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Window on Japan

November 2009
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August 2009

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 Window on Japan
This column may be of interest to website visitors as it focuses on some topics with culturally unique Japanese aspects that may provide useful insights into the Japanese market.

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  • 24:First 3D TV Shipment statistics disclosed by JEITA
  • October 28th, 2010

    JEITA disclosed the first 3D TV shipment statistics on October 27, 2010. It was 131k units for the period from April to September 2010 or 1.3 % out of the total flat-screen TV shipments. Despite the enthusiasm driven by the electric majors appealing new 3D TV models, consumers seem to be withholding.

  • 23: Ceatec Japan 2010 Report
  • ( 3D Extravaganza )
    Will the 3D format save the electric industry in Japan and become a global standard in the near feature?
  • October 15, 2010
  • The largest electronic trade show in Asia with 616 exhibiters Ceatec Japan 2010 was held at Makuhari Messe, Chiba prefecture from October 5th until October 9th. A lot of media describe that this year would be a threshold for a new age of 3D technology. Having said that, the event hall was filled with these 3D technology relevant products in every corner. According to Mr. Reiji Asakura, the most famous audio/visual critique in Japan, more than thirty movies have been released in the 3D format in the US this year and the number of 3D featured theaters has already exceeded 4,000 in the US increasing dramatically. This new trend seems to be attractive enough to invite more viewers to the theater resulting in much higher box office sales. It seems very evident that the market has been shifting toward this new format in a rapid speed. However, the quality of 3D films seems to vary amongst the released titles, not all the movies retain a high quality standard as Avatar but some of them were just simply converted into the 3D at the stage of post-production, which were turned out to be a relatively low quality with a darker background and/or abnormally streamed three dimensional effects. This sometimes may cause an uncomfortable enjoyment or even an asthenopia with headache.

    There seems to be two critical issues surrounding this 3D trend; the safety issue and compatibility. The 3D Consortium released its safety guideline in April this year and planning to submit its suggestions to ISO within this year. Without assessing this effect, no one can guaranty that we won’t have another Pocket Monster like incident of low luminance visual stimuli. On the evening of 16 December 1997 approx. 700 people around the nation (mostly children) were taken to hospitals and treated for seizure symptoms. Actually the 3D safety guideline suggests that any children under the age of 5 years old should refrain from watching the 3D programmers on TV.

    Another issue is that there is no compatibility amongst the 3D TV broadcastings as well as the TV set technologies. The market is filled with various formats or features without having any compatibility seeking to obtain a leading position for this newly borne market.

    Despite these issues, the technology may give a good stimulus for the audio/visual and/or entertainment industries providing unprecedented 3D new experiences. It is definite that the more reality and a new kind of experience could be created as if you were in an actual site as in a succor stadium or music event arena, or even far up in a cosmic space.

    In the exhibition hall of Ceatec Japan 2010, among all of them, Toshiba arrested a lot of attention by its new technology of Glass-less 3D vision. A long line waiting for viewing this 3D theater was observed. Another interesting point was that some manufactures are exploring a new horizon on to utilizing these advanced 3D technologies into a new phase, such as Medical and Educational fields. In addition, Sony was demonstrating their high technologies of 3D visuals for a wide screen of 21.7m wide and 4.8 m high LED screen, the advanced technology to appeal to a mass people at the same time.

Toshiba's glass-less TV

Sony's wide 3D screen

3D Camera

4K Display (Super HV)
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Short movie: Click and wait 10-40 sec to start

  • 22: A Short Movie (Trip to Tokyo)
  • May 31, 2010
  • This movie allows you to enjoy various trains and sceneries from Kamakura area to Tokyo. It includes the famous Shinkansen Bullet Train. In Japan there are many Shinkansen networks spreading out north and south from Tokyo station. The one you would see on this movie is Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen connecting Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka in Kyushu Island.

    Besides this movie, attached (right above) is the area map which would assist you to understand where you are and where you are heading next. The red-lettered-alphabets indicate the route of trip starting point as “A” to the final town Tsukiji as “F”. Therefore, please see the map first to understand where I started the trip, i.e., the town where the office of Sigma International locates, to the final business destination, Tsukiji where I had a personal interview for a certain research project that I was engaged.

    Hope you could enjoy the trip as much as I did!
Kanto area map
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Short movie Click and wait 10-20 sec to start

  • 21: Is Japan’s economics recovering?                April 7, 2010
  • Today’s Japan stock market indicator, Nikkei Heikin finished at 11,292.83 yen with a 10.5% increase versus the yesterday’s ending. The stock market has gradually and steadily been recovering from the 7,000 yen level a year ago with a 60% increment. Mr.Shirakawa, Bank of Japan Governor, has also commented a positive future view at his press interview today. A few days ago, the Cabinet Office released the latest macro economics indicators which also show a positive sign on Japan’s economics outlook. The combined index shows an eleven month consecutive positive increment and went above the level of the year of 2005.(See the chart) It has been said that after the August 2008 Lehman Shock the consumption trend became so-called cocooning in Japan as well as the United States. Staying at home, refrain from going out, and controlling their spending. This particular consumer behavior has impacted on the various products' sales trends. They would not go out for drinking as many as they used to do, spend leisure time at home playing game and/or DVDs. However, this trend seems to be changing a bit recently shifting toward seeking a better value products even if the price is slightly expensive.

Japan economic index

Source: Cabinet Office

  • 20: Shiraito Waterfall                March 31, 2010
  • One of the famous waterfalls in Japan is Shiraito Waterfall located in the west of Mt.Fuji in Shizuoka prefecture. The height is approx. 60 ft and it width is about 600ft. The name comes after that there are hundreds of small waterfalls and they look like a silk line, and the name Shiraito literally means Silk thread. They say the water is coming from the Mt.Fuji’s ice.
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Short movie

  • 19: How to enjoy the digital data broadcasting                          March 26, 2010
  • As mentioned in the previous article No. 9, now it became less than 500 days until the last analog broadcasting date of July 24th 2011. Recently some of the government officials expressed their concern if the smooth transition is feasible or not reflecting relatively slow penetration ratio of the relevant equipments. This article is to show how you could enjoy the digital broadcasting programs apart from its high density picture and sound qualities. Right pictures illustrate regular digital TV screens you may observe in Japan. In case you with to watch a certain program on this terrestrial digital system, first you turn on the power (red button) and then need to select the broadcasting system selection button. (Picture1 : remote control) by simply pressing “Terrestrial Digital” to get to this system and for example you may enjoy a high quality Sumo tournament series (Picture 2) then if you would like to seek for digital data services then press the Data Button (Picture 1), and you could see the squeezed main screen of Sumo together with many sections(Picture 3). You may see many digital services which covers various services; e.g. local regional information, news and events, emergency information such as earthquake/Tsunami warning, traffic congestion information and some more in-depth programs. You may also join any interactive programs with these color keys (Picture 1) to transmit your own answers but it is of course mandatory to be connected to the Internet through the LAN cable (Picture 4)
TV remote control
Picture 1
Sumo TV shot
Picture 2:
Source: NHK
Sumo TV shot digital
Picture 3:
Source: NHK
Digital TV
Picture 4

  • 18:New RADIO Media Experiment started (Simulcast)                        March 17th, 2010
  • On March 15th, a new type of radio broadcasting started in Japan’s two areas; Tokyo and Osaka with 13 stations involvement. They formed “IP Simul Radio Association” ( and commenced new simultaneous radio broadcastings through the Internet. In fact there are many internet radio stations in the world however simultaneous transmission is not very common, or at least a new experiment in Japan, all of them were not simultaneous or a kind of summary programs which have been broadcasted on a repetitive basis. I found out that the sound quality is much better than regular Internet radio stations. This experiment is exactly same transmission of the actual on-airings at the same time through the Internet. The experiment is planned for six months. This indicates that the conventional radio media may metamorphose its media structure adapting to the new internet technology which might initiate a new area for the RADIO broadcasting. This would accelerate more competition and internationalization of Radio media. At the moment the receivable areas are restricted as Tokyo stations are only for Greater Tokyo Area and Osaka stations for Greater Osaka Area. Available to receive the broadcastings with Internet equipped PC with a Flash Player but not possible with windows mobile phones.

  • 17:Influence of the Western culture                          December 1st, 2009
  • In addition to the influence on food culture of Western brands such as Mac and Coke, a wide variety of other Western influences are observable in daily Japanese life. Relatively few Japanese people are strictly religious, in the Western sense, in my opinion. This is observable from the mix of holiday activities in Japan that are drawn from various religions and cultures. One that is particularly noticeable at this time of year is the Christmas illumination that decorates many Japanese homes. Also, in December, many Japanese exchange gifts and enjoy large Christmas cakes that are usually purchased at a local food shop or convenience store. Also, there are numerous parties at which business colleagues or friends enjoy a variety of different foods and drink. On New Year’s eve at midnight, many Japanese go to Buddhist temples for a ceremony in which participants take turns ringing a huge bell a total of 108 times. This ceremony signifies the cleansing of evil spirits. At this time it is customary to eat “new year soba noodles” at home. On the following New Years Day it customary to go to a Shinto Shrine to clap hands to alert the local deity of one’s presence, to pray and make a small donation. Afterward, Japanese enjoy Osechi Ryori, traditional Japanese dishes that are prepared only at this time of year. Also, prior to the New Year, Christmas decorations are replaced with traditional Japanese New Year symbols such as pine branches and woven straw objects that are placed at the front gate of the home or business entrance. This mix of activities and customs all taking place from December through early January each year may seem to suggest that Japanese are disorganized in terms of religion. However, I think Japanese people just accept these practices for the utility and enjoyment they provide rather than observing them in a spiritual sense. In this sense, Japan may be a cultural melting pot.
Shiotani genkan
Otonari genkan

  • 13:Oh My Dog-No.1 (Unexpected Encounter)/   
  • November 3rd, 2009

  • I debated about whether or not to include a pet story in this column but given the fact that the Japanese market for pet supplies and services is one of the largest in the world, I finally decided in the affirmative. As with many pet stories from around the world, this one describes some of the happy as well as terrible experiences resulting from life with pets, in this case Jack Russell Terriers.

    I had long been badgered to get a dog by Rintaro, my son, as well as by my wife. Eventually I gave in based on my image of a large, friendly, disciplined dog with handsome coat, such as a Golden or Labrador retriever. The family’s desire however was quite different as they wanted a small, chunky Japanese dog, such as a black Shiba inu. At the pet shop, however, Rintaro was charmed by a friendly Jack Russell Terrier that had a small cookie-sized brown spot on his leg. We were excited to begin our life with “Cookie” who we imagined would be smart and cute just like “Milo” that we had seen in the movie “The Mask”. To our horror, instead we found that Cookie was a little devil who raced around the house, yapping and leaving puddles here and there. Worse yet, he gnawed on the furniture leaving his teeth marks everywhere. Even though we took Cookie to a training school for dogs every Sunday he still refused to become the smart, disciplined doggie that I had envisioned. During this trying period, I often found myself shouting “Oh my dog!”

    Eventually however, Cookie began making alliances in our neighborhood. Also, he and my son became close friends. I was particularly thankful for this relationship when Rintaro was forced by an illness to give up Karate, a sport at which he excelled.
Rin and Cookie, kaigan
Rin and Cookie walking
with Moruda Cookie with a dog 1
Torn Cartain Isu ana
Cookie Osuwari
Cookie standing with a dish
Cookie, mama down Cookie held by Yoko

  • 12: Enoshima Island/                                October 17th, 2009
    Today I will you through a short tour of the Enoshima Island near Kamakura. The island sticking out in the blue waters of Sagami Bay or Pacific Ocean connected by the Benten Bridge. This is one of the famous tourist spots in the Shonan area. They say the Island was created by the volcanic activities long time ago when the Mt. Fuji erupted. From Tokyo there are a couple of ways to get to Enoshima by train, one way is to take Odakyu private railway from Shinjuku straight to Enoshima Sta. which will take about one hour fifteen minutes, the others are taking Tokaido or Yokosuka line from Tokyo Sta., both require approx. an hour ride, getting off at Fujisawa sta. or Kamakura sta. respectively and then take a local Enoden train to Enoshima Sta. The view from the bridge connecting to the island commands a beautiful view overseeing Izu peninsula and/or Mt. Fuji on your right and Miura peninsula on your left if the weather is fine. After crossing the bridge you can enjoy strolling through the narrow main street filled with souvenir shops which leads up to Enoshima Shrine. In the Shrine, Benzaiten holding a lute has been worshipped as the Fairy of Music by the artists, musicians and many people. If tired, you may take a couple of escalators bringing you to the top of the island. Reaching the shrine what you could do is to pray for a good luck or purchase Omikuji (paper fortune), or Ema (a votive tablet), and of course, you should not forget washing your hands before praying to cleanse your spirits. On the top of the island, there are a lot to see; a garden, a temple, the Enoshima Lighthouse, 119.6 meters observation tower, where you could go up and enjoy a spectacular view of Shonan area and others. In addition there are many sight-seeing restaurants viewing Ocean where you could enjoy delicious Japanese dishes. Further going down, there is a flat rocky stretch, Chigogafuchi, where you could play around. At the end of Island, there is a cave named Oiwaya, some people say that it is still connected to the Mt. Fuji in the underground and could feel the wind coming from the Mt.Fuji.
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Enoshima Slide Show

  • 11:From Gramophone to i-Pod /                                      October 10th, 2009
  • It was the moment that I just stepped in the small gramophone shop named Umeya at Kanda Tokyo. I was just stunned by the sound and it filled in every part of my body gradually. I could not move for a whole and it completely overwhelmed me. That sound was generated by the old EMG Mk10b gramophone with a huge long horn playing the old jazz 78 rpm record of Coleman Hawkins. Since then I have been intrigued by this old wooden music box which creates incredible sound. Hi-Fi audio/visual is my hobby and in the past I used to have a quarrel with my wife. She complained why I needed so many speaker or amplifiers. Then I would respond to that “Yes my dear but it’s a part of my job ‘cause I am working for the record company.” Right after this desperate last-ditch answer, she often said, “Then, how come doesn’t your company pay for the cost?” I just remained silent after this and unable to continue the conversation with her. Well, I guess that audio/visual hobby sometimes may require having this kind of battle with the CFO at home.

    Speaking of development of these music media devices, after these old 78 rpm records we, of course, had LP/EP records, Open-Reel and Cassette Tapes, DAT, MD, and finally the CD was introduced by Sony/Phillips and then the DVD-Audio/SACD followed. Definitely we were relieved from such a time-taking maintenance jobs which needed for these old devices and obviously the sound must have improved and at least so I had believed until I stepped in the Umeya.

    According to the statistics from RIAJ or Record Industry Association of Japan, the music software market has been relentlessly declining year by year in the last ten years. Even Japan was not an exception. It had started falling down after culminating it’s the peak production figure at 6.07 billion dollars in 1998; believe it or not, it has been diminishing constantly reaching far down to 2.96 billion dollars in 2008, which is less than the half of the highest production year! They say that the reasons are two-folded; the copying issue which coincides with an increment of PC penetration at home and the downloading was becoming conspicuous, now the i-Pod is the most common music playing device among young people. It certainly provides a new style of audio entertainment but I am not sure if the young people would really know that there is a different kind of sound with a great deal of comfort.

EMG Mk 10b at Umeya
HMV 163
HMV 163 at home
Record Industry Graph
Music Software Production: Source RIAJ

  • 10: Strolling on the Shichirigahama Beach/      October 02nd, 2009
    One day I had a late lunch with a friend of mine at the restaurant Rondino Inamuragasaki and strolled about through the beach up to Enoshima. The sun was bright, people looked happy and the wind was very smooth. Please enjoy the strolling by pressing the button right, which will take you through the slide show:
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The last slide is taken by Mr.Jun Nishikubo, a friend of mine

  • 9: TV Broadcasting System in Japan/                                      September 28th, 2009

    The Japanese government has been expediting a huge PR campaign to explore digital broadcasting system which is scheduled to replace the current analog TV system in July 2011. The countdown is going on and now it is less than two years until the final termination day which is July 24th 2011. It is imperative to replace the current non-digital TV with a new digital tuner equipped system so as to watch this new high definition TV system. It is also needed to alter the antenna from VHF to UHF as well. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the latest penetration rate for households of digital TV relevant equipments was 60.7% as of March 2009. The new Hatoyama government decided to continue providing the purchase inducing promotional campaign as Eco Points System for some designated electric appliances. In general, besides cable TV system, Japanese TV system can be divided into two; one is terrestrial and the other is satellite. This satellite is also comprised of two; BS which stands for Broadcasting Satellite and the other is CS as Communication Satellite. The BS is intended for much wider range of audience including government broadcasting as NHK and NHK Educational as well as major private stations such as NTV, TBS, FUJI, ASAHI, and TV Tokyo. As for the CS, it is more narrow-segmented broadcasting with a lot of TV shopping stations and other specialty channels. As far as terrestrial is concerned, the analog and digital broadcastings are coexisting at the moment. The content is almost same as BS as mentioned above, two government controlled stations and five nation-wide network stations. In some regional areas, small regional stations are operating based on a UHF scheme. Anyway the government has been encouraging people to change their TV set to a new digital TV system which has several premium points at the expense of some investments, according to the MIC, 1) no ghost images 2) Hi-definition TV with a wider screen of 16:9 and more higher resolution as 1080 lines with a CD-quality-sound 3) a couple of programs through per channel 4) Some other convenient features as subtitle caption, adjustable speaking speed, and audio descriptions for the visually impaired 5) News and weather report are available anytime and participation in competitions and questionnaires via a phone line or Internet connection.      See more info at:
UHF /Satellite Antenna
Toshiba TV at the living room
Flat LCD TV is becoming more common
HDD with TV
Sometimes HDD is attached to record the program or to see digital photos

  • 8: Hokokuji Temple/                             September 24th, 2009

    One of my favorite temples in Kamakura is Hokokuji Temple, or casually called Bamboo Temple. At the back of the temple there is a breath-taking beautiful bamboo garden where you can appreciate the beauty and the power of 2,000 or more Moso-bamboos (the biggest species of bamboo) all year round. This is actually one of Zen temple which belongs to Kenchoji Temple of Rinzai Sect. It was originated by Tengan Eko in 1334 (the first year of Kenmu-era) to commemorate Ashikaga Ietoki, grandfather of Takauji, first of Ashikaga shoguns.
Hokokuji Genkan The Temple Gate
Takeno Tera 2
The Bamboo Garden
Takeno Tera
The Bamboo Garden
Hokokuji Chashitsu Taki
The View from Tea-House

  • 7: Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine/    Spetember 21th, 2009

    The largest and almost symbol of Kamakura is this shrine located on the centeral area of Kamakura city facing toward the Pacific Ocean. It was founded by Minamoto Yoriyoshi in 1063, and enlarged and moved to its current site in 1180 by Minamoto Yoritomo, the founder and first shogun of the Kamakura government. The shrine is dedicated to Hachiman, the patron god of the Minamoto family and of the samurai in general. The Torii Gate is guarded by the Japanese stone statue of dogs,known as "Komainu", the guardians inside the Shinto shrine. From the top of the Shrine you could see three Torii Gates lining up to the Ocean. On the day I paid a visit to the site, a traditional Japanese Shinto style wedding was going on. Enlarging the picture you may recognize the bride and the bridegroom standing in the hall in the middle of the picture. (See below left)
Torii Gate
Torii Gate
Komainu Hidari
Komainu's Close-up
Hachimangu 1
Hachiman's Front View
3 Torii gates
Three Torii Gates

  • 6: Who is the most handsome guy in Kamakura?/           September 20th, 2009

    The answer is Kamakura Daibutsu, the Great Buddha Kamakura. The height is 13.4 m and the weight is 121 tonnages. The seated Buddha, Amida Nyorai known by the familiar name of the Kamakura Daibutsu is the principle deity of Kotoku-in temple. It is a national treasure. Construction of the Daibutsu began in 1252 and continued for approximately ten years. He attracts many tourists from many parts of Japan as well as other parts of the world as well. He has been sitting there for more than 777 years with the beautiful smile.
Daibutsu naname migi
Daibutsu Migi
Daibutsu Setsumei
Explanation ForThe Construction

  • 5: Odawarajo Castle/          September 19th, 2009

    We took a 35 km bike ride to Odawara city from Shichirigahama visited Odawara Castle on Saturday, September 19th. Odawara City, population approx. 200k, 80 km southwest of Tokyo, can be reached by a 1.5 hour train or 2 hour drive from the capital. Surrounded by mountains of Hakone and Tanzawa on the north and west, the city faces Sagami Bay on the south. A mountain castle built by the Omori Family in the Muromachi Period (from 1338 to 1573) was a forerunner of Odawarajo. This donjon was rebuilt in the style it had at the end of the Edo Period (1603 to 1867) based on a model made around 1700 in the Edo Period. Inside the donjon are exhibits with historical information materials. The top floor with latitude of 60m commands a good view of Sagami Bay. There are many old castles in many parts of Japan. Please refer to:
Odawara Jyo Tenshukaku
Odawara Jyo

Samurai's Armor
couple at Odawara Jyo

  • 4: Booming Pet Market /            September 14, 2009

    Even in our neighborhood many people strolling with their dogs can be observed and the rising number of pets is very evident. According to Fujikeizai (Chuo-ku, Tokyo), a highly reputable market research company in Japan, despite the dropping consumer consumption trend, the pet-relevant-market showed positive growth in 2008 up by 2.9% recording 3,981 oku yen or 4.28 billion US dollars. Moreover, they are predicting higher increments this year by 4.5% and expecting to reach 4,159 oku yen or 4.47 billion US dollars. In every corner of Japan, females are cuddling up to their dogs and enjoying the everlasting chit-chat about their much loved pets with their friends.
Tai and Candy
3 wives
wanwan shukai

  • 3: A Great Painter Kame-chan! / September 7, 2009

    Kame-chan lives just a block away from my house and he used to run a design office in central Tokyo. One day he run into the art exhibition of the famous Japanese movie star, Yuzo Kayama, and saw a picture there. At an instance he viewed the picture a wild idea struck him that he thought that he could do much better painting job. He then took another bold step of quitting his job and moving down to Kamakura to start his completely new life there. He has a wife and two children, but he made up his mind and they all moved down together. After coming to Shichiriga hama beach, an outskirt of Kamakura, he has been painting picture everyday: Please visit and enjoy his website to see more.
Kame painting Kame Chan
Kame's picture photo
One of His Paintings (showing with consent)

  • 2: Will Japan change? Entering a Period of Consequences?/                     September 1, 2009

    The latest lower house election which was held on August 30th in Japan resulted in a landslide victory for the opposition to the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party, i.e., Democratic Party of Japan led by Yukio Hatoyama. Now the DPJ stands firm in both lower and upper houses in the diet. Is Japanese foreign diplomacy going to change more shifted toward East Asia or becoming more independent from the United States? "The Era of Procrastination, of Half-Measures, of Soothing and Baffling Expedients, of Delays, is Coming to its Close. In its Place We are Entering a Period of Consequences. " Sir Winston Churchill, November 12, 1936
Minshuto Asahi Shinbun
Source: Asahi News Paper      August 31, 2009
minshuto graph

Shonan is a region located south west of Tokyo which is very popular with Japanese people for the sunny beach resort area with a slightly upper-class image. During summer vacation a lot of tourists, surfers, and young couples visit this famous resort coast. Kamakura, one of the ancient tourist towns belongs to the Shonan area which is famous for many temples and shrines. Our office, Sigma, is located in Shichirigama which is on the Enoden private railway line between Kamakura and Fujisawa. On the beach there are many cafes which attract young people. Taro’s is one of these cafes located in Inamuragasaki run by Shige who has run this shop more than 30 years.
Shichiri serfers shadow Shichirigahama Beach
Enoshima Suizokukan ura
Shige photo
Tarozu kanban