role-playing in a variety of occupations has now spanned the globe. Kidzania Tokyo opened this fall in an upscale shopping mall in Japan. At least three similar centers exist in Canada, Mexico, and the U.S., but the key to the newest entry is corporate sponsorship. Ca-ching!

The 6,000 sm (65,000 square foot) Kidzania Tokyo opened Oct. 5, 2006, at the upscale LaLaport Toyosu shopping mall in eastern Tokyo, Japan. Kidzania Tokyo is an indoor children's role-play edutainment center, similar to Kidtropolis at West Edmonton Mall in Canada; La Ciudad de los Niños (Kids City) in Mexico City, Mexico, and Wannado City at Sawgrass Mills, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Children ages 2 to 15 get five hours to try as many occupations as they like. Each occupational experience lasts about 30 minutes. Professions they can role-play include firefighting, police, courtroom, airline attendants, pizza and fast food joints, hospitals, dentistry, beauty salons, banking, electric power company, rent-a-car, car mechanic, driving license center, cooking school, business school, research lab, bottling plant, fashion and retail stores, TV and radio, newspaper, gas stand, parcel delivery, photography and many more. Children are paid a salary in the official Kidzania currency of kidzos, they can use to buy goods and services at stores, restaurants, the fitness club and other facilities. They are also taught how to open bank accounts and receive a cash card that can be used at special ATMs. And for children who work in hamburger stores, pizza shops and bakeries, they get the added bonus of eating whatever they make.

Kidzania Tokyo has 50 pavilions designed to look exactly like actual facilities in a town, but at two-thirds the original size. All the pavilions bear the name of real companies, with logos prominently featured. “Sponsorship is the key to Kidzania,” said Yusuke Sekiguchi, a senior marketing officer of Kids City Japan KK. “What we aim for is a feeling of reality,” he said. “Sponsoring companies contribute to making the experiences real by sharing their brand and products.” At some pavilions, facilitators chant sponsor companies' names as they are listing an employee's duties. Sponsors paid up to 100 million yen (USD 845,000) each for their five-year contracts. One business publication has described Kidzania as a “unique advertising media” - a perfect opportunity for sponsors to cultivate brand loyalty with future customers.

To keep numbers manageable, Kidzania Tokyo limits 1,500 visitors to each shift. Admission on weekends and holidays is 3,000 yen (USD 25.30) for children 4-15, 1,500 yen (USD 12.60) for children 2-3 and 2,000 yen (USD 16.90) for adults.

Future Kidzanias are planned for Spain, Jakarta and Dubai.