The Italian Job

Imagine the following scenario. A small Italian town on the Swiss border. The customs officers, checking the passengers on a local cross-border train, notice among the usual workers making their daily commute to Switzerland a couple of well-dressed Asian men, one of whom is carrying a briefcase. When examined, the briefcase proves to have a false bottom...

Bang? I never heard anything!

So here we are in Japan. A relatively few miles across the ocean we have Mad Uncle Ernie (aka Kim Jong-Il) who sits out on the porch with a half-empty whiskey bottle beside him and his loaded shotgun across his knees. Occasionally he swigs from the bottle and raises the shotgun to his shoulder, pointing it meaningfully at anyone whom he thinks might refill the bottle. The other day he fired it in a pretty random direction.

1 + 1 = 1

The Shinsei-Aozora marriage has just been announced. Official announcement to be made some time in May (this month!) and the happy day is some time next summer (holding company structure). One wonders about the shotgun nature of this union (but if it is a shotgun, there's really no doubt who's holding it).

1 + 1 = ? (Aozora + Shinsei = ??)

Rumors are flying about a proposed Shinsei-Aozora tie-up (these are nothing new, but recently the background noise on the subject has increased)...

Where have all the QR codes gone?

It used to be that the 2D QR barcodes developed by Denso were everywhere on Japanese posters, magazine advertisements – in fact, anywhere where the advertiser wanted the reader to follow through with a visit to a Web site to learn more about the product or service. The idea was that customers would use their mobile phones’ cameras to take a pictures, and follow the Web site through to a long complex URL.

Is paper dead?

When I first came to Japan, long before the advent of mobile phones, I was impressed by the number of people I saw reading on the trains -- a literate society, I thought...

Sparks of hope for financial industry

As well as the big sharks of the financial world, many smaller fish slip through the financial seas, quietly and unobtrusively doing their business, until they become big fish in their own right. One of these has been the SPARX Group, founded 20 years ago, based out of Japan, which had about JPY1.7 tln in assets under management in 2006. These assets are managed on behalf of a number of institutional investors, based on principles learned from George Soros by the SPARX founder, Shuhei Abe when Abe managed Soros’s Japanese investments.

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