From the Editor

Back to Contents of Issue: June 2001

Kismet and Connections

THE PROCESS OF PUTTING together each issue of J@pan Inc never fails to amaze me, and it feels like we go from a few vague ideas jotted on a napkin or the white board to a fully fleshed-out issue with nary a hiccup. The reality, of course, is more complex. Each story involves planning, interviews (some missed, some late), phone calls (lots missed), online research (sometimes tedious), fact checking, cross-checking, and, of course, numerous email messages. One editor was recently chastised by tech support for exceeding his mail server inbox limit by about 40 megabytes (OK -- it was me)!

Chance also plays a role. I met freelance writer Sumie Kawakami when researching the Freeing of the Press story for the April issue. Sumie is smart, fluently bilingual, and has a master's degree from a Canadian university. She also has lots of experience working at Japanese newspapers and at CNN, so it was natural to ask if she had any time on the side to pick up a freelance gig. She did, and the result is "Special Report: Online Brokers," on page 56, an excellent review of Japan's online brokering battlefield and one of the most comprehensive reports we've ever done on the players competing for a slice of the Web trading market.

Another kismet contact came when one of the editors happened to email a contact at a publishing company, and, as a result, we were able to line up a date and time to interview i-mode's Takeshi Natsuno (see "Takeshi Natsuno: The Incrementalist," on page 34). Problem was, Natsuno has to be one of Tokyo's (and by extension, Japan's) busiest guys, and he had no time for a formal photo sitting. We despaired of getting a shot good enough for the feature, much less to use on the cover. But our art staff took up the challenge, and art director Andrew Pothecary was able to grab some excellent photos in about 7 minutes in the 32nd floor reception area of NTT DoCoMo headquarters -- at 5:25 in the afternoon with the light rapidly fading.

Of course, the genesis of some stories has nothing to do with kismet and everything to do with J@pan Inc being in its 20th month of publication. We've got lots of articles we can go back to now and see how we did with our crystal ball. What better story to revisit than our September 2000 cover feature on Five Hot Startups? By naming Cybird, Cybozu, eAccess, Infoteria, and Open Loop as our picks for Net economy success, we really put our money where our editorial mouth is. Not to worry -- they're all doing pretty well despite the market doldrums, and we present a quick update in Updata on page 10.

And there's always pressure trying to get the features -- and sections like Statistics -- updated on the final day before printing. It's a great feeling to have an issue neatly put to bed, but that can evaporate in an instant after opening the morning paper and discovering that a story we've covered has just been completely upended by some breaking news. Luckily there's the Internet (oh, yeah -- the Internet), and when that happens, we can use the J@pan Inc Web site or one of our newsletters to help spread the word, suitably annotated with our own inimitable point of view.

The Web site appears to be doing pretty well, thanks to you, and we've long surpassed 200,000 page views per month. The newsletters are also growing by leaps and bounds, and JIN, Gadget Watch, and Wireless Watch have all picked up a loyal following that grows every week. If you're looking for solid analysis of Japan's Net news, a rundown of the coolest gadgets, or an insider's view of this country's wireless revolution, drop off your email address at the newsletter sign-up page (we promise never to spam you or furnish your address to anyone else).

Meanwhile, we're already putting together the next issue, and I have to finish this letter -- not, mind you, to work on a story, but to delete some of those 40 megs of mail!

-- Daniel Scuka, Editor at Large

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