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Home > Interviews > Special Interviews Last Updated: 15:05 07/18/2007
Special Interviews

Teppo Turkki (Visiting Scholar, Waseda University)
Koreans use it for games. Fins see it more as a practical tool. Japanese, on the other hand, use information technology to enter a fantasy world. Broadly put, these are some of the findings of Teppo Turkki, a Visiting Scholar at Waseda University's Research Institute of IT and Management. "The Technology is not so important as such anymore. We have the same technology base everywhere," he says. However, patterns of use differ between countries, which Mr. Turkki attributes to cultural differences between South Korea, Finland, and Japan, the most advanced countries when it comes to mobile information technology.

He says the anonymity that many Japanese seek in the real world, for example, has its counterpart in the virtual world, where Japanese prefer aliases. There, "You can live your deep inside feelings much more deeply," says Mr. Turkki. Not so in Korea, where people use their real names. And the emotional attachment to IT that Asians show more broadly, is not seen in Finland. "In Finland, we've actually reached the saturation point in the case of technology", he says. "Young people are out to use less Internet. They prefer more face to face contact."

In this interview, Mr. Turkki also describes how IT, instead of compartmentalizing family life, is actually helping maintain family cohesion, by keeping a working mother and her son in daily contact. "It's not only a bad thing. It's very helpful also." (2005/10/21)

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Andrew Horvat (Japan Representative of the Asia Foundation)
In the 57-year history of Japan's current constitution, the Japanese Supreme Court has ruled on constitutional issues only 5 times. That record is in contrast to those of European countries like Germany and France, and the United States, where the idea of constitutional review is a bedrock principal in the judiciary. To Andrew Horvat, the Japan representative of The Asia Foundation, Japan's constitution is simply gathering dust.

"Many Japanese are unhappy with the present situation of an absence of constitutional adjudication. And so they should be." A constitutional court exists, in theory, to gauge the constitutionality of laws, and to spur legislatures to enact "enabling" legislation to make sure constitutional principles have the force of law. In some cases, it acts outside the normal judiciary, and in effect, gives the weak a shot at being heard.

"It brings the court closer to ordinary people," says Mr. Horvat, whose organization shared hosting duties for a recent symposium on a possible constitutional court for Japan. The speakers were experts from Europe, the US and South Korea, but the idea goes beyond mere academic inquiry. The Democratic Party of Japan, in fact, has called for the addition of a constitutional court in its draft for a new constitution. "We wanted Japanese policy makers to kind of be able to go to a department store and see what was on the shelf," says Mr. Horvat. (2004/9/24)

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Dr. Larry Kubota (CEO, Black Current Productions)
For a long time, movies and entertainment in Japan were "not considered real business", says Larry Kubota. And the results are clear. While Hollywood still defines the global movie industry, in Asia, China, South Korea and even India, through its glamorously staged Bollywood productions, have taken a leading role in defining Asian cinema. Mr. Kubota, the CEO of Black Current Productions, a fledgling film production company based in Japan, says Japan can be the setting for unique stories tying together East and West.

"There are so many rich stories that exist here in Japan as well as throughout asia," says Mr. Kubota, a holder of a Ph.D. in education and former official with the National Endowment of the Arts in the United States, "that if we can take some of these stories and turn them in to motion pictures directed towards an international market and produce them in English, we think that there is a real market for that kind of thing."

Following in the popular wake of recent Japan-themed movies like The Last Samurai, Lost in Translation, and even Kill Bill Volume 1, Mr. Kubota says the time is right for a production company like Black Current, which he says is drawing strong interest from potential financiers. "Now the world is becoming keenly interested in Japanese stories and the setting and things about Japan are viewed as being really cool right now." (2004/8/25)

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Dr. Rene Duignan (Lecturer, Aoyama Gakuin University)
Just one year ago, in the eyes of many Japanese, China was an economic menace, if not all-out threat. Hollowing out. Exporting deflation. Undervalued currency. All were hindering Japan’s recovery. Now, with China responsible for 79% of Japan’s export growth, according to recent government figures, the middle country is Japan’s recovery, or so another strain of current thinking goes.

Which is it? Of course, somewhere in between, says Dr. Rene Duignan, an Economic Researcher with a European Bank and Lecturer at Aoyama Gakuin University. While the evolving Japan-China narrative makes for "very good headlines", says Dr. Duignan, "There is a lot behind the actual figures that we need to look at," he says.

The controversy over the value of the Renminbi is one example, he says. Japanese politicians have faulted China for intentionally undervaluing its currency, (glossing over their own massive interventions in the process) and hurting Japanese companies' competitiveness. But according to Dr. Duignan, Japanese companies exporting from China benefit from the relatively weak currency in world markets. In other words, the issues defining the Japan-China relationship are not as simple as they seem.

Nor are they simplified by what Dr. Duignan describes as a "frosty" political relationship. Drawing on his experience with the EU, though, Dr. Duignan says there is hope, and a desire among some leading Japanese executives, that stronger economic and trade relationships can eventually trump the bad blood of history. (2004/8/4)

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Since January of 2003, the GLOCOM Platform has been bringing you the opinions of leading Japan experts - among them economists, researchers, university presidents, authors, and journalists. They've shared their views on everything from Japan's Iraq policy, to the current doings of the Yakuza, to the meaning of Ichiro, all on a unique, web-based media platform that brings their voices right to your desktop. We hope you've enjoyed our interview series so far, and we look forward to bringing you more in the near future. There's always more to Japan than meets the eye, and GLOCOM is here to show it. (2004/5/21)

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