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  tokyo - joi ito

the internet curry shop: old media and the new breed

News in Japan is strongly controlled in the traditional media, but the magazines, TV and radio shows, and especially the web pages created by and aimed at Japan's young "New Breed" bypass the straightlaced old media.

The usually stuffy Asahi Shimbun newspaper held their annual computers and network event in the high-rent Ginza district of Tokyo. The point of the event, a prelude to Interop, was to try to get the mainstream public interested in Internet. This year, Asahi agreed to produce a play, cast with well-known names from the Japanese Internet community. I was one of the MCs and happened to have my QV-10 handy. We gathered half a dozen of the most well-known New Breed commentators and presented a play that meant one thing to the old guys and something else to us. It was a bit of a tongue in cheek allegory about the net and Japan.

Jun Murai, a professor at Keio University, is considered to be the father of the Internet in Japan. When the Internet was growing explosively in the rest of the world, bureaucratic logjams and infighting in the Japanese government prevented all but a privileged few from gaining access. Murai broke things wide open by crossing the uncrossable boundaries between universities, government, and industry, forcing them to connect to each other. He even carried the first Cisco router to Japan on his lap on the airplane.

Murai and I have been trying to set up electronic commerce for Murai's favorite curry shop. According to Jun, the curry shop is having hard times, and he wanted to promote the shop on his web page. During the planning meetings, I suggested that the play center around a curry shop that is going out of business. Since Jun wasn't in the meeting, we decided it would be a fun surprise to cast him as the computer-skeptical curry shop owner.

Yoshiyasu, a new up-and-coming multimedia/Internet talent, played the part of Junko, the daughter of the curry shop owner. Yoshiyasu won the "next Chiba-Rei" content sponsored by Reiko's radio show Junko learns about the Internet and makes a home page for the curry shop with the help of the Internet expert, Reiko Chiba.

They do their first session at an Internet Cafe where Hattori-san, technology correspondent for establishment media Asahi Shimbun and editor of New Breed magazine, Doors, is the master working with Yasuko Kato, a writer for Doors.

Most of the mainstream audience and old-guard media representatives in the audience probably didn't grok the extent of the silliness, but those who were tuned in to the ways young people were bypassing the old media had a lot of fun.

Find out More by Visiting:

Hotwired's article on Jun Murai's role in fostering networking in Japan

higa said:

From one side of the coin, the education here is too restrictive, repetitive, and rote. But... you do actually learn the basics, you learn more group skills, and the education is uniform throughout the country. I also think the 'must get into Todai' pressure is starting to break down and students are pursuing more diverse futures than the one path of old. I'll be faced with the decision of whether to send my son to international school or Japanese school much sooner than I'd like. I'm not sure which way I lean. I like the rigor of Japanese school but also want Jasper to enjoy the freedom of US schools.

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