Japanese Experts Launch Online Discussion Forum

TOKYO (04/13/2000) - A group of Japanese opinion leaders today launched a Web site that promises to give English speakers access to contemporary thinking on the major issues of the day in Japan.

The Global Communications Platform is headed by professor Takahiro Miyao at the Center for Global Communications (Glocom), a unit of the International University of Japan in Tokyo.

The forum will bring to the Web a place where English speakers can directly access the views and opinions of leading Japanese thinkers on issues of the day, said Miyao when introducing the new Web-based forum at a Tokyo news conference this afternoon.

The lack of information in English in such an age of globalization is a serious problem for international understanding of Japan, and one he hopes to put right with the new forum.

The forum has two main parts: an opinion section where essays and papers present an author's views on a particular subject and a debate section where more lively exchanges can take place.

The first such opinions are already posted and cover political issues connected with the recent departure due to illness of Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi. On the debate side, the first such event is scheduled for next week and will evaluate Obuchi's legacy and economic policies. Three forum members will post their opinions, invite reaction and then reply.

The forum's six-member committee, charged with steering the project and shaping the content, includes some big-name Japanese business and opinion leaders, including Takashi Imai, chairman of the powerful Keidanren business association, Toyoo Gyoten, president of the Institute of International Monetary Affairs, Yotaro Kobayashi, chairman of the Keizai Doyukai business association, Masahiko Aoki, professor at Stanford University and director of the Institute of International Trade and Industry, Jiro Ushio, chairman of Ushio Electric Co. and a Glocom board member, and Shumpei Kumon, executive director of Glocom.

Miyao said the site will seek to be independent from special interests. "It will represent a neutral platform in the private sector not to be dominated by government agencies of specialist groups in Japan so the international community can have access to a platform of neutral opinions about Japan."

For the project to be a success, the active participation of the forum members and those they invite to take part will be vital. Miyao is under no illusion that this, given the status and schedules of the members, might be the most difficult aspect to tackle, but he is confident the forum will succeed.

The Glocom Forum can be found on the web at http://www.glocom.org/.

Glocom, based in Tokyo, can be found online at http://www.glocom.ac.jp/ or contacted by telephone at +81-3-5411-6757.

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