Making the move...

Chipp Walters chipp at
Fri Mar 17 22:05:47 EST 2006

Interesting topic.

I've probably logged over 30 trips to Japan since 1986. I once had the 
good fortune to meet with a Dr. Sasaki, the father of computer science 
in Japan for lunch. He was an original member of the ENIAC team here in 
the US.

I mentioned to him that many years before, Japan had a reputation for 
cheap products, then they proved it wrong by creating high-quality 
products. I then mentioned the fact people said Japan couldn't create 
steel, to which they ended up virtually owning the steel industry. I 
furthered on with topics on consumer electronics, computers parts, 
computers, cars, etc..each time with Japan ultimately proving to the 
world their mastery of such industries.

Finally, I said, the current knock on Japan was they couldn't develop 
software, and would they again prove the naysayer wrong? To my 
astonishment, he answered 'NO', the naysayers were correct. Japan would 
never be a great software development country. I asked him this 10 years 
ago, and didn't believe his answer.

He gave 3 reasons for this:

1) The culture. Great software is typically created by a small group of 
only a few developers-- not the Japanese way of throwing manpower at a 
problem. Furthurmore, typcially good developers are not very social and 
can be obstinate (duh!), which again flys against the culture. And, the 
program all night when on a roll, then sleep all day type would never 
fly in a Japanese corporation.

2) It is very difficult for startup companies to begin in Japan. There 
are huge incorporation fees, plus it's almost impossible to go public, 
so it's difficult to find investors, Because the 'equity' of a software 
startup is not 'tangible', it's very difficult to get banks to become 
involved, and a good banking relationship is very important to startups.

3) Lastly, the best computer languages were based in English, and very 
different from the way Japanese read and write.

I imagine much of this has changed in the past 10 years or so since we 
last talked, but I still believe many of his concerns have some 
validity. Of course, as recently as a couple of years ago, I toured a 
new CG Manga studio where people slept on the floor under the desks in 
makeshift tent-beds and generally had a more 'western' feel like many 
game studios do today.

Of course, as they say, the proof is in the pudding. And, we've yet to 
see any big mainstream programs come out of Japan. But, there are some. 
I believe Shade 3D is a Japanese program (Lynn, you may know about this?).


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