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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

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'We Sell Dreams to Kids'

A 51-YEAR-OLD CHILD? YOU wouldn't know it from looking at Yamashina Makoto, president and CEO of Japanese toymaker Bandai. But, the father of two college students told Asiaweek's Murakami Mutsuko, "only those who have hearts like children understand them." Yamashina spoke with her before Bandai launched video-game player and Internet surfer Pippin Atmark last month.

Is Pippin competing with Sega, Nintendo and Sony's Playstation?

I don't view anyone as a rival. Our approach is different from that of companies that may appear to be offering similar products. We follow where children lead us, from metal robots to action characters and now to digital products. It's not a strategy we devised or a response to the urging of industry analysts. We're the servant of children. They want to surf the Internet and they play out their fantasies in video games, so we're giving them an easy tool [with the $600-Pippin] to do both. Computer makers now sell PCs for $2,000 and want to make $500 products. I have no intention of competing on price or technology. We sell dreams to kids.

So Bandai is going to focus more on electronics products?

We will continue to make conventional toys as the core of our line, but we will move on with Pippin. I'm also interested in promoting network games through interactive communication technologies [such as the Internet] now available. Kids will be able to play chess, shogi [Japanese chess] and other video games in cyberspace against players they have never met.

Why the tie-up with America's Apple Computer when it is losing money and market share?

The Macintosh platform is the easiest to handle among computer operating systems. It's ridiculous that people are having a tough time learning to use computers. I've seen the ups and downs of our venture partners in the U.S., so I'm not shocked to see Apple going through the same process. I don't understand why people make such a fuss over its problems. IBM was in the red only a while ago. Apple will not go bankrupt. But there's no chance that Bandai will get involved in its management. Buying an American computer company is as disastrous as buying a Hollywood studio.

How important is Asia as a market for Bandai?

Asians love new things, just like Japanese. We don't need to modify our toys for Asia and Europe. The U.S. is more conservative. Americans have a persistent affection for things they grew up with. I'm amazed that they continue using the same products -- the yellow memo pad, the same coffee maker -- since I first visited 30 years ago. For the U.S., we need to modify girls' dolls. Also, the Power Rangers TV program was created with American actors, avoiding an animated version. For Americans, animation has to be Walt Disney.

I'm optimistic that Asia as a whole will mature as one of Bandai's major markets. Asian toymakers will also develop original toys, instead of just producing copies. I'm keen about working hand in hand with Asians. I'm interested in their joining us and letting their creative talent bloom at Bandai. If anyone is interested, don't hesitate to contact us.

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This edition's table of contents | Asiaweek home



U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

Thai party announces first coalition partner


COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state


COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness

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