JIN-153 -- An Epic Journey by Electric Car

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J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
T H E J @ P A N I N C N E W S L E T T E R
Commentary on the week's business and technology news
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Issue No. 153
Wednesday, October 17, 2001
Tokyo

CONTENTS

++ Viewpoint: An Epic Journey by Electric Car
++ Noteworthy news
- BOJ, Think Tank Paint Dark Economic Picture
- Toshiba, Matsushita in LCD Talks
- Government Puts Pressure on Internet Providers
- Roger Boisvert Update: Reward Fund Online
++ Events

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++ VIEWPOINT: An Epic Journey by Electric Car

Earlier this month, Economy, Trade, and Industry Minister Takeo
Hiranuma started driving around town in a hybrid car, becoming the
first state minister to do so. Eventually, the government says, all
ministries will be using low-emission cars for business. It won't
make much of a dent in overall emissions in this car-crazy country,
but, heck, at least it serves as a symbol to consumers, right?

But do consumers really need a symbol? Or do they just need more
choice? Toyota's Prius sells well despite costing about 500,000 yen
more than comparable gas-powered cars. Yet carmakers say there's
little demand for low-emission vehicles. Hmmm.

While Japanese carmakers deserve credit for being world leaders in
hybrid technology (which combines electric motors and gas-powered
engines to reduce emissions), and even the government officials
scooting around town in their hybrid cars deserve a pat on the back,
let's not forget that consumers, especially those who speak up and
tell large corporations what they want, deserve even more credit.

An example of consumers who make a difference is the Japan Electric
Vehicle Club (We interviewed the founder in the September 2001 issue
of J@pan Inc; link provided below). This volunteer group will bring
to an end this Sunday its cross-country electric vehicle tour to
raise awareness of electric cars. Two men have driven an electric
class-A Mercedes (the club members replaced the gas-powered engine
themselves) to the southern tip of Kyushu and back to Hokkaido, and
are now approaching Tokyo as part of a campaign to dispel myths
surrounding electric cars. Without elaborating too much, let's just
say electric cars are not slow, not hard to recharge, and not that
expensive.

JEVC President Tadashi Tateuchi put together the 2001 Tour of
Recharges, sending the two young men to knock on at least 1,000
doors and ask if they can borrow an outlet to recharge their car.
The JEVC has developed a network of more than 1,000 homes and
businesses willing to serve as electric filler stations (another
common argument by carmakers for not building more electric cars is
that there are no filling stations, but all you need is a couple of
extra outlets at your local konbini). Good work, JEVC. We hope the
carmakers are listening.

-- Bruce Rutledge

The Japan Electric Vehicle Club:
http://www.jevc.gr.jp/

"Telematics a-Go-Go," September 2001 (currently available for
subscribers only):
http://www.japaninc.com/mag/sub/2001/09/sep01_telematic.html

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++ NOTEWORTHY NEWS
(Long URLs may break across two lines.)

** BOJ, Think Tank Paint Dark Economic Picture

Extract: Sanwa Research Institute Corp. released a report on the
16th saying that the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington
and subsequent bombing of the U.S. will lower Japan's gross domestic
product for fiscal 2001 anywhere from 0.7 to 1.3 percent year on
year. The Bank of Japan also said on October 14 that the attacks had
hurt businesses, and it downgraded its assessment of the economy for
the fifth month in a row.

Commentary: Exporters may be most at risk, but the pain will spread
across just about all sectors, we think. But there may be a few
winners in the mix. Tokyu Hands is selling gas masks these days, and
a luxury retailer told us that its sales have been booming recently
partly because Japanese who buy its products overseas have decided
to stay home.

Report from Sanwa Research Institute:
http://www.sric.co.jp/report/sokuho/2001/0155.html

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** Toshiba, Matsushita in LCD Talks

Extract: Toshiba announced on October 17 that it is in talks with
Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. about integrating their LCD
businesses. The Japanese media reported that the two had agreed to
set up a joint venture by April 2002, but Reuters said the deal has
yet to be confirmed.

Commentary: Toshiba and Matsushita are already building an LCD plant
in Singapore, Reuters reports, and the industry is prime for
consolidation because of competition from makers elsewhere in Asia.
Screen technology is advancing fast, too. Expect more alliances,
including those that cross borders, soon.

News.com:
http://news.cnet.com/investor/news/newsitem/
0-9900-1028-7549121-0.html?tag+AD0-ats

----------------------------ANNOUNCEMENT------------------------
J@pan Inc magazine produces two other newsletters:

++ Wireless Watch (WW)-- Mondays -- A weekly digest of news and
commentary focusing on Japan's wireless industry. Stay up to date on
i-mode, 3G phones and everything else wireless with WW.

++ Gadget Watch (GW)-- Thursdays -- Looks at the latest gadgets
being rolled out in Japan and is the perfect newsletter for gadget
freaks. Note, however, that we're not responsible for any cases of
"Japan gadget envy" that develop -- in many cases the products
you'll read about are available only on these shores.

Subscribe, unsubscribe, and find out more at:
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We don't sell our lists to spammers, so breathe easy.
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** Government Puts Pressure on Internet Providers

Extract: The Japanese government released the text of a bill that
would put pressure on Internet providers to cut down online
slanders, according to the Mainichi Daily News. If the bill passes,
the providers would have to prove the authenticity of all claims of
privacy violation, and correct or remove the information as fast as
possible. The people or group making the postings in question would
be allowed one week to explain their actions, but if they do not,
the information is to be removed by providers. The Ministry of
Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts, and Telecommunications plans
to select organizations to be watchdogs. The bill is expected to
pass at the end of the month.

Commentary: Internet providers will suffer as the government
struggles to make realistic regulations to protect privacy on the
Web. This bill sounds reasonable enough on the surface -- who could
be against cutting down on slander and harassment? -- but if these
watchdogs turn out to be a little too prying and providers are
forced to waste hours, if not days, chasing down every claim of
privacy violation, no matter how trivial, then the new rules seem
like a waste of time.

Mainichi Daily News:
http://mdn.mainichi.co.jp/news/20011016p2a00m0dm019001c.html

Text of the bill (in Japanese only):
http://www.mainichi.co.jp/digital/houan/01.html

** Roger Boisvert Update: Reward Fund Online

We reported the murder of Tokyo-based entrepreneur Roger Boisvert in
JIN Issue No. 151 (Link provided below). He was robbed and shot in
Los Angeles just over two weeks ago. His friends have set up a fund
to raise money to use as a reward in return for information about
the person who killed him. Though Boisvert is mourned by many, the
people running the fund say they're still far from their target. If
you'd care to give, hit the link below for information.

Reward fund to find Roger Boisvert's killer:
http://www.boisvert.jp/reward.html

JIN Issue No. 151:
http://www.japaninc.com/newsletters/index.html?list=jin&issue=151

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STAFF
Written by Bruce Rutledge (bruce@japaninc.net) and Sumie Kawakami
(sumie@japaninc.com)

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