Bloomberg - USA
By Jason Clenfield June 24 (Bloomberg) -- Confidence among Japan's largest manufacturers will probably drop to the lowest level in almost five years as ...
Tankan (短観), a shorthand for kigyō tanki keizai kansoku chōsa (企業短期経済観測調査, lit. Short-Period Economy Observation), is a quarterly poll of business confidence reported by the Bank of Japan showing the status of the Japanese economy. It is one of the key financial measures in Japan and has considerable influence in stock prices and the currency rate.
June 24 (Bloomberg) -- Japanese growth is slowing, inflation is accelerating and record food and energy costs threaten to do increasing damage to Asia's biggest economy. What should investors do? Buy Japanese stocks.
That's the advice Russell Napier, a strategist with brokerage CLSA Ltd. in London, is giving these days. He says Japanese stocks are on the verge of a rally as the fastest inflation in a decade prompts institutions and individuals to dump low-yielding bonds and deposits in favor of equities.
Inflation, Napier said at a June 20 seminar in Tokyo, will trigger three things: a shift from bonds to equities; a consumer- spending boom; and improved profitability for manufacturers.
Napier's view is predicated on accelerating inflation spurring households to move some of their 1,500 trillion yen ($14 trillion) of assets into stocks to counter the erosion of wealth from higher prices. Consider this a notable flash of bullishness from the author of the 2005 book ``Anatomy of the Bear: Lessons From Wall Street's Four Great Bottoms.''
There's just one problem, and Japanese call it ``Generation D.'' Japan's Yomiuri newspaper last week headlined the phenomenon that economists have long been trying to grasp: ``Deflation Generation.''
It's a fascinating issue in the nation of 127 million as inflation begins to take hold after more than a decade of falling prices. Core consumer prices, which exclude fresh food, climbed 0.9 percent in April from a year earlier after rising 1.2 percent in March, the fastest pace since 1998.
While Japan doesn't have an inflation problem, such increases may shock those who came of age professionally during the deflation years. Curiosity focuses on the 26 million Japanese the Yomiuri lists as being 39 years old or less, the demographic that might be most acclimated to a falling-price environment.
The question is whether a little inflation will be amplified in the minds of many consumers, thereby exacerbating its influence on the economy.
``It's worth noting how many Japanese aren't used to a world where inflation is rising,'' says Hiromichi Shirakawa, chief economist at Credit Suisse Group in Tokyo. ``It will make for a very interesting time as prices go higher and higher.''
Like Napier, investors are wondering if inflation will boost consumer spending. A ``buy now'' psychology could emerge as surging oil and food costs fuel inflation expectations.
Whatever happens, inflation's return to Asia's biggest economy makes for a shaky outlook.
LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- A grown man wearing a diaper is spun around until he can barely stand, then is made to try an obstacle course carrying pitchers of milk without spilling any.
Another man, dressed like an insect, flings himself onto a giant-sized "windshield" with a giant-sized "splat."
Is American television going crazy? No -- American television is going Japanese.
With the increasing popularity of YouTube clips from Japanese game shows such as "Endurance," "Hole in the Wall" and "Human Tetris," U.S. networks -- never shy about imitation -- are bringing similar antics to their prime-time schedules.
On Tuesday, ABC is airing back-to-back premieres of "Wipeout" (8 p.m EDT) and "I Survived a Japanese Game Show" (9 p.m. EDT), with a domestic edition of "Hole in the Wall" coming this fall on Fox.
"It's going to be like nothing that American audiences have ever seen on network television," says "I Survived" host Tony Sano.
Indeed, Americans, accustomed to such family-friendly game shows as "Jeopardy!," "The Price is Right" and "Deal or No Deal" will likely find the new shows somewhat jolting. Then again, that's the idea.
"There is a great desire to shock over there," notes "Hole in the Wall" executive producer Stuart Krasnow. "Ironically, we're more puritan over here. But the Japanese will shock to any extreme."
Popular around the world, "Hole" pits contestants against solid walls coming at them with odd-shaped openings. They must mimic those shapes with their bodies to allow them to pass through the walls, lest they get knocked into a pool of water.
Physically challenging, for sure. But for sheer zaniness, "I Survived" executive producers Arthur Smith and Kent Weed have gone all-out weird.
"We watched hundreds of hours of Japanese shows and looked for all of the consistent themes," says Smith, "whether it's being dizzy, use of treadmills, falling into water. We took those elements and then designed new games around them," with a little help from Japanese game show producers to make the stunts more ... well, Japanese.
"I Survived" moves two teams of five unsuspecting American contestants -- who, by the way, didn't know they were going to Japan -- into a house in Tokyo. The teams compete in bizarre games, with the winning crew in each round getting a "reward," such as a VIP tour around Tokyo, while the losers suffer a "punishment," such as having to haul rickshaws around Tokyo. They then vote their two worst teammates into an elimination game, such as "Splat On a Windshield."
By now, you're probably picking up that the most consistent themes in Japanese game shows are humiliation and embarrassment -- sometimes to the point of sadistic -- which oddly enough can serve as stress relief for conservative Japanese. "It's one of the only avenues they have for release, where they can actually let go and not be conservative anymore," notes Weed.
Krasnow agrees. While U.S. game show contestants are in it for the cash and prizes, he says the motivation is far different for the Japanese player.
"It's true escapism," he notes. "It allows them to really not be that proper person who just fits in all the time. Their culture is really about not being the loud one in the room and not being noticed. So for them to stand out is funny in and of itself."
To make it through such torture also reflects well on one's family, Smith says of the Japanese. "Their games are all about saving face. When you don't do good, you've harmed your family -- you don't look good in your family's eyes."
All this is very different from American game shows, where players are generally treated with respect, no matter how goofily they behave.
"Treating our contestants well is our bread and butter," says "The Price Is Right" executive producer Syd Vinnedge. "For us, the contestants, and therefore the audience, are the stars of the show."
Hosts of U.S. game shows, such as Drew Carey, laugh with nutty contestants, not at them. The American host, Krasnow explains, "is there to comfort the losing contestant, to put a silver lining on a contestant who feels bad. In Japan, it's not like that -- it's shock for shock's sake. If they feel bad, who cares?"
And unlike Japan, U.S. game show contestants are typically chosen for their likeability. "We place a lot of emphasis on casting," says David Goldberg, president of Endemol Entertainment, which produces "Deal or No Deal" and the upcoming "Wipeout." "We think it's really important to have people playing the game that we relate to and have a genuine interest in seeing them win."
One thing that's true in both the U.S. and Japan -- there doesn't seem to be a shortage of people who are willing to do just about anything in front of a camera.
"Ninety-five percent of the world are voyeurs, and 5 percent of the world are exhibitionists," says Krasnow. "Thank God for the 5 percent."
Mortality's Lighter Side: Sedaris' 'Engulfed'
Japanese 10-year-olds taken on school trips to whale slaughter
Japanese children as young as ten are watching whales being slaughtered to teach them the "cultural importance" of Japan's controversial commercial whaling industry.
As the whaling season get underway, schoolchildren in Wada, 50 miles southeast of Tokyo, have been on field trips to see the first Baird's beaked whales of the year winched up the concrete slipway and carved up with razor-sharp flensing knives.
Smartly dressed and in bright yellow caps, the children took notes and sketched parts of the 36 foot whale as it was dismembered.
From their small boats, local fishermen will harpoon up to 26 of the whales during the three-month season. Wada can trace its whaling history back to 1612, when the 10-tonne whales were harpooned by hand. It is now one of just four communities permitted to conduct coastal whaling.
Much of the blubber is carved into bricks that are sold to local people, most of whom have eaten whale all their lives, and the remainder is packaged and sold to supermarkets.
Japan defies the International Whaling Commission's 1986 ban on commercial whaling by claiming that its catches are "research whaling", adding that the by-product of scientific research is not wasted.
A Japanese delegation is currently in Santiago, the Chilean capital, where the IWC is meeting, repeating the government line that the populations of minke, sperm and fin whales have recovered sufficiently since whaling was banned that commercial hunts should again be permitted.
Early discussions were described as peaceful and constructive, but Wednesday's session was marked by renewed accusations and finger-pointing involving Japan and Australia, one of the most vocal opponents of Tokyo's plans.
Peter Garrett, the Australian environment minister, said there was absolutely no need to kill whales for scientific purposes. "In Australia's view the programmes are in reality commercial whaling operations prohibited by the moratorium," Mr Garrett said. "It is no longer sufficient for us merely to oppose whaling under scientific permit. It's time for it to stop."
Joji Morishita, of the Japanese delegation, responded by claiming scientific whaling was "legitimate, necessary and delivers comprehensive data crucial to Japan's research".
He added that countries that oppose the research should "open their eyes".
Shigeko Misaki, a former spokeswoman for the Japan Whaling Association, said it was important that a new generation of Japanese was learning the nation's traditions.
"The anti-whaling campaign has gone too far," she said. "It has almost become a religion, that whales are the only symbol of the marine eco-system. People who believe this religion think all Japanese people are evil because we kill whales.
"Food security is a serious problem for Japan, particularly with rising fuel prices around the world, and the government and Japanese people should stand up and say that whale meat is a good food resource that should be used to provide protein," she said.
Whale diplomacy the Japanese way
After conceding to suspend the kill of Australian humpbacks, Japan wants anti-whaling nations to make some concession themselves, its chief negotiator, Joji Morishita, said on Wednesday on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Chile.
"What do we get?" Mr Morishita asked in an interview with the Herald. "We would like to see something from the other side, then it will be easier for us to take the next step."
The request represents one of the few signs since the Rudd Government began to step up its campaign against whaling that Japan might ultimately negotiate to resolve the dispute.
It follows Japan's decision in December to suspend plans to kill 50 humpbacks - a halt that the commission chairman, Bill Hogarth, expects to hold through next summer.
Long-time observers were wary of the offer. "It's like a burglar who comes to your house again, stands on the doorstep, and says, 'If you give me something then I won't rob you this time,"' said John Frizzell, of Greenpeace International.
Asked what concession others could make to Japan, Mr Morishita said: "That's a question they have to ask themselves."
For its part, Australia proposed a new partnership in non-lethal Southern Ocean scientific research. The Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett, urged Japan to take part in this multi-country collaboration.
He backed that up with his most direct request yet at the meeting for Japan to call off to the Antarctic hunt, after declining on Tuesday to ask it to show good faith with a suspension.
"In support of this new partnership approach, and in light of my previous remarks, I would specifically ask that Japan suspend its lethal scientific research in the Southern Ocean," Mr Garrett said.
A spokesman for Japan at the meeting, Glenn Inwood, said: "Japan feels it does not need to respond to this."
Australia's proposed non-lethal research partnership drew wide support from anti-whaling nations but Japan did not comment. However, some observers remain hopeful the country will take part in the first planning meeting, scheduled for early next year.
In an indication of the intense debate ahead on the future of the commission, Mr Garrett also suggested changes to rules governing what he said was the most divisive issue facing the organisation: scientific whaling.
Under the proposed changes governments would be able to issue lethal scientific permits only with the agreement of the commission itself. Under current arrangements any commission member country may issue such permits.
Mr Garrett condemned the practice. "There is simply no scientifically defensible level of scientific whaling," he said.
Unlike at many previous meetings, no symbolic vote was called on the issue.
An uneasy truce called earlier in the week by Mr Hogarth still largely held, following the agreement by 72 nations for a group of 24 to work on privately resolving differences over the next year.
A公司對產品所佔銷量佔有率並不注重，看重的產品的銷售佔有率。與幾年前暢銷時猛增的銷售佔有率相比，現在大幅跌落到只有當時的6成多左右。 即便如此，從整體上看，A公司仍然保持了一定佔有率，至少在筆者看來盈利不會太少，然而A公司的經營層似乎並不滿意。仍不斷以“銷量還應該繼續增長”來要 求員工“奮發”。
然而，這種做法卻是非常危險的賭博。很可能傷及原先高級產品的品牌形象。導致高利潤的高價品銷售不動，只有利潤微薄的低價型號能夠賣得出去。 這樣，為了確保銷售額和利潤，A公司將被迫轉為追求規模效應的經營方式。從而陷入更加殘酷的生存競爭。筆者認為A公司如果這樣做的話，在大企業雲集的競爭 之中，規模較小的A公司根本無法生存。
在個人擁有的金融資產約為1500兆日元的日本，筆者不清楚購買力是否真的在下滑。但最近確實沒有聽到過什麼好消息。在東京中心地帶，數年前 銷售好得驚人的高價公寓銷售額急劇下跌。儘管從2007年下半年開始，除部分地區外，東京中心地帶的地價、樓價都處於下跌態勢，但銷售仍無法止跌。汽車方 面，眾所週知，現在不只是大型車，輕型汽車的銷售也十分低迷。
以上等肥牛肉為例。“（這種牛肉）在日本越來越難賣”（該員工）。雖然好吃，但是因為價格高不好賣，所以業者都不敢購入。對提供方的要求也就 是一點：“再便宜點”。但是也有不在乎價格，慷慨解囊的國家。其代表就是中國。中國的高收入層似乎認為：“只要好吃，出多少錢可以。好東西當然要要好價 錢”（該員工）。
對於日本眾多苦於價格下跌壓力的行業而言，這是非常振奮人心的。日本廠商應該改變思路，專攻高級市場。走出狹小的日本市場，挑戰以全球迅速擴 大的高收入層為對象的業務。雖然道路艱辛，但或許能讓大多數員工感到更有意義。因為“只為降低成本而工作已讓很多員工感到疲憊”。（記者：近岡 裕）
In Shift for Japan, Salarymen Blow the Whistle
TOKYO — A car company that hid dangerous flaws to avoid embarrassing recalls. A meat processor that sold ground pig hearts as beef. A fancy restaurant chain that served customers leftover sashimi from other diners.
In recent years, Japan’s faith in its corporate establishment has been shaken by a series of scandals in which companies of all sizes have been caught in frauds ranging from the merely nauseating to the patently dangerous. More shocking than the misdeeds is the fact that employees are blowing the whistle.
A decade ago, corporate whistle-blowing was almost unheard-of in Japan. A person’s place of employment was part of his identity, and unflinching company loyalty was the highest of virtues. But the unquestioningly obedient salaryman is becoming a relic, the result of a broader transformation of Japan and the global economy.
When this country had Asia’s hottest economy, fast-growing companies could afford to buy employee loyalty with guarantees of lifetime jobs, and a sense of belonging at a company that treated workers like extended family. But that social contract began disintegrating in the economic stagnation of the 1990s, the “lost decade,” characterized by declining job security and falling wages.
Now, lawyers and economists say Japanese workers are beginning to speak out — despite a still potent risk of ostracism because of the widely held view that such disclosure constitutes an act of betrayal.
Some employees act to defend the public interest, others to protect themselves from possible prosecution for their part in wrongdoing.
“The company is losing its place at the center of the employee’s universe,” said Naoki Yanagida, an employment lawyer.
The first high-profile instance of a corporate whistle-blower was in 2000, when an employee at Mitsubishi Motors exposed the company’s cover-up of accident-causing defects, including failing brakes and leaking fluids, generating investigations that led to arrests of executives and near bankruptcy for the automaker.
Now, Japan routinely sees several scandals a year caused by employees airing dirty corporate laundry, though the exact number is hard to count because Japanese authorities and media often do not always reveal the sources of information.
In fact, the scandals seem to be having a snowball effect, as each revelation of wrongdoing prompts more whistle-blowers to come forward, say whistle-blowers and experts.
This happened in one of the biggest recent scandals, in which a meat processor called Meat Hope collapsed in July after revelations that it had mixed pork, mutton and chicken into products falsely labeled as pure ground beef. The employee who blew the whistle was Kiroku Akahane, 72, a sales executive at the company, which was based in the northern town of Tomakomai.
Mr. Akahane said he knew of the company’s subterfuges for more than a decade, and had long felt torn between guilt toward customers and loyalty toward his company that he described as Japan’s “samurai spirit.” What finally moved him to take his story to a newspaper last year was the growing media attention on whistle-blowers. This made him afraid that if he did not act first, another employee would eventually expose the company, possibly implicating him.
“Defending the public good is noble, but in the end, I just wanted to avoid arrest,” said Mr. Akahane, who said his wife opposed his decision while his daughter supported him. Since exposing his company, Mr. Akahane says he is treated like an outcast in Tomakomai, barred from joining an annual neighborhood religious festival and even shunned by relatives. He now goes to a psychiatric hospital to deal with depression, he said.
Mr. Akahane’s difficulties underscore the high personal costs of blowing the whistle in a group-oriented society that still frowns on individuals who stand out. Japan itself appears torn between its traditional ethic of group loyalty, and a recognition that it needs greater transparency and stronger checks and balances to function as a modern economy. As a result, Japan has so far greeted whistle-blowers with an ambivalent mixture of praise and ostracism.
Indeed, one of the most disturbing revelations for the Japanese has been just how rampant these swindles and frauds are, particularly in protected domestic industries like food services and agriculture.
“Whistle-blowers are exposing problems that have probably existed for a long time, but were just hidden from sight,” said Koji Morioka, an economics professor at Kansai University who has researched the whistle-blowing phenomenon.
Mr. Morioka and others say the scandals are the product of an outdated economic system in which these tight-knit industries are shielded from outside oversight by regulators who collude with companies instead of protecting consumers.
Mr. Akahane said that he went to the media out of desperation after regulators refused to act. He said he was ignored after visiting several government agencies, including the Ministry of Agriculture, to whom he brought samples of ground meat that Meat Hope sold as beef but that actually contained pork hearts.
Yoichi Mizutani ran into similar problems. Mr. Mizutani, 54, owned a refrigerated warehouse in the western city of Nishinomiya that did a booming business with local meat companies. Then one day in December 2001, an employee saw workers from one of his biggest customers, the meat processor Snow Brand, using his warehouse to put frozen slabs of Australian beef into boxes for sale as domestic meat.
He said such fraud is common in the meat industry, whose members are expected to observe a code of silence. He said his outrage boiled over when he called Snow Brand to ask about the incident, and was told to shut up. He eventually told two Japanese newspapers, generating a scandal that resulted in suspended prison terms for five executives.
“I thought of how many small company owners in this industry, like me, lie awake at night, tormented by guilt over what they are doing,” Mr. Mizutani said. “The industry talks of itself as one big family, which protects its own. But injustice is injustice.”
After he went public, Mr. Mizutani said all meat companies shunned him, driving his warehouse out of business. For a year, Mr. Mizutani, who is divorced, supported himself and his three children by working day jobs, and at one point even sold books on a blanket in front of a train station. Things took a turn for the better when his plight was reported by a local television news station. With donations from viewers, including a Buddhist temple, he restarted his warehouse business, this time dealing in frozen vegetables and seafood. He also became a minor folk hero, starring in a comic strip that celebrates whistle-blowers. He now defiantly revels in his rebel status, shedding his gray suit for flip-flops, a T-shirt and dyed blond hair with a black streak.
He said he has received several phone calls from people asking whether they should blow the whistle on misdeeds by their employers. “I ask them, ‘Are you prepared to lose your own arm and a leg? Because that is how hard it will be,’ ” he said.
Still, the Snow Brand case became a milestone in Japan, helping open the floodgates for a series of similar scandals. Recent high-profile cases exposed by whistle-blowers include the cookie maker Ishiya Trading, which admitted to selling expired products, and luxury restaurant chain Senba Kitcho, which closed its four outlets after admitting it served leftover sashimi and expired food to customers.
As concern has risen, the government responded by passing a law that went into effect two years ago aimed at protecting whistle-blowers by making it illegal for employers to punish them. Some large companies have also set up internal phone lines, allowing employees to report problems anonymously.
Even supposedly anonymous whistle-blowers face risks. Masakatsu Yamada was a used car salesman who called such an internal line at Toyota two years ago to report problems, including falsified sales records at the Toyota dealership where he worked in Osaka. But the person who took the call, an outside lawyer hired by Toyota, told the company Mr. Yamada’s name.
After that, Mr. Yamada said he become a pariah among colleagues and eventually left his job. Unable to make mortgage payments, he lost his house, and now lives in a small apartment, surviving on his wife’s salary as a part-time postal worker. While bitter, he says he does not regret what he did.
“My life is all messed up,” said Mr. Yamada, 47. “But society won’t change unless average people like me stand up.”
日本の自動車産業とエレクトロニクス産業はなにかと比較されてきた。同じところもあれば，違うところもある。いずれも高い技術力を誇り，製造業発展の牽 引役である。一方で，このところ国際競争力という面では絶好調な自動車産業と，精彩を欠くエレクトロニクス産業という差が出てきてしまった。同じ日本の製 造業でありながら，なぜこのような差が生まれてしまったのか。両者には何か構造的な違いがあるのだろうか---。
これまで様々な観点から比較・検討されてきたが，相手の良さを勉強して自らの競争力を上げる参考にしようというややノンビリしたものであったよう に思う。相手の良さを知ったところで，自分とは事情が違うという思いがあった。それがこのところのカーエレクトロニクス化の進展によって事情が変わってき た。
自動車産業とエレクトロニクス産業という「異質」のものをうまく結合させなければ成功はおぼつかないのである。そのためにも，両者は一体何が同じ で，何が違うのかをはっきりさせたいところである。本稿ではそれを考える一つの糸口として，成長の原動力であるイノベーションのあり方が二つの産業でどう 違うのかについて，筆者が最近読んだ論文や本を紹介しながら考えていきたい。
この理由として同論文では，「歩留まり」「コモディティー化への危機感」「信頼性」などに対する考え方の相違があると考察していくが，その中で筆 者が特に興味深かったのが両者の間には「技術構造」の違いがあるという指摘である。すなわち，半導体産業は「サイエンス型」，自動車産業は「エンジニアリ ング型」であるという。
サイエンス型とエンジニアリング型では，例えば製品開発のスタイルが異なってくる。サイエンス型の半導体産業では，「現在の技術の延長線上には解はない が，将来必要となる製品性能が提示され，それに向けて多岐にわたる科学的な検討と，技術的飛躍により開発が押し進められる」（p.114）。このため一企 業にとどまることなく，業界全体でロードマップを作って，情報を共有しながら開発スピードを上げる。
これに対してエンジニアリング型では，「解」はあらかじめ確定している。エンジニアリング型の自動車産業は，「自社の技術の引き出しから最適な技 術を選んでパッケージ化するという作業スタイルをとる」（p.113）。このため，社内調整または系列の部品メーカーなどクローズドな世界で製品開発が進 められる。
自動車向け半導体の開発では，こうした自動車産業が持つエンジニアリング型の開発スタイルと半導体産業が持つサイエンス型の開発スタイルが混在す ることになる。竹内氏らは，「サイエンス型産業とエンジニアリング型産業のどちらに軸足を置くかで，車載半導体に対する科学観や技術観が異なってくる」と 述べている（p.114）。
とりわけ車載半導体の比率が高まるにつれ，価格破壊の元凶のような半導体（産業）に対する警戒感があるようだ。それに対抗しようとする一つの表れ が，これまでのクローズドな開発スタイルを貫き通そうという傾向が強いことだとみる。「車載半導体においても，自動車メーカーが系列会社を巻き込んだ垂直 統合型のビジネス展開を目指すのは，自動車がコモディティー製品になることに対する防御策のようにみえる」（p.111）。
実際，自動車メーカーが車載半導体を開発する際に，真に信用しているのは電装品メーカーであって，半導体メーカーではないようだ。この論文の中で も，ある自動車メーカーで電装部品を開発する技術者の談話として，「やりたいことの7～8割は電装品メーカーと共有して計画を練る。半導体メーカーに伝え る情報は，話がまとまった中の1～2割程度。システムの上流部分は我々のノウハウなので，技術課題に落とし込んだ上で半導体メーカーに伝えている」という コメントを紹介している（p.111）。
事業のネタとしても，あまりサイエンス化していないものの方がやりやすいのです。例えば結晶を研磨する場合，研磨剤は 買えるけど，結晶をどう研磨するか，水を拭きつけながら何度で磨くかということは，ノウハウの塊です。こういうのは隠せる。ところが理論的に解明できる技 術だと，米国帰りの中国人など優秀な人が見れば全部分かって，すぐにライバルが出てきてしまう。
秘伝のたれとか職人技というのは，サイエンスになっていないから持っていけないんですな。しかし，だからといって日本がいつまでもそこにとどまっていい のかというと，それは違うかもしれない。次を考える必要がある。フレーム・ワークテクノロジーを革新して，日本が適正な利益をビジネスとして取れるような 仕掛けを考えるべきだと思っています。
同ブログでは，透明酸化物アモルファス半導体の研究で有名な東京工業大学教授の細野秀雄氏の談話を紹介している。細野氏は，物理ではPhysical Review Letters，化学ではJournal of the Amarican Chemical Society（JACS）といった権威のある論文誌があるが，「両誌とも論文数で日本は中国にとっくに抜かれている」という。その差ができた要因とし て，中国は研究者の絶対数が多いことと，研究環境に恵まれた米国に深く入り込んでいることの2点を挙げ，危機感をあらわにしている。
半導体の種類にもよるが，新規の半導体材料を使う場合，既存の装置は存在しないことが多い。このために，サイエンスの比重が高い半導体産業とはい え，事業化にはエンジニアリング型のスキルが必要とされる比率は高いはずである。そのエンジニアリング部分のキャッチアップは難しいと考えられる。これは 「エンジニアリング」の比重が高い炭素繊維では中国はなかなかキャッチアップできないという事情からも類推できる（以前のコラム）。そこから，ブログへのコメントで書いたように，中国で発明された材料を，日本のエンジニアリング力で実用化にもっていくという連携の仕方があるのかもしれないとも思う。
この「サイエンス型の半導体産業におけるエンジニアリング型スキルの必要性」という意味で興味深かったのが，オムニ研究所オムニTLOイノベーション推 進本部本部長の湯之上隆氏が『日経エレクトロニクス』誌2008年3月10日号に寄せた論文「半導体生産の国際競争力を分析。安いメモリで新興市場を狙 え」である。
ここで「擦り合わせ」という言葉が出てきたが，これは製品を構成する各部品を相互に調整して最適設計しないと製品全体の性能が出ないタイプの製品 （アーキテクチャ）を指す。「擦り合わせ能力」といった場合は，「部品設計の微妙な相互調整，開発と生産の連携，一貫した工程管理，濃密なコミュニケー ション，顧客インターフェースの質の確保など」（藤本隆弘氏著『ものづくり経営学』光文社新書）を指す。つまり，擦り合わせ型アーキテクチャの製品と擦り 合わせ能力が合致したときに高い競争力が出ることになる。
色々な用語が出てきて恐縮だが，「擦り合わせ型」と，冒頭で述べた「エンジニアリング型」というのは類似した概念であると考えられる。そうなると，半導 体産業は，「サイエンス型」といっていいのか，「エンジニアリング型」といっていいのかよくわからなくなってくるが，サイエンスをベースにしつつも，エン ジニアリングの要素が加わったものなのだろう。だとしたら，メモリはSoC（System on a chip）など他の半導体に比べて「エンジニアリング」の比率が大きい半導体ということなのかもしれない。
そう考えていくと，日本メーカーは，結局のところ本来得意な分野でしか競争力を上げることは難しいのだろうか，という複雑な思いにもとらわれる。 湯之上氏はちなみに，同論文の中で，韓国メーカーはマーケティング力に優れ，台湾メーカーはSoCを設計・製造する仕組みの構築力に優れていると述べてい る。この二つの能力はいずれも，「サイエンス型」や「エンジニアリング型」とはまた別のものだが，日本メーカーがなんとか手に入れようと躍起になってきた ものだ。結局，得意でないものには手を出さない方がいいのか，得意でないからこそ「多様化」のために手を出した方がよいのか，考えさせられる論文であっ た。
池田氏はまず，なぜ「半導体の集積度は18カ月で2倍になる」というムーアの法則が実現した要因を4点にまとめて分かりやすく解説する。すなわち （1）豊富に存在するシリコンを材料としているため素材の稀少性に制約されない技術革新が可能になったこと，（2）プレーナ技術によって工程が単純化され たこと，（3）特定の用途に依存しない汎用の半導体が大量生産されることにより，量産効果が劇的に上がったこと，（4）すべてのコンピュータに必要な汎用 部品であるために市場規模がきわめて大きかったこと---の4点である。
（前略）つまり通常の技術開発にともなう「商品化してうれるのか」というリスクがまったくなく，技術進歩にも一定の方 向が決まっていたので，問題はいかに集積度を高めるかという「戦術的」な意志決定だけだった。このため技術力さえあれば，どんなメーカーでも開発でき，激 しい技術競争が進んだ。
半導体産業は基本は「サイエンス型」ではあるが，その技術進歩のスピードを上げるためには，ここで言う「一定の方向」つまり，あらかじめ決められた 「解」に向かって技術革新を高速化させた。これは前述したように，「解」に向かって改善を進める「エンジニアリング型」の開発スタイルそのものであり， ムーアの法則の背景にはエンジニアリング型の要素があるということだと考えられる。
冒頭で紹介した論文「車載半導体の開発に潜む弊害～自動車産業と半導体産業の考え方の違いが明らかに」でも，半導体産業が車載半導体のプロセスの 微細化やウエハー・サイズの大型化を進めようとしても，新プロセスを採用するといったん100％近く上がった歩留まりが再び下がってしまうので，「何でま た60％に落とすような技術開発をしなければならないのか」という声が自動車産業からは上がると言う話を紹介している。
この認識の違いの理由は様々であるが，もっとも大きいと思われるのは，デジタル家電が壊れてもめったなことでは人は死なないが，自動車では死ぬ可 能性があるということである。同論文では，自動車産業と半導体産業の両方の経験を持つある事業部長の「どこかでエンジンが止まって，人が死ぬ可能性はあ る。半導体を製造する人が，この大変さを本当に理解しているかというと，必ずしもそうとは言えない。車載半導体といっても，本質的には理解していないので はないか」という談話を紹介している（本論文p.113）。
ただし，日本の半導体メーカーもかつてはメイン・フレーム向け半導体で高い信頼性を誇っていた。「ライフラインを制御するメイン・フレームが故障 すれば自動車同様，人命にかかわる問題になるのは同じである」（p.115）。その意味で，日本の半導体メーカーは，「高い信頼性」と「急速な技術革新」 の両方を「理解」していると思われる。車載半導体の世界でこれらをどうバランスさせて着地させていくのかがこれからの課題であろう。
「破壊的イノベーション」はクレイトン・クリステンセンの言葉だが，その著書の中でハードディスクを例にとって技術革新には一種のサイクルがある ことを明らかにしている。初期には垂直統合で内製化するが，規格が普及して業界標準になると，各部品のモジュール化が進んで，互換部品が登場する。そして その互換部品のモジュールを組み合わせて純正品より低価格・低性能の「破壊的イノベーション」が出てくる。
そして，池田氏は，「これに対して，先行企業は既存の技術を高級化する『持続的イノベーション』で対抗しようとするが，やがてムーアの法則によっ て破壊的技術の性能が持続的技術を変らない水準に高まる。製品がコモディティ化して価格競争になると，高コストの持続的技術は敗退する」と書いている（本 書p.112）。
破壊的イノベーションはよく知られた概念であるが，筆者が新鮮だったのは，ムーアの法則に表される半導体の急激な技術進歩が破壊的技術の進展を速 めるということを，改めて関連付けて認識したことであった。そのムーアの法則を推し進めているのが，日本が得意なエンジニアリング力が関係している（アジ ア諸国への技術流出含めて）としたら，日本のエレクトロニクス産業の苦悩を考えると皮肉なめぐり合わせのようにも思うのである。
その場合に，どの部品がムーアの法則というレールにのって急激な技術革新を遂げるのか，その速度はどの程度で，その結果出てくる「破壊的イノベー ション」は何か---を見極めて行く必要がある。ムーアの法則にのって走り出すのは，半導体なのか，電池なのか。破壊的イノベーションは，電気自動車なの か，オモチャのような超小型車なのか・・・。
そのうえで，自動車メーカー，電装品メーカー，電子部品・半導体メーカーは協業のあり方を見直し，最適化していく必要があるだろう。これまで見た きたように，サイエンス型といわれる半導体の分野でもエンジニアリングの要素を加えている。エンジニアリング型といわれる自動車産業もサイエンスの要素を 取り入れている。「融合」の経験はある。こうした経験を生かせば，カーエレクトロニクスの世界でも新しい「融合」の可能性はみえてくるのではないかとも 思った。
兼続の「愛」を採用 新パッケージ「うこぎ茶」販売（米沢商工会議所） (2008.6.23)
米沢商工会議所（山形県）などが企画し、商品化した健康食材として注目される「うこぎ」を使用した「うこぎ茶」がこのほど、パッケージデザインを一新し て本格販売を開始した。来年のNHK大河ドラマ「天地人」の主人公・戦国武将直江兼続ゆかりの地であることをアピールするため、兼続の兜に掲げた「愛」の 文字を新パッケージに採用している。
「うこぎ」は、ウコギ科の落葉低木。枝のトゲが防犯に役立ち、葉が食用になることから、江戸時代に米沢藩主・上杉鷹山が植栽を奨励したため、現在でも市内 に多くの「うこぎ垣」が残っている。同所はうこぎに含まれるポリフェノール、各種ビタミン、ミネラルなどに着目。18年度に「地域資源全国展開プロジェク ト」（中小企業庁補助事業）を活用し、うこぎ茶のほか、各種関連商品の開発を行っている。
Tokyo, June 23, 2008 (Jiji Press) - Japan Tobacco Inc. <2914> said Monday it will recall some 40,000 giveaway ashtrays it distributed in northern, western and southwestern Japan regions as they may be susceptible to heat damage from burning cigarettes.
Subject to the recall are ashtrays that the company distributed from May at 2,700 convenience stores of Lawson Inc. <2651> in Hokkaido and other 20 prefectures in the Tohoku, Chugoku, Shikoku and Kyushu regions.
Although the attached instructions warn users to extinguish cigarettes completely before disposal, the company decided to make the voluntary recall after two reports of the ashtrays losing shape and warping due to heat from cigarettes, it said.
長達一千五百年以上的中國研究史，是與日本文化的開創和發展緊密聯系的。尤其在近代以前，可以毫不夸張地說，完全拋開中國學術史，便沒有完整的日本學術史 可言。但是，從明治維新以後，日本人研究中國的目的、方法和態度發生了徹底的變化。盡管中國傳統的考據學、文獻學的影響依然存在，但與西方學術同時也。與 本土固有文化研究建立的聯系，遠比與中國同時學術的聯系敏感、緊密而又牢固。不論如何，從古至今，日本學界產生了眾多研究中國的大學問家和名文名著。
日本人對中國的研究與中國自身的學術研究最大的不同，就是主導這門學問的根本課題，是島國日本如何面對大陸中國。它們不僅植根于異質的文化土壤，從屬于日 本文化體系，反映或者作用于當時日本的包括民族主義思潮在內的各種社會思潮，在日本學界獲取評價，而且根本目標在于發展日本文化。所以盡管它們有時與中國 本土學問面臨著同一對象，然而兩者卻有著截然不同的性質和價值。
進一步說，日本中國學除了具有其他國家中國學的共性之外，還有一些特殊性。這些特殊性，離不開一個“近”字。例如，由于許多業已散佚的中國文獻通過抄本或 者刻本保存在日本，使得日本成為域外最重要的中國文獻資料庫之一；又比如日本擁有傳統的閱讀和訓釋中國文學的特殊手段等等，這給中國文獻的傳播和解讀帶來 正反兩方面的影響。同時，由于中日兩國學術交流源遠流長，日本中國學與日本學研究的關系特別緊密，也使得它在考據和比較研究這兩方面，有著更多的資源和課 題。
在日本，對日本古代學術文化的研究，常常不能與對中國的研究一刀兩斷，再加上現代學術謀求溝通的大趨勢，便使得日本中國學者，例如內藤湖南、青木正兒、吉 川幸次郎等人的著述的影響超出了中國學的範圍；另一方面，某些研究日本學的著述，例如明治時代的民俗學家、最早的環境保護運動力行者南方熊楠，有“知識巨 人”、“時代代言人”之稱的加藤周一。“文化功勞者”稱號獲得者中西進等人著述中涉及到中國學的部分，也都有一讀的價值。
日本近代以來在某些研究條件或手段上不同于中國本土，日本學人多重實聞親見，不尚空談，長于細讀深究。他們在某些領域，例如中國宗教文化、敦煌文學、中外 關系史、藝術史以及中國戲曲小說史等方面的研究成果，曾給中國學人以啟迪。日本從奈良、平安時代起逐漸形成一些接受中國文學的熱點，如《文選》、《白氏文 集》、《唐詩選》、《古文真寶》等，對這些作品的研究積累了豐富的資料和成果，對中國學者的研究有著互補互鑒的作用。這些都使得中國學者對日本中國學報以 熱眼。學人多以“他山之石”、“鄰壁之光”來強調這種關注的借鑒意義。
與此同時，中國學術界又從很早便有了對盲目追隨日本學人態度的批評。早年章太炎先生對這種態度給予的辛辣諷刺，雖不免言之有偏，卻仍不失警戒之功。前輩學 者對于當年那些所謂“支那通”的揭露，更不該忘記。在中國學者對日本中國學展開系統研究的時候，仍有必要反對任何形式的食而不化與人雲亦雲現象，強調中國 學研究的國際視野與本土情懷的統一，葆有學術自信和識別眼力。
Japan Hangs Three Convicted Killers
New York Times - United States
By MARTIN FOSTER TOKYO — Three convicted murderers were hanged on Tuesday, the Justice Ministry said, a sign that Japan is accelerating the pace of ...
TOKYO — Three convicted murderers were hanged on Tuesday, the Justice Ministry said, a sign that Japan is accelerating the pace of executions amid a rise in violent crime.
Tsutomu Miyazaki, 45, was hanged for the murder of four young girls he mutilated and cannibalized. In a case that focused on the defendant’s mental ability to stand trial, Mr. Miyazaki told the court that the girls were killed by a “mouse-man.” He asked the judge for a bicycle to pedal while in prison.
Also executed were Shinji Mutsuda, 37, who robbed and murdered two people before throwing their bodies into the ocean, and Yoshio Yamasaki, 73, who killed two people for insurance money.
That brought the number of executions under Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama, who took office last August, to 13, the highest rate of executions in the post-World War II period.
“I ordered their executions because the cases were of indescribable cruelty,” Mr. Hatoyama said. “We are pursuing executions in order to achieve justice and firmly protect the rule of law.”
On April 10, four people were executed in a single day on orders from Mr. Hatoyama.
The acceleration in executions, which must be approved by the minister of justice, comes at a time of rising crime in Japan. Last week, the country was stunned by a stabbing rampage in Akihabara, a shopping district in Tokyo, that left seven dead.
“I think the timing of today’s executions on the heels of the Akihabara killings,” said Jeff Kingston, director of Asia studies at Temple University Japan, “was designed to send out a reassuring message to the Japanese people that the full sentence will be carried out.” Although organizations opposing the death sentence do exist in Japan, the lack of reaction from the Japanese general public suggests there is support for executions.
Amnesty International Japan protested the hangings on Tuesday and demanded that Japan abolish capital punishment, The Associated Press reported. But Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said Tuesday there was no need for a change, citing popular support for the death penalty.
Mr. Kingston expressed doubt that Japan would join the countries that have, or are looking to abolish, the death sentence.
“Japan is out of step with the rest of the world on the death penalty,” Kingston said. “But they appear to be tied to this policy, which does not appear to be a strong deterrent.”
Forbes - NY,USA
Fukuda, in a group interview with news agencies from the Group of Eight rich nations ahead of their July 7 to 9 summit, said Japan was making an effort to ...
Japan, Seeking Trim Waists, Measures Millions
AMAGASAKI, Japan — Japan, a country not known for its overweight people, has undertaken one of the most ambitious campaigns ever by a nation to slim down its citizenry.
Summoned by the city of Amagasaki one recent morning, Minoru Nogiri, 45, a flower shop owner, found himself lining up to have his waistline measured. With no visible paunch, he seemed to run little risk of being classified as overweight, or metabo, the preferred word in Japan these days.
But because the new state-prescribed limit for male waistlines is a strict 33.5 inches, he had anxiously measured himself at home a couple of days earlier. “I’m on the border,” he said.
Under a national law that came into effect two months ago, companies and local governments must now measure the waistlines of Japanese people between the ages of 40 and 74 as part of their annual checkups. That represents more than 56 million waistlines, or about 44 percent of the entire population.
Those exceeding government limits — 33.5 inches for men and 35.4 inches for women, which are identical to thresholds established in 2005 for Japan by the International Diabetes Federation as an easy guideline for identifying health risks — and having a weight-related ailment will be given dieting guidance if after three months they do not lose weight. If necessary, those people will be steered toward further re-education after six more months.
To reach its goals of shrinking the overweight population by 10 percent over the next four years and 25 percent over the next seven years, the government will impose financial penalties on companies and local governments that fail to meet specific targets. The country’s Ministry of Health argues that the campaign will keep the spread of diseases like diabetes and strokes in check.
The ministry also says that curbing widening waistlines will rein in a rapidly aging society’s ballooning health care costs, one of the most serious and politically delicate problems facing Japan today. Most Japanese are covered under public health care or through their work. Anger over a plan that would make those 75 and older pay more for health care brought a parliamentary censure motion Wednesday against Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, the first against a prime minister in the country’s postwar history.
But critics say that the government guidelines — especially the one about male waistlines — are simply too strict and that more than half of all men will be considered overweight. The effect, they say, will be to encourage overmedication and ultimately raise health care costs.
Yoichi Ogushi, a professor at Tokai University’s School of Medicine near Tokyo and an expert on public health, said that there was “no need at all” for the Japanese to lose weight.
“I don’t think the campaign will have any positive effect. Now if you did this in the United States, there would be benefits, since there are many Americans who weigh more than 100 kilograms,” or about 220 pounds, Mr. Ogushi said. “But the Japanese are so slender that they can’t afford to lose weight.”
Mr. Ogushi was actually a little harder on Americans than they deserved. A survey by the National Center for Health Statistics found that the average waist size for Caucasian American men was 39 inches, a full inch lower than the 40-inch threshold established by the International Diabetes Federation. American women did not fare as well, with an average waist size of 36.5 inches, about two inches above their threshold of 34.6 inches. The differences in thresholds reflected variations in height and body type from Japanese men and women.
Comparable figures for the Japanese are sketchy since waistlines have not been measured officially in the past. But private research on thousands of Japanese indicates that the average male waistline falls just below the new government limit.
That fact, widely reported in the media, has heightened the anxiety in the nation’s health clinics.
In Amagasaki, a city in western Japan, officials have moved aggressively to measure waistlines in what the government calls special checkups. The city had to measure at least 65 percent of the 40- to 74-year-olds covered by public health insurance, an “extremely difficult” goal, acknowledged Midori Noguchi, a city official.
When his turn came, Mr. Nogiri, the flower shop owner, entered a booth where he bared his midriff, exposing a flat stomach with barely discernible love handles. A nurse wrapped a tape measure around his waist across his belly button: 33.6 inches, or 0.1 inch over the limit.
“Strikeout,” he said, defeat spreading across his face.
The campaign started a couple of years ago when the Health Ministry began beating the drums for a medical condition that few Japanese had ever heard of — metabolic syndrome — a collection of factors that heighten the risk of developing vascular disease and diabetes. Those include abdominal obesity, high blood pressure and high levels of blood glucose and cholesterol. In no time, the scary-sounding condition was popularly shortened to the funny-sounding metabo, and it has become the nation’s shorthand for overweight.
The mayor of one town in Mie, a prefecture near here, became so wrapped up in the anti-metabo campaign that he and six other town officials formed a weight-loss group called “The Seven Metabo Samurai.” That campaign ended abruptly after a 47-year-old member with a 39-inch waistline died of a heart attack while jogging.
Still, at a city gym in Amagasaki recently, dozens of residents — few of whom appeared overweight — danced to the city’s anti-metabo song, which warned against trouser buttons popping and flying away, “pyun-pyun-pyun!”
“Goodbye, metabolic. Let’s get our checkups together. Go! Go! Go!
Goodbye, metabolic. Don’t wait till you get sick. No! No! No!”
The word metabo has made it easier for health care providers to urge their patients to lose weight, said Dr. Yoshikuni Sakamoto, a physician in the employee health insurance union at Matsushita, which makes Panasonic products.
“Before we had to broach the issue with the word obesity, which definitely has a negative image,” Dr. Sakamoto said. “But metabo sounds much more inclusive.”
Even before Tokyo’s directives, Matsushita had focused on its employees’ weight during annual checkups. Last summer, Akio Inoue, 30, an engineer carrying 238 pounds on a 5-foot-7 frame, was told by a company doctor to lose weight or take medication for his high blood pressure. After dieting, he was down to 182 pounds, but his waistline was still more than one inch over the state-approved limit.
With the new law, Matsushita has to measure the waistlines of not only its employees but also of their families and retirees. As part of its intensifying efforts, the company has started giving its employees “metabo check” towels that double as tape measures.
“Nobody will want to be singled out as metabo,” Kimiko Shigeno, a company nurse, said of the campaign. “It’ll have the same effect as non-smoking campaigns where smokers are now looked at disapprovingly.”
Companies like Matsushita must measure the waistlines of at least 80 percent of their employees. Furthermore, they must get 10 percent of those deemed metabolic to lose weight by 2012, and 25 percent of them to lose weight by 2015.
NEC, Japan’s largest maker of personal computers, said that if it failed to meet its targets, it could incur as much as $19 million in penalties. The company has decided to nip metabo in the bud by starting to measure the waistlines of all its employees over 30 years old and by sponsoring metabo education days for the employees’ families.
Some experts say the government’s guidelines on everything from waistlines to blood pressure are so strict that meeting, or exceeding, those targets will be impossible. They say that the government’s real goal is to shift health care costs onto the private sector.
Dr. Minoru Yamakado, an official at the Japan Society of Ningen Dock, an association of doctors who administer physical exams, said he endorsed the government’s campaign and its focus on preventive medicine.
But he said that the government’s real priority should be to reduce smoking rates, which remain among the highest among advanced nations, in large part because of Japan’s powerful tobacco lobby.
“Smoking is even one of the causes of metabolic syndrome,” he said. “So if you’re worried about metabo, stopping people from smoking should be your top priority.”
Despite misgivings, though, Japan is pushing ahead.
Kizashi Ohama, an official in Matsuyama, a city that has also acted aggressively against metabo, said he would leave the debate over the campaign’s merits to experts and health officials in Tokyo.
At Matsuyama’s public health clinic, Kinichiro Ichikawa, 62, said the government-approved 33.5-inch male waistline was “severe.” He is 5-foot-4, weighs only 134 pounds and knows no one who is overweight.
“Japan shouldn’t be making such a fuss about this,” he said before going off to have his waistline measured.
But on a shopping strip here, Kenzo Nagata, 73, a toy store owner, said he had ignored a letter summoning him to a so-called special checkup. His waistline was no one’s business but his own, he said, though he volunteered that, at 32.7 inches, it fell safely below the limit. He planned to disregard the second notice that the city was scheduled to mail to the recalcitrant.
“I’m not going,” he said. “I don’t think that concerns me.”
“By the International Center of Photography’s own standards, ‘Heavy Light: Recent Photography and Video From Japan,’ feels a bit phoned in,” writes Roberta Smith.
Japanese Culture, in Vivid Color
It was probably too much to expect the International Center of Photography to have two excellent group shows of contemporary art in a row. Not many New York museums, especially small ones, manage that regularly. Thus “Heavy Light: Recent Photography and Video From Japan,” coming after the dense, thought-provoking “From the Archive,” is just average, or a little less, by the center’s own standards.
Organized by Christopher Phillips, a curator at the center, and Noriko Fuku, an independent curator from Japan, “Heavy Light” feels a bit phoned in. But with 13 artists, most of them in their 30s and 40s, it is the first large museum survey of Japanese photography in this country in decades. It contains some names that are new and worth knowing and others that are familiar and worth remembering. And when all else fails, it provides, at times inadvertently, some valuable glimpses of Japanese life and culture today, including a tendency to prolong adolescence.
One of its revelations is how much the artistic tradition of extreme artifice, visible in everything from gold-leaf folding screens and lacquer ware to bonsai gardening and ikebana, continues to course through Japanese art, clashing or mingling with reality.
On the down side the show has commitment and space problems. The catalog lacks a case-making essay, resorting instead to interviews with the artists (most of them conducted by Ms. Fuku), as if the curators couldn’t get involved enough to argue for their selections.
Apparently because of a lack of wall space, Masayuki Yoshinaga’s extraordinary photographs of the Goth-Lolita subculture — young women and the occasional young man in hybrid get-ups, like goth black pinafores — is visible only one image at a time, on a large digital screen. This reduces their impact and their contribution to the visual energy of the show. (If you want to see Mr. Yoshinaga’s images hanging on a wall, a nomadic gallery run by Mako Wakasa is showing his work, through Saturday, in a small ground-floor space at 139 Norfolk Street, near Rivington Street, on the Lower East Side.)
“Heavy Light” divides between those photographers who include people in their images and those who don’t. The don’ts, while fewer, have a much higher rate of success.
One of them, Naoya Hatakeyama, quietly gives the show its center of gravity, with large color images that push fairly rugged documentary subjects toward artifice. A photograph of a lime quarry blast shows rock fragments hurtling outward in a nearly perfect orb, and images of Tokyo buildings taken from water level in a concrete-walled river qualify as accidental Cubism. A wall covered with 96 views of Tokyo taken from the tops of high-rises over 16 years shows a world carpeted with mostly gray buildings. Changing light seems to be the subject of the images, which sometimes are taken from the same location. But then you realize that the images have been taken years apart and that they also record the city’s changing architecture.
In colorful but deserted images of an entertainment district near Osaka, Naoki Kajitani shows the Japanese love of artifice in society’s tawdrier sectors in neon signs advertising drink or exotic dancers; a display of pornographic magazines or a shot of a lone but red kiosk plastered with posters.
Risaku Suzuki’s images rarely stress the human presence, although you feel it everywhere, as the images take you along roads and through deserted squares, as if on a kind of journey. The images are from Mr. Suzuki’s continuing “Kumano” series and chronicle an end-of-winter Shinto pilgrimage to a revered mountain near his hometown. Their offhandedness creates the sense of motion, but it also weakens the individual images, which tend not to hold your attention.
As a master of ikebana, Yukio Nakagawa, who was born in 1918, has a long experience with the tension between natural and artificial, and backed into photography while using it to document his work. His arrangements are Surreal temporary sculpture: a long, curved iris leaf filled with rose petals lies like a curved knife blade dipped in blood. A glazed ceramic stiletto (by the ceramic artist Miwa Ryosaku) houses a “fingered citron,” a fruit that looks more like a squid than a lemon. The combination conjures a particularly grotesque version of the Cinderella story.
The whiff of a fairy tale gone wrong becomes overwhelming in the large, gloomy, often violent set-up photographs by Miwa Yanagi. They owe quite a bit to Cindy Sherman and Anna Gaskell, but they are the most convincing work that Ms. Yanagi, something of a veteran on the art fair circuit, has yet produced. Strangely she is the only artist in the show to be favored in the catalog with both an interview and an essay, and by no less than the art historian Linda Nochlin.
The bonsai shoe drops with Makoto Aida, who specializes in making and photographing sculpture that fuses bonsai gardening with young girls. Described as a maverick, Mr. Aida forgoes the catalog interview for a long, amusing and often touching autobiographical ramble that begins, “I am from a yakuza family.” As seen here, his work is not nearly so effective, but might be better if he would stay out of the pictures.
Tsuyoshi Ozawa makes weapons out of vegetables and poses people (mostly women) armed with them in front of buildings, including one of the most photographed of Hiroshima’s bombed-out buildings. Enough said. Midori Komatsubara makes elaborately staged movie-still images based on the popular yaoi (“boys’ love”), a subgenre of Japanese comics, which brim with sexual frisson and technique, but not much else. Kenji Yanobe’s video installation, “Blue Cinema in the Woods,” puts a more satiric spin on childish things, mixing a visit to the zoo with 1950s “duck and cover” instructional films and shots of mushroom clouds. The work also involves Mr. Yanobe’s father, who is an amateur ventriloquist, and a Geiger counter.
The most impressive artists who engage the human form are poles apart. Hiroh Kikai, born in 1945, is a kind of August Sander without a studio. Since 1973 he has roamed the Asakusa district of Tokyo, briefly interviewing and then taking black and white photographs of strangers who pose themselves against the blank walls of the Sensoji Temple. “A tattoo artist and his son,” records a young man with peroxided hair, holding a child with a vertiginous Mohawk who resembles a young witch. A morose-looking man wearing a “love and peace” T-shirt and a skull-and-cross-bones cap provides his own caption: “I’ve always wanted to be different since I was a kid, and I’ve always been knocked around for it.” These images are full of soul and respect. They remind you that artifice understated is style, which seems to come naturally to the Japanese.
Born in 1977, Tomoko Sawada is widely known for photo-booth and yearbook pictures of girls and young women in which, using computers and variations in hair, makeup and expression, she plays each and every character. Here Ms. Sawada is represented by two examples of her “School Days” series, which show groups of girls in their school uniforms lined up in neat rows. Subtle feats of acting that quietly satirize Japan’s homogeneity and emphasis on conformity, these images are initially innocuous. As their single subject emerges from the crowd, they become quite demonic. They have a focus, reserve and ambition that is too often missing from this exhibition.
“Heavy Light: Recent Japanese Photography and Video” is at the International Center of Photography, 1133 Avenue of the Americas, at 43rd Street; (212) 857-0043, icp.org, through Sept. 7.
Japan stabbing suspect cries during interrogation
By ERIC TALMADGE – 1 day ago
TOKYO (AP) — The suspect in a knifing rampage that left seven dead in Tokyo was handed over to prosecutors Tuesday, as Internet postings he is accused of writing painted a picture of an angry, lonely young man and a meticulously planned attack.
Tomohiro Kato, a 25-year-old factory worker, was transferred from police custody to a holding cell at the Tokyo prosecutors office, where he was expected to undergo further questioning into Sunday's attack. Police say he slammed a rented truck into a crowd of pedestrians before jumping out and stabbing several people with a five-inch knife.
A police spokesman said Kato has generally been cooperative, though unapologetic, during questioning and has at times broken down in tears. The spokesman requested anonymity because the investigation is ongoing and refused to give further details.
Three people were killed by the impact of the truck and four others died of stab wounds, police said. Another 10 were injured. Kato, his face and clothes spattered with blood, was arrested on the spot. It was the worst killing spree in Tokyo in recent memory.
The Asahi and the Yomiuri, two of Japan's biggest newspapers, reported that Kato told police he went to Akihabara the day before the rampage to plan his assault. The popular shopping district is a hangout for young people and the center of Japan's comic book and computer game culture.
Police refused to confirm those reports.
More details emerged in the media Tuesday about Kato's background and his metamorphosis from an award-winning tennis player in high school to a secluded and virtually friendless temporary worker in a factory outside Tokyo.
Three days before the attack, Kato lost his temper at the auto parts factory where he worked in Shizuoka, about 100 miles southwest of Tokyo, company executive Osamu Namai said.
"He was screaming that his uniform was missing. When his colleague got a new uniform for him, he had already left and never returned," Namai told reporters. Namai also said, however, that Kato was a "very serious" worker and not known as a troublemaker.
National broadcaster NHK reported that Kato bought a knife at a camping and outdoor supply shop two days before the rampage. Surveillance video showed him laughing with the shopkeeper and making stabbing motions with his hands.
In the days leading up to the attack, Kato also sent a slew of postings from his cell phone to an Internet bulletin board, police said.
Though officials refused to comment further, Japanese media said the postings depicted a disturbed man raging against society and vowing to get revenge by unleashing his fury on the streets of Akihabara. The main street in Akihabara is closed to traffic on Sundays, allowing large crowds of pedestrians to flow into the area.
A chronicle of the messages, carried by The Asahi, portrayed a man at his breaking point:
"Oh, I am hopeless," the paper said he wrote two days before the attack. "What I want to do: commit murder. My dream: to monopolize the tabloid TV shows. ... I saw a loving couple at a river bank. I wish they were killed by (being) swept away by the river."
"Since I was young, I was forced to play a 'good boy,'" he reportedly wrote the next day. "I'm used to deceiving people."
Just 20 minutes before the attack, he reportedly posted his last message: "It's time."
No charges have been filed against Kato. Under Japanese law, a suspect can be held by police for two days and then must be transferred to the custody of prosecutors, who have 20 days to either file charges or release the suspect.
Associated Press reporter Shino Yuasa contributed to this report.
三浦 展著, 『下流社会 新たな階層集団の出現』, 光文社新書, 2005年, 284頁, 本体価格780円+税 Karyushakai: Aratana Kaisoshudan no Shutsugen, by Atsushi Miura, [The Lower Class: Advent of the New Group of Class]
主宰： 三浦 展 Atsushi Miura
tokyo street file 99-02
Weekend/ CULTURE & MORE: Looking back on Tokyo's fading 'freeter' facade
Not many Japanese look back with fondness on the so-called "lost decade" of recession that followed the collapse of the bubble in the early 1990s. But could the era, marked by downsizing, outsourcing and a widening gap between the haves and have-nots, in fact have led to an artistic flowering?
|Atsushi Miura in Nishi-Ogikubo (LOUIS TEMPLADO)|
That's a question that comes after looking too long through Atsushi Miura's latest book, "igocochi" (published by San-ichi Shobo in 2008).
Miura, a 40-something marketing planner and director of "culturestudies," a "think tank that researches consumerism, culture and cities," also happens to be one of Japan's most astute trendspotters.
He gained prominence with his 2005 book, "Karyu Shakai" (Lower classes), the title of which has become a media byword for our times.
With "igocochi," Miura is now also something of a photographer.
In "Karyu Shakai," Miura summed up the motivations--or rather their lack-- of a generation of young Japanese who have given up on standard-issue dreams. Instead of lifetime employment and a family life in the suburbs, these "freeters" (as members of this underclass are called) prefer to flit from one temporary job to the next, settling for little more in life than a dinner of cup noodles and a tiny garret.
Or so the stereotype goes.
The "igocochi" of Miura's latest title, however, means "comfortable." His book proposes the idea that these down-and-outs have forged a style all their own.
In a certain sense, this concept is a follow-up to his previous book, without the text. This visual album contains 120 photos snapped by Miura in such neighborhoods as Harajuku, Shimokitazawa, Koenji, Nishi-Ogikubo and Kichijoji--Tokyo's counterculture hubs. The last place, incidentally, is where he makes his home.
In the photos, we see hand-painted signs advertising cafes, graffiti layered upon graffiti and the sort of 1960s and 1970s bric-a-brac that accumulates in front of vintage clothing shops.
To some, "igocochi" may simply present the texture found in any big-city boho enclave on the globe. But to Miura, these photos are social research material.
"My intention was to show these images as artistic photographs," says Miura. "Although that might sound presumptive coming from an amateur."
That said, Miura calls his picture-taking forays--the photos were selected from about 10,000 frames-- his fieldwork. Another word he uses is kogengaku ("modernology," or archeology of the present).
Social commentary makes its way into "igocochi" in two transcribed conversations Miura had with a photographer and an academic.
"It was the publisher's idea to put those in," Miura insists. "Photo books are a big risk, and so the publisher wanted to include something that would set the book apart."
Most of the photos date from 1999 to 2001. He began gathering them as part of "Tokyo Street File," a series of portfolios meant to identify recession-era taste-makers. Miura aimed the material at the marketing teams of major corporations. Some of the photos also ended up on the desks of Nissan President and CEO Carlos Ghosn and Richard Branson of the Virgin business empire, Miura says, where they were promptly rejected.
"I received phone calls saying 'Thank you very much for the research material, but we don't need it. We already know this stuff,' " Miura admits.
"I was impressed that they got back to me--someone who just approached them from off the street. I also realized how well they do their homework."
The passage of time, he says, has given new meaning to the photos. Looking them over, Miura sees lost expressions of a changing landscape.
What neighborhoods such as Shimokitazawa, Koenji and Kichijoji all share is layers of history: All are, or were, traditional residential neighborhoods surrounding a central shopping street. During the mid-1990s, many businesses were shuttered. Rents dropped and bohemian "freeters" wandered in, renovating old stores into cafes, curry shops and secondhand clothing outlets. Koenji at one point had 300 vintage clothing dealers.
"For many of these young people, making money wasn't their first priority. It was more that they wanted a sense of freedom," says Miura. "It was enough to do what they want and just get by."
"By repurposing these neighborhoods, they created an environment where layers of the past and present coexist," says Miura.
With little cash, these slacker storekeepers created their own style. But their world is fading quickly as the economy ticks up and rents rise.
"It's become more aggressive," he says. "It takes a lot more capital now to open a cafe, for example, and when they do, they want to look professional. You don't see that naive style anymore, unless it's someone consciously imitating it."
Miura admits the irony: As a marketing planner, it was his job to deliver street style into the hands of big business. Now it is being co-opted.
"That's true," he says. "But by putting out this book, I wanted to say that there are people who like these places as they are and appreciate what they represent.
"If I had presented these photos, convinced that such places would disappear," he says, "then that would be like doing real archeology."(IHT/Asahi: May 30,2008)
The importance of English must be balanced
Several years ago, a survey was conducted in the United States to test the geographical knowledge of Americans aged 18 to 24. The results shocked the people who directed the survey: One in three respondents said their country's population was "between 1 and 2 billion," even though the correct number at the time was only around 290 million.
The head of the survey team reportedly lamented that Americans' belief that their country was the center of the world may have been the reason for this.
That mistake probably stemmed from the fact that their country's economy and armed forces were No. 1 in the world. But I also think it had to do with their language--English.
English is studied and spoken all over the world. It's no surprise that the reality of their linguistic "hegemony" made Americans believe the world revolved around them.
Globalization is making English an even greater requirement, and Japanese primary school pupils are now being "sucked" into this "vortex."
Following the recent revision of the government's curriculum guidelines, all public schools will begin teaching English to fifth and sixth graders in April 2011.
But an advisory panel to the Cabinet on "education rebuilding" recently pointed out that children ought to start learning languages at a younger age, and recommended that English be compulsory from the third grade.
True, many Japanese struggle with English when they go overseas. China, South Korea and other Asian nations take English education very seriously, and if we fall behind, this could hurt our international economic competitiveness. I imagine these concerns were what led to the panel's recommendation.
I don't know individual panel members' English proficiency, but would it be idle speculation on my part to wonder if they themselves are sorry that they didn't start learning English sooner?
According to some language experts, people are kidding themselves if they think anyone will be able to speak English fluently by starting in the third grade.
Today, roughly 1.5 billion people around the world are said to speak English, and it is certainly my impression that English is the official language of the world.Still, I understand that public opinion is split on whether to allot precious class hours to teaching English, or rather concentrate more on Japanese language education.
I just hope this issue will not end up as a case of "running after two hares and catching neither."
--The Asahi Shimbun, May 30 (IHT/Asahi: May 31,2008)