Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

bp2020_thumb.jpgFrom 4:30pm at Hotel Okura was the press conference for the "Blueprint for Japan 2020" initiated by the World Economic Forum. The agenda fits well with what I am trying to do in "activating" the young leaders in Japan, but on the other hand, it sounds like a lot of work. I'm hoping that it will overlap with what we are doing at Keizaidoyukai. Klaus Schwab is good at getting press so maybe this initiative will provide some exposure of the core issues as well as get some support from outside of Japan to force change in Japan.

Following are some quotes from the press release.

World Economic Forum

"29 August 2002, Tokyo, Japan - The World Economic Forum announces today the launch of its Blueprint for Japan 2020 project created by Professor Klaus Schwab, President of the World Economic Forum, within the framwork of the Young Asian Leaders Initiative. The objectives of the project are to identify and strategize on how Japan should approach its ten most significant challenges in building a revitalized Japan by 2020."

"The Young Japanese Leaders who are launching the Blueprint for Japan 2020 include: Business leaders: Joichi Ito, President, Neoteny; Oki Matsumoto, President, Monex; Hiroshi Mikitani, President, Rakuten. Politicians: Keiichiro Asao, Democratic Party; Motohisa Furukawa, Democratic Party; Yoshimasa Hayashi, LDP; Taro Kono, LDP; and Yasuhisa Shiozaki, LDP. Academics: Motoshige Ito, University of Tokyo; and Jiro Tamura, Keio University."

"The Blueprint for Japan 2020 will be presented to the 1,000 corporate members of the World Economic Forum at its Annual Meeting 2003 in Davos where young leaders will take into consideration comments from the international political and business communities and further develop the Blueprint."

I am on the inquiry committee working on rewriting the basic consumer protection law. We are discussing enforcement. I mentioned the FTC action against MS Passport. We talked about how something like the FTC is essential in Japan. Currently the privacy bill being contemplated doesn't link with the consumer protection law and there is no body that can attack a problem like the MS Passport issue from the fair trade, consumer protection and privacy aspects as the FTC did in the US. I have 45 minutes left until the end of the meeting so if anyone has anything that I should mention here, please comment on my blog.

I'm practicing blogging during government committees. One problem... my wireless access card interferes with the microphone in a big way. Pretty embarassing... when I tried to talked, I emitted a BIG howl.

Last week my uncle Hiro visited from Iwate to let me know that he was turning 70 and that I should start preparing to take over the family business. The family business is not really a business, but a family foundation that runs schools. The main school is currently a school for nurses.

When my parents divorced in the early 80's, I decided to change my name from my father's name "Izu" to my mother's family name, "Ito" because there was no one else to take over the family lineage in my generation on my mother's side of the family. The family has been in our house in Iwate for 800 years and 17 generations or so. I heard once that we can trace our family for about 27 generations. Our family was originally military strategists. My great grandfather was a geography teacher to the Emperor and after that our family has been focused primarily on education. When my grandfather was off to war, my great grandmother started one of the first high schools for girls in Iwate. My grandfather invested our family fortune in war bonds. My grandfather died before the end of the war and we were nearly bankrupt after the war. Our home was used as the HQ for the US occupation forces in the region. Much of our land was taken away and our family took what assets we had and poured them into building a foundation now called The Foundation for Global Education and Communication. We build a nurse school, a day care center and an English school. The government put a very formal looking sign in front of our house declaring the house "The former residence of the Ito family." I have to remember to tell them that we still live there...

My mother passed away and before my eldest uncle passed away, he declared that I was to take over the family lineage after my other uncle ran the family and passed it on to me. Running the family includes funding the foundation (very difficult when you don't have much money), taking care of the grave (17 generations. When I stare at the names etched in the gravestone, I realize I am merely a blip in the history of our family.) and taking care of the family home.

I'm not really ready to do this and this visit from my uncle was a sudden and frightening realization of my future fate...

PS The facts about the history are gleaned from memories of discussions with my grandmother and mother about our family. Therefore, I worry a bit about the accuracy. My uncle has hired a reporter to interview our great aunt who apparently knows more about our family than anyone else to try to get some of the facts cleared up...

Had dinner with Dan Gillmor. He was in town for a few days to visit with Noriko-san. We had dinner at Kanayuni. We talked a lot about blogs and the future of the audience. I've been looking for a word for what Dan is called the "former audience." I told him that that sounds like "The artist formerly called Prince" and didn't really sound very good. I wish someone would come up with a word for it. The idea, for those of you who haven't been keeping up with our dialog is that the audience and the players are connecting directly and disintermediating the journalists. The audience and personal publishing is making the audience the media... etc.

I introduced Dan to Nishimura-san, the guy who runs 2ch. He should be meeting with him this morning. That may turn into an interesting story. As blogs explode in the US, 2ch, the anonymous discussion site booms in Japan. I wonder if this is random or reflects a basic difference in Japanese and US culture. It is kind of cliche, but blogs are maybe better for opinionated people who want to become famous. ;-p

After Koyasan, we went to Kyoto. The evening we arrived, we had a great kaiseki dinner at Sakamoto, one on our favorite kaiseki restaurants in Kyoto. It is in the Gion district and is on the river with a great view during the cherry blossom season. After dinner, we went to Minoya, a tea house. I wrote about tea houses in 1994. Ichisuzu, whose photo appears in my entry from 1994 joined us. The picture to the right is a picture of Mizuka and Ichisuzu. Ichisuzu told us that Mamehide who I also met in 1994 left Kyoto to go to school to learn to be a painting restoration professional and that she was moving to Italy soon. She is the talk of the town.

Here are some pictures from Minoya.

Kaoru Yoshimura who runs the tea house is an old family friend. About 24 years ago my mother taught English at Minoya to the geisha and the maiko. Mrs. Fukui, the wife of my father's teacher, Professor Kenichi Fukui who would later win a Nobel Prize for his orbital frontier theory in chemistry introduced my mother to Minoya. Kaoru, who was the daughter of the okasan of the tea house, watched my mother teach. She was 17 or so at the time. When my parents took us the the US, Kaoru wrote my mother every day asking to join us in the US. My mother talked to Kaoru's mother and convinced her to let Kaoru come to the US and help take care of the kids. I was 3 at the time. She was my babysitter. After several months and 20kgs of weight gain, Kaoru returned to Kyoto. Her mother passed away and she now runs Minoya. I visit Minoya several times a year to catch up with everyone in Gion and visit temples, drink sake under the cherry blossoms and to go to the special events where the geisha and maiko perform.

I used wait until the guests left the tea house and sleep on the floor of the tea house. Now I stay at a wonderful inn called Iyuki. Iyuki is at the top of the hill over Maruyama Park and has one of the best views of cherry blossoms during the season.

Here are some pictures of Iyuki.

The next morning, Mizuka and I went to visit Mrs. Fukui. Mrs. Fukui was a very good friend of my mother. Dr. Fukui was my father's teacher and a great mentor of mine. Even when I was a small child, Dr. Fukui would spend hours talking to me about science. He was a very pure scientist who thought very little about his personal gain. He was so "neutral" that the Emperor often consulted with him on issues such as the notion of moving the location of the capitol. Dr. Fukui was the typical abscent minded professor and it was Mrs. Fukui's full time job to take care of him. Once, when he was going to Stockholm to give a speech at an anniversary meeting of the Nobel Prize, he forgot his Japanese Imperial Award medal. I was enlisted to take it to Stockholm and pin it on Dr. Fukui. After Dr. Fukui passed away, Mrs. Fukui suddenly had a lot more time to think, but less information from the outside. I have made it a point to drop in and see her when I can to talk to her about everything I am thinking about. With more time, she has reflected on many of the things that Dr. Fukui thought about. She has much more experience in education and religion than Dr. Fukui did and she has begun to develop many notions which I believe are essential for changing Japan. It was great talking to her after Koyasan. I talked to her about religion, the National ID and my unhappiness with the current government. She echoed our concerns and also told us she was very worried with the youth of Japan. She thought Mizuka and I were radical but that Japan needed a bit of radicalism to force change.