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Home > Interviews > Special Interviews Last Updated: 14:36 03/09/2007
Special Interviews

Yoshisuke Iinuma (Director, Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan)
Japan's pension system has been the focus of media attention and public ire these past few months, as politicians and celebrities were censured and rebuked - some even gave up their jobs - for not paying in to the Japanese pension plan. For Yoshisuke Iinuma, a Contributing Editor with The Oriental Economist Report and Director at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, the issue was not about money.

"The recent pension uproar had an effect to get the average Japanese to really think of the issue. Vague anxiety they have harbored has now turned to a big anger. Anger to pension bureaucrats, to politicians who have neglected to take initiatives in resolving the problem," he said.

One of the big problems, according to Mr. Iinuma, is that the system, developed when Japan's population and economy were both growing, has become a patchwork of different systems cobbled together to put off one crisis, but causing others. Mr. Iinuma says that pensions will be the dominant political issue for years to come, and while there are solutions, none of them will be easy. (2004/6/24)

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Ippei Yamazawa (President, International University of Japan)
Talk to any young person in Japan, says Mr. Ippei Yamazawa, and few will show the burning desire for the commodities that Japan's developing neighbors demonstrate, the kind of consumer drive that sustains post-industrial economies. For the President of International University of Japan, that consumer satiation is evidence that Japan has lost its economic drive.

"There's no way to recover the lost dynamism of Japan," says Mr. Yamazawa, an economist with extensive experience in trade liberalization. However, he says, Japan is hoping that tighter regional integration will create an economic engine of sorts that can jumpstart Japan's sluggish drive.

The push for East Asian integration is still in its infancy, says Mr. Yamazawa, with its origins in the 1997 Asian Currency Crisis. It's still a long way from the integration achieved by the EU, he says, but he predicts a milestone achievement, a currency peg to a common basket of Asian currencies, within 10 years.
In any case, he says, the EU may not be the ideal model for Asia. Instead, care must be taken to build an agreement that allows the region to compete internationally, while also suiting the particular conditions of Asia. Japan is expected to share leadership in developing this regional framework, but Mr. Yamazawa says Japan's type of leadership may not be what other countries expect. (2004/5/21)

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Michio Katsumata (Senior Staff Writer, The Nikkei Shinbun)
Readers of the back page of The Nikkei Shinbun may not necessarily be familiar with the name Michio Katsumata, but they will likely recognize his work. Mr. Katsumata, until recently a senior staff writer for The Nikkei, ghost wrote and inaugurated the first serialized biographies of American political and business giants in the "My Personal History" column.

There, he introduced Senator William Fulbright, whose eponymous Fulbright Fellowships are synonomous with international scholarship, Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE, and Lou Gerstner, former CEO of IBM, both business hero-giants in the Japanese business world.

Mr. Katsumata spent weeks interviewing these men and produced the biographic series, to be later bound as books, over his 32-year career with The Nikkei. Mr. Katsumata, now a professor of American Studies and journalism at Akita International University, says he tried to introduce these men in a way that had not been presented before to the Japanese public. The columns, "contributed a great deal to these prominent leaders in that they are all human and should be understood in that way," said Mr. Katsumata. (2004/3/26)

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Ken Belson (Co-Author, HelloKittyTheBook)
Hello Kitty is turning 30 this year, just as two journalists, Brian Bremner of Business Week and Ken Belson of The New York Times, have finished a book about her status as global pop culture icon.

Mr. Belson says "Kitty" is a most unusual character, guided to stardom by a most unusual entrepreneur. She has no cartoon, no advertisements, and very little personality. She's "deceivingly simple, "says Mr. Belson, who explains that her expressionless gaze lets people project what they want on her.

Sales of Hello Kitty goods provide half of the annual $1 billion revenue for Sanrio corporation and its CEO Shintaro Tsuji, who Mr. Belson describes as "ahead of his time" for pioneering the Japanese character goods industry.

However, Mr. Belson also says that as Hello Kitty ages, she faces the challenge of staying relevant. In this interview, Mr. Belson explains what Sanrio is doing to ensure its "cash cat" survives through future generations. (2004/2/25)
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Yoshihiro Tsurumi (Prof. of International Business, Baruch College, The City University of New York)
The real danger of Japanese soldiers in Iraq is not that they will come under fire or that some may even be killed. The real danger, says Yoshi Tsurumi, a professor of international business at Baruch College, CUNY, is that Japanese soldiers will become involved somehow in the killing of Iraqi civilians. If that happens, he says, Japan will be seen as nothing more than a mercenary country on an already dubiously justified mission.

The outspoken, one-time business school professor of President George W. Bush, Tsurumi says Japan is simply "supplying a one sided commitment" of "boots on the ground", without pressing its own demands.

In exchange for its military support, Japan, he says, should be pushing the US on several points ranging from a return to international multi-lateralism to oil stability through development in the region. In this interview, he expands on those points as a way not only to benefit Japan, but in standard negotiation strategy, also the US. (2004/2/6)
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