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
Issue No. 173
Wednesday, March 20, 2002
++ Viewpoint: A Contrarian Economist Says Koizumi Just Doesn't Get It
++ Noteworthy News
- Softbank to Sell Most of Stake in Aozora Bank
- Sony Robot Puts on a Show
- J-Phone Experiments With Medical Image Transfer
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++ VIEWPOINT: A Contrarian Economist Says Koizumi Just Doesn't Get It
For those of you cheering on Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in his
fight to reduce the size of government spending, Gregory Clark, the
chairman of Tama University, has a message for you: You're dead wrong.
"There are large areas in the structure of the Japanese economy which
badly do need reform," the professor says. "Unfortunately, that's not
what Koizumi and his friends are really looking at. They're more
interested in an economic policy of fiscal restraint and, until
recently at least, letting the weak go to the wolves, which in a
normal, healthy economy is quite reasonable. But when you have an
economy as weak as Japan's is at the moment, it's highly dangerous."
Clark wades through the 700 trillion yen in public sector debt and the
several trillion yen more in bad bank loans to point to what he says
is a tremendously important figure: Japan has 1,500 trillion yen in
personal financial assets. That's about $90,000 for every man, woman
and child. That is not a typo -- a nine followed by four zeros for
every person in Japan. In US dollars.
"You could have the most efficient enterprises in the world, but
without demand, you're finished. This should be obvious," Clark says.
The Japanese are happy to sock their yen away in postal savings
accounts, bank time-deposits and other low-interest vehicles like
government bonds. In other words, Japan is starved for demand.
It's not that the Japanese are cheapskates. Just ask the people at
Luis Vuitton or NTT DoCoMo. But Clark says the Japanese consumer just
doesn't want the things Westerners want. "The thing is that us
Westerners, particularly the Anglo Saxons, just want everything and we
want it now -- round-the-world trips, yachts, second houses, the
latest electronic gadgetry, second cars, third cars; you name it."
He calls excessive demand a "tremendous aphrodisiac" for an economy.
But it's rare in Japan. And while the West often chides itself for not
saving more, Clark points out that savings and economic health do not
go hand in hand. "We have this situation today where there is an
absolutely clear inverse correlation between economic health and
savings rates," Clark says. "America is at the top of the health scale
and zero savings. Australia is very close behind. Some European
economies are lower because they save 8-10 percent. And there's Japan
at the top of the savings scale, even during the bubble, and it's the
Read what solutions Clark proposes for Japan's economy, why he thinks
Shizuka Kamei is the LDP's best man for getting the economy back on
track (that's also not a typo), what he thinks of Makiko Tanaka and
Muneo Suzuki and where to find land in Japan that is cheaper than
land in Australia in a freewheeling interview in the May edition of
J@pan Inc magazine.
-- Bruce Rutledge
++ NOTEWORTHY NEWS
(Long URLs may break across two lines, so copy to your browser.)
** Softbank to sell Most of Stake in Aozora Bank
Extract: Softbank's Masayoshi Son has all but pulled the plug on his
one-time dream of using Aozora Bank to fund startup companies. The
Nihon Keizai Shimbun, a leading business daily, has reported that Son
plans to sell most of his 49 percent stake in the bank to raise about
$750 million. Softbank carries a debt load of about $3.7 billion,
according to CNN.
Softbank has yet to officially announce this decision. It told Kyodo
News on Tuesday that no decision had been reached, but the move would
be in keeping with Son's latest strategy of focusing the company's
energies on the broadband Internet connection market, specifically
Other major Aozora shareholders are Tokio Marine and Orix, with about
15 percent each.
J@pan Inc magazine produces three 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.
++ Music Media Watch (MMW): Tuesdays -- A new addition to J@pan Inc's
collection of weekly newsletters. MMW provides in-depth news and
comment on the major developments in Japan's fascinating and
fast-moving music media industry. Subscribe, unsubscribe, and find
out more at:
We don't sell our lists to spammers, so breathe easy.
** Sony Robot Puts on a Show
Extract: The latest entertainment robot from Sony, unveiled yesterday,
can sing in vibrato, do a little two-step, or a "complicated,
personalized" dance, Sony says, and can recognize images and sound.
The bipedal SDR-4X (how's that for a catchy name?) is 60 cm tall and
can "adapt its performance to its environment and situations found in
the home," according to Sony.
This new entertainment robot is chock full of sensors that control 38
joints in real time. It can control its movements based on memory,
Sony says, and it has cameras in its head to help it recognize
people. Sony has not set a date for putting the little chap on sale.
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** J-Phone Experiments With Medical Image Transfer
Extract: J-phone has developed a system to transfer medical images via
its cellphone network. By connecting a phone to medical equipment,
such as X-ray machines, CT scanners and magnetic resonance imagers
(MRIs), the technology allows the transfer of two-dimensional digital
images for remote diagnosis. In collaboration with Philips Medical
Systems and INFOCOM, the company is currently testing the reliability
of the technology. J-Phone is also planning to up the quality to deal
with three-dimensional images.
From Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun, March 19, 2002
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