2009年11月29日 星期日

yen's rapid appreciation

Japan Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama ordered Cabinet ministers on Sunday to include measures aimed at coping with the yen's rapid appreciation and the decline in the Japanese stock market in a supplementary budget for fiscal 2009, Kyodo ...

Toyota looks set to be hit the hardest among Japanese exporters
The dollar is losing against the yen but while Japanese exporters have been reeling against its effects, Toyota Motor Corp. appears to have been hit the ...

歐洲汽車評估機構EuroNCAP公布了12種09年款車型的碰撞測試結果。豐田盡管在2009年上半年的測試中“Avensis”、“IQ”及“普銳斯”都獲得了五星級評價,但此次的Urban Cruiser因乘員保護性能評價降低,只獲得了三星級評價……

In Japan, an Odd Perch for Google: Looking Up at the Leader

In Japan, an Odd Perch for Google: Looking Up at the Leader

Published: November 29, 2009

TOKYO — In 2001, a fledgling Internet company named Google opened its first overseas office in Japan, eager to tap a huge technology market.

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Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert for The New York Times

Hiroto Tokusei, left, and his brother Kentaro are Stanford graduates working for Google Japan with an eye on localization.


Times Topics: Google Inc. | Yahoo! Inc.

A Google publicity stunt, with 2,500 balloons.

But after eight years, Japan is one of a few major countries Google has yet to conquer. The Web giant still trails far behind Yahoo Japan, the front-runner here, operated by the Japanese telecommunications giant Softbank.

In a reversal of the rivalry in the United States, Yahoo Japan dominates Japan’s Web search market with 56.5 percent of all queries, according to the Internet research company, GA-Pro. Google, at 33.7 percent, is a distant second.

Unaccustomed to being second, Google is bending some of its most time-honored traditions in a renewed push into the Japanese market. Earlier this year, Google’s splash page for Japan abandoned the company’s classic spare design and added links to YouTube, Gmail and other services — an attempt to lure Japanese users who favor sites decorated with a cacophony of text and graphics.

And in a first for Google, which is based in Mountain View, Calif., it initiated branding ads for Japan and staged attention-grabbing publicity stunts, including one in which it invited passers-by to float into the air with the help of 2,500 balloons.

Google’s dogged interest in Japan has partly to do with sheer size. Japan is one of the world’s most wired countries, with more than 90 million regular Internet users — of which three-quarters use fast broadband connections and two-thirds also log in from cellphones.

And despite a sluggish economy, Japan’s 6.6 trillion yen ($77 billion) advertising market remains the world’s second-largest, one that an increasingly global advertising force like Google cannot afford to ignore.

“Japan is absolutely a key market for Google,” said Koichiro Tsujino, president of Google Japan. Every day, for example, Japanese view 10 million clips on YouTube, Google’s video-sharing site — and that is just from their cellphones, making them the world’s most avid adopters of video on-the-go. “Japan leads the world in many ways,” he said.

That Japanese propensity to try new things is the other reason Google is intent on staying put in Japan. Over the years, Japan has become a testing lab for many of the Web giant’s cutting-edge new ideas, especially in mobile technology. Google’s Tokyo-based programmers, immersed in Japan’s mobile and Web culture, have become a valuable source of ideas for the entire company.

Overseas markets now account for half of Google’s revenue, and the company is becoming more keenly aware of the need to tailor its services to local markets, as well as the advantages of absorbing ideas from outside the United States, company executives say. “Japan made us realize that non-U.S. ideas can go global,” David Eun, a vice president for Google, said on a recent trip to Japan, where he closed deals with two Japanese broadcasters to allow YouTube to run some of their content.

Google Japan’s offices occupy several floors in a skyscraper in Shibuya, a Tokyo neighborhood popular with start-ups that is also a hangout for the city’s hippest teenagers. Minutes away from where Google developers work, young Japanese perch on sidewalks, playing with their Web-enabled cellphones, thumbs flying and eyes glued to the tiny screens.

But most of those trendsetters do not regard Google as being very Japanese — a big headache for the company. Google has never been able to overcome Yahoo’s advantage as the first Web-based search engine. And although 35 percent of Yahoo Japan is owned by Yahoo in Sunnyvale, Calif., it is viewed as a local company.

“Yahoo Japan is a Japanese company, and most of their employees are Japanese people who fluently understand how the Japanese mind-set and business work,” said Nobuyuki Hayashi, a technology analyst. “But Google’s still a foreigner who’s learned how to speak some Japanese.”

Popularizing Google in Japan has been fraught with 21st-century versions of the cultural mishaps that have long plagued American companies here. In May, Google was forced to reshoot its entire “Street View” image stock in Japan — with a camera positioned to capture views 15 inches lower — after intense criticism that the service peeked over fences and into people’s homes, invading privacy. The narrower width of Japan’s roads made the service especially intrusive, bloggers fumed.

Google Earth also came under fire after posting historical maps that detailed locations of former communities of an “untouchable” caste, still a sensitive topic in Japan. Human rights advocates were furious that the maps could be used to identify families that had lived in the low-caste neighborhoods.

But Google keeps trying. After studying feedback from Japanese users, developers designed Google’s maps service here so that a query led users to the town’s train station or bus terminal, not the center of town as it would in the United States, reflecting the way the Japanese, heavily reliant on public transportation, think of their personal geography.

Programmers based in Tokyo have proposed and developed a line of services and functions, including “emoticons” for Gmail — a particular Japanese obsession — and a function allowing users to add photos to Google Maps. It created “Spellmeleon,” to correct misspelled queries. It took developers based in Tokyo to realize that non-native English speakers, who might not be very good spellers of English words, could use a little help with queries.

“Part of our job is to think specifically about the Japanese market,” said Kentaro Tokusei, group product manager at Google Japan. “We find whatever we build works globally, too.”

Some services in Japan offer a glimpse into the future. The Japanese version of Google’s photo-sharing service, Picasa, offers quick response, or Q.R., bar codes that contain Web address information. Scanning a Q.R. bar code with a Japanese cellphone takes the user to a Web site to view an online photo album.

Japan has been an especially important market for YouTube, with viewers here making up the site’s biggest audience outside the United States. The site’s big presence in Japan has put developers here at the forefront of crucial projects — for example, a recently announced feature that will bring text captions to many videos on the site, linked with automatic translation into 51 languages.

The captions will go a long way toward helping videos go viral across language divides, said Hiroto Tokusei, YouTube product manager in Japan and Kentaro Tokusei’s younger brother. (The Tokusei brothers, both Stanford graduates with experience in Silicon Valley, were brought to Google Japan with an eye to localizing Google’s products while keeping Google at the cutting edge of innovation.)

Next month YouTube will also start a mobile version of its “Click-to-Buy” feature, which identifies songs used in video clips, then lets users download them to their cellphones for use as ring tones.

“To have an audience so obsessed with video and TV, and with access to broadband, means Japan is the perfect place to experiment,” Mr. Tokusei said.

2009年11月28日 星期六

Ronald P. Dore

企业为谁而在:献给日本型资本主义的悼词 (副標題是北京大學出版社誣詆仇日者所添加的)
出 版 社:北京大学出版社
  • 出版时间:2009-10-01
  • 页  数:253页
  • I S B N :9787301157084
  • 版  次:
  • 印  次:1次
  • 开  本:32开
  • 装  帧:平装
  • 纸  张:普通
  • 适读人群:企业管理者


第一章 企业治理机制:治乱之时
第二章 全球标准与企业治理机制
第三章 改革的必要性何在
第四章 组织变革
第五章 股东影响力
第六章 股东天下的养老问题
第七章 利益相关者的影响力
第八章 重新思考的机会
第九章 利益相关者企业的可能性


第一章 企业治理机制:治乱之时
   对于这种说法,我想反问的是:“难道贵公司在导入所谓企业治理机制之前一直处于无政府状态吗?”在多数场合,所谓“已经导入”指的是重组董事会、聘请外 部董事、实行执行董事制度、将企业变为委员会设置型企业等随波逐流的改革。但是,所谓企业治理机制并非仅仅意味着上述美国型制度。从街头的蔬菜店到三菱重 工,所有的企业之中都有关于由谁作出重要决定的明确的或暗默的规则。企业治理机制就是这些规则的总和。

Ronald P. Dore

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Ronald P. Dore

Professor Ronald P. Dore is a British sociologist specialising in Japanese economy and society and the comparative study of types of capitalism. He is an associate of the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics and is a fellow of the British Academy, the Japan Academy, and the American Academy of Arts and Science. The citation for his eminent scholar award from the Academy of International Business describes him as "an outstanding scholar whose deep understanding of the empirical phenomena he studies and ability to build on it to develop theoretical contributions are highly respected not only by sociologists but also by economists, anthropologists, historians, and comparative business systems scholars" [1][1].



[edit] Early Life

The son of a train driver, Dore went to Poole Grammar School. With the outbreak of the Japanese war, he was one of a number of sixth form students chosen to study languages at The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Although he had chosen Turkish as his first, and Chinese as his second choice language, he arrived at SOAS to discover that he had been enrolled in the Japanese course. After injuring himself before he could take part in active service, he returned to the UK to teach Japanese, and complete his external degree at London University. His first trip to Japan was in1950, arriving in Kobe[2].

[edit] Academic Career

Having learnt Japanese during the war, Dore graduated with a degree in Japanese from London University in 1947[3]. Dore began research in SOAS. He has also worked at the University of British Columbia, the Institute of Development Studies at Sussex University, the Technical Change Centre at Sussex, the Institute for Economic growth in Delhi, Imperial College in London, Harvard University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology[1].

[edit] Research

[edit] Publications

  • Life in a Tokyo Ward. 1958.
  • British Factory, Japanese Factory. 1973.
  • "Goodwill and the spirit of market capitalism". British Journal of Sociology. 1983.
  • Flexible Rigidities. 1986.
  • Stock Market Capitalism, Welfare Capitalism: Japan and Germany versus the Anglo-Saxons. 2000.

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ a b c "AIB Fellow - Ronald P. Dore". http://aib.msu.edu/fellow.asp?FellowID=163.
  2. ^ "Interview of Ronald Dore". http://www.dspace.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/1469.
  3. ^ "London School of Economics Biography page". http://cep.lse.ac.uk/_new/staff/person.asp?id=705.

2009年11月22日 星期日

Is Japan back in a deflationary trap?

Japan’s ailing economy

The other D-word

Nov 20th 2009 | TOKYO
From Economist.com

Is Japan back in a deflationary trap?

WHILE investors have been fretting recently about Japan’s huge debt, another of the dreaded D-words has come back to haunt them. On Friday November 20th, Japan’s Cabinet Office issued a monthly report that for the first time since 2006 acknowledged that the country was suffering from deflation.

Consumer prices have actually been falling for months, but the pace of decline accelerated over the summer. In September prices slumped by 2.2% compared with a year earlier. This is partly because the country is still loaded with excess capacity after the collapse in exports during the global financial crisis, and partly because oil prices were lower in September than in the same month last year. But there are more structural problems, too. As Japan’s population declines, for instance, retailers are being forced to cut prices to gain market share.

It was no coincidence that the new government of Yukio Hatoyama chose the day when the Bank of Japan (BoJ) was holding a rate-setting meeting to make a lot of noise on the issue. Both the deputy prime minister and finance minister made concerned comments. Their unspoken message to the BoJ was clear: remove monetary-stimulus measures at your peril. At the end of its two-day meeting, the BoJ left its policy rate unchanged at 0.1%, and continued to use other measures, such as buying government bonds, that it believes make monetary policy “extremely accommodative.”

But the BoJ does not give the impression it is particularly concerned about prices. It believes there are not yet clear signals of a deflationary mindset in corporations or the public at large, and that a recovery in private demand will eventually pull the economy out of its slump.

Some economists think this reflects a dangerous complacency. The BoJ’s own recent forecasts predicted that the year-on-year change in the consumer price index excluding fresh food would be negative this year, next year and in 2011. On Thursday, the OECD issued a strong injunction to the BoJ to fight deflation by committing to keep interest rates low and implementing quantitative-easing measures until inflation turns “firmly positive”. Some advocate even more radical steps to reflate the economy, such as charging banks to deposit money at the central bank. Proponents of these measures fear that businesses will retrench as prices fall and their debts rise, creating a vicious circle.

The government, too, is keen for the BoJ to keep doing its bit to stimulate growth, because the fiscal deficit is already projected to reach 10% of GDP next year and it has expensive campaign promises to keep. The government was given a dose of good news on Monday when it was reported that economic growth picked up in the third quarter, reaching 4.8% on an annualised basis, which was better than expected. But much of that was spurred by public spending; domestic demand was still weak and the domestic-demand deflator (a measure of inflation excluding effects related to import and export prices) was at its lowest level in more than 50 years, according to Lombard Street Research, an economic consultancy.

It is not only the BoJ that needs to do more to combat deflation, however. Mr Hatoyama’s government, in office since September, has so far failed to spell out clearly its economic policies. It says it wants to rebalance the economy by spurring domestic demand, but has not made it clear how it intends to do that. Meanwhile, it has suggested meddling with wages and hiring-and-firing practices that exporters say would further weaken them at a time when they are struggling to cope with a high yen.

Raising Japan’s trend growth rate would be difficult, especially as the population ages and shrinks. But it is not impossible: productivity could be improved dramatically, especially in the services sector. A sustained period of higher growth would have a double-barrelled effect of killing both the debt and deflation problems. If the double-D scares of the past few weeks help to convince Mr Hatoyama’s government of this, it would be a good outcome. Sadly, that cannot be counted on.

The employment ice age, fatty meat (tuna)

The employment ice age looks set to return


The extreme scarcity of jobs that occurred after the collapse of the asset-inflated economy in the early 1990s was dubbed the "employment ice age" and gave rise to "freeters"--young people who move from one part-time job to another.

Writer Keiichiro Hirano was one of them. The 34-year-old recalled the lack of jobs when he was a Kyoto University student in a special issue of Asahi Journal magazine.

Back then, Hirano was writing a novel, but he had no prospects of publication. He and his friends who were looking for jobs felt gloomy, he says.

"Although I was desperate to find work, I had no idea where I wanted to go. I think the painful feeling of having to go out into the working world without a welcome somehow distorted our generation," says Hirano, who won the Akutagawa Prize when he was 23. Except for gifted persons like him, many young people are finding it increasingly difficult to land stable employment.

As of Oct. 1, only 62.5 percent of university students had secured job offers after they graduate next spring. That is 7.4 percentage points lower than the ratio a year earlier and is close to the 60.2 percent of 2003, the lowest figure since the government started taking the survey in 1996.

It seems the job ice age is returning, caused by the global recession that started in the fall of last year.

These days, university students start their job hunt in earnest in the autumn of their third year of a four-year college program. The hiring season opens with briefing sessions for job hunters held by universities. Early the following year, students start visiting prospective employers and applying for interviews. Successful applicants start receiving informal job offers as early as the spring.

In an interview that ran earlier this week on the opinion page of the vernacular Asahi Shimbun, one university student commented: "Calculating backward from the start of the job-hunting process, I feel as though I'm being pushed through my college life in a hurry."

If companies cut back on the number of new regular employees they hire, the job seekers will be busier. Students apply to 100 to 200 companies and try to get promises of employment from as many of them as possible, even from those or in industries that are not their first choice.

If they fail to secure job offers by autumn, they will be seeking jobs with the next year's crop of students who are starting to look for work.

The trend to recruit and hire students as early as possible straight out of school is a gamble for both sides. The economy may be good or bad when one graduates. Competent talent can also be found among people who are not fresh out of school. Prospective employers and employees should have more chances to meet, so as to end this process of distortion.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 20(IHT/Asahi: November 21,2009)

But now, tuna ranks as the top sushi delicacy, and its fatty meat, once considered a bizarre food, is much prized. How fickle tastes and food culture are.

Fickle food preferences can easily change


When I'm told at an izakaya pub that an item on the menu is a seldom-served delicacy, I can't resist ordering it. Moreover, when I hear it may soon become a true rarity, I get impatient to try it while I can.

Apparently, scarcity is a seasoning that enhances the flavor of food even before one eats it.

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas has decided to reduce the allowable harvest of Atlantic bluefin tuna in 2010 by about 40 percent from this year's level.

Much of the Atlantic bluefin tuna caught in waters under the commission's jurisdiction is exported to Japan and comprises half of all the bluefin tuna consumed in Japan.

It typically ends up served in the form of otoro fatty tuna at kaiten-zushi restaurants, where plates of sushi are placed on a rotating conveyer belt. However, thanks to abundant frozen reserves, it is unlikely that the price of such dishes will soon rise sharply.

Still, the news is disheartening.

Atlantic bluefin tuna, which reaches up to 4 meters in size, is among the largest of the tuna family. Mediterranean countries compete to farm the fish from fry for exports to Japan, which consumes nearly 80 percent of the global catch of bluefin tuna.

Moves are also afoot to impose a total ban on the international trade of bluefin tuna on the grounds that it causes overfishing.

Up until the Edo Period (1603-1867), tuna was considered a low-grade fish and was mainly used as fertilizer when caught. A book at the time went so far as to say, "Decent townspeople of the merchant class are ashamed of eating this fish," as well as sweet potatoes and pumpkins.

But now, tuna ranks as the top sushi delicacy, and its fatty meat, once considered a bizarre food, is much prized. How fickle tastes and food culture are.

2009年11月21日 星期六

Komatsu Aims to be Number One in Hybrid Construction Equipment

Komatsu Aims to be Number One in Hybrid Construction Equipment

  • 11-9, 2009

Although the company has lowered its anticipated annual sales figures, it is not overly concerned with the near-term dip in performance. The construction equipment giant is poised to sell its hybrid construction equipment throughout Asia, and aims for top market share.

“We didn't think sales would fall to this extent in Japan, the US, and Europe,” said Kunio Noji, president of Komatsu Ltd. at the press announcement of his company’s mid-year performance figures. Considering the results, his manner was unexpectedly calm.

The company's consolidated sales for April through September were 645.9 billion yen, down 46.7% from the same period last year. Operating profits in the same period were down a massive 87.6% to 19.7 billion yen. The projected annual sales figure has been revised downwards by 100 billion to 1.43 trillion yen, which would be a 29.3% decline from the previous year.

Sales and profits fall worldwide, but business in Asia stays strong

Following the financial crisis in the fall of 2008, demand for construction equipment fell precipitously. But this assessment was derived from activities in industrialized countries. In fact, Komatsu did so well in Asia, most notably China, and in Central and South America that the company exceeded its initial sales estimates. This explains Noji's calm demeanor as he announced the decrease in his company's sales figures.

The most remarkable development is the extent to which the China market has recovered its vigor. With the government investing 4 trillion renminbi (approximately 52 trillion yen) in the urbanization of inland cities and other infrastructure projects, demand for construction equipment is strong. “Our sales in China are growing at more than twice the pace of last year-demand has clearly revived,” says Mikio Fujitsuka, an executive officer and general manager of corporate planning at Komatsu.

In a bid to capture a larger share of this market, Komatsu introduced a hybrid power shovel in China this August. It is equipped with both a diesel engine and an electric motor, the former generating power for the latter. Additionally, when the revolving deck decelerates, a capacitor stores the kinetic energy for reuse as electrical power. Although it is priced at around 17 million yen, about 1.5 times the cost of a conventional power shovel, it is estimated to run on 25% less fuel on average. Operators can therefore expect to recover the higher cost in 5 years.

Since the August launch, Komatsu has moved ahead on plans to expand sales of this hybrid power shovel in China. In October, the company began production in China; it has also increased production capacity at its Shonan factory in Hiratsuka, southwest of Yokohama, where motors and other key components are made.

Komatsu has focused on China as a high-potential market for hybrid construction equipment for several reasons. One is that such equipment is in operation for much longer hours in China compared with industrialized countries, magnifying the benefits of fuel efficiency. For example, a piece of construction equipment is in use for an average of 1,500 hours a year in Japan, but for 3,000 hours annually in China. Moreover, fuel typically accounts for 17% of the maintenance and operating cost of construction equipment in Japan, but in China, low labor costs mean that fuel accounts for 55%. In such an environment, hybrids are the most economical choice.

Production capacity is presently limited, so the company forecasts this year's sales of hybrid power shovels to be about 500 units. With expanded local production capabilities, however, Komatsu aims for annual sales of more than 2,000 units, including sales of equipment made in Japan. While other manufacturers of construction equipment?including Caterpillar, the top maker worldwide?still struggle to set up mass production capabilities for hybrids, Komatsu aims to secure a place in China, a major growth market.

Aiming for Asia

Komatsu is also eyeing its future place in the fast-growing markets in the rest of Asia. In Southeast Asia and India, falling demand is expected to bottom out by next spring, in sharp contrast to the industry's meager prospects in the industrialized economies. “Truly, we are entering an age in which Asia, Oceania, China will dominate,” says Fujitsuka. For manufacturers of construction equipment, this means that the competition for market share will now be fought in the emerging economies.

Komatsu intends to introduce its hybrid equipment throughout the Asia market, and is considering manufacturing such construction equipment in Thailand and/or Indonesia. Says Noji, “Because annual hours of operation are even longer than in China, particularly in India, we may well see a day when most of the mid-size equipment in the 20-ton range will be hybrids.”

The company that wins in the Asian market will become the leading maker of construction equipment worldwide. By moving quickly to implement its strategy for hybrids, Komatsu clearly seeks to position itself as a front runner.

(Daisuke Takimoto, Staff Writer, Nikkei Business)

[News in depth Backnumber]







   一九六一年出生於日本兵庫縣,畢業於慶應義塾大學工學系應用化學科,完成伊利諾大學理學系碩士課程。歷經日立製作所與受託研究機構KRI後,進入利特國 際管理顧日本分公司(Arthur D. Little Japan),現為該公司資深經理,主要負責製造業的研發策略與商品開發策略等等之諮詢工作。亦擔任日本流行文化委員會委員。





   譯有《旅行與人生的奧義》、《新.企業參謀》、《我們比我聰明》、《iPhone的衝擊與商機》、《瞄準御宅族》、《經營者的思考》等趨勢與商管書, 《大腦動不動就找藉口》、《孫子兵法的經營智慧圖解》、《圖解力》、《弘兼憲史經濟學入門圖解》等實用書,以及《波上的魔術師》、《肅清之門》、《推理小 說》、《不公平的月》等小說。












 「えっ? 何? どこがおかしいの?」。そう思ったあなたは、新しい感性の持ち主かもしれません。よく見てください。この子供マネキンたち、アニメ顔な のです。その目はあり得ないくらいに巨大で、瞳には、手塚治虫さんの発明以来、少女マンガの定番になったキラキラ星が輝いています。日本のマンガ史に残る 由緒正しい瞳の系譜を持った顔が、いつの間にか3次元になって、子供服売り場に進出しているのです。もともとは、現実の世界を模写したはずのマンガがリア ルの世界に舞い戻ってきました。

 ひと頃、バーチャルリアリティー(仮想現実)という技術用語が流行したことがあります。コンピューターグラフィックスで作り込まれた仮想空間の世 界に没入させる、超リアル系のテレビゲームのような技術が代表例でしょう。アニメ顔のマネキンは、逆に仮想空間から現実世界へと飛び出してきた現象と言え ます。



 写真のアニメ顔マネキン「きゃらもあ2」を開発したのは、平和マネキンというマネキン業界では比較的新興の企業です。今では複数のマネキンメー カーが手がけるようになったアニメ顔マネキンですが、初号機は今から5年前、2002年頃に埼玉県川口市にある平和マネキンのデザイン工房で生まれまし た。

 日本のマネキン業が産声を上げたのは1920年代。海外からの輸入マネキンを修繕するビジネスから始まりました。実は、そこから日本のマネキンは 独自の進化を遂げます。写実的に人体を模す西洋のマネキンとは一線を画し、日本人が最も美しいと感じるように人体、特に顔をデフォルメし、記号化を追求し てきたのです。その延長線上にあるのがアニメ顔のマネキンです。今回は、マネキンを例に、日本のものづくりに隠れた「記号化」という強みについて論じてみ たいと思います。



 萌えるアキバ系の青少年の世界では、マンガの主人公が2次元空間から飛び出して、お人形化しています。同じ人形でも従来からある、リカちゃん人形 やサンダーバード人形などと決定的に違う点は、マンガやアニメの2次元空間で暮らしていたキャラクターを立体化することにあります。

 ご存じのように、アニメ顔マネキンと同じような等身大フィギュアも存在します。食玩ブームなどもあり、最近でこそ少しずつ市民権を得てきた感はあ りますが、フィギュアのキャラクターたちはおおむね美少女系で、ちょっぴりエッチな姿形をしていることが多いため、どちらかといえば眉をひそめられる際物 的な扱いを受けています。しかし、同じアニメ顔でも、純真無垢に子供服売り場でモデル立ちしているとPTAもオーケーということになるわけです。

 それでは、マネキンとフィギュアの決定的な違いとは何でしょうか。それは、愛玩の対象となる個人の持ち物か、産業用か、ということになります。 フィギュアでは衣服を身体に合わせるのですが、マネキンは既製服を完璧に着こなすことが大前提です。従って、人体の骨格構造から大きくは逸脱できないとい う制約があります。



 そもそもマネキンとは、空気のような存在。普段から目にしているにもかかわらず、いざ思い出してみようとすると顔は浮かんできません。身に着けた 衣装が売れることが目的なので、マネキン自体が目立ってはならないのです。それでも、店頭での存在感は求められるという、とても微妙なバランスの上に成り 立っている人形がマネキンというわけです。リカちゃんを個人用の携帯電話とすれば、マネキンはオフィスで働くコピー機や、自動車工場で動き回る溶接ロボッ トのようなものと言えるでしょう。

 言うまでもなく、マネキンは、世相を敏感に反映する人形です。アニメ顔のマネキンが登場した2002年頃は、アキバ系の萌え文化がブレークし始め た時期と重なります。日本発のアニメや漫画が世界的に評価され、ジャパンクールと呼ばれ始めた頃です。平和マネキンが、アニメ顔のマネキンを開発した直接 のキッカケは、とある有名子供服メーカーからの依頼だったそうです。

2009年11月20日 星期五


Voice is very important for Japanese politicians. 參考某些首相回憶錄

《中英對照讀新聞》Japan’s ex-PM Koizumi gets a superhero role 日本前首相小泉獲得英雄角色


Japan’s former premier Junichiro Koizumi, known for crooning Elvis Presley songs while in office, is lending his voice to a superhero movie, reports said Tuesday.


Lion-maned Koizumi, 67, has provided the voiceover for the extraterrestrial hero who fights not political opponents in the Diet legislature but monsters and aliens from outer space, according to the movie’s producers.


Koizumi, now retired from politics, used his offbeat charisma to rule Japan for more than five years until 2006, in contrast to his three conservative successors who each quit the post of prime minister within a year.


His performance will be in "MegaMonsterBattle -- Ultra Galaxy," which is due to be screened in Japan on December 12. His character fires a flash of light to attack evil enemies and shouts: "Pay for your transgression!"




not only…but (also)…:不僅…而且…。例句:Not only you but also Mr. Smith is fired.(不只你,史密斯先生也被炒魷魚了。)

in contrast to:片語,與…形成對比,與…截然不同;與…比起來。例句:Iran says French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s remarks are in contrast to IAEA findings.(伊朗表示,法國總統尼可拉斯.薩科茲的說辭與國際原子能總署的發現截然不同。)

2009年11月19日 星期四

Land of the setting sun


作者:經濟學人  出處:Web Only 2009/11


30 年前,哈佛大學教授Ezra Vogel在《日本第一》這本書中寫道,日本在工業競爭力優於美國,但大部分人並不知道。當時,日本已經是全球第二大經濟體,在某些衡量中,國民平均 GNP已經超越美國,似乎就要取代美國的地位;美國則深陷停滯性通膨,失業率接近二位數字。


泡沫於近20年前破裂,帶來將近20年的經濟成長遲緩。日本花了15年,工業產出才超過1991年的高峰,而此次危機更讓產出下滑到1980年代的 水準。在1980年代,若以存款來衡量,全球前十大銀行都在日本。而上個月Bloomberg的市場專家們則在金融首都這個項目中,將東京排在數個大城市 之末。

為何日本企業的威力沒有恢復?《日本國力之謎》的作者Karel Van Wolferen認為,這是因為日本企業習於受到保護,變革速度太慢。加大柏克萊分校的教授Steven Vogel,也就是Ezra Vogel的兒子,認為那是因為監督者花了太長的時間,才解決了銀行系統的問題。

Ezra Vogel曾在1979年強調,日本在許多方面都是美國的榜樣:良好的勞工關係、低犯罪率、優秀的學校以及精英官僚。已經退休的Vogel如今表示,美國確實有從中學習,也同意日本必須有所改變。

Land of the setting sun

IT LEFT American executives quaking in their loafers and cheered a generation of Japanese salarymen. "The extent of Japanese superiority over the United States in industrial competitiveness is underpublicised," trumpeted Ezra Vogel of Harvard University 30 years ago in "Japan as Number One", which became one of the most-discussed business books of its time.

The world's second-largest economy had surpassed America in gross national product per person according to some measures, and looked on course to overtake it. "Vogel's book helps explain why Japan is the most dynamic of all modern industrial nations," gushed Foreign Affairs. America was mired in stagflation, with an unemployment rate nearing double digits. Japan seemed to be the better bet.

Yet things didn't quite work out the way Professor Vogel expected. Japanese industrial production rose by 50% in the decade after 1980—a remarkable trajectory for a country crammed into an area the size of Montana. But growth was driven by financial leverage and overinvestment. Property and share prices bubbled, rising as much as sixfold.

The bubble's collapse, beginning 20 years ago this December, led to almost two decades of economic doldrums. It took 15 years for industrial production to surpass the 1991 peak. In the current crisis it collapsed to levels last seen in the 1980s. In time America's fearful "Japan bashing" gave way to sniggering, then indifference. Last month a poll of market professionals by Bloomberg, a news provider, put Tokyo last among several big cities as a financial capital. In the 1980s all of the world's top ten banks measured by deposits were Japanese.

Why didn't Japanese business regain momentum? Companies, accustomed to being protected, were too slow to change, says Karel Van Wolferen, author of "The Enigma of Japanese Power", published 20 years ago this year. Steven Vogel of the University of California in Berkeley (and Professor Vogel's son), blames regulators for failing to clean up the banking system until long after the crash.

His father had argued in 1979 that Japan set many examples to America: good labour relations, low crime, excellent schools and elite bureaucrats with long time horizons. "And the US did learn," particularly in manufacturing, he says today from retirement in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Yet change is needed in Japan, he admits. A system geared for high growth has been unable to adapt.

Though it is still the second-largest economy, Japan may well lose that title to China in 2010. Many are now cooing about China's growth. But the lesson of Japan is that nothing is inevitable.

2009年11月18日 星期三

Japanese Mortified By Obama's Bow

Japanese Mortified By Obama's Bow

Tuesday, November 17, 2009
By Sean Hannity

The news that is not White House approved...

Embarrassing an Ally

Over the weekend President Obama declared himself the first Pacific president. I'm not sure if that was before or after he bowed to the Japanese emperor while trying to shake his hand at the same time. Unfortunately, that's not exactly how the Japanese perform their customary bow.

ABC's Jake Tapper reports that at least one Japanese newspaper is not printing the picture of the president's mortifying bow because the Japanese are embarrassed by his behavior. A scholar of traditional Japan tells Mr. Tapper, "The bow… did not just display weakness in Red State terms, but evoked weakness in Japanese terms… The last thing the Japanese want or need is a weak-looking American president."

Wasn't this president elected to restore our alliances and repair our images abroad? Now he's embarrassed the U.S. and one of our allies all at the same time. That takes real effort.

2009年11月16日 星期一

Freeze aid to Kansai Airport

Review team: Freeze aid to Kansai Airport



An appeal for a 16-billion-yen subsidy to help the debt-ridden operator of Kansai International Airport is the latest budget request to face the ax, after a review team on Monday said the handout would be unlikely to produce the desired impact.

On the fourth day of budget request assessments, members of the Government Revitalization Unit said the subsidy should be frozen until authorities produced a clear division of roles for Kansai and its two neighboring airports.

If their proposal is adopted, airport operator Kansai International Airport Co. (KIAC) could face a funding shortfall, which may affect its business-improvement plans and hinder the transport ministry's aviation policies.

It remains to be seen how Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's administration will deal with the proposal when it compiles the fiscal 2010 budget toward the year-end.

KIAC is saddled with about 1.1 trillion yen in interest-bearing liabilities. The subsidy has previously helped cover part of the interest payments.

The amount requested by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism would be a substantial increase from the 9-billion-yen handout given this fiscal year. Officials say it would also help the airport slash its high landing fees and make it more competitive with overseas rivals.

But reviewers said it was doubtful the use of taxpayer money for fee cuts would lead to a significant rise in demand.

"Its demand projection was too optimistic, leading to its huge deficits," one reviewer said. Kansai Airport is located close to Osaka Airport at Itami and Kobe Airport.

"The subsidy is no more than a life-prolonging step," said another.

Nine out of the 14 reviewers assessing the project supported the freeze. Two called for abolishing the subsidy, and three favored cutting it below 9 billion yen.

The group also proposed a cut of about 10 percent for 46.7 billion yen in requests to build, expand and maintain local airports. Reviewers said spending must be focused on projects with urgent needs.

The government has come under fire for using the budget to support the opening of unprofitable airports.(IHT/Asahi: November 17,2009)

2009年11月14日 星期六

Marine Base on Okinawa, KANTEI

Obama, in Japan, Says U.S. Will Study Status of a Marine Base on Okinawa

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

President Obama and Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama of Japan at a joint news conference on Friday in the Kantei, which houses Mr. Hatoyama's office in Tokyo.

The Sōri-daijin Kantei (総理大臣官邸?), also known as the Sōri Kantei (総理官邸?), the Shushō Kantei (首相官邸?) or simply the Kantei (官邸?), is the principal workplace of the Prime Minister of Japan. Located at 1-6-1 Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8968, it is diagonally adjacent to the National Diet Building. The new Kantei went into service in April 2002[1] and replaced the former Kantei, built in 1929. The former Kantei is now known as the Sōri Kōtei (総理公邸?), the official residence of the Prime Minister. The term Kantei is used as a metonym for the office of the Prime Minister of Japan and for the Prime Minister's advisors and administration in general.

Published: November 13, 2009

TOKYO — President Obama, seeking to mend fences with Japan, America’s most important Asian ally, announced Friday that he would establish a high-level working group on the contentious issue of the continuing presence of a Marine base on Okinawa.

The decision, announced at a news conference with Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama just hours after he touched down in Tokyo to begin his first presidential trip to Asia, appears to represent a concession by the Obama administration to at least consider Japan’s concerns about the base, which is unpopular on Okinawa and which the new Japanese government had promised to try to move off the island.

Less than a month ago, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates seemed to shut the door on renegotiating a deal reached in 2006 to relocate the United States Marine air station in Futenma to a less populated part of Okinawa.

Mr. Obama was, in effect, making a political gift to Mr. Hatoyama: seeming to reopen a door Mr. Gates had shut, even though Japan policy experts indicated that the establishment of the working group was most likely only a face-saving way for the new prime minister to show the Japanese public that he was keeping a campaign promise.

Mr. Obama’s visit comes at a time when relationships between the two allies have hit their lowest point in years and Mr. Hatoyama searches for a more “equal partnership.” On Friday, both leaders emphasized the importance of the relationship, and stressed that the two sides were seeing eye to eye.

Standing beside Mr. Obama at the Japanese equivalent of the White House, the Kantei, Mr. Hatoyama said, “We’ve come to call each other Barack and Yukio, and gotten quite accustomed to calling each other by our names.”

White House officials said that the United States had agreed only to talks “on the implementation” of the 2006 Okinawa agreement, and said they did not expect to alter the larger shape of the agreement, which also calls for relocating about 8,000 Marines to Guam.

“It is a fact that we did campaign on this issue, and the Okinawans do have high expectations,” Mr. Hatoyama said, explaining why he was intent on reopening the subject.

The United States also appeared to give ground on the other security point of dispute, accepting Mr. Hatoyama’s pledge of $5 billion in aid to Afghanistan, which the prime minister linked to his government’s decision to end the Japanese Navy’s refueling mission near Afghanistan.

Mr. Obama said the promise “underscores Japan’s prominent role” in the international effort in Afghanistan.

Still, there have been ample signs that the half-century alliance may be entering a new phase. Recently, squabbles between the United States and Japan have focused mostly on trade disputes over luxury cars and semiconductors, while the security alliance between the two remained stable.

Now, the conflicts have shifted to security, more specifically, on the Marine bases on Okinawa, the southern island that is home to about two-thirds of the 37,000 shore-based United States military personnel in Japan. Okinawans have said that they shoulder a disproportionate burden, and simmering resentments erupted in 1995 after the rape of a 12-year-old schoolgirl by three American servicemen.

In 2006 the United States agreed to rebase thousands of soldiers to Guam, and to move the Marine base at Futenma elsewhere on Okinawa. But Mr. Hatoyama campaigned for office on a pledge to move the airfield off Okinawa altogether.

Political analysts and the Japanese news media now speak of a communication gap opening between Washington and Tokyo, which has led to what they call excessive American concerns that Japan may try to alter the two nations’ postwar military alliance.

These analysts say that the two nations are actually much closer on bilateral issues than they realize, and that Japan cannot afford to alienate a protector upon whom it still relies for its security as it faces a fast-rising China and a nuclear-armed North Korea. But they say relations have fallen into a vicious cycle in which Tokyo sends conflicting signals, and Washington makes matters worse by raising public pressure.

Yasunori Sone, a professor of political and policy analysis at Keio University in Tokyo, said of the Japanese leaders: “There are too many places where we don’t know what the new government really wants. Their public relations has been poor.”

At the same time, the experts also blame the Obama administration for overreacting to what they say is essentially language aimed at a domestic audience and for failing to see that Tokyo’s government has little stomach for big changes to the alliance.

Japanese officials, in Washington last month to prepare for Mr. Obama’s trip, asked their American counterparts and foreign policy experts to give the new Japanese government time to get its house in order.

The American frustration over the Hatoyama government’s refusal to back down from the campaign pledges on the Okinawa base came to a head when Mr. Gates visited Tokyo in October. Mr. Gates, known for speaking bluntly, pressed Mr. Hatoyama and Japanese military officials to keep their commitment on the military agreements.

“It’s time to move on,” Mr. Gates said, calling Japanese proposals to reopen the base issue “counterproductive.” Then, adding insult to injury in the eyes of Japanese commentators, Mr. Gates turned down invitations to attend a welcoming ceremony at the Defense Ministry and to dine with officials there.

Mr. Obama will try to make up for some of the ensuing upset. On his agenda Friday night: dinner with Mr. Hatoyama.

2009年11月7日 星期六

blue rose , JA pension cuts

《中英對照讀新聞》My love is like a blue, blue rose 吾愛像朵藍玫瑰?


The blue rose has long been referred to by horticulturalists as the "Holy Grail" of the plant breeding world. Now what is being described as the world’s first genetically-modified blue rose is about to hit flower shops in Japan.


A Japanese firm has announced it will be the first to put the unique flower on sale to the public - at a not-to-be-sniffed-at 2,000 and 3,000 yen per stem, about 10 times more expensive than normal.


Genetically, there is no natural blue pigmentation in the rose to allow a true blue rose to be bred by conventional methods. But in 2004, whisky distiller Suntory said it had succeeded in developing natural blue roses.


With Australian biotech company Florigene, it said it spliced into roses the gene that leads to the synthesis of the blue pigment Delphinidin in petunias.


Helen Bostock, a horticulture advisor at the UK’s Royal Horticultural Society, says that while a true-blue rose sounds fabulous, it could stand out like a "sore thumb".


She is doubtful that a blue rose would be anything other than a novelty. "A red rose signifies passion, but blue is a bit cold in my book."



Holy Grail:

名詞,傳說中耶穌在最後晚餐中所使用的聖杯,小寫時常指極難找到或取得的東西。例句:Sustained nuclear fusion is the holy grail of the power industry.(持續核融合是核能工業最終極的目標。)

stand out/stick out like a sore thumb:片 語,指因與周遭環境格格不入而引起注意。例句:Kenny stuck out like a sore thumb at the party. He was the only person wearing a suit and a tie.(肯尼在派對裡引人側目,他是全場唯一一個穿西裝打領帶的人。)

in my book:片語,(非正式用法)指依我的看法、我認為。例句:She’s never lied to me, and in my book that counts for a lot.(她從不曾對我說謊,我認為這可算得上彌足珍貴。)

Japan Airlines survival hinges on pension cuts

By Chikafumi Hodo - Analysis

TOKYO (Reuters) - Five years after retiring from Japan Airlines Corp (9205.T), former pilot Tsutomu Watanabe is fighting to protect the pension he was promised but that the airline can no longer afford to pay.

JAL's pension shortfall, which it estimated at 330 billion yen ($3.6 billion) in March, is threatening to push Asia's largest airline into bankruptcy unless its 9,000 retirees are forced to have their payouts cut, lawyers and analysts said.

"My pension contract is settled and I have my certificate," said the 65-year old Watanabe, who logged more than 18,000 hours in international flights during his career.

"People are calling for JAL pensioners to accept a cut in payouts, but is it wrong for me to say I don't want my pension to be reduced? I have a right to receive it."

JAL said last week it would apply for aid from a state-backed turnaround fund. It could receive a large injection of public money from the fund if it can secure the backing of creditors and come up with a viable restructuring plan.

That plan hinges on addressing its pension problem, for which there is no obvious solution.

JAL President Haruka Nishimatsu made a plea to the company's pension fund in May for payments to be reduced by more than half, and the airline has already factored a 88 billion yen gain from the move into its profit forecasts for this financial year.

A government-led task force that had been working on a JAL revival plan estimated the shortfall could be cut to 100 billion yen if the annual interest rate on pension reserves was cut to 1.5 percent from 4.5 percent, sources have told Reuters.

These proposals have triggered strong opposition from retirees and employees, who under current laws can easily block any cuts to their benefits if just one third of them vote against.

To get around this, the government is considering legislation that would allow JAL to forcibly cut payouts, but implementation would be tricky as it could be interpreted as violating a constitutional protection of personal property rights.

Not all agree.

"I don't think it's unconstitutional and the argument about requiring a reduction in pension is a valid one," said Kazumasa Otsuka, a lawyer specializing in corporate legal affairs at Mitsui Company. "If this can't be accepted, then there is little choice but for JAL's debt to be handled in (bankruptcy) court."


A JAL spokesman said the airline was working with the state-backed Enterprise Turnaround Initiative Corporation of Japan and could not comment on the possibility of a court-led restructuring to deal with the pension issue.

A bankruptcy would likely cause more pain for creditors, which include the state-owned Development Bank of Japan and the country's top three private banks.

The task force has estimated creditors could recover just 2-3 percent of their loans in bankruptcy, as opposed to 20-30 percent if the restructuring were out of court.

Dealing with JAL is also proving to be a headache for the Democratic Party, which came to power in August on a platform that promised to focus on the sometimes conflicting interests of protecting workers and prudent use of taxpayer funds.

While Transport Minister Seiji Maehara and other leading party figures have repeatedly said they would like to keep JAL out of bankruptcy, some party officials are pushing the option of a court-led restructuring, sources have said.

A politician in the Democratic Party recently sent a list of questions to Japanese law firm TMI Associates asking how pension cuts could be made in the case of a bankruptcy.

According to a document obtained by Reuters, TMI responded that in theory the pension obligations could be slashed by two thirds if JAL's restructuring were handled by the courts.

JAL pension woes underscore a larger problem facing Japanese firms.

Many have set payouts at similar levels as JAL and are struggling to deliver the promised returns with interest rates pegged near zero for more than a decade.

JAL's pension shortfall was the 10th largest among 400 big listed firms in a recent survey by the Nikkei newspaper.

Electronics conglomerate Hitachi Ltd (6501.T) had the biggest deficit at 687 billion yen, followed by Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp (9432.T) with 576 billion yen and chipmaker Toshiba Corp (6502.T) with a shortfall of 545 billion yen.

A website set up by Watanabe and other JAL retirees shows that more than 40 percent of 9,000 people receiving and in line to receive benefits have signed an online petition against pension cuts, which puts them above the one-third threshold.

But retirees may find it hard to garner public support.

"There is the belief that all stakeholders, including existing employees and retirees, should share the burden together, but it's especially hard for retirees to accept this," said a pension consultant, who asked not to be identified.

"JAL's retirees will bring this to a court case if the government crafts a special law for JAL to cut pensions," he said. "If this happens it will take a long time to settle."

(Additional reporting by Yoshifumi Takemoto, Nobuhiro Kubo and Nathan Layne; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

2009年11月6日 星期五

Is Technology Dumbing Down Japanese?


Is Technology Dumbing Down Japanese?


E-mail and cellphone novels may be making the language easier - even for the Japanese.

Published: November 5, 2009

When I first moved to Kyoto in 1999, I knew about 50 words of Japanese. My attempts to string together a few broken phrases were met with excessive praise, and I assumed everyone was being nice. “No,” I remember my friend Yuki saying. “People mean it. They really are impressed.”

Skip to next paragraph
Illustration by Leeay Aikawa


Times Topics: Japan

She was referring to the widespread belief that Japanese, with its nuanced formal expressions and three different writing systems, is a uniquely complex language. How could a foreigner possibly learn it? Even Japanese people make mistakes. Former Prime Minister Taro Aso, whose Liberal Democratic Party’s more than half-­century in power came to a crashing end this past August, might go down in history for having publicly misread Japanese kanji, or characters. He was hardly the first native speaker to bungle the language. “Many otherwise educated people have trouble writing a logical, grammatically correct sentence,” said Michaela Komine, an Australian who spent eight years working as a Japanese-English translator in Osaka.

Now the Japanese language is being transformed by blogs, e-mail and keitai shosetsu, or cellphone novels. Americans may fret over the ways digital communications encourage sloppy grammar and spelling, but in Japan these changes are much more wrenching. A vertically written language seems to be becoming increasingly horizontal. Novels are being written and read on little screens. People have gotten so used to typing on computers that they can no longer write characters by hand. And English words continue to infiltrate the language.

So what do these changes mean for a language long defined by indirect locutions and long, leisurely sen­tences that drift from the top of the page? Is Japanese getting simpler, easier or just worse?

On one side of the debate is Minae Mizumura, whose book “The Fall of Japanese in the Age of English” made a splash when it came out in Japan last year. Mizumura contends that the dominance of English, especially with the advent of the Internet, threatens to reduce all other national languages to mere “local” languages that are not taken seriously by scholars. The education system, she argues, doesn’t spend enough time teaching Japanese. “I cannot imagine a country with a highly functioning national language that devotes less time to teaching their own language than to teaching a foreign language,” she wrote in an e-mail message.

The simplification of Japanese really began during the country’s transition to democracy after World War II, according to Mizumura. While the American occupiers did not succeed in persuading Japan to change to the Roman alphabet, Mizumura said, the “pro-phonetic” camp gained momentum, and the Japanese Ministry of Education simplified characters and limited the number of kanji used in the media. As a result, “the older generation — even those who did not go to college — are much more comfortable reading and writing Japanese than the younger generation,” she said. “The Japanese population’s literacy — that is, the capacity to read and enjoy books — slowly declined, and the written language itself accordingly became less rich.”

But other authors embrace the language’s evolution. As Haruki Murakami, Japan’s best-known living novelist, wrote via e-mail, “My personal view on the Japanese language (or any language) is, If it wants to change, let it change. Any language is alive just like a human being, just like you or me. And if it’s alive, it will change. Nobody can stop it.” There is no such thing as simplification of language, he added. “It just changes for better or worse (and nobody can tell if it is better or worse).”

Some of the most dramatic transformations have been taking place on cellphones, where writers, often young women, type stories into their keypads and readers consume them on their screens. Sentences tend to be short, and love stories are popular. The phenomenon peaked in 2007, when five out of 10 of the year’s best-selling books were written on cellphones. While their popularity seems to have dropped off, keitai shosetsu still elicit scorn from some Japanese who see them as trashy. Others just shrug them off: Murakami said that he has “no interest” in cellphone novels or any form that resembles them.

Natsuo Kirino, author of the novels “Out,” “Grotesque” and “Real World,” believes that cellphone novels have hardly killed off traditional literature. “I think there is a split in the reading styles among young people,” she wrote in an e-mail message. “On one hand, there are those who love keitai novels — they feel comfortable with the flat and simple language and expressions. I also feel there are a lot of young people who are not satisfied with simplicity, who read complex and advanced novels, and even wish to write their own.”

Nor does it seem that cellphone novels have permanently shortened attention spans. Murakami’s latest novel, “1Q84,” which weighs in at over 1,000 pages, had huge print runs when it came out in Japan this year.

Even as some see new technology as a threat to literacy, surveys suggest that Japanese are reading more than before. According to an article in the newspaper Sankei Shimbun, middle-school students read an average of four books a month in 2008, the most ever in the 30-year history of the survey. (The article did note that the reading material was not always sophisticated.) A separate national survey published last year in Yomiuri Shimbun found that 54 percent of people were reading more than one book a month, compared with 48 percent in the year before.

Japanese people also seem to be writing more. Motoyuki Shibata, who teaches literature and translation at the University of Tokyo, noticed that new technology makes his students more willing to write Japanese, even if it is on their computers or cellphones. “Some people say the tradition of letter writing has come back,” Shibata says. Thanks to e-mail, he adds, “I get more messages and feedback from students than I used to 20 years ago.”

People may also be using and recognizing more kanji. Instead of having to write every stroke from memory, people can type words phonetically into a computer and a list of characters to choose from pops up on the screen. (This wondrous phenomenon allows me to quickly dash off e-mail messages filled with complex characters. As a result, I am much more inclined to send messages to Japan.)

Critics may protest that Japanese is defined by its formal expressions, polite openers and roundabout way of getting to the point. In an age of cellphone novels and rapid text messaging, won’t some of this be lost? Maybe. But Japanese might also become less intimidating, allowing a wider range of people to enjoy the pleasures of reading and writing.

Will technology cause Japanese to lose its reputation as a uniquely difficult language? That’s possible, too. But it could be a good thing. Japan, a rapidly aging society, may well have to face an influx of immigration in the not too distant future. A more accessible language could accelerate the country’s process of internationalization. Who knows, we might even one day find that, as Shibata put it, “this idea of Japanese being a very difficult, esoteric language may have been a myth all the time.”

Emily Parker, a former editor on The Times’s Op-Ed page, is writing a book about the Internet and democracy. She has written extensively on Japan and China for The Wall Street Journal.

2009年11月3日 星期二

Japan's samurai culture

Japan's samurai culture

They need another hero

Oct 29th 2009 | TOKYO
From The Economist print edition

Swooning over sword-wielding samurais, not sober-suited salarymen

FAT, raccoon-faced, and with the severed head of one of his enemies at his feet, Ieyasu Tokugawa, Japan’s mightiest shogun, hardly looks like a heartthrob. Yet this is the image of him that confronts awestruck young women when they travel to the village of Sekigahara in central Japan.

There, in 1600, Tokugawa used brilliant tactics—and treachery—to win the deciding battle in a civil war that enabled him to found a 265-year ruling dynasty. Now young women are turning him, and the warlords who fought against him, into objects of hero worship. “It’s like a samurai boom,” says a curator at the local museum. “The young women seem to adore the codes of loyalty and friendship by which the samurai lived.”

Bridgeman The analogue version

Who says video games poison the minds of the young? The phenomenon of the “history-loving women” is the serendipitous offshoot of a Japanese video game called “Sengoku Basara” (Devil Kings), which has the usual male fare of flashing swords, castles and conquests.

What is different, says its creator, Hiroyuki Kobayashi of Capcom, an Osaka-based gaming company, is that there is no severing of limbs or gushing of blood. Moreover, the characters are brave, noble and, above all, attractive—even if their namesakes bore few of these qualities in real life (see picture below).

To his surprise, Mr Kobayashi found himself besieged by women smitten with the characters—sometimes over their boyfriends’ hunched shoulders. Besides the good looks, they said they yearned for the sense of adventure and honour of the medieval era. From a gaming point of view, he may have stumbled upon a badly needed new source of revenue. Women rarely play action video games, but, when they do, tend to be more loyal to a game (men apparently bore sooner of slashing their enemies to bits).


From a social point of view, his experience is also interesting. He believes women are partly escaping into fantasy because they cannot find suitably heroic partners in real life. Capcom’s samurai groupies may be the corollary of a widely discussed trend in Japan, that of “grass-eating men”, who eschew the typical male trappings of cars and big salaries, and may prefer shopping and fashion to sex.

The phenomenon may also reflect a bigger issue: young women failing to find marriage partners. Since the 1970s the number of men and women marrying in their 20s and early 30s has fallen sharply, which is one of the main reasons the birth rate has fallen so low. It is largely the result of poor job prospects for men—and for women who marry. It will also have a severe impact on Japanese GDP in coming years.

As it is, the popularity of Capcom’s warlords is already being put to good political effect. One of them was used on a voting poster in a governor’s election on October 25th to encourage young people to vote. It is hard to replicate, however. “Every time we try and develop a game for female gamers, we fail,” Mr Kobayashi says. “Women always want to be chasing something. When they feel they’re being chased, they run away.” A lesson, perhaps, to be heeded by Japan’s growing army of frustrated bachelors.