The J@pan Inc. Newsletter
Commentary on the Week's Business, Technology and Cultural News
Issue No. 383
Wednesday September 6, 2006 TOKYO
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1. IT'S A BOY
2. MY SON TODAI BOUND?
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1. IT'S A BOY
This morning I was joined in the queue at the bus stop by
an elderly man. He suddenly blurted to me in English, "I
just heard on the radio Princess Kiko gave birth to a boy."
I shook his hand and offered congratulations. He surprised
me a second time when he said, "I dislike the Imperial
Family. The Emperor let 2 million Japanese die in the War."
Mr. Nakano, such was his name, recounted his life story.
After graduating from Tokyo Imperial University (the
predecessor of Tokyo University) with a science degree
circa 1941, he was sent to Southeast Asia, where,
because of his English ability, he was assigned to
supervise Indian and Allied workers building the Burmese
Railroad. After the war he enjoyed a brilliant career as an
engineer in the employ of three different oil companies,
which posted him to four continents. He indicated with a
sweep of his hand the swath of high-priced land across the
street. "That was all mine until I sold it. Do you know
what a tsubo is? Well, I owned 300 tsubo."
Yes, I knew a tsubo was about 3.3 square meters, and
realized Nakano-san was a rich man.
"I dislike the Imperial Family," he repeated. "The Emperor
let troops in the field starve. I didn't starve."
"I can see that. You're very fit for a man of 87."
"Two million Japanese died."
"Many foreigners also died in consequence of the war," I
added, thinking that the figure for Japanese deaths was
closer to 3 million. "But do you think the present Imperial
Family should be held responsible for events during the
reign of Emperor Hirohito?"
No answer was forthcoming. Nakano-san is hard of hearing
and the master of the monologue rather an interlocutor.
We boarded a full bus and he tactfully switched the topic
of his monologue to boring machines. I bid him goodbye as I
got off. I heard him telling a young woman he was
fluent in both English and French."
"That's wonderful," she said.
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2. MY SON TODAI BOUND
Every parent gazes at their baby in the crib in the hope it
will have a bright, happy future, and perhaps even
cherishes the notion their child will prove a
wunderkind. Parental love in combination with the absence
of markers for assessing infant genius lead to what almost
always proves a false hope as with the passage of years
parents realize their child is no prodigy and buckle down
to the task of raising him or her a decent human being.
However, I must confess it is possible my son, aged nine,
may one day pass through the famed Aka-mon (Red Gate) of
Tokyo University, the pinnacle of Japan's educational
ziggurat. The reason is not that he's exceptionally gifted
or gifted at all. Rather the reason lies in an
unprecedented problem facing universities here.
The "Nikkei Shimbun" reports a preliminary calculation by
the Ministry of Culture, Education, and Science showing
that applicants to two- and four-year colleges will reach
numerical parity with entrants in 2007. This means that
unless applicants are fussy about their choice of school,
they can go to college in Japan. In other words, an age of
open admissions is dawning.
The graying of the Japanese population, as you might have
guessed, has helped usher in the age of open admissions.
The population of 18-year-olds has plummeted. They numbered
2.5 million in 1992, but only 1.33 million in 2006. But
there is another factor--the creation of more than 200
four-year universities in the same period, such that Japan
now has 744 of these institutions.
The age of open admissions will deal a blow to financially
weak private universities. The number of universities where
applicants sitting for spring entrance exams fell below the
enrollment limit increased by 10 points to 40.40%. The drop
in enrollment could bankrupt some private universities,
which depend on tuitions for the lion's share of their income.
If that's the case, you would think securing the target
number of students should be sufficient to ensure financial
stability, and, by the law of the jungle, weak institutions
would succumb and that would be that. But there is more to
the matter than academic Darwinism. Although the population
of 18-year-olds is plunging, enrollment limits have not
changed. Which means, of course, that the quality of
students has dropped, and competition for superior students
is fiercer than ever. Admissions officers all agree that
the problem is not securing enough students but students
For the "Nikkei,' Info Brand, a research company, conducted a
survey of 1,000 adults about their views toward the age of
To the question, "Does the age of open admissions present
problems, "44.5% of respondents said yes, 39.8% were unsure,
and 15.7% said no.
The most-oft cited reason for not welcoming the age of open
admissions was that the number of students of low caliber
would increase. Not surprisingly, one reason for welcoming
the age of open admissions was that "I can more easily
enter the university of my choice."
As for my son. he will graduate from high school in 2015.
Will by then the number of 18-year-olds have dropped to the
level where he can waltz through the Red Gate? I don't know
I do know he will be able to get into a university in Japan.
JIN No. 382 stated incorrectly that the license plates of
Kei cars are embossed with the Chinese character for
"light." The error was pointed out by a reader, who sent the
url of an image of a Kei car plate as evidence that the
character was a figment of the writer's imagination.
-- Burritt Sabin
== Entrepreneur Association of Tokyo - September 12th ==
Speaker: Alex Serge Vieux, Publisher of Red Herring and CEO of Red Herring Inc.
Presentation Title: "Building great companies in the face of adversity"
Mr. Vieux has kindly offered to fly out from California to
speak at EA-Tokyo's September seminar. He will be drawing
on his extensive expertise as a high-tech journalist,
entrepreneur, professor, and advisor to the French
government. Mr. Vieux is currently responsible for
steering the growth of the organization and guiding the
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Entrepreneur's Handbook Seminar: 30th of September
If you have been considering setting up your own company,
find out what it takes to make it successful.
Terrie Lloyd, founder of over 13 start-up companies in Japan,
will be giving an English-language seminar and Q&A on
starting up a company in Japan.
This is an ideal opportunity to find out what is involved
and to ask specific questions
that are not normally answered in business books.
All materials are in English and are Japan-focused.
For more details: http://www.japaninc.com/handbook_seminar3/
The Tyler Foundation for Childhood Cancer presents:
Sports Extravaganza 2006, September 29 - October 1.
Cricket and rugby celebrities from the UK, South Africa,
India, Australia and New Zealand
will come to Tokyo for 3 days of sport, fun and fundraising!
Sports Dinner at the Grand Hyatt, Golf Day and Celebrity
All proceeds benefit children with cancer in Japan.
Shine On! www.tylershineon.org
For more information on the Sports Extravaganza 2006,
please see: http://www.tylershineon.org/index.php/events/sports_extravaganza
==================== ICA Events - Sept 21 ===================
Speaker: Andrew Perons, Manager, Risk & Compliance, Strata Works K.K.
Topic: "Corporate Governance - The Changing Regulations and Implications"
Details: Complete event details at http://www.icajapan.jp/ (RSVP Required)
Date: Thursday, Sept 21, 2006
Time: 6:30 Doors open, buffet dinner included
Cost: 3,000 yen (members), 5,500 yen (non-members),
Open to all - Location is Foreign Correspondents' Club
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