Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Recently in the Reforming Japanese Democracy Category

Conversation with Kathy Matsui, Chief Japan Strategist for Goldman Sachs »

I've known Kathy for years from when I was an entrepreneur in Japan and later when I was a "business executive" and a member of things like Keizai Doyukai (Japanese Association of Corporate Executives). We were sometimes on panels together and would run into each other a lot at various meetings. Kathy, as the Chief Japan strategist for Goldman Sachs would often be about the important trends that were affecting Japan. I caught up with her recently to learn about women's role in Japanese business, business culture and a bit about Kathy's background and path. Audio on iTunes and...

Developer of Japanese P2P system arrested »

Today, an associate professor at the most prestigious university in Japan, Tokyo University was arrested today for developing a tool that enables piracy. The program is a P2P system cally Winny. Previously two of the users had been arrested. I got a call from Asahi Shimbun (Japanese newspaper) today asking me for a comment for the morning news tomorrow. I hope the print it. I think it's an absolute disgrace to Japan. While the US is fighting in congress, Hollywood pushing to ban P2P and Boucher et al are fighting for DMCRA, Japanese police go and arrest someone developing P2P...

Caring about the rest of the world »

As a child I travelled a lot, but mostly between US and Japan. I dealt with a lot of bicultural issues, but the rest of the world seemed far away. In the 90's I started going to Europe and Asia more, but it was always to "civilized" places. Several years ago, I became actively involved in trying to reform Japan and I was allowed to be quite vocal about this. Last year, I gave a rant at Davos about how broken Japanese democracy was. Afterwards, Ms. Ogata, the former UN High Commissioner for Refugees told me that I should stop...

Reforming the Japan Association of Corporate Executives »

Just got out of a meeting of the Association of Corporate Executives or the Keizaidoyukai where I am a secretariat member and was the youngest member when I joined.

Considering a revolution in Japan »

Several of us have been talking about a revolution in Japan recently and I've been interviewing many people about their thoughts on the need, the possibility and the correct process.

Japanese judiciary? What judiciary? »

Then, I hear from my accountant that some of the tax agency guys are telling people, "Why are you doing this? Don't you know you can never win against the government?" They all deny saying this later, but I heard this from a credible source. Well it is true. the government wins over 90% of the time. Statistically, this is true. But to have the gall to say that "you can't win." TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE FOLKS!

Op-ed in South China Morning Post just ran »

An op-ed that I drafted with the help of everyone here and here (with a final re-draft by Pamela from WEF) just ran.

Draft of opinion piece for Keizaidoyukai »

Here is a draft of my opinion piece for Keizai Doyukai the Association of Corporate Executives. I wanted to focus on identifying the dysfunctional democracy as the core problem and to encourage public debate and a global dialog without fear of "revisionists" bashing Japan as a result.

Draft of op-ed for the South China Morning Post »

Thanks to everyone for the feedback on my essay draft. I will try to break it up into the two specific essays for two very different targets. The first one is and op-ed for the South China Morning Post. (Not sure if it will be published yet.) I am going to try to focus on a brief history of the problems in Japan, the fact that the dysfunctional democracy is the root of the problem and some examples of how a revolution might happen. Again, comments would be greatly appreciated.

My draft essay about the revolution in Japan »

I've been asked by a variety of publications to write about my thoughts about Japan. I would love comments of my first draft.

Keiji Shima »

I found an interview with Keiji Shima on Charles Whipple's page. (I found his page linked from his comment on my retribution item.) He is more relevant than ever. Keiji Shima who passed away several years ago was the chairman of NHK, Japan's national TV station and the largest broadcasting company in the world. He started his career there as a political journalist and eventually became chairman. My mother was hired by him to represent NHK in the US. I often worked for him as his assistant and translator. My personal opinion is that Shima-san was ousted from NHK when he tried to make it "independent" and free from LDP control. Some people say it was the CIA. (I think this is unlikely.)I remember sitting in his office when he was chairman and watching the Diet session with him. He once picked up the phone and shouted at someone that he had told "so-and-so" not to say that in the Diet. My exposure to the tight relationship between the head of the biggest broadcast company and the politicians as well as the extremely brutal ousting of Shima-san by THEM was my first exposure to THE SYSTEM.After Shima-san was ousted, I showed him the Internet. To be exact, I showed him Adam Curry's MTV.COM and downloaded and played one of the first video clips Adam had posted. At first he wanted to know who controlled it. He asked, "Does Murdock own it?" I said, "No... No one does." He then asked, "Can I own it?" ;-) He quickly figured it out though and paid us to set up a server for him so he could launch The Shima Media Network in 1994. It was the first paid web page that Eccosys built.Very few people showed up at his funeral and even today I am sometimes "blocked" by people who know about my relationship with Shima-san and were enemies of his. Having said that, many people respect what he tried to do and believe that he was a visionary before his time.

Challenger on Plenary Session with Heizo Takenaka »

Michael Porter was the moderator and I was the challenger for a 30 minute session with our Minister of Financial Services and Economy, Heizo Takenaka. I was allowed to ask one question to Takenaka-san. I told him about the conclusion of the two sessions from yesterday. The conclusion of the first session was that there was a basic lack of democracy and diversity causing many of the problems and creating a resistance to change. There was not multiple points of authority, only one. The LDP. There was an inability to criticize power without fear of retribution. Plans are easy, but execution is difficult. Execution is left to the bureaucracy which gets in the way and prevents execution. Media and the bureacracy were the problem according to the first session. The second session yesterday blamed the lack of political will. When Takenaka-san proposed a very aggressve plan to take care of non-performing loans last year, the press slammed him and mostly reported the position of the bank heads. The bureaucrats were not supportive and the LDP tried to crush it. The interesting thing was the a poll on the Monex site showed that 87% of individuals were supportive of Takenaka-san's plan but that was not reported by the press. (reported it on this blog) I asked Takenaka-san whether he thought it was an issue of political will or whether he felt that the bureaucracy, media and the LDP actively got in his way and whether this was a significant barrier to execution.He said that Diet was in session and that this was a very sensitive time. He made a good point that the silent majority was supportive and that it was important to empower them. Having said that, he dodged my question, but the fact that he dodged the question was partially not to screw up the Diet process which is quite complicated and important. I think part of it was fear of retribution. I think his inability to respond was a response in itself.

Japan Dinner in Davos »

The good thing about being a table host is that you can request certain guests to be assigned to your table. I requested that Bill Joy and Paul Saffo get assigned to my table so I would not be the only nerd at the table.Every year, several associations in Japan host the "Japan Dinner" in Davos. Several years ago they changed the format from formal speeches, to a talk show sort of format where the extremely talented Professor Takeuchi would go around picking people out of the crowd to request comments. Since the format change, the dinner has become quite popular and this year there were over 200 people registered this year, the most ever.I was chosen this year to be the moderator of the "talk show". I was VERY nervous. Takeuchi-san is by far the best at this sort of thing and I knew I would not be as good. Also, I don't know all of the people so it's hard for me to pick them out for questions. Anyway, I tried my best. I started out with a wrap up of the day's events and then went around and called an a variety of people to make comments. I asked Sadako Ogata, the former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, one of the most impressive people I know. She wrapped up with with a very strong comment about Japan's role in the world. I wish everyone in Japan could hear her speak. She allowed us to end on a tone that made me proud to be Japanese.Overall, I think my speech was OK. I think my choice of speakers was weak. I didn't choose enough non-Japanese and I wasn't able to manage people who were talking too long. I don't know if they will ask me to do this again next year, but if they do, I'll make sure and study the attendee list and know the backgrounds of everyone in the room in advance.

Helping Japan avoid another lost decade »

This is the second panel on Japan. This panel represents more of the more established figures in Japan. The Challenger is Paul Krugman, the moderator is the Chairman of Fuji-Xerox Yotaro Kobayashi, Professor Takatoshi Ito, Masayuki Matsushita the Vice Chairman of Matsushita Electric Industrials, Junichi Ujie, President and CEO of Nomura Holdings Inc., and Malcolm Williamson, President and CEO of Visa International.This panel is focused primarily focused on more pressing issues than our panel and is more economics oriented.Here are some notes.

Davos panel meeting with Idei-san et al »

Idei-san pondering the future of Japan...We had a meeting of the members participating the World Economic Forum panel at Davos on the Blueprint for Japan 2020. It's such a huge issue... I showed everyone the picture that we drew (on my Mac... oops! ;-) ). Idei-san has been using the term "quantum leap" instead of "reform" and shared some of his views of Japan's problems with us. We still have some more homework to do before the panel, but I think we all agreed on the major points. I was appointed to be join Heizo Takenaka, the Minister for Economic and Fiscal Policy and for Financial Services on his panel which will follow our panel. There are three panels on Japan and I'm the messenger from our panel to his. I wonder who's on the other panel. Anyway, we're the first one so I think we can set the tone.

The cycle of resistance to change in Japan »

Had brunch with Yu Serizawa of the World Economic Forum and Oki Matsumoto of Monex and talked about the Blueprint for Japan 2020 and the panel in Davos. Oki drew a pretty interesting picture based on the discussions we've been having and I doodled it on my Mac. There are a lot of missing components, but the story goes like this.

Do structural reforms have anything to do with the recession in Japan? »

I'm still working on my Blueprint for Japan 2020 for Davos and focusing on trying to figure out what we need to do to "fix" Japan. I'm digging around trying to define the problem.The biggest problem is the recession, but it's just one piece. It's also a very visible piece. There are other less visible indicators such as the lack of entrepreneurs, high suicide rates, mental health problems, lack of political participating of the people, lack of diversity in politics, huge media companies with little diversity, 4% of the universities providing over 30% of the CEO's for public companies, the medical scandals, a judiciary that is unable to enforce the constitution, the difficulty in filing claims against the government and corruption at many levels. Reading Hiroo Yamagata's interesting proposal (from 1998) to increase VAT to simulate inflation, based on Paul Krugman's proposal in Japan's Trip. He says:Hiroo YamagataBut wait! You've been reading the papers, and they say that structural reform and bank clean-ups are essential for Japan's recovery! What about those? Well, those are definitely good things and should be pursued in their own right. But neither have too much to do with the recession.I think he has a point, but I think that's not a reason why we shouldn't continue to push structural reform. Although reforms don't have as much of a direct effect on the macro-economy as people say per Hiroo's argument, it's difficult to have a healthy economy without entrepreneurs, a healthy, open market, transparency and a democracy that people trust. I think that it is much easier to cause reform during a down market because people are willing to bite the bullet and change in order to survive, power-structures are more fragile and susceptible to change and people are in pain and possibly willing to become more politically active. Now there are a lot of "maybe's and might's" here but I think that when people are happy shopping and getting paid for doing almost nothing, it's pretty hard to stage a revolution. I guess one might argue that we don't need a revolution in Japan, but I think that without one, we won't be able to change into a truly functional democracy. Without a democracy, it is unlikely that Japan can be a global player in the 21st century. Again, a pretty bold claim... So now I think I've identified my homework.Is there really a problem with Japan or are people just upset because of the recession?IF there is a problem, how do you cause change? (You need power to change and you don't have real power in Japan unless you are on the inside and therefore unlikely to change.)Will structural reforms, in the long run, help the economy?I guess one of the short-term questions that I have to answer is whether we should talk about the economy and involve a bunch of economists in the debate or focus on democracy and deal with the law professors and politicians. ;-)

Second Blueprint for Japan 2020 Meeting »

Today was the second meeting of the WEF Blueprint for Japan 2020. Oki and I reported on our presentation in Geneva. Richard Koo, the chief economist of Nomura Research Institute talked about some of the macroeconomic issues regarding the Japanese economy which was really staggering to think about. 85% of the value of the land disappeared after the bubble. This is 3 years of GDP. That's huge when you consider that the great depression in the US was only 1 year of GDP drop in assets. The savings and loan problem in the US was only a 20% drop in...

Japanese workers least loyal to firms »

The Japan Times Online Japanese workers least loyal to firms, survey discovers LONDON (Kyodo) Japanese corporate workers harbor the lowest level of loyalty toward their employers among the world's 10 major economies, according to a British survey released Tuesday. Only 50 percent of Japanese respondents to the survey, which features the views of 362,950 employees, said they would wish to stay with their current firm or would recommend it as a good place to work. Researchers attributed the findings to a "Westernization" of Japanese attitudes toward the workplace and the nation's stagnant economy. Japan's figures rated poorly when compared with...

NIRA-Doyukai Breakfast on Saving Japan »

Yet another breakfast about how to save Japan... This one is co-sponsored by The National Institute for Research Advancement (NIRA) and the Association of Corporate Executives (Keizai Doyukai). The title of this project is called "The Action Plan for Reviving the Japanese Economy." The chair is Kanemaru-san, the CEO of Future System Consulting. This is the second breakfast. I presented my standard presentation at the last breakfast talking about the lack of a functioning market/risk-return model. Oe-san of Plantec is presenting today. He is talking about liquid space and communities. He is also talking about how speed is power......

Blueprint for Japan 2020 »

From 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...

Identity and Privacy in a Globalized Community »

I wrote a paper to present at Ars Electronica this year September 7-12 in Linz, Austria. The title of this year's festival is Unplugged - Art as the Scene of Global Conflict. I had a deadline for the book so I tried my best to put my thoughts together, but I feel like my paper is still a bit disorganized and unfinished. I'd like to edit it before I present it in September so your feedback would be greatly appreciated....

Trilateral Commission Speech »

I was invited by Yotaro Kobayashi, the chairman of Fuji-Xerox and the Keizaidoyukai to give a speech at the Trilateral Commission about reform in Japan. I didn't know what the Trilateral Commission was when Kobayashi-san called me. A quick google pulled up a lot of rumors about it being a secret society to control the world. The Trilateral FAQ says: Is the Trilateral Commission secret? A. Not at all. Right from the beginning, the Commission痴 membership list and informational materials on its aims and activities have been available to all free of charge. Each of the Commission痴 task force reports...

Lecture at Hotel Okura - Japan痴 New Economy »

I gave a talk at the Hotel Okura Executive Luncheon Meeting about Japan New Economy. It was printed in the Nikkei Weekly and here is the pdf file. The editor, Andrew Nichols, did a great job editing a rather rambling talk. Thanks!...

Japan's Digital Renaissance Man »

An article about Japan with an extensive interview. Nice article. Called me "Japan's digital Renaissance man" which has been used since in other articles. Thanks Time!...
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