From the Editor

Back to Contents of Issue: March 2004

The Editor's page

by Roland Kelts

Despite this country's manufacturing prowess, Japan has rarely been celebrated for ingenuity -- a fact that tends to obscure the nation's Promethean penchant for innovation.

But that may be changing. A friend from Harvard who visited recently noted the plethora of lighting options available in his Yokohama hotel room. In addition to the vast array of reading lights at every angle, there were smaller, soft-toned bulbs positioned near the bottom of each bedside table: perfectly discreet night-lights.

"Jesus," he said. "These people think of everything."

Thinking of everything for some 30 years in his laboratory in Tokyo's narrow backstreets, iconoclastic inventor, musician and entrepreneur Kohei Minato has just brought his vision to fruition, developing a magnetic motor system that generates energy. He's about to unleash it -- and investors are lining up.

But is maestro Minato for real?

We were skeptical at first, but a recent visit to Minato's Shinjuku workshop was powerfully convincing.

Innovation and imagination on these shores are not limited to the Japanese. Writer Richard Donovan trekked to Nagoya to check in with the director and producer of 100MeterFilms, the independent filmmaking team behind Firefly Dreams. The two British expatriates are an anomaly: foreigners in Japan making Japanese movies with Japanese characters and settings. Donovan's capacious story reveals just how far these enterprising foreigners intend to go, and how they plan to get there.

Elsewhere, our Los Angeles correspondent, Mike Thuresson, a longtime J@pan Inc contributor, explores the opportunities and obstacles faced by two Japanese restaurant chain giants launching their operations in Southern California. Tokyo Designer's Week -- an extraordinary event that links visionary art with vested interests -- gets our full photo-essay treatment. And LOOK contributor Michael E. Stanley crosses Tokyo's Rainbow Bridge amid chronic spring construction chaos.

-- Roland Kelts

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