Galapagos Islands

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Text and photo by Grigoris A. Miliaresis

It’s the most common question I get from those who read what I write in the technology website “Deasy”: why are my articles about China much more numerous than the ones about Japan? Living in Japan, doesn’t it make more sense, the same people ask, to have more information about it and consequently to have more subjects coming from that market? Surely, we all know that Japan is a very developed country, especially when it comes to electronic technology (and certainly much more developed than China) so undoubtedly there must be countless interesting stories about Japanese innovations related to computers, the Internet and everything new and evocative of the science fiction images we know from the cinema and we have heard that abound in Japan.

Contrary to “Deasy’s” audience, the readers of these here letters will probably have already guessed the answer: yes, Japan is a country where industry has reached impossible heights and this meteoric rise doesn’t seem probable to stop anytime soon –when it comes to the manufacture of things, from the level of the handworker/craftsman to that of the robotic factories of the huge industrial groups, I doubt there is any other country that can demonstrate a similar rate of evolution, perfection and emphasis on quality and detail. But when we are talking about what is inside the machines –software or communications- and also about innovation related to the new, portable devices (smartphones, tablets, wearables etc.) Japan is way more behind than what most people believe. Think about it: which of the developments of the last 20 years in the aforementioned fields has the signature of a Japanese company?

The reason for this could be summarized (and not without a small dose of nastiness) in the question: if all technological developments in the last 20 years are in the direction of broadening communication, how could a people with such an extensive difficulty in communicating be in the frontline? (I’m referring to communication with the outside world: among them, the Japanese communicate just fine.)  Even Docomo’s famous super mobile phones that were smart years before the iPhone, have been described (by the Japanese themselves, no less) as suffering from the “Galapagos syndrome”: they were very sophisticated but unable to function, literally and figuratively, outside Japan like the animals in those islands’ fauna. So despite the fact that the efforts made by Japan’s Internet industry to catch up with the rest of the world are remarkable, I believe that for the foreseeable future the most interesting Asiatic news –for me and for everyone else doing the same job- will continue originating from China.

 

Grigoris A. Miliaresis is a journalist and translator. He has worked for many newspapers, magazines and publishing houses and specializes on the Internet, the martial arts and Japan where he has been living for the last few years. 

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