• Share
  • Read Later

Supervisor, toys and entertainment planning division, Bandai Co.

AGE 32

ADDRESS 2-5-4 Komagata, Taito-ku, Tokyo, Japan

BIO From the look of her, you'd expect Aki to be the one at the office serving tea to all the male Bandai executives, not dreaming up a product that would prove big enough to reverse the fortunes of the entire company. The Tamagotchi digital pet this petite, soft-spoken woman invented two years ago has spawned an almost cultlike following--40 million sold since its debut in November 1996--and at least half a dozen copycat products. Its success boosted Bandai's sales enough to cancel its merger plans with Sega Entertainment. The original idea for the Tamagotchi started to take shape in 1994, four years after Aki started working for the company. She figured people love pets (goldfish and hamsters are particularly popular in Japan, where many apartments forbid dogs and cats), and they also love to carry around tiny gadgets. Why not merge the two? Some high school girls in Tokyo's Shibuya shopping district proved to be the perfect focus group.

1998 POWER PLAY Aki continues to work in the same department as before, studying market trends and devising marketing campaigns for new products. Her goal? To push Bandai products.

PLACE YOUR BETS With no word on Aki's next big idea (it's top secret, she says), the Tamagotchi might turn out to be a fluke.