About ap bank
Started in 2003, the ap Bank consists of three people: Kazutoshi Sakurai, Kobayashi Takeshi, and Sakamoto Ryuichi. They loan money to various environmental preservation projects like natural energy and energy conservation, etc... at a low interest rate. The ap bank is a non-profit financial institution (Specificlly, ap bank is not a really a BANK bank). Since 2005 ap Bank has held three concerts: ap bank fes`05, ap bank fes`06, and ap bank fes. '07 which got off to a rocky start when a No. 4 Typhoon forced the concert to be cancelled, with only the last day going on as planned.

ap bank fes
The festival was started to inform people about the present environmental condition, and also to connect them to those who have done something [like making an organic food line or something] and to back them up. When the bank itself was created, they had a strong desire about this, so an outdoors music event now called ap bank fes '05 was held with 13 artists who echoed the activity of ap bank through music. In 2006 60,000 people came in three days. The profits from theses fes are used to fund more loans and to make sure ap bank will stay afloat now and in the future. Since the start of the ap bank [the bank, not the fes] they have financed 30 projects [as of July 2006].

Kazutoshi Sakurai and Takeshi Kobyashi

Ask most rock stars to pitch in for the environment, and they might pen you a pop tune. Kazutoshi Sakurai and Takeshi Kobayashi can do that Sakurai is the lead singer of Mr. Children, the second highest-selling rock band in Japanese history, and Kobayashi is one of Japan's top music producers. But the two know that We Are the World can only do so much to save the earth environmental solutions also need cold, hard cash.

That's where AP Bank the name stands for Artists' Power or Alternative Power comes in. Together with the Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, Sakurai and Kobayashi in 2003 founded and funded the nonprofit lending group, which finances environmentally friendly projects. The three men personally provided nearly $1 million of seed money (Sakamoto has since stepped back from the venture as he now spends much of his time abroad), which is channeled to small-scale, sustainable schemes that mainstream banks would typically shun in favor of lending to bigger, stodgier companies. The bank has provided money for projects ranging from a recycling program in the far south of Kyushu to the construction of an eco-resort in the Marshall Islands. "When I thought about what I could do as an individual, the environment came up," says Kobayashi, AP Bank's president. "Money for the sake of money isn't great, but money is a tool, and people can use it as a community."

Kobayashi and Sakurai are decent bankers it helps that they have a former manager at the monster Japanese lender Sumitomo Mitsui on board but they're better musicians, so they've augmented AP Bank's lending program with an annual festival designed to raise money and awareness for the environment. Japan's pampered pop stars might not have as finely tuned a sense of activism as those in the U.S. and Europe, but Kobayashi and Sakurai have the clout to draw their peers and their multitudes of fans toward environmentalism and to demonstrate how much can be achieved when celebrities find innovative uses for their fame. "I think that because they started this movement, it's helped ordinary folks become aware of environmental problems and finance," says Kazuyuki Tsuchiya of the green group A Seed Japan. It's the least a couple of rock-star bankers can do.

Copyright (c) 2007 TIME Magazine. Written by Brian Walsh and Michiko Toyama.
[ Original article ]
Hardcopy: TIME Magazine: Asia and Europe editions Vol. 170, No. 17, and South Pacific edition Vol.42
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By Steve McClure

The Japanese music community is not usually noted for backing social or political causes. One exception is Artists' Power, a group of well-known musicians who back in 2002 decided to try to increase public awareness of environmental issues.

Members of Artists' Power include producer Takeshi Kobayashi, Kazutoshi Sakurai (lead singer/songwriter with pop/rock group Mr. Children) and performer/composer Ryuichi Sakamoto. Their first project was to set up and provide capital for AP Bank, a lending institution whose aim is to support non-profit environmental groups. AP Bank charges just 1% interest.

In 2003, Kobayashi and Sakurai formed a musical unit called Bank Band to help publicize the bank's activities and environmental issues in general, in particular the need to adopt renewable energy sources and to conserve energy.

The band started out by playing shows at various mid-sized venues when the members could take time off from their other career commitments, and in 2005 released a single, "to U," which was used as the theme song of the nationwide TBS TV network's nightly "News 23" news program.

AP Bank further raised its public profile by holding the outdoor AP Bank Fes last July in Tsumagoi, Shizuoka Prefecture, drawing 60,000 fans. In 2006, the bank and its backers opened the store Kurkku in Tokyo's youth-oriented Shibuya district that sells organic foods and other ecologically sound products.

The second AP Bank Fes, held July 15-17 in Tsumagoi, was even more successful than the first, with attendance of 75,000 and performances by major J-pop acts such as Kobukuro, BoA, Pornografitti, Kazumasa Oda, Qururi, Bonnie Pink and Keisuke Kuwata. This year the festival is scheduled for July 14-16, again in Tsumagoi.

Copyright (c) 2007 Billboard.com. Written by Steve McClure.
[ Original article ]
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NPO Launched by Leading Pop Stars Funds Environmental Projects (June 10, 2005)

A nonprofit bank launched two years ago by three stars of Japan's pop-music industry is garnering attention for the contribution it is making to tackling environmental problems. AP Bank was set up by Sakurai Kazutoshi, 35, of the popular rock band Mr. Children; music producer Kobayashi Takeshi, 45; and world-renowned composer Sakamoto Ryuichi, 53. It is a small-scale bank that invests only in such environmentally friendly projects as renewable energy. The fame of the three principals has only added to the sense of expectation surrounding this innovative venture.

Investing in the Environment
The AP in the bank's name stands for Artists' Power, which was originally the title of a campaign by Sakamoto to get his friends in the music business to think about environmental and social issues. At a study meeting in 2002, Sakamoto said, "Wouldn't it be great if we could all join together to build a wind-power plant?" Tanaka Yu, the president of the nonprofit Mirai Bank, who happened to be taking part in the meeting as a speaker, suggested that the artists create a bank to invest in wind turbines, and Kobayashi and Sakurai took him up on his idea. Both have gained wealth and fame through their music and are now focused on how best to use their money, rather than on increasing their personal fortunes even more. Sakamoto joined them in their scheme, for which each of the three men provided 100 million ($952,380 at 105 to the dollar). AP Bank was officially launched in June 2003, when it obtained a money-lending license.

A bicycle rental service funded by the bank (ap bank)
The bank invests mainly in projects relating to the environment and natural energy. To be eligible for financing, projects must last no longer than 10 years and must require no more than 5 million ($47,600). Financing is offered at a low annual interest rate of 1%. In the first round of applications in May 2004, the bank received about 100 applications, of which 14 were approved for financing worth a total of about 50 million ($476,000). The projects covered a wide variety of activities, including a forest revival project in which a planted cedar forest that was abandoned because of a personnel shortage will be cut down and pigs will be released onto the land (in Kagoshima), a bicycle rental service using abandoned cycles (Yokohama), the use of biogas from kitchen refuse (Saitama), and the construction of an eco-resort in the Marshall Islands. Kobayashi and Sakurai are involved in screening the applications that come in. They hope to expand the banks operations from just passively accepting applications for loans to providing a forum to connect people with technology to people with materials.

A Financial System for Supporting NGOs
A succession of nonprofit banks have been founded all over Japan during the past decade or so. The first was Citizen's Bank, which was founded in Tokyo in 1989, and other example include Mirai Bank (Tokyo, 1994), and the Hokkaido NPO Bank (Hokkaido, 2002). These banks operate in a variety of ways, but most are organizations of like-minded citizens and nonprofit groups who each make a small investment, and their collective funds are loaned to NPOs, citizens' groups, or individuals. From the investors' standpoint, although capital is not guaranteed and the money cannot be withdrawn freely, that knowledge that the money is used to finance projects that accord with one's own beliefs more than makes up for such disadvantages. One of the reasons for the recent rash of NPO bank launches is that although citizens' groups and NPOs have become active in a much wider range of fields, the financial infrastructure needed to launch and operate such groups has been slower to materialize. Another way of looking at it is that the high demand for funding means that the number of new NPOs being launched is likely to increase even further in the years ahead.

Copyright (c) 2005 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. [ Original article ]
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