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Issue date: 2 September 1999

Article source: Computer Weekly News Y2K hara kiri for the rising sun's bankers Karl Fielder Ground zero

Japan's banking system is 97% prepared for the millennium. If, that is, you ignore its tens of thousands of PCs...

The massive LCD screen screamed at me, at least a hundred feet from corner to corner. A traditional geisha waddled into view as techno-traditional music pumped the beat almost in time with the bustle of the crowds on the pavement.

My Japanese Century limousine slid silently to a slow stop next to a starched security guard. Dressed in a pretty shade of blue with white leather straps wound around his trim body, he seemed to fit exactly into this scene of futuristic furore. "I bet his mum is proud of him," I thought, as the in-seat electric massage hammered to a halt and I stepped into the steam room atmosphere of 1999 Tokyo. I half expected to see Harrison Ford running down the street - in fact, the only thing missing from this Blade Runner film set was a hovercar.

The interior of the building was as stark and bleak as the outside. I'm sure all government buildings are designed by the same troglodyte who wreaks his revenge on the world by creating these style vacuums. The floor was slime green lino - get the picture?

As I was walked upstairs to the meeting room, a thunderous voice bounced around the office next door. Its owner strode in and I did well to suppress a smile as I was reminded of the scene where Toto and Dorothy finally meet the Wizard of Oz. You see, the owner of the voluminous voice was very diminutive in stature. Well this is Japan - what do you expect?

His "name card" should have alerted me, but I missed the clue. Mr K is the cabinet secretary responsible for Y2K reporting directly to the prime minister. He and I danced the business card boogie and I saw that his year 2000 title had been carefully added in neat handwriting. A recent appointment?

After nearly half an hour of translated treatise explaining - in about 50 neatly typed pages - the great work done so far, Mr K concluded, "And 97% of our banking system is now ready for Y2K". I sat stunned. With thousands of years of cultural history sitting across the table, I knew that what had to be said would be very insulting.

"I'm sorry, but you seem to have forgotten something." Hardly a graceful start and while this was translated I braced myself. "There does not seem to be any mention of PCs anywhere in your report". It was an electric moment. The air crackled and my translator shifted uncomfortably from cheek to cheek.

Back once again in the limo, I reflected on the meeting. It had gone well after all. Despite Mr K's surprise at me, he seemed very friendly at our parting. I guess he was already working out how the government of the second largest economy in the world would explain to the international community that only one of its banks has even started checking their tens of thousands of PCs for the data-borne virus. This could certainly affect confidence in their currency and stock market.

As you read this, the G8 are probably meeting behind closed doors. Will my messages to Mr K get through the censorious sensitivity of government spin doctoring? Will I change the course of history? Will the geisha girl turn out to be an android? I'll let you judge for yourself by the cacophony of media silence that will no doubt follow me out of Japan.

I'm off now for an evening's entertainment - it's Tokyo, it's 1999, and karaoke calls.

-- bank watcher (, September 03, 1999


That link was just for the Computer Weekly Main page. Here's the specific article: Y2K hara kiri for the rising sun's bankers

-- Mac (sneak@lurk.hid), September 03, 1999.

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