Friday, August 29, 2008

This Weekend's Daily Yomiuri Column: "Soft Power, Hard Truths"

From my latest column in the Daily Yomiuri:

"Last month's sudden bankruptcy filing by Yohan, Japan's largest and oldest distributor of English-language publications, has cast a shadow over American shores, despite its relative lack of coverage in the U.S. media.

Only a couple of years ago, Yohan announced life-saving investments in Stone Bridge Press and Cody's Bookstore, two San Francisco Bay Area institutions. The former is a smartly run independent publisher specializing in Japan-focused books, and the latter was a much-lauded independent local bookstore chain.

Both have long been landmarks of the Bay Area's book scene. Stone Bridge is soldiering on, but Cody's has closed.

The usual suspects are cited as catalysts--poor management, unsustainable investment and debt accrual, archaic labor structures.

But the demise of Yohan in the 21st century may signal something broader and even more worrying: a Japanese public turning increasingly inward, becoming more provincial and less global at a historical moment when it can ill afford to do so."

--Yohan failure a sign of larger worries (continued) ...

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