What can we possibly do to make a change in the world in which we live? How can we play an important and long-lasting role in shaping the society that surrounds us? These are questions that arise when talking with Stephen Milne, the owner and CEO of Tokyo-based social pioneers Ojizo Coffee

The Edinburgh-born entrepreneur runs Ojizo alongside his life and business partner Fumihiro Tanaka. They’ve had the business for just under a year, but have already seen themselves at the heart of a movement of change. 

With a space on the roof of Shibuya’s hugely popular retail complex, Miyashita Park, an online store and a series of successful collaborations, the duo are making serious waves in social responsibility and have an aim, a genuine one, to change the world which we inhabit. With 10% of the proceeds of every coffee sold going to several Japan-based charities and an ambition to hold an actual brick-and-mortar store in the coming years, Ojizo is a brand that is being talked about and for very good reason. 

An Exciting Opportunity

Ojizo Coffee has been hand-picked for an exciting new pop-up market which is being held at Takashimaya Shinjuku, one of the capital’s most respected department stores. Tsukutsu Tsunagaru Market is the brainchild of seven young staff at Takashimaya who want to promote trending brands based in the city.

“They were given the responsibility to promote products which are trending now, and we have been selected,” says Milne. “They have different categories of products at the market including art, food and drink, interior, fashion and souvenirs. We will be located in the food area. Really, we want to be involved in this market to get our name out there. We’ve been in Miyashita Park for nearly a year now and it’s been brilliant, selling our coffee and meeting lots of people. There are a lot of foreign visitors there who are here for a holiday. The pop-up at Takashimaya, however, gives us more of an opportunity to connect with Japanese people. Because it’s a relaxing space, we will have more time to talk to people and tell them about ourselves and our message.” 

At Tsukutsu Tsunagaru Market, Milne and Tanaka will be offering a selection of Ojizo’s hot and iced coffee, cafe lattes, coffee beans and ground coffee that people can take home with them. With a series of impressive collaborations with the brands Abahouse and Frapbois, as well as emerging artist Bonyuki and lauded cookie firm Monsta Sweets under their belt, the duo is looking ahead to the future and has some serious ambitions. 

“The main thing was to get started,” says Milne when asked about what their first year has been like. “A lot of people have brilliant ideas but the thing that stops people is that they never get started. We found the courage to start, and we’ve made mistakes, of course, but as the year has gone on our aim has shifted slightly from just wanting an actual shop. We want more action on the streets, go out and help people. We have been really influenced by Social Bite in Scotland, which makes special packs for people who live on the street so they can have water, food, sunscreen and so on. We want to do something similar here.”

Helping People in Need

The Scotsman talks passionately about social change and responsibility. Ojizo’s parent company, Social Shift, seeks in the long term to make tangible changes in Japan and to potentially partner with like-minded people and companies who are serious about corporate social responsibility.

Milne adds, “Although Ojizo Coffee’s name is out there, we want to focus a bit more on Social Shift and meet with different store owners. The idea of helping people in need and paying it forward has worked in other countries, so why can’t it work here? We want to give access to this kind of information and where to help people — that’s one of our next steps.” 

Ojizo Coffee has certainly emerged, in the last year, as one of the capital’s most hopeful and inspiring firms. It’s a company with a genuine ambition to seek change and empathy with others less fortunate. When I ask Milne what makes Ojizo Coffee stand out from the crowd, he simply says with a smile, “We donate 10% of our sales to different charities and the fact that we use organic coffee that we roast ourselves as well as hand selecting each individual bean. We actually put a lot of love into it.” 

Check out the Ojizo Coffee pop-up at Takashimaya Shinjuku 11F from August 24 to 28, 10:30am-7:30pm