JIN-232 -- Are Japan's Smokers Getting Stubbed Out?

J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
T H E J @ P A N I N C N E W S L E T T E R
Commentary on the Week's Business and Technology News

Issue No. 232
Wednesday, June 25, 2003


++ Viewpoint: Are Japan's Smokers Getting Stubbed Out?

++ Noteworthy News
- The TSE Ranks 18 out of 21 Markets in Trust
- Underage Sex Crimes Soar; Online Dating Blamed
- Japan and Beached Whales: If You Can't Beat 'Em, Eat 'Em

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++ Viewpoint: Are Japan's Smoker's Getting Stubbed Out?

A couple of us at J@pan Inc are smokers. One has a craving for Marlboro
Lights, and the other is rarely seen without his mouth clamped around a
cigar. We know, we know: It's dirty, unhealthy and expensive. But it also
makes deadline stress and wee-hour writing binges a little more bearable.
After all: Where would the Fleet Street hack or the mad muckraker at his
Remington be without a smoke?

We shouldn't really feel embarrassed about it, but recently, and even
here in Japan, we're starting to worry.

Occasionally we agree that we are lucky to be smokers in Japan, rather
than in our native towns of New York and London. For all its proclamations
of being the land of the free, the US has adopted a decidedly fascist
approach to dealing with its smokers. California has outlawed smoking
in all public places, and on the "cosmopolitan" East Coast, smokers are
quickly being driven into the underground. London is following suit --
many pubs are going "fume-free," to the utter horror of British boozers.
But for all its red-tape flaws, Japan has traditionally been a shining --
or smoking -- beacon on this front. Restaurants are rife with customers
happily puffing away; there are smoking carriages on the trains, and even
many offices still allow workers to smoke at their desks. Suddenly, however,
that grand concession to the right of choice is now being eroded. The rot
has finally started to set in: Japan is slowly being transformed into
yet another smoker's hell.

It was a sunny day last Wednesday, so we set out for a leisurely editorial
jaunt from Tsukiji to Otematchi. A half-hour stroll as the crow flies, and
a perfect opportunity for a pleasant smoke. Unfortunately, that is not how
the authorities of Chiyoda-ku saw it. Minato-Ku was fine with us puffing away,
so was Chuo-ku. Thirty yards into Chiyoda-ku, however, and we may as well
have been on Sunset Boulevard. A policeman kindly pointed out a sign that
threatened fines to smokers. He gave us the opportunity to put out our
respective carcinogens, which the cigarette-smoker duly did. The cigar-smoker,
however, unwilling to abandon the remaining half of a particularly fine Cuban
Partagas, flatly refused. A 2,000 yen fine later, we were staring into the grim
face of a new Japan.

Chioyoda-Ku is just the first to go. Other wards of Tokyo will be next, and so
will prefectures around the country. Private railway companies have already
banned smoking on platforms and recently removed the signs that pointed out
the smoking areas with great PR flourish. All of which was just about tolerable --
until the latest piece of anti-smoking bigotry came crashing down: The city
of Yamato, in Kanagawa prefecture, has said it will give preference to nonsmoking
applicants over smokers in its employment exams if marks scored in the test are
equal. A spokesman added that the city would also regard as a nonsmoker an
applicant who promises to quit. Yamato has banned smoking in its city hall,
except for those bold enough to climb up onto the roof, where the habit is
perfectly acceptable.

This isn't just the editors having a rant. There is a serious point to
be made: Japan's historically relaxed view on smoking was one of the things
that set it apart from other developed countries. But then again, so was
its relaxed view on corporate corruption, political bribery, heavy-handed
policing, racism and a whole lot more.

It is just possible that Japan is finally realizing that what happens in the
rest of the world does make a difference to this little archipelago. If real
change on those other fronts follows shifting attitudes toward smoking, maybe
even the editors of J@pan Inc will be happy to stub out their stogies. Maybe.

-- The editors


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** The TSE Ranks 18 out of 21 Markets in Trust

In Brief: The Financial Times reports on Tuesday that markets in Paris and
Tokyo are among the worst offenders when it comes to price manipulation,
which is defined as "deliberately causing a short-term supply/ demand imbalance."
Basically, this results in the benchmark index suddenly surging minutes
before the closing bell -- only to collapse back down the following morning.
The Paris bourse ranked 17 out of 21 exchanges surveyed; the Tokyo Stock Exchange
ranked 18, just ahead of embryonic markets in Taipei, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur.

Commentary: Establishing investor trust is one of the key goals of both the
corporate and legislative sectors in Japan. Japan needs to find its own approach
to establishing and ensuring corporate responsibility and market integrity --
and find it fast. We're hot on the case, as stories in J@pan Inc's April and May
issues reveal (see links below). In a forthcoming feature, we'll introduce one
Japanese securities firm that intends to revolutionize the field.

Financial Times

"The Debate Over Corporate Governance," From April 2003.

"Stalking the Corporate Corridors," From May 2003.

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** Underage Sex Crimes Soar; Online Dating Blamed

In Brief: Underage sex crimes are soaring in Japan, according to a white paper
released by the government on Tuesday, and the explosion in online dating sites --
visited frequently by mobile users via keitai -- is taking the blame. The first
year such crimes were tracked statistically (2000) the government recorded 71 victims.
Last year, the figure rose dramatically to 1,317, all of whom were under 20 years old
and fell victim to crimes resulting from their use of matchmaking sites. 56 of the
crimes were breaches of the law banning child pornography and child prostitution; 42
people were victims of violent crimes, such as murder or rape.

Commentary: "In dreams begin responsibilities," wrote the young Delmore Schwartz.
Schwartz was writing about an ill-fated love, not technology, per se, but the
marriage of love and technology in Japan and elsewhere can have terrifying
consequences. The proliferation of child pornography on the Internet has resulted
in rampant exploitation, easy access and an atmosphere of witch-hunt paranoia.
Here in Japan, where practically everyone's mobile, the admixture of restless
youth and sexual predation is volatile indeed. For a more benign take on the
online matchmaking revolution, see Debbi Gardiner's feature, "Love in the Age of
Spam," in J@pan Inc's February 2003 issue (below).


"Love in the Age of Spam," February 2003

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** Japan and Beached Whales: If You Can't Beat 'Em, Eat 'Em

In Brief: After Japan threatened withdrawal from the International Whaling Com-
mission in Berlin last week over its whaling conservation platform, a Fisheries
Ministry panel here announced on Monday a solution to the mysterious natural phenomenon
of beached whales: Eat them. Currently in Japan, as elsewhere, beached whales
that are still alive -- which is often their condition upon discovery -- must be
returned to the sea. Deceased beached whales must be buried or incinerated. But
the panel's report announces that such solutions are "too costly and dangerous."
If whale rescue is deemed too difficult, the panel concludes, the whales should be
killed -- and murdered at an early stage, so the meat is still edible.

Commentary: In a Kagoshima town in early 2002, 13 sperm whales beached and died
during a single week. Residents appeared armed with chainsaws in order to carve
up the remains. Whale skin fetches over 5,000 yen per kilogram; tail parts fetch
10,000 yen per kilogram, and a whale tail can bring in 2 to 3 million yen. There
does appear to be a PR problem here. Simply put, in the face of global criticism
fast approaching worldwide rage, Japan seems to be saying: If you can't beat 'em,


展haling and Japan,・from June 2003.

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Written and edited by J@pan Inc staff ( editors@japaninc.com editors@japaninc.com>)


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