Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

I just had lunch with Iwao Nakatani. I met him at the Sony Open Forum. Nakatani-san is one of the outside directors of Sony. He suprised everyone when he left his position at Hitotsubashi University to join Sony's board. Hitotsubashi is a public university which does not allow professors to take commercial positions. Nakatani-san is also well known for being very outspoken on political and economic issues. He held important advisory roles for the Hosokawa and Obuchi cabinets. He is now a professor at Tama University.

At the Sony Open Forum, he commented that he agreed with me that the dysfunctional democracy was one of the core problems with Japan. We talked a lot about the Japanese system today. We both agreed that "change was in the air" and that somehow we needed to change the system. It was very interesting getting his insight and advice. He liked the idea of blogs driving change, but he thought that I should also write a book. I wonder if I could write a book that ties together emergence, blogs and democracy in Japan...

Encouragement from intellectuals who actually try to change things like Nakatani-san is exactly what I need right now...


As a fascinated outsider I'd really like to see a book that outlines a plan to change the Japanese system. I guess you're the right person to do it.

Wouldn't an Information Age technology driven revolution in Japan be as significant as the French, American or Russian Revolutions? Hopefully not as a bloody but just as necessary with widespread implications globally.

There are a lot of stagnating democracies in the West that could be jolted by the Japanese example and their economies are heading in the same direction too.

Most revolutions start with an accessible, insightful and profound publication or two. Think Karl Marx. Think Thomas Paine.

"I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death. "

or of course

"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. "

It would be great if such a book could be published simultaneously in English and Japanese. In fact, I think it might be a requirement in order for the book to have the proper impact on all the right constituencies.

While I would applaud any attempts to get the word out on Japan's potential future to whatever audience is interested, I'm a bit skeptical as to the impact of yet another book on Japan and it's situation.

However, I do agree that a book by Joi might be an exception because his message could get to the key government leaders, the business elite, as well as the wider audience of the people of Japan.

But doesn't Japan know what it needs to do but hasn't been willing to do it for the past 12 years of recession?

I think Nakatani-san's point was that the people of Japan probably need a book about now. Ozawa's book was widely read and lead to his political base which he lost because he was unable to execute on his vision. I think Nakatani-san's point is that books have played important roles historically in "waking people up" and that maybe the people were ready now.

I'm not sure it has to be specifically about Japan, but maybe more about democracy in general with a focus on the power of the Internet and what an Internet enabled direct democracy might look like and how this would affect things like the economy...

korea seems to have embraced "smart mobs" of net youth becoming politically active you see similar stong trends in Japan?