Although not so long ago you could count the number of world-famous Japanese people
on one Yakuza's hand, these days the country is producing more and more figures,
human and otherwise, that have grabbed the attention of a global
audience. The mantle of the country's most famous film director
has passed from the late Kurosawa Akira to
Kitano Takeshi - better
known in Japan as an irreverent slapstick comedian. J-pop, as
Japanese pop music is called, has long been popular across Asia.
But now a generation of young, bilingual artists may help to globalize
the phenomenon. And then there's cute. The names
Pokemon and Hello
Kitty might send your kids into spasms of commercial greed but
imagine if they had the same effect on the entire population!
Well, in Japan they do. Cartoon characters, comic books and all-round
cuteness are pervasive - some might even say downright invasive.
But 'Japanimation' has a more serious side to it. Movies like
Spirited Away and
Ghost in the Shell made even Hollywood sit
up and take notice.
Japanese companies may not dominate the Global 500 listings quite
like they used to but they aren't out for the count, either. Japan's
top electronics brands, such as Sony and Panasonic, continue to
dominate the world. And Toyota leads the world in car manufacturing
efficiency. The almost insatiable demand for new gadgets
in Japan means that new products come out on almost a weekly basis
and some of them never make it to foreign markets. A Big Bang
in the financial industry has caused major upheaval and some ground-breaking
changes in the way Japan does business.
Modern Japan is cool, and Japanese pop culture has fans world-wide
There are plenty of famous people in Japan, though you may not have heard of most of them outside the country
The business world here is someties referred to as "Japan Inc". So who are the big players?