Back to Contents of Issue: June 2001

blowfishUnwired. At the end of February 2001, approximately 65.3 million cellphones were in use in Japan. This marked an increase of 1.1 percent over the previous month and raised the diffusion to 51.4 percent of Japan's population. To deal with this disturbing shortfall, I predict keitai will soon be installed in rattles, teething rings, and the upper plates of dentures. Your finny correspondent, who detests them with a gusto bordering on fanaticism, has vowed to be the last man in the country to own one. Don't call me.

Selling convenience. How often do you need a convenience fix? Polled via the Net, 10.3 percent of respondents told Nikkei Business that they shop at a convenience store on a daily basis. When asked what other attractions would motivate them to drop in other than purchase of goods, 71.3 percent said a bank ATM, followed by issue of certificates of residence (necessary for school registration, car purchases, health insurance applications, et cetera, and currently available only from the city office during work hours).

Apathy and his friends. According to Newsweek Japan, in a comparison of young adults in 11 countries, Japan ranked fourth from the bottom in terms of political apathy. The combined figures for "basically indifferent" and "not the least bit interested" came to 69.5 percent. The three countries with even less interest: the UK, Sweden, and Brazil.

Don't stop the presses. Gartner Japan announced that domestic sales of printers climbed by an impressive 19.2 percent last year to total 8.21 million units, worth a whopping ¥186.7 billion. Roughly 80 percent were of the ink-jet type, popular with home users for producing New Year's greeting cards and printing the output from digital cameras. Many were sold bundled with PCs. Another growth segment was large-format printers for business users, which rose by 38.8 percent to total 137,000 units. By brand, Seiko Epson and Canon remained the big two, with market shares of 41.9 and 32.6 percent respectively. According to the Yano Research Institute, Japanese makers shipped an estimated 43.92 million units last year, an increase of about 10 percent over 1999.

Lighten up, pigs. A fully equipped Japanese riot cop typically wears and carries 12 kilograms of protective equipment, nearly half of which is a bulky duralumin shield. Noting that acts of hooliganism at the previous World Cup tournament in France culminated in 165 arrests and several serious injuries to policemen, the National Police Agency has announced that in preparation for Japan's hosting of the 2002 games, its men in blue would aim for improved maneuverability on the field by adopting equipment some "20 to 30 percent" lighter. Ah, the sporting life ...

Dimmer switch. The accusation that vending machines in this country are an eyesore has been acknowledged by no less than their own manufacturers. Recognizing that these urban lighthouses might dazzle drivers and pedestrians with their overly bright display panels, the Japan Association of Vending Machine Manufacturers announced guidelines calling for a reduction of illumination by 50 percent. This will take effect on all new machines shipped starting in October of this year. Lighting, by the way, accounts for about one-sixth of all power consumption in the case of soft drink vending machines, so there's a modest payback. Operators were convinced to go along after tests showed that brightness levels did not have any pronounced effect on sales.

Is English needed? In what fields are Japanese most likely to require ability to communicate in English? When Berlitz Japan conducted a poll last autumn, it came up with this surprising -- or perhaps not so surprising -- point. Physicians and welfare workers came out on top with 236 votes; but right behind were policemen with 158. The top 10 was rounded out by teachers and nursery school staff (with 148 votes); station employees (98); civil servants (94); convenience store and supermarket clerks (68); workers in the IT sector (64); bus and taxi drivers (60); salespersons (56); and food and beverage service employees (50).

Promoting English. Nikkei Business, meanwhile, drew 417 responses to its Internet survey on whether English ability should be required for job promotions. Of the respondents, 42.9 percent voiced their agreement, while 24.7 percent were opposed. (The remaining 32.4 percent were noncommittal.) Reasons for disagreement included "Overall ability is more important than English"; "Some jobs don't require knowledge of English"; and "There is no standard by which a fair evaluation can be made."

Job search. The Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare reported that 57.6 percent of soon-to-be graduates said they went to the Internet to seek out information on new job prospects. This compares favorably with 65 percent using the government's "Hello Work" job location centers and 49.9 percent who availed themselves of magazines and the classified ad section of the newspaper.

My system is down. Quick -- get me to an IT company! If you need one in a hurry, go to Akihabara. According to a survey released by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun in January, about 650 IT-related businesses are concentrated around Japan's largest electronics district. Among some 7,880 firms, the greatest concentration tends to be situated in the 23 wards of Tokyo, and of these, 43 percent are to the west of the Marunouchi-Otemachi business district. Based on the closest station, here's the Nikkei's breakdown after Akihabara, with the approximate number of companies in parentheses: Shibuya (450); Tochomae (400); Kayabacho (380); Ikebukuro (350); Shinjuku Gyoenmae (300); Tamachi (300); Gotanda (250); and Akasaka, Ebisu and Yokohama, each with 200.

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