The future of "oshikatsu" through
imaging technology


In recent years, "oshikatsu," the Japanese word referring to the fan activities that enthusiastically support one's favorite idol, anime character, and others, has become increasingly popular worldwide, particularly among Generation Z.
The focus of oshikatsu varies from person to person, and for some this includes their interest in sports. Fans are heading to stadiums to photograph candid moments of players and pivotal moments of the game, generating even more excitement. This trend is rapidly gaining momentum.

Can imaging technologies further expand the potential of oshikatsu? Nikon took on this challenge by developing "fotosapo" (short for "photo support"), a photo-sharing service that connects fans who take photos with those who enjoy viewing them.

Sharing emotions beyond time and space


With digital technology, we can now share information anytime, anywhere. On the other hand, real-world experiences are being revalued as irreplaceable universal values that cannot be fully replicated by digital means. As this combination of real-world experience and digital tools builds excitement and empathy, it's becoming a growing trend across various fields.

For example, this can also be seen in the area of sports. However, as entertainment diversifies and people are increasingly conscious of both "cost performance" and "time performance," attracting fans becomes more challenging. The key is how well fans' needs can be met.

Some fans want to cheer loudly, while others prefer to watch quietly and attentively. There are many ways to enjoy sports, and recently there has been a growing trend among fans to take photos and share their experiences and excitement.

Nikon, dedicated to "supporting a society where people can connect beyond time and space through imaging production," has turned its attention to that fact that photos of the fans' favorites have become the focal point in oshikatsu. To explore the potential of oshikatsu through imaging technologies, starting in the field of sports where Nikon already has a strong involvement, a project team was established to focus on this mission.

Expanding our ways of supporting
from "watching" to "co-creating"


Nikon has been a strong supporter of the sports industry for many years. Not only by sponsoring diverse sporting events, but also through providing maintenance booths for the press and photographers gathered from around the world during major events. These have mainly offered services and support intended for professionals, but what about ordinary fans? What can Nikon provide for them?

Nikon decided to take on the challenge of broadening the role of fans from "recipients" to "creators." Not long ago, photographing athletes was often restricted. However, in the smartphone era, more and more doors are opening for photography across many fields. When fans can take photos of their favorites and share these moments with others, oshikatsu will undoubtedly become an activity that's even more enjoyable.

The project team's goal became clear: to expand fans' engagement from mainly "watching" sports to also "co-creating" them.

In 2022, the project team reached out to various professional sports leagues and teams as part of their research. The first to respond was Kawasaki Frontale, a J-League soccer team. Kawasaki Frontale is a team with a strong focus on engaging with fans and the local community. Their proactive initiatives to connect with fans have been yielding positive results, reflected in the continuous growth of their fan club membership.

Kawasaki Frontale, always seeking new ways to engage with their fans, and Nikon, aiming to turn fans into creators, shared a common fan-centric vision. Both teams quickly hit it off, and immediately began collaborating after their initial meeting.

Developments from fans' perspectives

Kirai Endo of Kawasaki Frontale Co., Ltd. (right) and Tatsuya Yasui of Nikon Corp. (left)

The project was primarily led by a team of eight internal members, with occasional input from external experts. However, the primary focus was a fully user-oriented approach, with a particular emphasis on the fans' perspectives.

No matter how advanced or innovative a technology or feature is, it's pointless if it doesn't provide value to the fans. Being cutting-edge doesn't always translate to being the best solution. Conversely, even if a technology is well-established, combining it with others effectively to meet fans' needs and expectations can be highly beneficial. If this could be delivered quickly, the project team decided it would be the right approach to take.

To meet fans' expectations, the project members opted for an agile development approach. Instead of finalizing specifications and designs rigidly before starting development, they employed a rapid implementation and testing methodology. Fans were directly involved in trying out the features and providing genuine feedback, and input from the soccer club was also addressed, providing diverse perspectives throughout the development process. This approach allowed the project team to continually incorporate feedback and meticulously address details such as user privacy and security measures while maintaining a sense of urgency to refine and improve the project.

3 Unique Points of fotosapo

Subsequently, what emerged from Nikon's technology and expertise honed in its imaging business and other areas, in synergy with the passion of fans, is the web-based photo-sharing service "fotosapo". There are three main features of this service.

The first feature allows users to easily search for photos of their favorite players. Using AI, the system learns the faces of all the players, so when fans search by player name, it displays recommended photos of that player, filtering through a vast number of images. To improve accuracy, AI was trained on thousands of photos capturing every angle and expression of each player.

The second feature enables users to leave "comments" and "likes" on posted photos. While these familiar functions are common on social media platforms, they are intentionally included here without any unnecessary changes to facilitate and foster fan interaction.

The third feature is the ability to share the exact seating area where a photo was taken. When users select a photo of their favorite player, they can see from which seating area in the stadium it was taken. This feature aims to meet the demand from fans who want to take photos from the same point of view or who wish to show their support from the same place. While GPS functions on smartphones can achieve similar results, they often cannot specify the exact seating area. Therefore, we chose an approach that lists seat types by stadium, allowing users to select them when posting, which is deliberately more analog.

fotosapo Partners


As well as at Kawasaki Frontale, fotosapo is also now available for Cerezo Osaka, a J-League soccer team in Osaka. Additionally, it has also commenced operations within the motorsports field, such as for Super Formula.

To what extent can Nikon amplify the possibilities of oshikatsu and community through imaging? Nikon has partnered with Kawasaki Frontale to launch "Nikon Excite Match," offering ordinary fans opportunities to take photos from the sidelines during matches and hosting camera workshops led by professional photographers. Additionally, they are advancing fan events and community-building initiatives centered around fotosapo.

As the use of fotosapo evolves, it's expected to further expand the potential of oshikatsu, enriching people's daily lives with more vibrant and exciting experiences.

Kirai Endo
First Sales, Partner Relations Division, Kawasaki Frontale Co., Ltd.


At Kawasaki Frontale, we organize a variety of events daily to foster good relationships with fans and the local community. Among these, we held an exclusive event for fans through fotosapo, where we saw fans connecting with each other even more than expected. The positive responses quickly led to requests for a second event, giving me new insights.

We are eager to expand successful initiatives from Kawasaki Frontale to other teams and sports. We would be delighted to see others use this as a model case.

The future of imaging × oshikatsu


Nikon Imaging Solutions Development Department
Tetsuya Sasaki


The core motivation behind developing fotosapo is about understanding how to bring joy to fans. The genuine feedback from users I hear when I participate in fan events hosted by Kawasaki Frontale is extremely valuable. Engaging sincerely with this feedback, meticulously addressing each point, is where our project team at Nikon finds its purpose.

Our goal for fotosapo is to create an easily accessible platform for all fans. Whether someone is a fan of Nikon or not, and whether they use a camera or a smartphone for taking photos, everyone is welcome. Our first priority is to make fotosapo known and encourage its widespread use. From there, I hope it inspires anyone, even if it's just one more person, to find joy in photography or develop a love for sports. It's our commitment to continue this mission.

Nikon Imaging Solution Development Department
Tatsuya Yasui


The term "UGC (User-Generated Content)" has become increasingly common recently and this project shows exactly what this is all about. Content created by fans is often more immersive and is more relatable compared to information shared by companies or sports teams themselves. I feel this personally, and the team as a whole is also determined to improve fotosapo even further.
By creating platforms for fans to generate content and share it with each other, this can help to spread it among other fans and attract new ones. We hope that with fotosapo, this will help contribute to the growth of sports teams and ultimately to overall enthusiasm throughout the sports community, and further expand the possibilities for oshikatsu beyond sports.

  • *Divisions and responsibilities are as of the time of the interviews.
  • *Support for fotosapo is only available in Japan, as of July 2024.

Originally published: July 5, 2024.