GLOCOM Platform
debates Media Reviews Tech Reviews Special Topics Books & Journals
Summary Page
Search with Google
Home > Interviews > Special Interviews Last Updated: 14:36 03/09/2007
Special Interviews

Yoshifumi Fukuzawa (Senior Research Fellow, Mitsui Global Strategic Studies Institute)
Five years ago, a group of American researchers outlined 5 overarching problems that Japan faces. They called these problems the "Five 'Ds'": Debt, Deflation, Default, Demography, and Declining Productivity.

While some progress has been made since that nomenclature took hold, it hasn't been enough. That's something most Japan watchers would agree with. But where some see Japan's fitful progress so far as signs of hope, Yoshifumi Fukuzawa, a Senior Research Fellow at the Mitsui Global Strategic Studies Institute, is more pessimistic.

He says he does not expect to see any great shifts in Japan's political-economy over the next few years, with the conservative LDP firmly entrenched, despite the recent strong showing by the DPJ, and few younger people showing interest in Japanese politics.

Mr. Fukuzawa says that, ironically, Japanese wanting to study Japanese politics go abroad to learn more about their own country. He recently came back from teaching a course on the Japanese economy at Boston University, where he said there were not enough seats to accept everyone who wanted to take the course. That was the good news. The bad was that many of the students were surprised to find out that Japan was not the dominant economic giant it once was. (12/03/2003)
Windows Media Player Windows Media Player 50k 400k   Real Player Real Player 50k 360k

Robert Whiting (Author, Journalist)
In some of his most popular books, Robert Whiting has explored the intricacies and vagaries of Japan by telling the stories of Americans living here. You Gotta Have Wa was a comprehensive look at Japanese baseball and culture, set in relief by the experiences of American players who have endured the "martial art" approach the Japanese take to the game. Tokyo Underworld followed the life of Nicola Zappetti, whose business dealings made him a significant thread in the tapestry of postwar Japanese organized crime.

With his new book, The Meaning of Ichiro, Whiting returns to baseball, this time to mine the deeper meanings of the rise of Japanese baseball players like Ichiro and Matsui in the Major Leagues.

"It represents a new stage in the development of bilateral relationship", says Whiting, a long-time resident of Japan.

Whiting calls Ichiro, "The first Japanese cultural icon in the US" which has boosted national pride at home, while opening up the minds of many to Japanese culture. One example, sushi is now served at the Seattle Mariner's stadium, Ichiro's homefield, reducing "the redneckness of a certain segment of the population." (10/14/2003)
Windows Media Player Windows Media Player 50k 360k   Real Player Real Player 50k 360k

Tomohiko Taniguchi (Editor-at-Large, Nikkei Business Publications, Inc.)
One of the reasons China has been able to grow so quickly, says Tomohiko Taniguchi, is that land in China belongs to everyone, and no one; or in other words to the Chinese Communist Party (CPC), the de facto landlord of one of the biggest land masses in the world.

Why is that important? For one, development decisions can be made quickly to re-furbish, for example, the Shanghai Airport in only three years, as opposed to the 25 years of delays and polemics surrounding the simple addition of a landing strip at Narita airport.

Mr. Taniguchi recently spent three months at the Shanghai Institute for Foreign Studies, where he was able to see how the CPC was able to use its landlord power to control migration to the cities, and literally create value from nothing, by designating certain pieces of land for housing, factories or offices. China is growing quickly enough through foreign direct investment that it will become a country and market "too important for any nation to lose," which Mr. Taniguchi says is part of the Chinese strategy to dampen criticism of the government.

However, China's economic success is not guaranteed, says Mr. Taniguchi. In this interview, he lays out some possible scenarios that could snuff out China's booming ambitions. (10/06/2003)
Windows Media Player Windows Media Player 50k 360k   Real Player Real Player 50k 360k

Velisarios Kattoulas (author)
He regularly hobnobs with high-level Yakuza, and has ridden in the black buses. He gets calls to meet him at fancy hotels outside of normal business hours. That's not that unusual though. What is strange about organized crime in Japan, says Mr. Velisarious Kattoulas, a former journalist and now author, is how corporatized criminal behavior actually is. Mr. Kattoulas, or "Veli" to his friends, has found his true interest, and is writing a book about it: organized crime in Japan since the 1980s.

While the power of the Yakuza is waning, the organizations involved are still powerful forces in Japan, both politically and economically, says Mr. Kattoulas, a former Reuters correspondent, who has also written for Newsweek and The Far Eastern Economic Review.

For example, he says, the nationalist streak that runs through these groups, and their close ties to ranking politicians, have stymied any forthright apology to Japan's neighbors, repeatedly called for by China and South Korea.

In this interview, Mr. Kattoulas describes his views on the so-called "Yakuza recession", their impact during the bubble period, and how few remaining criminal activities remain open to them now. Most fascinating of all, Mr. Kattoulas describes his relationships with these men, and how willing they actually are to talk to him. (09/04/2003)
Windows Media Player Windows Media Player 50k 360k   Real Player Real Player 50k 360k
Copyright © Japanese Institute of Global Communications