From the Editor

Back to Contents of Issue: March 2003

BOB SAPP LIKE MEL Ott, has a name made for crossword puzzles. But the 171-kilogram former football player isn't the type to spend his Sundays thinking of a four letter word for "nothing, in Nantes"; he'd rather punch you in the face. Sapp is the poster child for Japan's fight club, a hugely popular blend of martial arts and boxing that has two schools: K-1 and PRIDE. Sapp hit Ernesto Hoost (the man on our cover this month) so hard that he injured his hand in the K-1 championships in December, forcing him to pull out of the fight and giving the Dutchman Hoost new life (Hoost actually lost the match to Sapp). Hoost made the most of his second chance, beating Frenchman Jerome LeBanner in the finals and pocketing a cool $400,000. Fighting hasn't been this fun in Japan since James "Buster" Douglas KOed Mike Tyson in Tokyo 13 years ago.

Roland Kelts takes us into this fight world this month (Japan's Fight Club, page 14) and shows us why fashionable young Japanese women scream at the top of their lungs for the likes of Hoost and LeBanner. This is crazy stuff -- and the Japanese are eating it up. It's a form of entertainment they're willing to spend plenty on -- tickets range from JPY 7,000 to JPY 100,000, Kelts says. Pro wrestling and sumo associations should take note.

Also, photographer and writer Michael E. Stanley takes us to the remotest part of Tokyo -- 26 hours by boat from downtown -- to the Ogasawara islands. Developers have had their eyes on these islands for years, and it seems that only the weak economy has kept them from turning this wilderness paradise into Atami South. Does Japan need another Atami or Okinawa, or should the islands be left alone? Read Stanley's piece and judge for yourselves. (And history buffs may be interested to read Stanley's argument that the first foreign attack on Japanese soil during World War II wasn't on Okinawa; it was in these far-flung Tokyo suburbs.)

Finally, our real estate special features analysis of Japan land prices from Stefan Whitwell, managing director of American Property Consultants, and a tale from expat teacher Bob Juppe about buying land in Japan. Whitwell questions whether Japan's land prices, which have been dropping for years, are really a bargain, and Juppe tells us how to win respect as a foreigner buying land in Japan (hint: Carrying an extremely large wad of JPY 10,000 notes in your pocket doesn't hurt).

What else will you find in these pages this month? Intuit (Japan) and other Japanese companies are using MBOs to give themselves a semblance of independence; Xavel is pulling in revenue of $1 million a month selling high-quality, brand-name clothing, perfume and accessories to people shopping via their cellphones; IP telephony begins to chip away at NTT's 100-year empire; and Sony tries to rev up the lackluster Aiwa brand. Also, Darrel Whitten explains why gold is back. We hope you enjoy this snapshot of our little corner of the globe.

Bruce Rutledge

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