From the Editor

Back to Contents of Issue: September 2002

by Bruce Rutledge

AFTER MY UNABOMBER-LIKE TIRADE in this spot last month about corporate governance (but I'm right, I tell ya!), I'll keep this month's letter short and sweet. Anyone who has lived here as long as I have -- I lost count somewhere in the second decade -- has inevitably taken a trip to a Japanese hospital. And among the foreign community, horror stories abound. A friend of mine tells the tale of requesting an ice pack from a nurse to cool his dangerously high fever, only to find out that the hospital had run out of ice. He reached into his wallet, pulled out a JPY1,000 note and told her to go to Seven-Eleven and buy some -- which she did.

But to be fair, Japanese hospitals are not that bad (I am envisioning hate mail from maltreated readers already). The care is adequate, the cost not too expensive, so the system putters along. In our feature beginning on page 18 (Japan's Medical Revolutionary) we take you to a different world, where technology and plenty of money show just how good health care can get.

Kameda Medical Clinic seems more like a hotel than a hospital and big, friendly John Wocher seems more like a long-lost uncle joining the family for an afternoon barbecue than a hospital administrator. The center, known for its prowess in open-heart and neurosurgery, is a constant reminder of what competition can bring to medical services. It serves as a reminder that Japan's highly regulated socialist system of medical care is not without its weak points.

Elsewhere in this issue, we present Tokyo: The High-Tech Slum (page 46), a meditative photo-essay by Stephen Mansfield on the way Japan's capital city retains the look and feel of a slum in many parts, while remaining a sounding board for high-tech. Gail Nakada also takes us on a fast food tour as we try to figure out why the chains have all of a sudden decided that we need wireless Internet access via hotspots while we dine. Is it a brilliant stroke of marketing, or just a plain silly idea? Check out Wireless and Fries on page 27.

Finally, senior editor Sumie Kawakami gives us some insight into what Japan's largest opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan, is thinking in Pulling Japan from its Socialist Roots on page 8. She profiles one of its young leaders, Yukio Edano, a rising star in a party that is trying desperately to capture the popular imagination.

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