Using the Power of Entertainment to Make Medical Welfare Issues Relevant and Personal.
Interview with Mr.Yuki Oka of Representative Director of Ubdobe, a non-profit corporation.

NPO法人 Ubdobe (ウブドベ) 代表理事の岡 勇樹さんにインタビュー。

Driven by Regret

Driven by regret after his mother’s passing

Ubdobe is a non-profit corporation that uses the power of music and art to spread information related to medical welfare. Mr. Yūki Oka, who serves as the Representative Director, was too once saved by music.

“Having lived in San Francisco, California from the age of three to eleven, I had a hard time adjusting to Japanese elementary schools and junior high schools upon my return. The first community that I was able to fully commit were at clubs and live music venues that I started to frequent in high school. I was on the brink of dropping out of society, but thanks to the common language of music, I was able to create connections with others.”

It was a few years later that Mr. Oka became involved in medical welfare. While he was busy with his musical endeavors as a digeridoo player and a DJ, he lost his mother, the person who understood him the most, to cancer.
“I lost my mother while I was playing around. She had been sick for two years, but I only found out about her illness after her death since I rarely visited home. What I experienced then was a great sense of regret and remorse that I felt I could not shake for the rest of my life.
”What if medical care, welfare, nursing care, and sickness could feel more familiar and relevant? What if we could casually discuss with friends and family about how to prepare for the unexpected? Mr. Oka became painfully aware that what was needed was to foster a culture that makes medical welfare more relevant and familiar to more people. If something were to happen to a family member, even a little bit of knowledge could change the whole situation.

Then, his grandfather developed dementia. Determined to do something for his family this time, he stumbled upon music therapy. Thinking, “This is it!”, he quit his job to study music therapy while being involved in home care for the elderly and mobility support for children with disabilities.
“What I sensed in the medical welfare industry is that there are many things that need to be communicated, but no one is willing to do so. To start with, there is a lack of manpower, and the industry’s stakeholders do not feel the need to distribute information. So, we decided to be the ones to send out information on our own in order make people feel more familiar with medical welfare.”






Learning from failure

Great failure and a positive response;
10 years of “never giving up

In 2008, Mr. Oka organized the first ever music and arts event that combined welfare and music, where children with disabilities who attend special classes and facilities and children who attend elementary school could all have fun in the same space. “Children of the same age, with or without disabilities, coexisting in one shared space and having fun; I realized that this is how society should be,” says Mr. Oka. The event, “Kodomo Music & Art Festival”, became a major event with the support of many artists. Then, in 2010, Mr. Oka launched “SOCiAL FUNK!”, the first medical welfare club event in Japan. Focusing on various issues facing modern society such as dementia, disabilities, cancer, and organ transplants, it attracts more than 500 young participants every time, growing to a scale where the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has also paid a visit to his event.

However, not everything was a big success. While this was a big turning point, it was also the biggest disappointment and hardship he experienced following his mother’s passing. In 2011, the “Kodomo Music & Arts Festival”, which was going to be held on a large scale at an outdoor venue, was canceled on the day of due to a typhoon.
“The children who were supposed to perform had spent 10 months preparing for this day of live painting. Thinking of how they would feel, I couldn’t even tell them that the event had been canceled.”

This was also a huge financial setback. Although Ubdobe had just been incorporated as a non-profit corporation, the thought of bankruptcy and dissolution flooded Mr. Oka’s mind; but it was the stage manager who had been asked to produce the event who saved him from this crisis. When Mr. Oka sincerely bowed his head in apology for not being able to pay their salary, the director instead gave him words of encouragement: “Don’t give up on your goal of realizing a world where everyone can live happily just because of debt.”

To repay his debts, Mr. Oka visited local governments, social welfare councils, and medical welfare companies in all 47 prefectures across Japan to pitch his event and design production business. Even in the midst of this arduous and grueling process, he maintained his strong determination to never give up, and as a result, the number of contract projects from the government increased. Over time, Ubdobe became a “pioneer in medical and welfare entertainment” and attracted attention from the welfare industry.


2008年、初めて福祉と音楽を融合したイベントを企画した。障がい児施設や特別学級に通う子どもたちと小学校に通う子どもたちが同じ空間で楽しめる、音楽とアートのイベントである。「障がいのあるなしに関わらず、同じ年代の子どもたちが一つの空間に共存して、楽しそうに遊んでいる。それが本来の社会の有り様だと思った」と岡さん。「Kodomo Music & Art Festival」と名付けられたこのイベントは、たくさんのアーティストたちに支えられメジャー化していく。2010年には日本で初めて、医療福祉系クラブイベントの「SOCiAL FUNK!」を立ち上げる。認知症や障がい、がんや臓器移植など、現代社会が直面するさまざまな問題をテーマに掲げるこのイベントには、毎回500人を超える若者が集まるようになり、厚生労働省が視察に訪れるほどになった。

とはいえ、成功体験ばかりではない。次の転機となったのも、母の死に次ぐ大きな失意だった。2011年、屋外会場で大規模開催を進めていた「Kodomo Music & Art Festival 2011」が、台風の影響で当日中止となってしまう。


→ about ” SOCiAL FUNK! “

Changing the way we do good

Social businesses not for society,
but for yourself and your family

Inspired by a kids’ play zone using digital art that he produced at “AIR JAM 2016”, in 2017, Mr. Oka launched the “Digireha (Digital Interactive Rehabilitation System)” project, which combines digital art and rehabilitation. When an Ubdobe member saw their child with muscular dystrophy reach out and chase after the digital art to try and touch it, they came up with the idea of using sensors and digital art for rehabilitation.

What is groundbreaking is not only the rehabilitation system itself, but also the fact that a number of child programmers and children undergoing rehabilitation are involved in the development of the “Digireha” app. Behind the development process, there is an unexpected collaboration between children.
“Moreover, some of the children who were supposed to perform at the canceled ‘Kodomo Music & Art Festival 2011’ were now grown and a part of our team. I still haven’t been able to overcome that painful experience, but perhaps promoting ‘Digireha’ is how I will redeem myself.
”Selected as a “Social Innovator” for solving issues facing Japan, “Digireha” received a large grant from the Nippon Foundation to be used towards its development and social implementation. Through this app, rehabilitation, which is not an easy feat even for adults, is lifted up through entertainment. It officially launched after being highly anticipated by people from many fields and domains.

“People sometimes call me a ‘standard-bearer of social business’ or a ‘philanthropic entrepreneur’, but I don’t really see myself as being in the social business at all,” says Mr. Oka. He says that he started Ubdobe and “Digireha” because he wanted to overcome his personal regrets and shame, even if it was just a little.
“But, I think that’s what social business is all about. What is needed are the thoughts and actions for one’s own family, friends, and loved ones, rather than grand ideals of bettering society. I believe that as these thoughts and actions are pursued, they will eventually evolve into social businesses.”

Perhaps over the next ten to twenty years, the regrets that Mr. Oka has will gradually evolve into something positive.


そうして2017年にスタートしたのが、デジタルアートとリハビリテーションを融合した「デジリハ(=Digital Interactive Rehabilitation System)」プロジェクトだ。きっかけは「AIR JAM 2016」でプロデュースした、デジタルアートを取り入れたキッズゾーン。デジタルアートに触れようと子どもたちが手を伸ばしたり追いかけたりするさまを、筋ジストロフィーの子どもを持つUbdobeのメンバーが目にし、センサーやデジタルアートのリハビリへの転用を思いついたのだ。

「そればかりか、痛恨の『Kodomo Music & Art Festival 2011』に出演してくれたかつての子どもたちが、成長してチームに参加してくれています。僕はいまだにあの経験を克服できていないけれど、『デジリハ』を広めていくことがあの時のリベンジになるのかもしれません」日本が抱える社会課題の解決に向けた「ソーシャルイノベーター」に選出され、日本財団から多額の助成金を受けて開発と社会実装を進めてきた「デジリハ」。大人にとっても楽ではないリハビリにエンターテインメント性を持たせたとして、多方面から期待が寄せられていたこのアプリも、ついに正式ローンチを果たした。



→ about ” Digireha “

→ Learn more about “Ubdobe”