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January - June, 2002


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June, 2002

(Gall stones)
"Shortly after my recovery from attacks of gout, I picked up another illness, cholecystitis," says a senior member, "and now I'm recovering from it too." He is here Sunday afternoon in the meeting just breaking out from the hospital where he must spend the last few days before being discharged. "Two weeks ago, I had my gall bladder taken away," he continues, "the cholecystectomy was an easy one, a surgical operation aided by an endoscope." He was given general anesthesia during the four-hour operation. He had on his abdomen four holes each the size of the thumb. Through these holes, the fiberscope, surgical laser, pneumatic tube to blow up the intra-abdominal space and other utility cables were inserted. "I heard from my doctor," he further says, "this was a stressful operation for surgeons because we must do things all on the TV screen without directly viewing and touching the really affected parts." Recently, there was a case that a surgeon scratched by accident the colon of a patient who was undergoing cholecystectomy aided by an endoscope. The patient died a few days later. The conventional abdominal surgery gives doctors a broader view of the area they are physically tackling. But under an endoscopic operation, they see only the localized spot, which gives them a lot of stress. "Anyway I was treated perfectly," he says, "I had eleven gall stones in my removed cholecyst. People can live without gall bladder as they do without appendix." Some of the herbivorous animal, such as horses and cows, do not own cholecyst. It looks this organ is just needed for the carnivorous animal. Cholecystitis seems to attack more westerners than Japanese. In Japan, it says one out of ten owns gall stones while in the western countries one out of five has them. Those people who are expressed in 4F are more likely to suffer from inflammation of gall bladder; female, forty, fat and fecund.

(ESD Takatsuki)

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(Japan officially ratifies Kyoto climate protocol)
"As the Johannesburg environmental summit in early September nears," says a senior participant, "major countries are making arrangements to ratify the Kyoto protocol at home." A few weeks ago, Japanese lawmakers finally ratified the treaty. although they had taken time waiting for America to come back on the same stage. Fifteen European countries have also ratified the protocol. Some other countries such as Canada are still hesitating or reluctant to push hard to ratify it. "And the United States who is responsible for one quarter of the world total emission of greenhouse gases left the treaty last year," says one lady, "it offers instead its own proposal to tackle problems of global warming." The proposal seems nothing innovative but accepting wishes of the local industry who wouldn't like to spend too much cost for the environmental campaign. Developing countries like China wish first to push their modernization programs rather than to join the group who worries about global warming. Under the protocol, Japan is obliged to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases by 6 percent of the 1990 level on average between 2008 and 2010. "It's an awesome task," says a young member, "today, you see, CO2 emissions have increased by about 10 percent over the 1990 level, so on balance Japan will have to achieve cuts of 14 percent." Is it possible to achieve such a reduction? Here, our own lifestyles must be questioned. "Efforts are already being made to reduce emissions through various energy conservation campaigns," says a senior member, "it's interesting the government's March guide line asks family members to stay together in the living room as long as possible to save air conditioning in the individual rooms." The guide line also touches saving of the standby power of household appliances and introduction of a carpool or park-and-drive system on commuting to and from work. The car industry is putting importance on energy conservation vehicles (ECV) such as hybrid cars and fuel cell powered vehicles. Like in Europe, Japan will eventually introduce the carbon-emissions tax to drive people more positive towards energy conservation in their lifestyles.

(Japan's sovereign debt rating downgraded)
"A few weeks ago, Japan suffered a humiliating downgrade by Moody's to its sovereign debt rating," says a senior participant, "and this infuriated the government." Japan, the world's largest creditor with the largest savings surplus, the biggest current account surplus and largest foreign exchange reserves, has got the demotion of its rating to the same level as those of Poland and Latvia, or even a level below that of Botswana who is receiving every year Japanese ODA allocations. The world's second largest economy picked a fight with the world's three leading rating agencies, Moody's, Standard & Poor's and Fitch, about their inconsistency in rating the sovereign debt of a country. For example, when the United States was very much in bad shape in early 1990s suffering from so-called twin deficits, these rating agencies kept the country's sovereign debt rating at the top level. One of major securities houses in the United States also commented that the Moody's move was inappropriate. "But look at our present situation coolly," says a middle-aged member, "today we have nearly 700 trillion yen as the country's overall sovereign debt, namely 140 percent of GDP." And the national budget must get 40 percent of its revenue every year from another issuance of the government bonds. Unless the country could enjoy again a bubble economy, no drastic improvement is possible. "Under these circumstances,, the government started to drive a campaign asking its local people to buy more the government bond," says a senior participant, "this reminds us of the wartime nationwide campaign of the patriotic war bonds." People in Japan are said to own 1.4 quadrillion yen as their private savings. The government wants now Japanese to buy the bond that has become unpopular among those investors abroad. "With more globalization, however," says one lady, "Japanese would also prefer foreign currencies to local bonds when yen becomes unpopular and they even foresee so-called bond-dystopia in the future." If a capital flight becomes rampant, the country would plummet really into a catastrophe. Then, it will head for the only solution, hyperinflation!

(It's fragrance society)
"All sorts of artificial smells assail our nostrils today," says a senior participant, "and people are snapping up deodorizers and deodorants because they now prefer artificial fragrances to natural odors." The peculiar human-waste odor of public restrooms on the street or railway stations has been completely replaced with a deodorant. An adequate sewage system meantime introduced everywhere has largely contributed to the odor-free street. "You should know however one of the important components of an aromatic substance is a thiol compound," says a young member who is chemist, "and thiol is also contributing largely to human-waste odors." When such thiol compounds are properly modified and nicely formulated into a deodorant, it assails our nostrils effectively and pleasantly. So, the same thiol compound assails our nostrils badly or pleasantly up to its concentration. "It's natural we take a bath almost every day," says a young lady, "my French friend once asked me how Japanese could do it paying the expensive water bill." Perhaps for French people, it looks spraying perfume over themselves must be cheaper than taking a bath every day. Only up to about ten years ago, we were disturbed by human-waste odors from toilets of individual houses and public places, from honey buckets working on the street or from fields covered with the night soil. "But if a little boy tells his mother he smells toilet when he comes across blooming blossoms of Kinmokusei (an oleaceous tree)," one lady says, "we know how we are distorting the atmosphere of natural fragrances." We must become more sensitive to natural scents. These days, many men wear perfume or eau de cologne. One woman says I love that gentleman because he wears perfume particularly attracting me. This must be wrong. She loves him first and that is why she likes his smell. If she doesn't like him, anything first-class perfume he wears must bother her.

(Strong math skills boost salary)
A recent survey indicates that Bachelor of Art graduates in Japan who are strong in mathematics tend to earn higher salaries than those who have hated the subject in school. The proficiency gap could translate into a salary gap of as much as one million yen in a year. The survey doesn't touch the salary gap between humanities graduates and science course graduates. "Graduates of the science course were regarded as specialists," says a senior member, "and, in general, they were not competing with humanities graduates aiming at promotion to higher managements." It is understandable that employees who are strong in math could deal with day-to-day problems at worksites more rationally than those who shy away from the subject. "And as the result of such activities, they could demonstrate a higher productivity for their business sectors," says a middle-aged participant, "they are, therefore, rated as those for a higher position in the company." Under the present economy circumstances in Japan, however, companies have become not interested any longer in employees' individual academic records. Merit system or performance-based wages are going through the whole industry. The above study also indicates that graduates who are strong in the English language could also enjoy a positive salary gap. "It's clear," says a senior participant, "these days, to achieve success in business situations with more globalization, we must utilize 'rational thinking' in solving problems, we must be strong in English, and we must be able to use those electronic gadgets for the Internet." It is said that logical processing and languages are handled by the function of human's left brain. "I think logic alone couldn't make people get a breakthrough," says one lady, "inspiration is important for an innovative development and it is believed to come out of the right brain." Scientists say women have a more developed right brain than men while they have an equally developed left brain.

(Death sentence sought for accused woman)
At the end of the long-lasting trial, prosecutors demanded the death penalty for Masumi Hayashi, 40, accused of murdering four people with poisoned curry at a community festival in Wakayama four years ago. "It seems no one cannot understand the prosecution," says a young participant, "but we should know the poisoning case is based only on circumstantial evidence, because there were no witnesses and Hayashi remained silent throughout the investigation." When the case took place, the news media spotlighted overly the woman as the most fishy character. People in general were then brainwashed into the woman's peculiar character with the impact of almost tabloid articles in daily series in those days. It is said only Hayashi, whose husband used to work as a termite exterminator, had easy access to arsenic. "It was one of the main focuses of the trial whether components of arsenic left in the curry pot matched those of the chemical found in Hayashi's house," says a member, "here, even Spring-8 in Harima, the world's largest third-generation synchrotron radiation facility, was used for spectroscopic analysis of these arsenic compounds." Prosecutors say they are chemically identical and must have been manufactured at the same time and by the same production process. "Motivation of the crime for Hayashi is still not clear," says a senior member, "prosecutors conclude she just lost control of herself when she was accused for her tardiness by the community people." In her behavioral record, Hayashi is known to be short-tempered. She must be suffering character disorder. "If Hayashi was known to be a blowtop and character disorder," says one lady, "there should have been somebody else as a custodian who should be responsible for the murder case." Around us, there are potential criminals who are graded as a security risk. They should be firmly taken in custody either by their family members or by the medical institution. In those murder cases at Ikeda Primary School last year and the bus hijacking in Saga two years ago, for example, psychiatric hospitals having been treating the criminals do not indicate their intention to take responsibility for the cases.

(IF Osaka)

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(Rice-planting machines in Asian countries)
"I have some experience planting rice," says one lady, "in those days, people had to habituate themselves to hard farm work." It is tough for them to plant rice by hand in a half-sitting posture in paddy fields. To cover all of their own rice fields, they had to spend several days planting rice with their twelve-hour day labor in the paddy field. "Today, there are many weekend farmers who can finish their jobs smartly on Saturday and Sunday," says a senior member, "modern farming equipment enables them to keep their family farming business while they work for a company as salaried man." Rice transplanters work most busily in May and June throughout the country. The rice planting song is no more sung by the farmer. Nevertheless, the view of the carpet of water-filled rice fields offers wonderful feeling of the season. "In Asian countries, the farm work has also improved," says the senior member, "people use many farming machines." In such hot and humid countries, people can enjoy a three-crop a year farming. Introduction of farming equipment has given them heightened productivity. "One third of their farming machines are those stolen in Japan and sold by the car theft cheaply in such countries," says a middle-aged participant, "and these machines are working more efficiently here for their triple cropping." In Japan, the cost of production of rice is incomparably high. But the price for consumers is politically set lower than the cost by farm subsidies. At the food summit now held in Rome, leaders of developing countries are accusing such strong farm subsidies kept by the United States, EU countries, China, India and Japan. They say such subsidies would discourage developing countries from their competitive local farming.

(ESD Takatsuki)

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(Postman in the mountain still needed)
"Last week, I went to a Chinese film, Postman In The Mountain," says one lady, "I was much impressed by it." The popular movie produced in 1999 depicts the beautiful mountainous area in early 1980s in China where a wounded postman makes the last three-day delivery trek to underpopulated villages together with his son who is going to succeed his father as the postman. Because of his job, the father had been away from home at all times of the year as he repeated the three-day 120km trip on foot with a heavy postbag. The son couldn't even recognize the postman as his father. But in this mail delivery trek, the son becomes aware how his father has been playing an important role for people living in such underpopulated villages. "Then, the son had his father in honor," the lady continues, "throughout the trek, he could establish quite a rapport with his father." In the film, no gifts of civilization are shown, no vehicles, no electric appliances, no telephones and so on. The movie shows, however, natural beauty and high-touch contacts among the local earthborn people. "The film must encourage those lawmakers who are against the Koizumi postal reforms," says a senior participant, "they insist the postal service should cover all such underpopulated villages." Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is criticized by lawmakers from his own Liberal Democratic Party over his long-held goal to privatize the nation's postal services. Such conservative lawmakers claim offering services based on the market mechanism principle cannot coexist with providing equal and universal postal services. "In the current home delivery services offered by the private sector, however," says a middle-aged member, "I think, such underpopulated villages are equally covered without being charged extra." So, even that nice film couldn't be a textbook for denying the postal reforms.

(ESD Takatsuki)

May, 2002

(Statusy hotel goes bust)
"Just recently, I was surprised," says a senior golf player, "to hear that Kawana Hotel with its two major golf courses has gone bankruptcy." The Tokyo-based firm that runs the Kawana Hotel, an internationally known resort in Izu, Shizuoka, filed for court protection with the aim of rehabilitating itself under different ownership. The company is estimated to have liabilities of some 67 billion yen. The seaside hotel, established in 1928 by officials of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, was the venue for the April 1998 meeting of Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and Russian President Boris Yeltsin. In 1954, Hollywood actress Marilyn Monroe and baseball legend Joe DiMaggio spent their honeymoon there. "Its golf courses are touted as the best in Japan," he continues, "but the economic slump dampened enthusiasm for expensive golf." Around 500 companies have membership contracts at the hotel's golf courses, but demand has dropped very much. The hotel and golf courses will continue operating. However, the membership, the cost of which used to be the most expensive in Japan, has suddenly gone down in the drain. "For playing golf there," says the senior member, "you even needed 70,000 yen a day." They were mostly corporate expensers. Such entertainment expenses amounted to 7 trillion yen totally in Japan in a year in the bubble era. In those days, they commanded a considerable share in the country's GDP, nearly 1.4 percent. "For up to 90 percent of golf courses in Japan," says one lady, "the bottomline is in red today." The membership loses its value drastically. "We have too many golf courses in Japan," says a middle-aged participant, "without those expense-account players, they couldn't run the business." These days, if you have the membership of a golf course, you can play on a budget of 5-7,000 yen a day. It is no more imaginable that the cost of membership of a statusy golf course would be boosted again to tens of millions of yen.

(ESD Takatsuki)

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(Copy products made in China)
"In China, motorbikes branded with 'HONGDA', not HANDA, are racing round," says a senior participant, "home appliances with carrying a nameplate with 'HATICHI', not HITACHI, are overflowing." SOVY also attracts falsely those customers who wish to buy a SONY product. So far, Japanese companies with their brand authority has not taken a tough attitude towards such schlenter articles believing that quality would tell in the end. "But they couldn't keep their easygoing attitude any longer," he continues, "because the quality of such copy products is getting close to the real McCoy." Japanese manufacturers fear the case that bad money drives out good. Those me-too products will soon become no more bad money in quality. Japanese manufacturers have also their own affiliates and OEMs in China which must compete with the local suppliers of copy products. "The copy manufacturers don't have to pay an expensive license fee," says a middle-aged member, "they can run without such a costly top-heavy organization that normally exists in Japanese affiliates." The Japanese government is concerned about the intellectual property owned by its local industries being ignored by the Chinese unlicensed manufacturers. "30-40 years ago, we were in the same situation," says a senior member, "motorbikes, for example, branded with HONDA, Suzuki, Kawasaki and Yamaha were said in Europe to be the crude copies of BMW or Harley-Davidson." But, about 15 years later, these me-too products from Japan overwhelmed the world market and became genuine among the competing products from other countries. "Perhaps, in 2015, nobody would feel uneasy," says one lady, "seeing many HONGDA motorbikes racing about here in Osaka." How would HONDA be positioned then in 15 years in the world market?

(ESD Takatsuki)

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(Do-it-yourself delivery)
"This subject has been talked about in my country more than 15 years," says a young lady from Australia, "and some still believe unassisted birth is an ideal choice." To have mother's hands be the first ones to touch her baby seems so important for those advocating to go giving birth alone.. Most expectant mothers feel uneasy on visiting obstetrics. They are uncomfortable with the coldness and sterility of some hospitals. "We are improving in line with the desires of expectant mothers," says a lady who works at a hospital, "we are trying to make birthing rooms cozier and to treat them medically as little as possible." To gain a reputation among women, some hospitals are offering a first-class delivery package stay these days providing a gorgeous bedroom and good feed. "I think the prenatal care I'm receiving today at a hospital is very helpful," says one lady who is nine months pregnant, "doctors and nurses are very kind there and I don't feel uneasy at all although this is my first time." In Japan, unassisted birth seems to happen today only accidentally, not intentionally. "In olden days, of course, most mothers went giving birth at home either assisted by a midwife or only by women in their family," says a middle-aged participant, "childbirth is a working of nature, nothing disease." Nowadays, even in Japan, husbands join their wives in a prenatal training. They join their wives in the birthing room and share the birthpang with their wives. They keep encouraging their wives in labor. Some groups would continue to support a do-it-yourself delivery. At the same time, however, the present care system can be said to have largely contributed to reduce the number of stillbirth cases and health problems of the puerperant.

(Far-right conservatism burgeons in Europe)
"I couldn't believe it happened in France," says one lady, "with its long-lasting image of liberty, a far-right political group begins also to take a seat in the most liberalistic country in the world." In the last presidential run-off election in France, the one who ran for against Jacques Chirac was not Socialist leader Lionel Jospin, but far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen. Although Mr. Chirac could win a landslide victory in the final battle, it is still pointed out that Mr. Le Pen could have about 18% of the vote which is not negligible. Far-right political parties are gaining popularity in some European countries such as Austria, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. "They are supported by those people who suffer a high jobless rate and hardships of life in the drawn-out local stagnation," says a senior participant, "people are driven to hate immigrants for their taking over local job opportunities." Some say, however, immigrants are not stealing jobs from the local citizens. "They do mostly the dirty work that is no more liked by an ordinary citizen," says a young lady who has been just back from Paris, "these countries need the immigrant to a certain extent." Population of immigrants must be much smaller in Japan. Besides so-called cultural barriers, Japan is legally tight defensive against incoming foreigners. "If we look at the recent case of five North Korean asylum-seekers having tried in vain to flee into Japanese Consulate in Shenyang, China," says a middle-aged member, "it's clear we are not basically friendly to foreigners." It seems the Japanese government tries always to stay out of issues relating to the exile and refugee. As the world second biggest economic power, it is time for Japan to become involved more positively in such international issues.

(Import of whale meat from Norway)
"I didn't know that our government was under negotiation with the Norwegian counterpart on import of whale meat," says a senior participant, "I think we've already dropped our old habit eating whale. Do we need whale meat?" Now, some concerned consumers and antiwhaling groups are asking the government to give up its idea of allowing whale meat to be imported because of potentially high level of pollution. These people are concerned about mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls. "Whales are at the end of the food chain and accumulate all the hazardous substances of the earth in its blubber," one lady says, "and if we eat them, we are the last who must get the joker." A study of blubber from minke whales killed by Norwegian whalers averaged 3.7 parts per million of PCBs, exceeding the Japan's food safety standard. However that may be, it is strange a country which took no account on the IWC resolution on whaling moratorium some years ago and had started whaling as much as it likes, now exports whale meat to a member country who has been not allowed to hunt whales for many years. "We've protected whales too much and now face an ecological imbalance in the marine life," says a senior member, "whales eat too much sardines, saury and mackerels, and reduce our fish catches." Whale population must be regulated properly to the extent they don't take the share of human food. "Whales could be high-protein foods for Japanese who have not enough land space for cattle breeding and must therefore depend on import from other countries. "It's funny we couldn't eat whales that were accidentally stranded on some beaches in Japan recently," says a middle-aged member, "local governments had to spend substantial amount of taxpayers' money to break down and bury them." Some scientists say such incidents that whales are driven ashore may be attributed to a disordered sense of orientation developed in their brains due to population explosion.

(High cholesterol damages memory)
"Our single biggest fear about growing older is losing the ability to think and remember clearly," says a senior participant, "now, a study finds people with high level of cholesterol are likely to have problems thinking clearly." Cholesterol damages the brain in much the same way it damages the heart. It collects on the walls of tiny blood vessels, making them narrower and reducing the flow of blood. Without enough blood, the brain cannot function properly. "At the last health check-up, I was diagnosed as having a hypercholesterolemia," says a middle-aged member, "I was suggested not to have high-cholesterol meals." A healthy cholesterol level must be under 200. "You don't have to worry too much about the number," says a member who works for a pharmaceutical company, "there are goodie and baddies in cholesterol." The beneficial cholesterol largely contributes to our hormonal secretion and endocrine system. It gives us, for example, a clear complexion. "One egg a day gives you no problem," he continues, "at the same time, you should take more dietary fiber in your meals and do some physical exercises." Anyway, this is a pressing issue for only people 65 or older who must be cautious about becoming dementia. For younger people, they have still enough time to recuperate from potential brain damages.

(IF Osaka)

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(The World Cup soccer nears)
"On May 2, I worked for one of the Kirin Cup soccer games as a language volunteer ," says a middle-aged participant, "the newly constructed soccer stadium, Kobe Wing Stadium, was more than full for the match between Japan and Honduras with tens of thousands of soccer fans." The local FIFA organizer tried do draw a lesson from this game to prepare itself for the forthcoming three World Cup matches scheduled in the stadium. The first match is between Russia and Tunisia scheduled on June 5, followed by the match between Sweden and Nigeria on June 7. And another match for the second round, which is possible to involve the Japanese team, will be held on June 17. "For the Kirin Cup match, although the game started at 18:00," he continues, "we volunteers were at the stadium already at 13:00, and we were there until 22:00."" He worked at one of the ticket adjustment counters. Fans were allowed to enter the stadium already at 15:00. For a two-hour match, people must spend much time before and after the event. Visitors must go through the metal detector and baggage inspection. Their tickets are carefully inspected. "Here I felt the difference in the attitude between those with box seat tickets and those with economy tickets," says the member, "people heading box seats are tend to make insolent gestures to the ticket inspector while people for public seats behave with their heart in their boots." Most of such arrogant people did not buy the first-class tickets by themselves, but were given them by companies who bought up the booth tickets. "They must be the good customers of the FIFA cosponsor companies," says a senior member, "they are simply entertained as corporate expensers." On June 5, 7 and 17, there will be no train services on the JR Wadamisaki Line. Although the line runs most conveniently to the Kobe stadium, the local railway has too small capacity to take care of the massive soccer viewers. Attendants must move through the crowds either from the nearby subway station, Misakikoen, or from the JR Hyogo station.

(ESD Takatsuki)

April, 2002


(Discount tickets for railroad trips)
"Last week, we, a family of five,, made a one-day trip to Tokyo by the Shinkansen," says a senior participant, "we held a Buddhist memorial service for the dead parents at the family temple in Itabashi." The one-way Shinkansen ticket costs us 13,950 yen for 'Hikari' express trains, or 14,920 yen for 'Nozomi' superexpress trains which link Osaka and Tokyo, about 515km, in 150 minutes. "The JR Tokai doesn't worry about its ability to pull in more passengers," says the senior member, "they are not offering a big discount for their tickets." The Tokaido Shinkansen is the busiest railroad line in Japan and makes always a reasonable profit. Many other lines drive an attractive discount campaign attempting to compete with busses and airlines. "For this trip, we used the business coupons," he says, "we bought them at a discount-ticket shop in Osaka." There are many such shops nationwide where all kinds of tickets and cash vouchers are sold at a discount rate. "The one we got was 12,120 yen for Hikari, about 13 percent discount," he continues, "after visiting several shops in Umeda, I learned this was the cheapest ticket." The business coupon is mostly used by corporations to economize their traveling expenses. Some companies sell the book of such coupons to the discount-ticket shops at a price below cost just in order to produce an off-the-book fund. "I use the Zipangu Club card," says one lady, "this gives you a 30 percent discount for all JR lines. You can travel to Tokyo for 9,770 yen only." If you, either yourself or your spouse, are over 65 years old, you, or as couple, can join the Zipangu Club. On your club card, you can buy your ticket covering distance more than 200km at JR stations at a 30-percent reduced price. "This however doesn't pay for people who make just one trip in a year," says another member, "you must pay the membership fee of 3,600 yen each year, and the first three trips are not discounted at 30 percent, but only 20 percent." The club offers 20 trips a year which can be made at a 30-percent reduced price. Therefore, the system seems to be only attractive for a person who makes a lot of railroad trips in a year. "It will still pay if you make a couple of long-distance trips, such as a journey from Osaka to Hokkaido or to southern Kyushu," says a senior member, "but I think you would choose an air travel in the case, unless you are a railway buff." So the Zipangu system seems to be not so attractive for the elderly.

(ESD Takatsuki)

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(Tigers at high speed)
"Hanshin's magic run will end sooner or later," says one lady, "nobody can believe it wins the 2002 pennant race." The Hanshin Tigers may still be the best team in the Central League, but they are no longer undefeated. However, people rooting for the Tigers are excited this year about the team's unusual good start. "Last Tuesday I visited the Koshien ballpark," says a member, "it was already filled to bursting when I could get a seat in the upper infield stands." He says he joined the fanatic audience singing the victory song 'Rokko-Oroshi' in chorus for a while when the game was over. "Hanshin frenzy is boosting sales with those goods featuring the Tigers at the Hanshin department store in Osaka," says a lady, "I heard the frenzy would effect a 200-billion-yen inflation for the local economy if the team could keep its powerful advance." Since its last victory in the league in 1985, the team has stayed mostly in Class B, below 4th place. But its attendance at the team's home did not drop below two million each year during the past 16 years. "At least once every year, Hanshin gives us hope for the year's victory," says a middle-aged participant, "but it quickly peaks out." Having the new manager in the team, Senichi Hoshino, however, people think it is different this year. Ballplayers are highly motivated in the team. While the team does not have a high batting average, it still keeps its pitching strength. "I think Hanshin shows its real value now," says a senior member, "the new manager is taking it out smartly." Because of the team's onset in the local league, the TV audience seems to have shifted back from the MLB games in the United States where many Japanese players besides Ichiro are now active. "It's good anyway for us Kansai people suffering a far higher jobless rate than the national average," says one lady, "the Tigers will cheer up our spirits."

(ESD Takatsuki)

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(Discovery of gold mine)
"Since the moratorium of the payoff system has been just lifted by the government," says a senior participant, "those rich people having more than ten million yen in their bank accounts are shifting their assets somewhere else." As of April 1, each fixed deposit account in the savings-bank will be only guaranteed up to 10 million yen when the bank goes bankrupt. In order to protect monetary assets, some people keep them in hard cash or in bullion stored in the safe-deposit box. "I have six gold bars in the lock box of the bank," says another senior member, "I have to pay 14,000 yen a year to keep the safe-deposit box for use in locking personal valuables." During the past few months, the price of gold has soared to 1.4 million yen a kilogram, 40 percent higher than the price one year ago. It is estimated that the world has about 120,000 tons of gold accumulated on earth in the past several thousand years. And there will be only 60,000 tons left in the ore deposit around the world. "Yield is very low in gold mining," says a middle-aged member, "we can produce only 5-20 grams from one ton of gold ore." And in Japan, we have very little output from the local gold mine, totally, about 9 tons a year. In Japan, however, we have an excellent gold mine. That comes from recycling of electronic gadgets. "We can get 100 grams of gold by recycling one ton of mobile phones," says one lady, "gold is much used industrially in electronic components." Lead wires and connectors used in the electronic circuits are mostly gilded to achieve an absolute reliability. Out of one ton of scrapped personal computers, 100 grams or more gold could be collected. "Although it's a costly operation for workers to dismantle a personal computer," says a lady, "it will pay as far as the market price of gold keeps attractive." If we look into those gold mines around the world, it seems we will be bankrupt shortly in gold resources. "No worries," says a senior member, "we have billions of tons of gold concentrated in seawater." Of course, it is a minute amount of gold that is solved in seawater. For extraction of one gram gold, we need about 5 million tons of seawater that would brim four times the Tokyo Dome ballpark. Some day, however, such a technology that can take gold economically out of seawater will be developed.

(ESD Takatsuki)

March, 2002

(First salary not so memorial)
"Nearly one million college and high school graduates enter the workforce tomorrow, April 1," says a senior participant, "firms and government offices nationwide will hold ceremonies to welcome those new members." Such recruits faced severe competition for jobs. About 80 percent of university students have found full-time jobs. Many graduates who failed to get permanent jobs have instead opted for part-time positions. "Now, I remember, I often gave a speech at the initiation ceremonies," says the senior member, "and each time, I told new hirees how their first salary should be spent." Newcomers were recommended to return their thanks to parents by presenting a gift bought with their first salary. In those days, this was almost a standing phrase for a company manager to include in his welcoming speech. "But it didn't happen with me," the senior member says, "I have two sons who gave us nothing when they got their first monthly pay." And most other participants in this meeting say they were neither given anything by their children on that occasion. "I expected a tie for my husband and a kerchief for me," says one lady, "but my daughter didn't give us anything and instead we had a commemorative dinner together on parents' account." Children are not trained well how to express their thanks to parents. "I have my daughter who is working," says a middle-aged member, "she's a so-called parasite single who thinks that's the way it goes everywhere." Many kids stay with their parents without paying for foods and rooms. They don't do the cooking and cleaning. Their earnings are at their disposal. "I live a life just like that," says a young man, "and I think it's all right as long as my parents can afford to do so." So, this year's first monthly pay given to those company recruits will not be spent for ties and kerchiefs though some parents are still dreaming for them.

(ESD Takatsuki)

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(

Surf and turf delicacies in season)
"We are losing sense of the season these days," says a senior participant, "cucumbers, for instance, are available on the table in all seasons." Tomatoes and all kinds of vegetable are sold in all seasons. They are crops grown under glass. Deep-frozen fish replaces delicacies of the season. Eventually, people lose enthusiasm on the quality of foods. "We'll be satisfied with a quick-fix meal," says one lady, "nobody takes a serious view on in-season vegetables and delicacies." People can really taste the difference between hothouse tomatoes and garden-fresh tomatoes. "There must be difference in quality between garden-grown vegetables and greenhouse-grown vegetables," says a lady, "I think seasonable vegetables would contain something good for our health." Since many years ago, people have been living too much an unseasonal life, not enjoying delicacies of the season and staying mostly in air-conditioned houses. "We must have altered our physiological system by ignoring the change of the seasons," says a senior member, "in old times, we used not to suffer from hay fever so much." By overcoming the change of the seasons and losing feeling of the season, people must have developed negative physiological reactions in themselves to chemical substances and some natural products. It is important for us to get back to nature. We should enjoy those surf and turf delicacies in season.

(ESD Takatsuki)

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(Japan's population to peak in 2006)
Based on the estimated long-term birthrate of 1.39, the government predicts Japan's population to fall to about 100 million in 2050. It is expected to peak already in 2006 at 127.7 million. "With such a very low birthrate, calculation further tells we will be 64 million in 2100," says a senior member, "and only around 500 people in 3000." In the long view, population would not continue to decrease to that extent. The birthrate will spring back when the society becomes more friendly to those families having many children. "70 million people are not a bad idea," says another senior member, "we were just like that in the 1920s." Considering Japan's limited natural resources and food self-support rate, 60-70 million people are an appropriate number that can make its home in the small area. Big problem, however, is in the transition period of the country's demographic shift. For the next fifty years, the top-heavy demographic structure must be forcing the decreasing working population to support the aged. "To keep Japan's position as the world second biggest economic power," says a young participant, "immigrants should compensate for the loss of workforce." As the result of the long-term reduction of population, Japan would be shifting to another country where it will be kind to families with many children, it will be open and flexible to immigrants, and its society will become accepting multiculturalism down the road.

(Parents are responsible for truant students)
In some cities in the United States, parents are strongly asked to take responsibility for their own children playing hooky." For example, if a child has more than five unexcused absences from school in a month, parents can be arrested, charged with a misdemeanor, and face up to 60 days in jail. Such a tough anti-truancy campaign appears to be getting through to local parents. School attendance has improved and is at a 10-year high. And the number of juvenile crimes has dropped dramatically. "In Japan, we are also trying to involve parents in the truancy problem," says a middle-aged participant who is teacher at a middle school, "there are increasing number of parents who don't care if their children are kept in school." Most mothers are working away from home during the daylight hours. Those latchkey kids are free from eyes of their mothers and, also in these days, from eyes and peer pressure in the community. "But it's too much to say that truancy relates to juvenile crimes," says one lady, "there are many cases truancy happens by other reasons than simple hooliganism." Not only at home, there must be reasons in school and society to yield a truant student. We must look into carefully the individual case that causes truancy. And we must doubt if the current education system is suitable for children.

(Swiss welcomed in the United Nations)
Switzerland can no longer stand on the sidelines but must face international issues jointly with other members in the United Nations. Under the name of neutrality, the country kept its independence of the international community. But with the end of the Cold War, being neutral has been losing its significance. The entry will solve a long paradox whereby the UN based some of its important institutions in a country which was not even a member. Although the referendum of Swiss people narrowly approved the entry, the country showed its feeling that it can no longer endure isolation from the world community under globalization. The country's next agenda is of course whether it should join the EU community. "But what's the merit for other countries," says a lady, "does Switzerland extend more financial supports to the UN than its present contribution being given in the second largest UN capital, Geneve, next to New York?" Or, would the country be able to exercise leadership in the UN which is getting more at the mercy of only one superpower these days? Besides the slight regret that we are losing a unique country on the earth, the issue would not effect any impact on us.

(Bank of Japan buys government bonds)
In an attempt to pump more money into the financial sector and breathe life into Japan's ailing economy, Bank of Japan just decided to buy up more government bonds. With this decision, BOJ is going to purchase about 40 percent of the government's planned bond issuance (30 trillion yen) for next fiscal year. The bank says it would combat deflation by increasing bond purchases further if necessary. "This is a mechanism where BOJ prints extra banknotes and release them to the financial market based on the government's guarantee for refunding in future," says a senior participant, "but this is a dangerous drug that will lead the country to a state of hyperinflation." In wartime, people experienced the government's false guarantee. The government issued many wartime bonds to finance the mounting military expenditure. Those bonds became no better than waste paper immediately after the war because of hyperinflation. "I doubt if so-called controlled inflation is applicable to the present scene," says one lady, "inflation could not be regulated so easily as we like." Inflation will run quickly out of our control once the market hits a turnaround. In the present gloomy situation where the government's reform plans could not advance despite the strong desire of the public, we may have no other way than this palliative medicine. And everything goes wrong, don't worry, it's us who foot the bill in the end.

(Must be ready for environmental summit)
"I don't know if the Kyoto Protocol would be ratified in time by the lawmaker in Japan," says a middle-aged member, "industries became tough on the issue after the United States announced it wouldn't agree to the treaty." The Kyoto Protocol which had been proposed at the COP3 in 1997 and obliges developed countries to reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses, was finally agreed at the COP7 in Morocco last November. Industrialized countries have been working on ratifying the protocol and hope to put it into effect before the Johannesburg summit in August. Japanese industrial circles, however, present an objection saying that they are unable to compete fairly with the American counterparts who would not follow the protocol and do not have to spend as much environmental cost as Japanese do. "The alternative proposal presented by the United States looks not acceptable by other countries," says a senior member, "because it still admits a certain growth in the gas emission in accordance with the development of the GDP rate." America is responsible for the world biggest share of the greenhouse gas emission and global warming. Without the major player in the picture, the Kyoto Protocol will lose its significance very much. "For Japan, the obligation has been eased by half," says a middle-aged participant, "as we can calculate the rate at which forests assimilate carbon dioxide." It is estimated that the demand of oxygen for a person's aspiration can be supplied by twenty 30-year-old cedar trees. And carbon dioxide the person breathes out is also assimilated by them. But this is only a biological exchange. People emit severalfold greenhouse gasses in their civilized lifestyle. People's attention to environmental problems should be taken seriously. At the same time, the environmental issue offers opportunities to industries to develop various eco-friendly products and business models.

(IF Osaka)

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(ADSL achieves fast communication)
"Last Saturday, I started subscription of the ADSL, Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line," says a senior participant, "I don't have to dial anymore the local access point each time I browse homepages on the Internet and exchange e-mail messages with my friends." His personal computer had been paying the monthly phone bill around 6,000 yen. To connect the Internet, the computer first dials the local access point. One local call costs us about 10 yen for the first three minutes, then 10 yen for every one minute afterwards. In addition, he had paid Nifty, the Internet provider, a monthly fee, 1,200 yen. "In the ADSL contract, I only pay Nifty about 3,000 yen a month," says the senior member, "and I'm charged nothing by NTT." The computer is now hooked on the Internet around the clock. And the telephone is not bothered anymore by the Internet communication. Both the Internet and phone can work together on the same wire. "On top of the economical improvement, I can now enjoy a very quick browsing," he says, "it's no more a problem for me to see my colleague's e-mail messages that often contain many big size pictures." Subscribers of ADSL system are rapidly increasing these days. They already outnumbered those subscribing the cable TV network. "I'm sorry, however, the telephone company loses the substantial monthly bill sent to me," says the senior member, "this nationwide fashion would certainly damage its bottomline." In fact, the share price of NTT has become very low. It is only 15 percent of its peak price in the market. "And there, I've lost 85 percent of my capital," he says, "so from now on, I would be compensated for the loss gradually month after month."

(ESD Takatsuki)

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(Starting campus life)
"My elder son just starts his campus life in Kusatsu," says a middle-aged participant, "fortunately, he could get into one of the prestigious universities based in Kyoto." Recently, Kyoto-based universities moved their major school site to the suburban towns. "Kusatsu is no more a commutable area from our house in Hirakata," says the participant, "therefore, my son has to shop around for an apartment in the town." For students who spend a four-year campus life, there are many one-room condominium buildings in Kusatsu. The rent for such an apartment is around 40,000 yen a month. Still, there are some old-fashioned lodging houses available for a monthly rent around 20,000 yen. But they are not popular among students. Students like those modern bed-sitter buildings. Students are considered by the renter to be a good customer. Parents go security for them. College students move at a high rate of turnover. And on every new contract, the renter gets a reward worth three-month rent. "Anyway, we parents can rest easy now at least for the time being," says the middle-aged man, "as my son is going on the right track." His son will soon find a part-time job to get a little extra spending money. Parents will support their son financially throughout his campus life. "Time flies," says a senior member, "your son will face another big subject in four years." Japan suffers now from a high jobless rate, particularly, for younger people. Nobody knows if the country's economic situation recovers in four years.

(ESD Takatsuki)

February, 2002

(Household accounts very hard up)
One of the current best-selling books, "If the world were a village of 100 people" is written in a way easy to understand the prevailing inequality in the distribution of wealth in the world. "Similarly, we can learn how Japan's economy is ailing," says a senior participant, "if we shorten the big national numbers by seven digits, they bear easy comparison with those numbers in our household accounts." This is a family budget where the household expenditure amounts to eight million yen while the income is below five million. The family has been living this way for nearly ten years and got deeper in debt. The family's debt now amounts to 70 million yen, 14 times its annual income. "For example, a housing loan worth 14 times the annual income is never accepted by any banks," says the senior member, "the family has no other way than to collapse." Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi sticks to his campaign pledge that he would not expand the government bond issue beyond 30 trillion yen every year. But this still means the family continues borrowing three million yen every year against its annual income of five million. Now, the Bank of Japan has just raised its monthly bond purchases to 1 trillion yen.. "It means 40 percent of newly issued government bonds are taken up by the bank," says a middle-aged member, "instead, newly printed bank notes flow into the market attempting to shape a certain excessive liquidity." Nobody in the world has experiences with an effective method of controlled inflation to end such a deflationary spiral. "Some people already sniff out a hyperinflation," says a senior member, "they are lining up for buying gold in mass." In the past, deflation was solved only by social upheavals such as wars and national economic disasters where people should almost lose their accumulated assets. And another game started from the beginning.

(ESD Takatsuki)

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(Filing tax returns)
"It's time for us to do a tax return," says a senior participant, "a new tax return form has been introduced by the authority this year, but the system is still complicated." Most newly retired people have no experience in filing a tax return by themselves since companies did all the job for them while they were employed. Most Japanese companies are deducting tax from the salaryman's income at source every month. "Actually, in every December, companies do tax returns for each employee," says a participant, "and in the month, some pay an extra tax, some others get a return fortunately included in their monthly paychecks." Company employees do nothing about calculation of their own tax liabilities. Only in some cases, for example, when their spouses, or children, have big medical expenses, they should file the tax return with the amount which can be deducted from the annual taxable income. "Every spring, we face that big annual job disturbing our retirement haven," says a senior member, "we must study the tax system each time and give thought to all possible itemized deductions." He says now finally we feel a sense of involvement in all kinds of public issues as taxpayers. The new tax return form starting this year includes a signature block for the tax attorney who has prepared the document for the taxpayer. "This implies we should more use licensed tax accountants for individual documentation," says a middle-aged member, "yes, the elderly is rich enough to employ such a specialist." And most of such tax attorneys talked about in the public are the retiree of regional taxation offices. In the United States, such returns are quite often prepared professionally by tax attorneys. "But for cost reduction," says a member, "many software programs are sold there that can cost considerably less than most professionally prepared returns. In the United States, more than half the population now has Internet access. No matter how computer-literate Americans have become, many still fear taking the plunge into tax preparation. In the coming digital age where we must pay our taxes on the Internet, we need definitely a user-friendly program that can solve all tax problems and make us feel happy about the returns.

(ESD Takatsuki)

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(Knockout allergy season; cedar pollen)
"Before the pollen monitoring equipment on top of a building in downtown Osaka tells the allergy season is just around the corner," says a middle-aged participant, "we know it well. Ah-choo!" The pollen count is getting higher. As we had higher temperatures in January. People have been already hit. The eyes give it away first, being the telltale signs of allergy sufferers who have been zombies for about a week now. "Some did research on weather and pollen, hoping to forecast the start of the season," says a senior member, "it's the day when the cumulative temperature exceeds 400 degrees Celsius, summing up the maximum air temperature of each day after January 1." And the season becomes hotting up after passing the cumulative temperature of 450 degrees. So, the sniffle-and-sneeze hotbed has dug itself in Japan. "Rain occasionally washes the pollen away," says one lady, "but it can't cure the sufferer immediately." It seems the prescription is meteorological, not medical. "We must lie still until the tree-spawned pollen settles all on the ground," says a member, "but the season benefits ENT clinics and drug companies very much every year." As the number of allergy sufferers is increasing, therapeutic research and development of new drugs continue endlessly. Almost every year, new drugs together with a new theory come out in an attempt to remedy the sufferer. "Hay fever is not a fatal disease," says a senior member, "with its somewhat cartoonish nuance, allergy sufferers couldn't be too serious." They will try every new curative again this year. And each year they could not have enough time to confirm its positive effect before the season is over in early summer. Like other lifestyle drugs for obesity, baldness and sexual impotence, such medicines for pollenosis provide the pharmaceutical industry big money.

(ESD Takatsuki)

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(Speeches here and there)
"Last week, Makiko Tanaka, the questionable foreign minister, was sent to the showers," says a senior participant, "and without the most popular cabinet member, Koizumi now faces his approval rating slipping below 50 percent." Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi gave his policy speech at the House of Representatives. He said his "resolution to carry out reforms remained unchanged. "Koizumi's 50-minute policy speech was not so impressive," the senior member says, "it contrasted in quality Bush's State of the Union address last week." The 48-minute speech given by President Bush was interrupted 75 times with applause and standing ovations. The text would have been read through within 20 minutes if there was no interruption by the audience's upsurge. "Bush's performance was perfect," one lady says, "the speech show must have been prepared carefully and produced correctly by the stage director. Both the speaker and audience acted and showed exactly into the TV camera according to the stage direction. "It must be a tiresome physical exercise," says the lady, "for elderly attendants greeting the speaker so often by a standing ovation." Bush's State of the Union address was telecast live all over the world. "I don't totally agree to the content of Bush's speech," says a middle-aged participant, "but I must admit Bush is a good speaker, certainly far better than Koizumi." Japanese politician's speeches are mostly a page-by-page reading. Western speakers recite their text by rote and try to be interactive resonating the audience with their clear-cut messages. "We are not trained for a public speaker," says a senior member, "we are not habituated to making an impromptu speaking." In general, the speech text written for Japanese politicians is nearly a book language, not a sparkly spoken language. In days of globalization, those leading people in the society should be enough communicative to convince the public and talking partners of ideas they wish to sell. Makiko Tanaka is regarded as one of the few good speakers in the political world. Dismissal of the foreign minister has, therefore, disappointed the public very much .

(ESD Takatsuki)

January, 2002

(Restoration of Barmian's Buddha)
"A few months ago, I quit watching TV," says a middle-aged participant, "and I feel no inconvenience." Instead, he could make more productive time for reading and other purposes. "Blessings of civilization are not always enriching people's lifestyle," he continues, "but obstructing people's creativity in life." Industries and politicians threaten the public with a possible economic catastrophe and ask them to spend their money for unnecessary products and services. "They say we must buy more make-work articles and services to boost the nation's economy," says a senior participant, "but in this process, we are creating a deepening gap in the world between the rich and the poor." As civilization is sold to developing countries from the one-sided viewpoint of economic powers, the spoon-fed lifestyle could not settle among the local people in a harmonious manner but broaden the gap among them between 'have' and 'have not' creating animosity against each other. "I felt it rather strange," one lady says, "that the last international meeting on Afghanistan in Tokyo agreed to list the restoration of Barmian's Buddha among other pressing normalization issues." Is the restoration program really wished as a higher priority subject by the Afghan people who are mostly Moslem? The Iranian film director, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, recently wrote a book titled "The Buddha Was Not Demolished In Afghanistan; It Collapsed Out Of Shame." "Why that peaceful , idyllic local existence some 30 years ago has become completely lost?" says a senior member, "if the western power didn't touch the country, Afghanistan would have lasted as Shangri-la even today." Those who had damaged the country during the past 20 years sat together last week to discuss how to help the local people to revive, but again, to the taste of the world superpower. The earthian must conclude a proper global concept for harmonious coexistence until the day capitalism collapses out of shame as communism did a decade ago.

(ESD Takatsuki)

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(Daiei takes a tough challenge)
"Banks have just avoided the collapse of what once was the nation's biggest retailer, Daiei," says a senior participant, "but its revitalization plan is not an easy one." Out of Daiei's overall debts today, above 2 trillion yen, banks give up their claimable assets of about 400 billion yen. Daiei plans to reduce its debts down to 1 trillion yen in three years. With its projected annual profit, around 50 billion yen, this goal seems to be too high. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who had mentioned his understanding over the collapse of Aoki Construction last autumn as a positive outcome of the reform campaign in some business sectors, extended his concern this time to the fate of the giant retailer. "In the United States, the collapse of Enron is very much talked on the media," says a middle-aged member, "this biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history took place suddenly last December without much prior discussion although the country's largest energy company had strong ties to the Bush administration." And the case left thousands of employees without jobs and their retirement savings all but gone because the funds had been tied largely to now-nearly worthless Enron stock. Other investors and creditors also have lost hundreds of millions of dollars. "The accounting firm, Arthur Andersen, is now the target of criticism for its poor auditing," says a senior member, the complicated bookkeeping among Enron's group companies concealed the true picture of the general business performance." Accountants always take the side of their clients rather than investors or consumers. If accountants and auditors work well in conformity to the law, such a big bankruptcy or a corporate blunder would be prevented from happening.

(ESD Takatsuki)

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(Brand authority becomes vulnerable)
"It's no more a great help for companies sticking to their brand authority," says a senior participant, "Kirin, having long been the local best-selling beer, will soon be lost to Asahi." It is estimated that Kirin Beverage Corp., Japan's largest beer supplier, slips first time from the top position in sales in the business sector this year. During the past 10 years, while Kirin was on automatic pilot having enjoyed its overwhelming market share, always above 60 percent, for decades, Asahi Beverage made a drastic effort to increase its market share from its miserable position in the market as perennial loser 20 years ago. Asahi made it big with a hit product, Super Dry Beer, and started stepping up its position in the market. "A signature brand can't stand on its name alone," says one lady, "efforts to protect it are always needed." With time, Toyota may be taken over by Honda in sales who looks more aggressive and innovative. Ford has just made a management decision to stop its production lines for several historic luxury cars such as Lincoln-Continental. "Hanae Mori also sold her apparel business to a trading house," says a middle-aged member, "Mori's brand authority couldn't keep strengthening her business." Hanae Mori could not stay long in the market as the apparel mogul since the design was subject to competition with others and the attacks of cut-rate apparel suppliers such as Uniclo. "Talking of brand authority," says a senior man, "brand-name colleges still exist in Japan." People graduated from several prestigious universities are still treated better in the Japanese society, only because of their attendance record. The academic record-oriented society will not be promoted for the time being if the present economic depression further advances in the country. We know people with a beautiful academic background are not always the winner in the era of reform.

(ESD Takatsuki)

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(Harry Potter writes another Cinderella story)
"The books of Harry Potter already sold 150 million copies worldwide," says a senior participant, "the author is getting the heroine of another Cinderella story." Being a single mother in the depth of poverty and living on social benefits, J K Rowling started writing the fantasy fiction, Harry Potter, about five years ago. And Harry Potter soon became the best-selling hardcover in England and the United States. It advanced rapidly into many other countries in many languages. With its unprecedented popularity, Harry Potter has become the most circulating book in the world besides the Bible. The nation's poorest welfare mother five years ago has now turned out a billionaire in her mid 30s, one of Britain's few high-income earners even topping Queen Elizabeth. "After her first success with Harry Potter five years ago," says a middle-aged member, "the mercantile system followed to drive the boom further." The publisher effectively utilized the Internet and media in making readers think long for the next volume. The story is of course structured smartly, precisely and attractively to draw attention of young readers who have been considered to be no more bibliophile these days. But some still criticize it for being tinted with classism that can't be accepted in the present society. "Then, Japanese translator of Harry Potter had also a substantial share of the success," says a senior member, "Yuko Matsuoka, the translator and local publisher, could save her husband's ailing publishing company thanks to the book." Harry Potter already sold 8 million copies in Japanese translation. It was her luck that Yuko could win the exclusive right to translate all Harry Potter books into Japanese. "Something luck still happens," says a member, "nobody should say I'm too late." Let's wish Happy New Year the one that must give us a big positive surprise!

(ESD Takatsuki)

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Updated on: August 20, 2002

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