JIN-436 -- Virtual communities in Japan

J@pan Inc Newsletter

The 'JIN' Japan Inc Newsletter
A weekly opinion piece on social, economic and political trends
in Japan.
Issue No. 436 Wednesday October 17, 2007, Tokyo

Virtual Communities in Japan

Intellectual Property-Jury System-Arbitration-ALB Awards
PLUS Failed Businesses in Japan & Women in the Workplace
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[Article Starts..]

Any consumer project in Japan with the potential to make a few
yen, quickly attracts the attention of advertising giant Dentsu.
It wouldn't be right to say that having Dentsu take an interest
in a company means that it has reached any special degree of
success—Dentsu make it their job to take an interest in pretty
much everyone in the market—but, it is probably fair to say that
when Dentsu start providing some decent revenue for a company,
its chances of survival in Japan are that much greater.

Clearly perceived as a big hit with the Japanese consumer,
virtual community Second Life attracted the attention of Dentsu
even before it launched in Japan earlier this year. Dentsu had
already founded their 'Second Life Study Association and
Second Life Laboratory Japan'—essentially a market entry
consultancy for Japanese businesses wanting to set up in the
virtual world.
They then developed their own section of the Japan version of
the world in creating Virtual Tokyo. Activated this summer,
users can already go shopping in virtual Shibuya, visit
fashion stores such as Cecile in virtual Ginza and even do
some real trading in the simulated financial district.

Since then, there has been a massive growth of interest in the
program. Earlier this month Mizuho Bank launched a Second Life
Ferris wheel and AFP reported this week that Japanese scientists
have developed a unit that allow avatars to be controlled by
brain waves as they traverse through the virtual environment.
A group of innovators at Keio University (which incidentally
has a Second Life campus) came up with the application via
their research into neuro-rehabilitation for those suffering
from paralysis. (To see a video of this in action visit:
In fact, even an Upper House lawmaker has started to campaign on
Second Life thus getting around laws that prevent him from
conventional online canvassing.

Another normal consequence of Dentsu taking an interest in a
company is that suddenly there appears to be an abundance of
media interest in them—Second Life have certainly had good
coverage in Japan. All the major TV channels, newspapers and
magazines have now run Second Life stories and according to
Reuters, who have their own Second Life News Center, Japan has
slowly been creeping up the top ten user countries list.
Another source lists them as high as third.

[Continued below...]

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A sample monthly premium for a 35 year old male for
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For more details: Response@pacificbridge.net

[...Article continues]

However, there appears to be a fair amount of competition on the
horizon. In particular, there has lately been a lot of media
hype about a homegrown competitor named 'Meet-me'—a
virtual community tailored specially for Japan. Set up by
digital marketing company Transcosmos Inc, this virtual
community strongly resembles Tokyo and the sun rises
and sets in real Toyko time. Transcosmos head Kunimasa Hamaoka
has been frank about the differences between Meet-me and its
more famous rival. He emphasises that the world of Second Life
is too dangerous for Japanese culture and that their version has
more of a 'sense of safety,' meaning that it will resemble
Disneyland rather than any harsher reality. Officially opening
in December, 'Meet-me' will soon be complete with
Christmas lights and of course, shopping cybermalls and
entertainment districts. How long before Dentsu start to take
an interest in them?

'Meet-me' is the the latest in a long line of Asian competitors
to Second Life. Earlier this year Splume (www.splume.com) was
launched in Japan, a virtual fantasy land that sets itself up as
an environment that is much more user created than other
applications and, SonyCorp's virtual 'Home' will be launched
next year. A similar programme has also been established
in China named HiPiHi which might actually give Second Life a
run for its money:

So, it seems like the virtual community scene is alive and
kicking in this part of the world but, if living lives through
avatars is going to be as big and common a development as the
internet, it still has a long way to go. By 2011, one
research firm predicts that 80% of the people using the internet
will also have another life in a virtual world. This is hard to
imagine at the moment however, presumably such movements always
are, and one would be forgiven for thinking that if Dentsu are
taking something seriously, so should we.

Today, one Second Life Linden Dollar is equivalent to 0.434 yen.

By Peter Harris
Chief Editor

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------------------- ICA Event - Oct 18 --------------------


Speaker: Robert Burnside - President, Empowr
Topic: Using 'Stories' to Create Winning Presentations

Details: Complete event details at http://www.icajapan.jp/
(RSVP Required)
Date: Thursday, October 18, 2007
Time: 6:30 Doors open, Light buffet, soft drinks included
Cost: 3,000 yen (members), 5,500 yen (non-members)

Open to all-venue is The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan