Y2K hara kiri for the rising sun's bankers

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Fair Use 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.

-- see the rising sun set (none@nowhere.com), September 03, 1999


Do geisha girls mudwrestle?

-- King of Spain (madrid@aol.com), September 04, 1999.

Hell they ***invented*** it KOS :)

-- Andy (2000EOD@prodigy.net), September 04, 1999.

Funny how Mr. Feilder's article doesn't discuss the Japanese official's response to his comment on the lack of PC data in the Japanese report. What did the Japanese official say by way of response?

We just don't know, because for some reason Mr. Feilder didn't see fit to discuss that most crucial issue in the article. Another example of shoddy Doomerish journalism -- raise doubts, ask questions that raise doubts, then ignore or just skip what might be said in reply/response/rebuttal.

For the nth time: The Japanese do not think as we do. Mars and Venus. They're Japanese, we're not. Simple as that. Anyone who has dealt with Japanese on any scale knows that; anyone who hasn't dealt with Japanese much has no clue. Simple as that. They solve problems in ways much different from the methods to which the rest of the world is accustomed.

They'll get Y2k solved. Failure is disgrace in Japanese business culture, with consequences that far outstrip the consequences of business failure in Western culture.

Those who make such weighty pronouncements on the Japanese state of readiness should learn more about that culture before sticking their necks out so far. (Not to mention the fact that they should report the whole story, which Mr. Feilder has NOT done here, by any yardstick.)

-- Chicken Little (panic@forthebirds.net), September 04, 1999.


Doesn't the article beg the question--If PC remediation at Japanese banks was proceeding at an adequate pace or relatively complete (97% for other systems? according to the Japanese official) why would the Japanese FAIL TO NOTE THIS IN A 50 PAGE REPORT?

You may recall the U.S. expended a great deal of time and effort to convince the Japanese (as a whole) that they had a y2k problem to begin with. Issues regarding the use of the Japanese calendar v. Western calendar as it applies to operating systems and applications was lost on them for some time.

Yes, the Japanese are greatly concerned that they don't lose face. Disgrace is to be avoided if possible. But you also must realize that they do not recognize or admit defeat until the last possbile moment, when it is obvious to everyone if not them.

As far as Fielder's writing and reporting style goes, he may have good reasons for not including the response or the reaction to his comment. His checklist for insuring PC compliance is the most detailed and in-depth that I've seen. Depending on how the PCs are used in banking much could be accomplished in the remaining four months if they are not alienated or embarassed by Fielder's revelation and publicity.

-- see the rising sun set (none@nowhere.com), September 04, 1999.

"They'll get Y2k solved. Failure is disgrace in Japanese business culture,"

on our side of the pond this translates to "The profit motive will assure that companies solve Y2K. They have no intention of going out of business."

Intention is not solution... in any language.

-- Linda (lwmb@psln.com), September 04, 1999.

It is in cluck cluck language, eh Chicklet? :)

-- Andy (2000EOD@prodigy.net), September 04, 1999.

Wow is chicken little talkin' shit!Yes,the Japanese never knew defeat untill the emperor of a nation of sun worshippers was awoken with the news that the Americans made the sun rise twice.What chicken is not grasping is that yes the japanese are completly different from us,that's why they will not see thier face-saving measure of reporting terrible y2k progress as they wish it would be as lying.I'm not a tech,but I am getting my BA in asian studies with my minor in Buddhist studies so perhaps I do have some meager understanding of how asians think.

-- zoobie (zoobiezoob@yahoo.com), September 04, 1999.

No Zoobie, what you have is a TEXTBOOK education, which means jack in the real world. Go over to Japan with th attitude of "I think I know what is going on" and you will be laughed out of the room faster than your head can spin. Until you work with them, you don't know squat. Why do I know this? Because, like you, I thought I knew them. Then I workwed with them.

-- works with them daily (keep@dreaming.com), September 05, 1999.

I wonder where this "real world"in which you live is?Still,thanks for the cliche.

-- zoobie (zoobiezoob@yahoo.com), September 05, 1999.

I live in the Midwest for what it matters, but have daily contact via e-mail, phone and fax with them along with face to face meets when the need arises.

-- works with them daily (keep@dreaming.com), September 06, 1999.

wow,and you consider the midwest the "real world"??

-- zoobie (zoobiezoob@yahoo.com), September 11, 1999.

Chicken said:

They'll get Y2k solved. Failure is disgrace in Japanese business culture, with consequences that far outstrip the consequences of business failure in Western culture.

Chicken, there are 100 people a day committing suicide in Japan because of the economic crisis. How come they didn't "solve" that? Huh?

I find it very hard to believe that a country that forgot to check PCs now has a banking industry thats 97% done. Back in Fall 98, Gartner and Cap Gemini put Japan one year behind US in remediation. Something doesn't jive.

-- a (a@a.a), September 11, 1999.

The fall of 1998 is not today. I've got some good news and some bad news...

The good news (for me and you) is that Japan is on par with the U.S. in remediation. The bad news (for me and you) is that Japan will be better prepared than the U.S. by January and beyond.

You probably fell out of your chair, didn't you? I can imagine many of you furiously attacking your keyboards with your heart rate elevated to the stratosphere and your faces flush with resentment at such a preposterous statement...

[A side note: One hundred people per day are not committing suicide "because of the economic crisis." The Japanese suicide success rate has always been higher than the U.S. The Japanese rate has gone up about 8% probably because of the economic problems, but the suicide success rate has always been higher than the U.S.

A higher percentage of Americans attempt suicide, but only one out of seven attempts are "successful." I guess you could say the Japanese are more efficient at suicide.

By the same token, we could say that Americans are murdering each other at a rate of well over 100 per day because of the "(Fill in the blank) crisis." There are only about 100 murders per year in Japan. That's not even a "good" day in the U.S.]

Now back to y2k - The PC boom in Japan began in 1996 and Japanese companies upgrade hardware and software more quickly than U.S. companies. You have to really search to find business PC's more than 2 years old. I've seen a few, but not many.

How much do Americans or Brits know about software or firmware localized for Japan? Here's a question - Do Japanese PC's use the same BIOS as western PC's? The answer is no.

What percent of U.S. PC's (less than two years old) have a y2k BIOS problem? If someone could give me an example or two, I'd like to know. I haven't heard of or seen any in Japan.

Applications - Why does foreign software need to be localized for Japan? Two reasons... One, language and two, Japanese date system. All conversion routines between Japanese and western dates require that a 4- digit western date be input.

Here comes one big reason Japan will be better off next year than the west: Since 1992, all data has included 4-digit dates. No additional date manipulation (potential mistakes) is necessary.

And... entities that use western date entries because of application requirements had to use 4 digits because the data had to be interchangeable with applications using the Japanese date system. Some companies use western calendar input (all 4 digit) but reports and billing and government-required documents require Japanese calendar conversion.

Think about it...

There's a reason they haven't spent as much money as the U.S... They don't have to. The money being spent is mostly to remediate U.S. imported software not localized for Japan.

Of course, some of you playing the 'gotcha' game will want to ask' "Oh yeah, well what about embedded systems?" Well, every manufacturer should have been finished long ago, but we know that's not the case. No one in the world can give an accurate snapshot of what will happen around the middle of January. Not Andy, or Mr. Decker, or Ed the economist, or Ed the writer, or PNG, or Diane, or CPR, or y2kPro and even the Gartner Group.

You don't have to get all puffed up and patriotic because Japan will fare better than the U.S. If it makes you feel better, you can save face by saying that the Japanese got lucky.

And what a crock the original posted 'article' is...

Here's another example of the oxymoron "journalistic integrity." A recent U.S. Newsweek cover screamed about the rise of "nationalism" in Japan. Did you see it? The cover photo showed a young Japanese man wearing a headband, his face contorted into a scream and the image combined with the headline portrayed him to be some sort of political, fundamentalist fanatic.

The photo was taken at a soccer game.

If your opinions of Japan are based on reading Newsweek or "USA Today" or Reuters or the evening TV news or academic study, your view is limited. I think it takes at least 5 years in country before you start to get the real picture. And that doesn't mean at a U.S. military base.


-- PNG (png@gol.com), September 11, 1999.


-- PNG (png@gol.com), September 11, 1999.

click and hold on the page... or read quickly.

The tag was correct!!!! Really it was!!!!! It's not my fault!!!!! I didn't do it!! My alarm didn't go off!!! My dog ate the closing tag!! There was an earthquake!!! A flood!!! Locust!!!!

-- PNG (png@gol.com), September 11, 1999.

What happened? I can't read the blinking frinking words. My blinking frinking eyes are going blinking frinking mad! Now I'm dizzy...gonna go get me a glass a wine and unwind. Saw a saying on my gynecologists office ceiling once and it said "having sex makes your eyes go funny."

-- never tell (nevertell@nevertelll.com), September 11, 1999.

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