From The Editor

Back to Contents of Issue: July 2002

What's in our July Issue?

by Bruce Rutledge

JAPANESE CONSUMERS HAVE A lot in common with my mother. She's basically frugal, her savings account is impressive even by Japanese standards, she has no debt, but when she wants to buy something nice, she cares little about price. Mom buys Ferragamo shoes whenever the mood strikes her and stays on the club floor of the Ritz-Carlton when she goes on vacation. And she loves Martha Stewart, the all-American homemaker with the billion-dollar business empire who graces our cover this month. Will the Japanese also love the "charismatic housewife," as the press here calls her? As a guy, obviously, I have no clue. The stuff Stewart sells is as alien to me as a wireless LAN hotspot would be to my mom. I find it hard to imagine a human being paying $45 for a contraption that cuts cookies in the shape of the American flag. But they do -- and they purchase Sunbrellas and poolside journals and all sorts of stuff that I have never, ever wanted but that Stewart insists is "essential."

A twist of fate has made Japan a lot more "essential" to Stewart's empire than anyone suspected just several months ago. With her American distributor K-Mart wrapped up in criminal investigations and a nasty biography of Stewart climbing The New York Times bestseller list as we went to print, the US has become a little less friendly to America's favorite homemaker. Read how this whole drama is unfolding in Japan in Roland Kelts's article.

Also, Henry Scott-Stokes brings us an interesting portrait of Koichi Suzuki, the president of Internet Initiative Japan. Scott-Stokes trails the shacho as Suzuki tries to reinvent his own teetering empire. I met Suzuki at a photo shoot and struck up a conversation with him on literature. The rumpled man suddenly transformed as we spoke about old books, and Eiko Nishida was able to capture his smiling face on film. "The Japanese like Melville; they like whales," he told me. You can interpret that anyway you like, but I'm pretty sure this old-school businessman is not a member of Greenpeace.

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