Net service

New Episode of "Social Media" Revolution in the War against Nuke Plant

In ancient Japan, or so the folktale goes, there used to be a mountain where old people were taken and abandoned once they reached 60 years of age. Although the practice of obasute was probably more rural legend than actual reality, it is a chilling reminder of the perils of old age in a nation where roughly one-quarter of Japanese are now 60 years old or above.


This news has been going around on Twitter world in Japan for some time - a group of retired engineers are getting together and trying to volunteer in the war zone of Fukushima to stop the nuke power plant calamity. I was thinking that although it was such a brave move, Japanese government and TEPCO would be too bureaucratic to allow such an unprecedented grass-roots move to take any realistic effect.

Now, I just heard the news that the group was officially asked to help by the government and TEPCO, negotiating their position, and that they are currently in the process of establishing themselves as NPO.

This is truly amazing. I don't think it is anything unique to Japan - forget about Bushido, it is long gone, but Americans are known for hero-loving and any other countries have enough number of conscious minded people who would do this under such circumstance. But Japanese have been generally shy and are not used to organizing such things in large scale.

I think Internet age made the change. They put up the site and spread the words through Twitter and other social networks. Domestic and international media took it up, and even more people agreed to join in. It created the momentum.

It may help that the leader, Mr. Yastel Yamada, was a left-wing activist as a student in the 1960's. But the tools - net, Twitter and social media - are there to help now.  They don't have to throw the fire bottles against the establishment - Tweets are stronger than bottles.

So, in a totally different angle, I believe it is another case of "social media" revolution, following "Jasmin Revolution" in Tunisia and Egypt.

Here is the link to their official site. The announcement of the government/TEPCO acceptance is only written in Japanese - the meeting was held on May 26, and was announced on 6/3.


Great news for all Japanese entrepreneurs - Zynga Buys Tokyo-Based Startup Unoh


Congrats to my friend Shintaro Yamada, founder and CEO of UNOH, for (reportedly) successful exit with Zynga!!

Not only for Shintaro, but also to all entrepreneurs in Japan. There has been lots of talks about why there aren't enough successful Japanese startups, and I said in my 2008 book "Paradaisu Sakoku" (Seclusion in Paradise) that the biggest problem, although not often mentioned in Japanese press, is that there is no exit, except for IPO - Japanese big corporations just don't acquire startups. IPO is a high hurdle, particularly these days. In Silicon Valley, the most common exit is the acquisition by a bigger company.

Now, this precedent will HUGELY encourage Japanese entrepreneurs. Even though Japanese companies don't acquire startups, US companies can.

Shintaro has lots of friends in the Valley. It is not a luck. He worked really hard to make it happen, not just by building services, but also by building human relationships in the Valley. He knows what is important in this world.

Hope many more will follow his trail.


Asiajin » Japan’s 13 Major Radio Station To Start Simulcast On The Web

Most of the Tokyo’s one are so-called “key station” which provides programs to local countryside radio stations, and Osaka’s are “sub-key station”. Those 13 had formed a IP simulcast council in last December [J]. This move is also supported by giant ad agent Dentsu. They already cleared copyrights issues with rights holders like JASRAC(Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers), JAAA(Japan Advertising Agencies Association) and talent agencies, as Nikkei Business says.


This is still a small "ant's hall", but can be the beginning of the end of Japan's old media regime. Dentsu changing their stance about net media has a significant meaning, and if they are pushing the "rights clearing house" scheme for music, it can be a pivotal event in Japan's rigid "copyrights" framework. It could spread over to the video/TV as well. I am curiously watching.


Asiajin » NHK World TV iPhone app: English TV programs on Japan in your pocket


I have become a bit of NHK fan lately, because of their continued effort to adjust themselves to the net/web world, and of their recent hit dramas full of my favorite actors. I tried out this iPhone app, and currently the program line up is not necessarily "attractive" for me (e.g. I was hoping to watch "Salaryman Neo", my favorite satire/comedy show), I still want to support their effort to open up their window.

I am sure very few people would enjoy it, but it is an interesting effort to broadcast "English" shows globally via Net.

They can do this because they are independent from TV CM. They have "subscription" based business model, so they don't have this REALLY tangled relationships with Japanese big ad agencies and actor management offices. They can be the "disruptive technology" in Japanese TV circle... I hope.


Japan's internet ad market shake up

I was aware that Yahoo! Japan is totally a different animal from its U.S. version, and that they have the majority share of searches in Japan, not Google.

But I didn't know that Yahoo's dominance is such, until I saw the article on Nikkei last night.

It reported that NTT (Japan's dominant telecom carrier) and Microsoft are teaming up to form an Internet advertising network.  The initial network will include MSN/WindowsLive and Goo/OCN/Plara (NTT group's portal/search engine), as well as third party sites such as Niko Niko Douga (YouTube-like video sharing site), nifty, and Sony's So-net.  The entity will sell the ad space to the advertisers and distribute through the network sites.

And according to the chart that goes with the article, the pageview ranking of Japanese domestic internet sites (Dec.08) are:

  1. Yahoo! Japan   23.710
  2. Google  3,738
  3. Rakuten  3,277  (e-commerce site)
  4. YouTube  1,822
  5. Mixi  1,774  (social network site)
  6. MSN/Windoes Live  1,615
  7. Goo  1,152  (NTT's search and portal)

(numbers are in million pageview, during the month of December 08)
(Source:  NetRatings via Nihon Keizai Shimbun)

New NTT/MS ad network would jump up to the #2 position with almost 5 billion PVs, surpassing Google, but it sill is less than 1/4 of Yahoo Japan.

Yahoo! Japan, despite its namesake, is a separate entity from Yahoo!.  Yahoo! US has just a minority investment and provide brandname and trademark, similar touch and feel and menu of services, but the strategy and site management decisions are totally up to the Japanese entity, the crown jewel of Mr. Masayoshi Son's Softbank group.

Japan's net advertisement market is said to have gone through a major shakeout in 2007, when SNS site Mixi started to dump its huge page inventory and the price per PV plummeted in order of 1/100's.  With the tough economic environment, this move by NTT and MS is seen not only as the challenge to the mighty Yahoo, but also as an effort to consolidate the market, in a Japanese way, to avoid further damage.

Another special factor in Japan is Dentsu's existance.  Dentsu is the largest ad agency in Japan, and I am hearing that they still have significant power even in the Internet ad market, through their close relationships with the advertisers.  I don't know how Dentsu's position will be in this situation. Dentsu is often accused by "net" side people as the "dark side", who tries to keep the traditional media dominance and suppress the new development in the net media. I am curious how the power will (or will not) shift in this world's #2 ad market.


Nintendo and Hatena come up with a cloudish service for DSi

Nintendo and their neighbor in Kyoto, Hatena, who provides blog and other web-based services, jointly announced the new service "Ugoku Memo-Cho" (moving memo) today.  With this service, you write/draw doodles or edit photo on DSi, enjoy it on its "Ugo Memo Theater" and share it on Hatena service "Ugo Memo Hatena".

CNET Japan article

Ugoku Memo-Cho website

UgoMemo photos

Sharing photos or drawings on the Web is nothing new, but it is considered significant as it involves Nintendo's hugely popular portable game machine, and integrates with Hatena's cloud on the back-end.

Nintendo's creator Yoshiaki Koizumi states that they chose to work with Hatena, because "it takes a special skill sets to maintain the User Generated Contents (UCG) site, and we don't have that skill.  We rely on Hatena on that part."

Hatena's founder and president Junya Kondo explains that Hatena's motivation to work with Nintendo is "to expand our user community to non-traditional PC users", as Hatena, despite its cult-like status in Japaenese Web community, is often criticized as "pegeon hole" of Web geeks.  Hatena's community is not exactly kids-friendly, so they are planning to employ various filter technology to adjust the contents to younger and wider audience of Nintendo DSi.

The service is provided for free to the user, and Hatena maintains the back-end server.

Personally I am a heavy user of Hatena Diary (blog service) and Hatena Bookmark ("Digg" of Japan) - actually one of the better-known writers on their blog, so I hope Hatena does well in this new attempt.  They are both from Kyoto, the ancient capital of 1000 years with a pride, and Kyoto people often feels Tokyo as their "rival".  It is nice to see some "diversity" in otherwise pretty homogeneous Japan.