From the Editor

Back to Contents of Issue: July 2003

The Editor's page

by The Editors

THERE IS A CHANCE that you're reading this issue of J@pan Inc by candlelight. Tepco, the troubled company that has illuminated the night sky of Tokyo for 50 years, has warned that Japan's capital could face blackouts this summer.

It's a grim prospect. Some years ago peak summer electricity use surpassed that of winter for one simple reason: Every building turns its air conditioning up to full when the heat becomes oppressive. Without power, Tokyo in July and August would be hot, sticky, dark -- and chaotic. In short: hell.

Although Tepco has its own commercial reasons for inflating their blackout threats (which we examine in an Upfront story), we do take them very seriously. Even if the lights don't actually go out, the fact that there is a risk at all points to a set of critical issues for Japan. Since the oil shocks of the early 70s, energy supply has been a growing problem dogging the entire economy. In 2003, the question of how the world's second biggest economy will power itself has surfaced with a vengeance.

This month's magazine is "The Energy Issue," and is devoted to just that. In the first of our two-part exposeof the Sakhalin story, Lucille Craft sets the geopolitical stage for the island's current encounters with Japan and others, and reveals the complex history that has shaped the former Siberian outpost. In a second feature, Fulbright Fellow David Wolman gives an extraordinary account of a recent visit to Sakhalin, drawing an intimate picture of the pace of change.

We envy Wolman and Craft, however rugged the Sakhalin terrain. The only way to escape Tokyo's turgid humidity, blackouts or not, is to get away.

With that in mind, we take you to Hokkaido for some gorgeous scenery and a gung-ho adventurer; to Seoul for that nation's biggest and most advanced IT exhibiton ever; and, somewhat insanely, down to Kyoto, the only place hotter than Tokyo in July, to meet some very special cabbies.

This being J@pan Inc, however, we always try to add some levity. Blowfish ends the story as he always does -- griping and gesticulating before slipping back into the seas. We hope you stay cool.

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