JIN-446 -- People to watch out for in 2008

The 'JIN' Japan Inc Newsletter
A weekly opinion piece on social, economic and political trends
in Japan.
Issue No. 446 Wednesday, December 26, 2007, Tokyo

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People to watch out for in 2008

This week's JIN attempts to peer into future and identify who
might be making the Japanese headlines in 2008.

POLITICS
In many ways, 2007 in Japan was a year of 'out with the new and
in with the old.' This is hardly surprising in a nation where
year on year the population graph paints a picture of the younger
generation looking more and more like Atlas, straining to support
the world on his shoulders. In November this year the
government's Statistics Bureau reported that there were 27.53
million aged over 65 years old—that's roughly 21.5% of the total
population estimated to be 127.70 million.

Beyond the statistics one can't help wondering whether
demographical structure was lurking behind some of the political
events that we saw over the year—would a more youthful populace
have based their vote on issues related to pensions records?
Then, in September, Japan's youngest Prime Minister of the
postwar era, 52-year-old Shinzo Abe, quit to be replaced by
71-year-old Yasuo Fukuda. In the LDP there is no obvious, young
up and comer in the wings although when Fukuda does step aside—
which could be sooner rather than later given his recent dismal
performance in opinion polls—we will probably see Taro Aso
resurface as a potential candidate as might Sadakazu Tanigaki.

On the other side of the house, Mr Ozawa has had an eventful year
marked with both highs and lows. He will most likely continue to
give the LDP a run for its money, but he might also face
challenges from within his own party. In particular, Seiji
Maehara who has openly disapproved of the current party
leadership might try and jostle his way into the DPJ's top job
or, more calamitously, set up a rival camp.

BUSINESS
In business too, the days of youth, personified by Horie and
Livedoor seemed in 2007 to have given way to a return of the old
boys with headlines being devoted much more to Toyota and
Mistubishi than to any new start-ups. However, SoftBank and
Mixi have also both had very successful years and their
respective heads are likely to be even more active in 2008. This
year, SoftBank's 49-year-old Masayoshi Son started to see his
efforts really come to fruition. The 'White Plan' subscription
deal won the business waves of new customers—White Plan
subscribers swelled to over 9 million—and the deal with Disney,
not to mention the launch of flashy new Smartphones manufactured
by HTC, mean that Son is likely to take on an ever higher profile
in 2008. Meanwhile, Mixi's 31-year-old owner, Kenji Kasahara, took
his SNS service firmly into the wireless sector in 2007 with more
users accessing the site on their cell phones than on their PCs;
it'll be interesting to see how he crowns this in 2008.

This year also witnessed the end of Nova English schools which
finally closed its doors this autumn leaving thousands of foreign
teachers impoverished and unemployed. The Nova story looks set
to be equally interesting next year as G Communication, the
company that have taken over a large part of the Nova group, is
an innovative player—the owner, Masaki Inayoshi owns an
impressive portfolio of businesses, mainly in the retail sector.
G Communication was fined by the FSA for insider trading last
year and Inayoshi's boldness could see him take on a Horie-esque
role in 2008.

And, in the wake of Japan's first ever hostile takeover that
occurred this month, we can expect to see two or three more of
these in 2008, probably thrusting president of the Tokyo Stock
Exchange, Atsushi Saito in to the limelight more and more. Saito
may be 67 but his outlook is surprisingly modern and his
determination to take the TSE public in style by 2009 should not
be underestimated.

POPULAR CULTURE
It is not only in business and politics that young upstarts get a
kicking in the Japanese media. Early twenty-year-olds Yuuki Goto
and his sister Maki, who have both had high profile showbiz
careers, will no doubt continue to hit the press for less
glamorous reasons as Yuuki goes on trial for robbery and assault.

But there is media sycophancy too. The blossoming romance
between Sawajiri Erika and Tsuyoshi Takashiro is set to become
a great media bore in 2008—the 21-year-old actress and her
43-year-old film director boyfriend have been spotted by
paparazzi around Tokyo, normally in a car. It doesn't really get
much more exciting than that but if these two decide to get
married it has the potential to clog up the airwaves for quite
few weeks. Thankfully coverage is limited to 'Josei Seven' and
a few other rags at present.

As a more general rule, we are expecting 'talentos' (comedians
or TV presenters) to make more of a move into serious professions
as celebrity lawyer Toru Hashimoto is doing in his attempt to
become governor of Osaka (see the J@pan Inc Blog for more on
this: http://www.japaninc.com/node/2748).

Elsewhere, eatathon queen Garu Sone will most likely become
increasingly famous—Japan's thinnest greedy guzzler has started
to become a media darling this year because she can eat a lot and
yet remain 'cute.' And, one celebrity who might actually
disappear in 2008 is Yoshio Kojima, the Waseda university
graduate comedian who became famous this year for prancing around
in his underpants and saying silly catchphrases (also see J@pan
Inc blog www.japaninc.com/node/2743). He has apparently paid
off his Mum's debts and both he and his mother feel the time has
come for him to get a real job.

SPORT
This year Tokyo launched its bid to host the 2016 Olympics but
next year the media spotlight will fall on Beijing. Back in
October, we reported that Japan's performance in the Olympic
games has been steadily improving (www.japaninc.com/jin437)
but the pressure on Japanese contestants in national sports will
be immense. Former champion Hideaki Tomiyama, now head of the
national judo side, is likely to come under scrutiny as Japan's
recent perfomance in global contests has been somewhat under par.
In women's wrestling Saori Yoshida will be going for a gold while
Kosuke Kitajima has the same ambition for his swimming

In baseball, Senichi Hoshino, the Japan manager, has a chance to
make a larger name for himself in Beijing this summer and star
player Yu Darvish is likely to be the hero for fans. Meanwhile
Takeshi Okada will be keen to establish himself as coach of the
nation's soccer team, reportedly he's aiming for a top three
placement in the 2010 World Cup: he has his work cut out for him.

For more predictions about people and trends in Japan, see the
forthcoming issue of J@pan Inc magazine, available from 11th
January. We wish all our readers a happy, healthy and successful
2008.

Peter Harris
Editor-in-Chief

++FEEDBACK
Want to comment? It is now even easier to voice your opinion
than ever before! Simply post a comment below this article.
Alternatively, you can email it directly to the author at peter.harris@japaninc.com

++CORRECTIONS
Last week reported that there were 5 McDonald's in a 200 square
meter area in Shibuya, this is closer to 400 square meters. Also,
as one reader pointed out Ronald McDonald is simply known as
'Donarudo' or Donald in Japan. For readers comments on these
issues please visit www.japaninc.com/jin445

++SPECIAL NOTICE - IMMIGRATION PROCEDURES
WILL YOU BE LEAVING JAPAN OVER THE HOLIDAYS?
If so, you may be interested in finding out how to register for
the new automated gate system at immigration, brought in to
facilitate compliance with the new regulations that require
foreigners to be finger-printed. Download the information from:
http://www.japaninc.com/misc/automated-gate-registration

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************WHAT DO YOU THINK OF J@PAN INC?************
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