From the Editor

Back to Contents of Issue: March 2001

I'M NOT INTO electronic games, online or off. I spend too much time working in front of a monitor to find gaming on any screen entertaining. But when our Webmaster put a hangman game on our i-mode site (, I was forced to try it out. Much to my surprise, I found the dorky thing highly entertaining.

Even more to my surprise, so did thousands of other small-screen surfers. Nobody here in our office knows why the game became so popular -- we did zero marketing. It's bizarre. Who are you people?!!

Whoever you are, beware that I, mustering all my powers as a wordsmith, am now choosing the buzzwords and phrases you must guess. I will not make it easy. In fact, I'd say that stick figure is as good as dead. [Throws head back, laughs evilly.]

One thing I've learned: games and cellphones go well together. Of course, this has been obvious to people brighter than myself for some time now, and the latest handsets come with eight or so games pre-installed. This move, besides being a clear attempt by the industry to steal attention from our inexplicably popular hangman, puts cellphones in competition with Nintendo's Game Boy Advance and Bandai's WonderSwan Color, the latest handheld game machines. Such devices have been popular so far -- more than 100 million original Game Boy units have been sold worldwide -- but will soon join the walkman, digital camera, and PDA as victims of the killer keitai.

(Well, not really, but I think it's just plain fun to say things like that.)

DoCoMo has teamed up with Sony and its other global partners (AT&T Wireless, KPN Mobile, Hutchison Telephone, KG Telecommunications, Telecom Italia Mobile -- you know, those guys) to provide a wide variety of games on its handsets. Meaning users around the world could soon be playing PlayStation games on i-mode phones.

There's something I want to add here, but it would spoil the surprise for the next issue. Suffice to say I'm really, really excited about games on cellphones.

Also cool on the cellphone front are the new "firefly screens" being produced in far-away factories as you read this. By using organic compounds whose natural luminescence can be revealed by an electron jolt, a Japan-Korea joint venture has created the mother of all keitai screens. They're radiant, glare-less, energy saving, incredibly thin, and, most important, inexpensive to manufacture in large numbers (see page 6).

And yet, and yet ... surely there's more to life than Japanese cellphones? Yes! There's Japanese high-tech sushi! (And you thought we had a narrow focus.) Turn to page 7 to learn about an Osaka-based restaurant that automatically tallies what you've eaten and what you owe.

The sushi story comes courtesy of Associate Editor Kyoko Fujimoto, who later in this issue (page 34) reports on the tech venture scene in Kansai. An Osaka native, Fujimoto was initially skeptical of the assignment, but she came away impressed with her home region's startup savvy, and ends the article with an interesting insight about e-commerce Kansai-style.

Not to be missed in this issue is the interview with Dhananjaya Dvivedi (see page 14), general manager of IT at Shinsei Bank. Wielding an enormous budget, his challenge is to turn what was once the Long-Term Credit Bank (famous for failing to the tune of ¥340 billion in 1998 and then being sold to a US-led consortium) into a world-class, bleeding-edge financial institution. His final response in the interview is particularly enlightening. Here's a sampling: "Recessions, just like bubbles, don't last forever ... My personal view is that we're already two years past the bottom ... In all the doom and gloom that you read, people aren't seeing the future possibilities ... If you look at changes that are happening in the banking world, due to the recession, deregulation, all the new technology, this is one of the most exciting times to be in business -- in any business -- in Japan."

Smart guy.

One last note: we've added dynamically updated, carefully filtered Japan-related headlines from around the Net to our site. (See They're the same stories that we're reading every day, so if they're useful to us as editors, they should be helpful to our readers as well.


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