A Risky Game Of Chicken

It's a glorious late-summer day over the East China Sea, cobalt blue ocean beneath a warm and hazy sky. But this mission is all business for the crew of a P3-C Orion flown by the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Forces (as Tokyo refers to its Navy).

Unwelcome Visits

It's that time of the year again. "It is a matter of individual freedom as to how one offers condolences to those who died at war," wrote Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in an e-mail to his supporters last week, thus fueling speculation he may be preparing for yet another of his controversial visits to the Yasukuni Shrine--the Tokyo war memorial that honors the souls of a century's worth of Japanese war dead.

High Convenience

Noritsugu Miyazaki is a clerk in a convenience store. Slacker job, right? Not. Miyazaki works for Family Mart in Japan, where the seemingly mundane task of running such stores has been raised to the level of a high and demanding art.

Clouds on The Horizon

Talk about open secrets. For weeks now, North Korean technicians have been preparing a site for the launch of a ballistic missile. In Washington, national-security adviser Stephen Hadley warned Pyongyang that launching a missile would expose North Korea to the unspecified wrath of the United States; in Tokyo, a senior Japanese politician echoed the vague threat.And what about South Korea?

Keeping in Touch

For the past 13 years, Scotsman Mark Devlin has been building up a miniature publishing empire targeting English-speaking foreigners in Tokyo. His flagship has been Metropolis, an 80-page glossy magazine that delivers its menu of program listings, stories about life in the city and ads to some 67,000 readers each week.

Japan: A Delicate Balance

For most of the past century or so, Japan has enjoyed remarkable popularity within the Muslim world. In stark contrast to European countries or the United States, Japan has no burdensome history of colonial-style intervention in the region's affairs (with the possible exception of Tokyo's brief wartime occupations of Malaysia and Indonesia).

The Endangered Inn

Traditional Japanese inns, or ryokan, are small, family-owned specialists in old-fashioned comfort and cuisine. And that's the problem. Today, Japanese consumers do not necessarily want to navigate complex ryokan pricing (which ranges from $50 to $1,000 per head) to lounge around in a yukata , the cotton kimono that is standard ryokan attire, or soak in a communal bath.

Lots of Room at the Inn

Japan's traditional inns--called ryokan --are generally small, family-owned establishments that specialize in sumptuous, old-fashioned cuisine. Guests are encouraged to lounge around in yukata, or traditional cotton kimonos.

Pocketbook Policing

Swiss businessman and Asian-art collector Jakob Steiger never figured in headlines before last month. But his low profile ended with a bang when the U.S. Treasury announced that it was imposing sanctions against his firm, Kohas AG, for acting as a "technology broker" for the North Korean military.

The Box Is King

The city of Busan, South Korea's largest port, feels like a room crammed with oversize furniture. Apartment buildings and hotels crowd into a narrow strip between steep hills and a deep harbor.

Northern Exposure

International EditionA musical set in a concentration camp? Even Lim Jae Chung, the 33-year-old South Korean actor starring in the production, admits it's a tough sell.

Dubai Inc.

How does Dubai Inc. work? Back in early 1985, the prince of the then little-known Arab sheikdom was stewing after an airline canceled his flight at the last minute.

Turning Un-Japanese

To someone who has lived for long periods of time in the West, there is nothing particularly challenging about Japan, not anymore

Revenge of the Doves

In a conference room across the street from the imposing Diet building, a Tokyo history professor in a black sweater is holding forth on the role of war memorials.

DVD Cold War

Las Vegas isn't the sort of place usually given to premonitions of the apocalypse. But at the Consumer Electronics Show, the world's largest trade fair of electronic gadgetry, the talk earlier this month was of total war.

End of a Rebel Culture?

All the elements of scandal were present. Grim-faced prosecutors marching past the television cameras; frantic investors, betrayed believers, exultant enemies.

Price Chopper

These days there is no product that embodies the ruthless, near-frictionless manufacturing machine of global capitalism more perfectly than the flat-panel TV.

The Last Battle?

Headlines from the consumer Electronics Show in Vegas screamed: gloves off in digital war. Electronics makers choose sides in battle. The contest is over the $15 billion DVD industry, with the winner to set the standard for the next generation of high-definition discs and, some say, rule the video world.

The Graduate Moves On

These days no product embodies the ruthless, near-frictionless manufacturing machine of global capitalism more perfectly than the flat-panel TV. Sales are skyrocketing, dominated by consumer-electronics giants--Sharp, Samsung, Panasonic--that are busily plowing billions of dollars into R&D, new factories and marketing.

Ghosts in the Machine

For 2006, the Tokyo stock exchange has decided to supplement its computer systems with an exotic new backup technology: people. In December an employee at the Japanese investment firm Mizuho entered a mistaken sell order into the TSE's computerized trading system, which didn't allow the trade to be canceled once the mistake was noticed.

Using Color Codes To Browse the Web

It's an advertiser's dream. Imagine you're sitting in your favorite cafe when something in the business pages catches your eye. That company you're reading about sounds intriguing.

Building Blocks

Just imagine: it's a sunny winter's day in 2045, and you're arriving in Bangkok airport on the 1:15 from Shanghai. The flight is considered internal, so there's no customs check; you can keep that dark red Asian Union passport in your pocket.

Homegrown

You get the feeling that Nobuo Matsuki never expected to find himself in the sock business. He started his career as a corporate planner at Toyota, went on to get an American business-school degree, then found himself, in the 1980s, a member of that rare breed known as the Japanese venture capitalist.

Putting On The Brakes

Japan's economy is looking rosier than it has in years. Corporate profits are up. The stock market has been zipping along. Even households have been doing their part by buying more consumer products.

A Very Lonely Japan

The Japanese tend to expect diplomatic bouquets from even the most insignificant of their foreign visitors. So imagine the audience reaction when German ex-chancellor Helmut Schmidt, invited to give a lecture in Tokyo last month, treated his hosts to an exercise in bluntness.

RISING AGAIN

Haruhiko Okamoto is visibly enjoying his visit to the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Beaming, he lifts his 7-year-old daughter Yuriko off the ground. The little girl, clad in a blue and white school uniform, swings a hammer against an old steel bell--and rings in the first day of trading in the shares of her father's company. "I think I'm a lucky man," says Okamoto, declaring that his flourishing Create Restaurants chain has chosen just the right moment to go public. "After the long stagnation, I think...

Not Turning The Corner Yet

At first, Koichi Kato was elated. Exit polls on the afternoon of Sept. 11 showed a decisive lead for his Liberal Democratic Party--and vindication for LDP leader Junichiro Koizumi, who had called Japan's snap general election a little less than a month earlier in an audacious gamble to silence opponents within his own party.

Tom Lantos: A 'Promising Process'

With the latest round of talks on the North Korean nuclear issue ready to resume on Sept. 13, California Congressman Tom Lantos--the ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee--recently made a four-day trip to Kim Jong Il's increasingly isolated nation.

Political Theater

So how does it feel to be an assassin? "I totally reject the word," says Kuniko Inoguchi. She's campaigning for office, she says, because she wants to revitalize Japanese democracy, and democratic political culture has no room for assassination.

GOING SLOW

This is an extraordinary moment in the relationship between the two Koreas. Last week, for the first time since 1945, North and South Koreans jointly commemorated their liberation from Japanese colonizers at the end of World War II in Seoul.

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