From the Editor

Back to Contents of Issue: April 2001


WITH THIS ISSUE'S COVER story, we investigate the P2P scene in Japan. In the process, we also explore the ideas surrounding direct peer-to-peer communications via Japan's mobile phones. We know that certain Japanese handset makers have prototypes that connect a keitai to a portable screen via Bluetooth, so why not connect a cellphone directly to ...another cellphone? And another, and another ...

The subject wouldn't be quite as interesting if Japan (and Tokyo in particular) weren't saturated with cellphones. But the presence of a tightly packed population of keitai wielders is breeding all kinds of business ideas, coming from myriad angles and perspectives.

Take Hirotoshi Kosugi. An industrial designer by trade (see www.systemcreates.co.jp), he's applied for a business model patent on a kind of wireless P2P variation. His idea calls for placing sekigaisen -- infrared devices -- on the walls of buildings and allowing passersby to download information via the infrared ports on their mobile devices. (One advantage of infrared over Bluetooth: cheaper components.) Along with the information could come a highly localized text advertisement, creating a new venue for the advertising industry (one that resembles billboard advertising in that it catches the attention of those passing by, but different in that they're more apt to reach for their wallets).

Kosugi's is just one of the ideas floating around now. Entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs all over Japan -- and here from around the world -- are only beginning to recognize the opportunities in this space. We've done some of our own P2P scenario-building in a sidebar to the cover story (see page 24).

Also in this issue, we explore how the mass media in Japan is being affected by, and affecting, the Internet. Hats off to our designer for the thought-provoking illustration (see page 27). Back in our February issue, Koichi Hori (the founder of Dream Incubator) said the four cancers of Japanese society are politics, journalists, professors, and labor unions. We wanted to find out if the Net is serving as a cure for one of them.

Certainly the Net is giving the Japanese more options and information. On page 14, we profile the president of a product comparison site called Power to the People. After 10 years as a strategy consultant for Nomura Research Institute, Masayasu Ariyoshi launched a site that resembles epinions.com of the US but has innovative twists we haven't seen elsewhere. Another startup with solid experience at the helm is ipTrend (see page 66), targeting Japan's small shops with an intranet-in-a-box approach. Mahendra Negi, the COO and CFO, was formerly with Merrill Lynch and was ranked by Institutional Investor Magazine as the No. 1 Internet analyst in Japan.

A few random tidbits:

  • AltaVista's free online translation tool, at http://world.altavista.com, lets you translate Japanese Web sites into English. Even if you don't read Japanese, you can go to a Japanese- language price-comparison shop like www.kakaku.com (focusing on tech gear in Akihabara) and see if you paid 5,000 too much for your PalmVx. The results aren't perfect, but they're good enough. (I won't tell you where the above example came from.)
  • We've added an email newsletter to our site: Gadget Watch (www.japaninc.net/gw/index.html). Posted every Thursday, it covers the latest and greatest gizmos being released in Japan. Kicking it off for us is Max Everingham, the man in Japan for T3 magazine, Britain's top gadget journal.
  • Who says cheap broadband isn't available in Japan? At my home in Setagaya-ku, I've been offered 100-Mbps Net access for just -- after all the taxes and fees -- 6,405 a month, plus 41,055 for sign-up and installation. The company behind the offer, available in just a few areas, is called Usen.
  • At Google.com, you can do searches among English-language i-mode sites. See www.google.com/imode?hl=en. Kudos to Google for being on the cutting edge once again.
  • This month the reader letters are posted online.

    Corrections:

  • Youko Kayama is an executive at, not president of, Net consultant Dos Tigres (page 40, March 2001).
  • Bruce Parker is executive vice president for Sapient Corp., not Scient Corp. (page 24, February 2001).
  • The Web Connection is not partly owned by LINC Media, the parent of J@pan Inc (page 26, February 2001).

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