HORSE’S MOUTH: Japan and Basketball

0

YOSHINAGA-GEORGEBy GEORGE YOSHINAGA

(Published Nov. 29, 2014)

Just got off the phone with Editor Gwen. She said, “I’ll be there tomorrow to pick up your column.” In this case, tomorrow meaning Friday, which also means today is Thursday and Thanksgiving Day.

Well, I guess I can get started and finish up when I get back from my son’s house, where we annually go to have Thanksgiving dinner. I guess it’s a tradition to go to my oldest son’s home.

It’s also the only time these days that all my sons get together. There was a time when we got together in Gardena, but as they all have their own schedules, we don’t see each other as we used to.

I’m sure a lot of families go through the same thing these days.

Well, since it means they are all enjoying a successful life, I can appreciate that.

I guess when I used to see them growing up as kids, I never thought the day would come when we couldn’t get together when they grew up to be successful adults.

Heck, when I realize that my grandkids are now enrolled in college, I can appreciate how time flies.

Still, when I think back, it was a joy to hear them say, “Hi, Grandpa! How’s things going?”

Well, being a grandpa is being a grandpa.

The Thanksgiving dinner was great.

I didn’t mingle with the guests who attended, sitting by myself in a room off to the side of the main house and being the “old man” at the gathering. Most of the guests kind of ignored me, which was okay because one of those in charge of the dinner brought several large plates loaded with food for me.

Needless to say, I ate more than I should have, which I will probably regret tomorrow.

The guests were a mixture. That is, more than half were Caucasians (since my son’s wife is a hakujin) and the balance were Nihonjins.

It was kind of amusing that those who stopped by to chat with me were hakujins while the Nihonjins sort of ignored me.

Of course, age played a factor since more of the guests were younger people.

When I told one of the hakujin guests that I had to get home to finish writing my column, he was kind of amazed. “You write a column for a newspaper?” he asked.

“Yeah, it’s a publication printed in English and Japanese,” I told him, adding that I wrote in English.

Of course, he wanted to know if I was going to write about the dinner party.

“Yeah, I’ll write a few paragraphs,” I told him, and he laughed. “What can you write about a Thanksgiving party?” He had a good point.

At any rate, since I had to finish today’s column, I asked to be excused and left the dinner early.

So, here I am, probably writing one of my less interesting “Horse’s Mouths.”

+++

The traffic coming back to Gardena was pretty heavy, so it took a lot longer to get back than it did to get to the dinner.

I guess a lot of the motorists were driving home from dinner parties, as I was.

I can imagine what the traffic was like on Highway 15 going to Las Vegas. Thanksgiving weekend is always one of the most busiest times on Highway 15.

I know quite a few Nisei friends told me they were going to spend the Thanksgiving holiday in Vegas. Good luck, fellows (and gals).

Since this column will appear on Saturday, I guess you can say I worked overtime.

Going to Thanksgiving dinner did help me fill a few pages, but I just looked at the clock over my computer and the hands indicated it was well past 9:30 p.m. Normally, I’m already in bed at 9:30.

I guess I’ll sleep in late tomorrow morning.

Of course, I don’t expect that my wife will let me get in the extra winks. She will have such statements as “The front lawn needs mowing,” or “Did you put the trash can out for pickup?”

There goes the sleep….

+++

Japan and basketball don’t really go hand in hand.

So when the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) banned Japan from competition, it wasn’t a surprise. It was something everyone expected to happen. Of course, it did nothing to lessen the gravity of the situation.

The Japan Basketball Association was informed this week that it had been suspended by the sport’s world governing body for failing to meet its demands, which included a merger of the 22-team Basketball Japan League and the 13-team National Basketball League before the Oct. 31 deadline.

Japan’s national teams (men and women) are not allowed to participate in any FIBA and FIBA-Asia tournaments.

The suspension is expected to have an enormous negative impact on Japan’s national teams as they try to build strong squads for the Asian Championships and for the Olympics, which will be hosted by Tokyo in 2020.

“We would like to express our deepest apology to the players and those that are associated with basketball,” said Mitsuru Maruo, acting president of the Japan Basketball Association, during a news conference on Monday.

FIBA officials are sticking with their plan to ultimately merge the two Japanese leagues into one professional league.

Basketball was becoming one of Japan’s leading sports, and this development is expected to have a great impact on the country’s teams.

+++

Since we celebrated Thanksgiving this week, it means that Christmas is just around the corner. Man, I find that hard to believe.

I guess the old saying “time flies” is more than just a saying.

I guess Rafu’s staff is now busy getting the Christmas and New Year’s edition ready for publication.

Having been through that routine when I was with The Kashu Mainichi, I know what Gwen and her staff are undergoing.

Good luck, gang.

When I think about all the effort that goes into publishing the year-end special editions, I realize that writing a column is a snap.

Since my writing schedule was changed a bit due to the Thanksgiving switch, I guess I’ll be a little short today, but I’ll make it up with my regular chatter on next Tuesday (which I write on Sunday).

Sorry, gang.

I’d better stop looking at the clock on the wall.

+++

Sony Corp. is developing a watch made out of electronic paper for release as soon as next year in a trial of the company’s new venture-style approach to creating products, according to people familiar with the matter.

The watch’s face and wrist band will be made from a patented material that allows the entire surface area to function as a display and change its appearance, the people said, asking not to be named because it has not been announced. The device will emphasize style, rather than trying to outdo more technological offerings like Apple Inc.’s watch and Sony’s own SmartWatch, they said.

At stake is more than a win against Apple and Samsung Electronics Co. A decade of cos reductions and job cuts has soured Sony’s culture of innovation, once celebrated for the Walkman and the Trinitron television. CEO Kazuo Hirai formed a business creation division this year under his direct control to fast-track promising products, and the watch is one of the effort’s first results.

“The innovation program is very important, but it will take time and require some risk-taking,” said Sadao Nagaoka, a professor at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo who studies innovation and serves as an economic adviser to Japan’s Patent Office. “It’s not that Sony ran out of new ideas, but rather, it’s taking too long to restructure and gigantic losses have starved new businesses of funds.”

Hirai’s new division is aiming to come up with products and services that don’t fit the mold of Sony’s existing businesses.

Besides the e-paper watch, the group is developing technology building blocks designed to help professionals and amateurs rapidly create prototypes of new products. The MESH (make, experience and share) project is a collection of sensors, light-emitting diodes and buttons encased in colorful blocks smaller than a pack of chewing gum. The devices are linked wirelessly and can be operated via a tablet interface, making it easy for people without programming or engineering skills.

The division also includes Sony’s Seed Acceleration Program, which was set up so that an employee with a good idea can pitch for venture financing. Would-be entrepreneurs make their proposals either to other employees or a panel of outside experts, in which case their pitch remains anonymous. The startup process includes an audition, incubation and implementation stages that emphasize speed and profitability.

Teams of up to five people face off every three months and can include outsiders, according to an internal newsletter published in July. Those that pass have at most six months to prepare and may work on the ideas full-time. The final product could fall under an existing division to become an independent company. The first round, held in June, attracted 187 applications, of which 80 passed to the next stage.

Koji Kurata, a spokesman for Tokyo-based Sony, declined to comment.

The e-paper watch will be a litmus test for Sony’s new division. Though the market for wearable technology is still small, with only 22 million of the gadgets sold worldwide this fiscal year, the industry is set to grow fivefold in the next five years, according to MM Research Ltd.

More than half of all wearable devices already target the wrist. Focusing on appearance may help distinguish Sony’s new product from the crowd of devices serving as a second screen for smartphones.

The company’s own SmartWatch acts as a music player remote control, while Samsung’s Galaxy Gear offers hands-free calls. Both push email and Facebook notifications and require a phone.

Consumers surveyed by Nomura Research Institute cited the general ugliness of wearables as the third-biggest obstacle to adoption after price and weight. Apple, which hired celebrity designer Marc Newson in September, will offer a choice pf stainless steel, aluminum and 18-karat gold when its watch goes on sale next year.

“Smartwatches don’t sell now because there is little reason to buy one, since your smartphone can do it all anyway,” said Taichiro Nakayama, a senior consultant at Nomura Research in Tokyo. “Many people choose their watches based on the brand and design. Convincing them to replace what’s on their wrist now is no mean feat.”

Hirai has struggled to turn the company around as he faces rising competition in mobile phones and games, and soft demand for televisions and cameras. Sony is set to pile up more than 1 trillion yen of losses since 2010.

Hirai sounded an optimistic note when he addressed investors in May, saying the innovation program will create new businesses while also nurturing young talent. He said it will become “the driving force for our new Sony.”

A Sony engineer who participated in the program said it has created a stir among younger employees, though there are still hesitations about trying something that may fail. He chose to pitch his project to a panel of outside experts rather than putting it up for a public vote, in part because he didn’t want his bosses to know he was trying to leave. The engineer said his proposal didn’t get funding.

“Sony’s trouble is not just with targeting the right technologies — they also have problems in terms of management, corporate governance and so on,” said Keun Lee, a professor of economics at Seoul National University who writes about disruptive innovation. “Tapping diverse sources for knowledge and communicating across the company’s silos can be one source of recovery.”

George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

Tags

Share.

Leave A Reply