Keiko Erikawa (襟川 恵子, Erikawa Keiko, born on January 3, 1949 in Hiyoshi, Kanagawa) is one of the founders of Koei and a design graduate of Tama Art University who was originally studying for a fashion career. She is Kou Shibusawa's wife, making them one of the richest married couples in the video game industry. They have two daughters, Mei and Ai. Mei works at the company as an executive director for Ruby Party games while Ai is named a corporate director for the company.
Erikawa was the executive director of the company until she stepped down with her husband in 2002. As of April 1, 2015, she is the Honorary Chairman of the Board of Directors. Unlike her husband, Erikawa doesn't and hasn't referred to herself under any pen name for her game credits.
Long before KOEI's creation, Erikawa lived in Ebisu. Her father was a dentist who died when she was still a child. Her mother was an old-timey lady who was used to living in luxury, so her family relocated to the Gunma Prefecture. She spent many months living with her grandparents in a rural environment. Before her father's death, Erikawa was a daydreamer who wanted to marry into riches with a "French prince" who rode on a white steed towards her. She didn't want to burden her mother, however, and soon taught herself to become self-reliant.
Relocating was difficult for her education, as she had to walk about four kilometers (two miles) to her school every school day. On top of her difficult trek, she was often bullied and wasn't willing to tell adults about it. Her grandfather raised hunting dogs as a hobby, so she would sometimes walk to school with one of the hounds. She was on her own if the dog didn't stay put. Erikawa doesn't hold a grudge against her bullies and befriended them later in life; she is amazed that one of the girls became a teacher who sternly discourages bullying. When her family relocated again to Hiyoshi, she wasn't bullied yet gained a reputation of "looking like a French doll" due to a family photo with her and her parents. This continues to be an inside joke of sorts with video game executives.
Erikawa has always liked making arts and crafts from an early age, especially after her father's death. She would sew together purses and other trinkets, and then sell them to relatives and other people who liked them. Everything she had earned she had saved and kept for her family. Her mother was supportive of her artistic pursuits yet furious at Erikawa's attempts to further her education, believing that a woman had no need for it. Her mother would turn off the lights during the night whenever she caught her daughter studying. When Erikawa later expressed her desire to go to a medical university, her grandparents opposed in the belief that she would lose heart because of her gender. Local college was fine, and they wanted her to apply at Taisei Construction where her uncle worked. They hoped that she would get married to a worker as soon as possible.
Her decision to go to Tama Art University was motivated by fun stories she had heard from one of her friend's sisters. She choose a design degree because oil painting had slim job prospects to her. With meager painting experience, Erikawa feels that she lucked out at the then-lax application process and feels indebted to her art teacher. In her second year, the student movement locked down the school so she made-do by taking various part-time design gigs and spending time in Europe with her friends. During her many part-time jobs, she met and befriended her future-husband through college friends. He would often invite her to join him for a late night drink or parties.
When she returned to Hiyoshi, her grandparents decided to make the top sections of their home a boarding house to make up for the lack of apartments available at the time. Shibusawa applied to live in the vacant rooms. He joined Erikawa in drawing placards for children's programming at a local TV station. It was during this particular job that Shibusawa confessed his infatuations to Erikawa, claiming to family and friends that if he couldn't marry her then, he would surely die. Their marriage would save his life. Erikawa was dating another man at the time, but her attraction to him had fizzled. After they broke up, she dated Shibusawa and his marriage proposal charmed her enough to accept. Since his family knew that Erikawa was richer than them, the idea of their marriage caused plenty of domestic drama for both of them.
Once she learned of her father-in-law's financial woes with his company, the married couple didn't want to be the ones to file for the company's bankruptcy. Both were looking forward to becoming entrepreneurs and didn't want to be involved with the Erikawa family's financial burdens. After her father-in-law insisted that he was handing them "an opportunity," they resigned to rejuvenate the fallen company and carry out her father-in-law's legacy in a positive light. While the Erikawa couple went to Asakura, their parents retired to Erikawa's home in Hiyoshi and opened a computer store.
Shibusawa felt he wasn't made for executive paperwork and spent many days mulling over his new assumed responsibility. He carried around a "dream box" of written ideas but didn't feel confident pursuing them. Wishing to cheer her husband from his stress, Erikawa splurged and purchased the Sharp MZ for his birthday. Her spontaneous gift and his following fascination with it became the catalysts for Shibusawa's desire to start a video game developing company.
Though Shibusawa was happy to do something for his dreams, Erikawa had to constantly remind him that they were nearly broke and needed to make a profit. Her husband wanted to make payments for the first Nobunaga's Ambition optional; Erikawa sternly demanded him to put a price tag on it. She prides herself on being able to cook for her family, even when they both became heavily invested in their careers.
Erikawa was the first to reach out to other manufactures and companies for expanding their user base. When she first started pitching her ideas to Nintendo in the 1980s, none of the representatives took her seriously. Despite the lukewarm reception, she persevered and many of her business decisions fostered and stabilized the company. Erikawa comments in retrospect that she is responsible for Koei's "bad reputation" during its early years but was "too young and fearless" at the time to let it affect her.
Many years later, her ex-boyfriend became a musician who married and divorced a singer. He had asked Shibusawa for work in KOEI. When Erikawa received a letter from her ex, she was incensed and demanded an explanation from other company executives. They replied that Shibusawa ordered it yet "drove a hard bargain" with the musician. Erikawa laughed and remarked that her ex didn't ask for more work from them again.
Creative Focuses[edit | edit source]
Erikawa's desire to start the Neoromance series was due to the lack of women in the Japanese video game industry at the time of its creation. She was the only woman working for Koei in the 1980s, and she believed that it was because the market was entirely male dominated and filled with violent imagery. It took about ten years to create a game for women since she wanted a group of women to write and conceive it with her. Erikawa continues to herald the resulting Angelique as a true first for the company and the Japanese video game market.
Her continued promotion for female interest in video games is driven by another desire to inspire more women to get work in the industry. Even if the gender divide has improved since then, Erikawa still feels Japan is behind the rest of the world.
While Shibusawa divulges into his interests of global history and simulation games, Erikawa seeks to expand the company's reputation into other video game genres. Erikawa keeps a close eye on trends in the gaming market and tries to promote products she feels reflects the times. She encouraged the development of Gitaroo-Man, Opoona, Shaberu! DS Oryouri Navi Marugoto Teikoku Hotel, and Apsaras. Erikawa is also responsible for expressing approval for the online gaming side of Koei, especially for Nobunaga's Ambition and Uncharted Waters. According to Hisashi Koinuma, the collaboration for the Dynasty Warriors: Gundam series was started when Erikawa said to him, "I want to use a Gundam~!"
Erikawa believes that establishing a firm link of communication with consumers is an important feature for their games, seeking to have them be easy to play and enjoyable by anyone who buys them. She is a pacifist at heart and wants to promote "world peace" with the company's products.
More often than not, she is present during the accepting ceremonies for the awards the company receives.
Works[edit | edit source]
- FabStyle - general producer, character designer, script and lyrical writer, music composer, sound director, voice director, game designer
- Geten no Hana - general producer
- Geten no Hana Yumeakari - general producer, composer and lyrist for I want to go with you
- Gekijoban ~Zero~ - executive producer
- Angelique Retour - executive producer
- VR SENSE - general producer, early concept designer
External Links[edit | edit source]
- Koei Tecmo 2018 New Graduates interview, Koei Tecmo 2017 New Graduates interview,2016 financial report noting family relations, 2015 English Annual Report
- Listed as 40 with her husband in 2017 Forbes Japan Japan's 50 Most Richest, Accompanying article stating it as their first time being listed within the top 50
- Koei-Tecmo Holdings Party at the Imperial Hotel
- 16th AMD Award - First time hosting
- Dynasty Warriors: Gundam comment
- Keija TV video interview
- Photo of a younger Erikawa couple
- MAiDiGi TV press conference coverage for Zero ~Nuregarasu no Miko~
- Famitsu interview for Neoromance 20th anniversary
- 2015 AMD conference
- DenFamiNico Gamer listing, reader comments
- Famitsu Interview "How does a woman raise a child while pursuing her career in the video game industry?" part 1, part 2
- Entertainment Station Japan interview part 1, part 2, part 3