Editor's Notebook -- J@pan Inc Newsletters

Six years of news between the lines
by Catherine Chang

Nearly six years ago, one of the first issues of the J@pan Inc Newsletter (JIN) posed a question: Is the Japanese economy really in such dire straits? While many major headlines bemoaned the recession, the newsletter's take went against the current: the economy wasn't a lost cause, and a recovery wasn't just wishful thinking.

JIN's writer turns out to have been right. With interest rates inching up and consumer prices following, the economy has bounced back. Since the inception of J@pan Inc, the magazine's bevy of weekly e-mail newsletters has tackled these sorts of "big picture" issues - the fragile health of the Japanese economy being a recurring favorite - and has offered the nuanced analysis often missing from blanket accounts of a Japan paralyzed by economic woes.

JIN, the magazine's flagship email newsletter, has often filled these gaps by looking critically, not just at the mechanics of the Japanese economy, but at how different people imagine and experience it. For example, the recession bruited by the newspapers wasn't always in synch with the day-to-day experience of one writer, who looked around him and found a Japan that was still "mega-rich" despite the economic slowdown. Along with Terrie's Take, the popular commentary written by Terrie Lloyd, publisher of J@pan Inc, both newsletters break down business and technology trends in a weekly e-mail format delivered straight to the inboxes of 60,000 subscribers, completely free of charge.

But the newsletters go beyond what is 'strictly business.' They place economic trends in a political and cultural context, fleshing out a picture of a changing Japan. As the country looks to reinvigorate its economy, the effects of Japan's shifting demography - the plummeting birth rate and rapidly aging population - have been the subject of an increasing number of ruminations.

J@pan Inc's newsletters also cater to everyday needs and interests. Music Media Watch is a window into a fast-growing industry in Japan, perhaps in large part due to its close link with the world of wireless (witness the booming mobile ringtone industry, for example.) For the digitally inclined, Gadget Watch highlights the latest nifty products hitting the streets. Pricing is also provided when available, so you can stay up-to-date without burning a hole in your pocket. The ever-practical Frugal Watch reveals how to spend smartly as an expat on a budget, from tips on house-hunting to getting rid of household pests.

As Japan shakes off a near 15-year economic downturn, it's an exciting time to be covering business trends here. Whether providing analysis or looking into the quirks of doing business in the world's second largest economy, J@pan Inc's newsletters won't let you miss a beat.

This October, J@pan Inc kicks-off the latest addition to its newsletter offerings: Japan Automotive News, a guide for helping foreigners navigate Japan's automotive industry.

An Invitation to Ride
Launching Japan Automotive News (JAN)
By Jesse Chadwick

Surprisingly, not many foreigners in Japan drive, or even entertain the idea of car ownership. Regardless of the great rates for financing, it seems impossible to obtain a car. For one thing, how could you fill out paperwork written in kanji? But there are dealerships that cater to gaijin. Not only do they allow you to fill out forms in English, they usually offer cheaper and better rentals. So what's the best way to go?

If you are planning on coming to Japan and want to drive, then I want to help you prepare for your investment in a car and keep others from steering you wrong. For J@pan Inc, I will be writing an automotive newsletter, Japan Automotive News (JAN), covering such topics as the ever-changing market, interesting facts and information, and tips for visitors, expats, or people with an interest in the local automotive world.

Working in the Japanese automotive industry has been a rewarding experience, but was difficult to understand at first. As is the way of Japan, rules cannot be broken or bent, and you tend to hit many brick walls, hard. My job has been to create doorways and allow the foreign community to pass through those walls without bumping their noggins.

Subscribe to JAN and together we will dig into practical advice and answer feedback, update readers on upcoming events, illuminate the successes, missteps, and potential mergers of Japan's automotive giants, and ponder such conundrums as why a used Toyota Harrier (Lexus RX300) once cost more overseas than a brand new one in Japan. JI

To subscribe to the new JAN Newsletter, or any of Japan Inc's newsletters, please go to: Free Sign UP