Table Speech


Our Half-a-Century History with Computers

September 16, 2020

Mr. Masatsugu Shimono
Honorary Advisor, IBM Japan, Ltd.


 I retired from IBM Japan, Ltd. last year and concluded my 42-year career, after graduating from one of the only three universities that had a “Department of Information Engineering” back in the early 1970s. Today, I want to share with you the remarkable advances made in computers during the past half century.

 The word “information” was brought into Japan in 1876. Yukichi Fukuzawa, a prominent scholar, used “information” in katakana (phonetic characters) in his 1879 publication. It is interesting that the first Japanese translation of “information” carried a meaning of “reporting on enemy’s movements” or “intelligence”.

 When I started working in 1978, the major players in the information technology (IT) sector were IBM, UNIVAC, DEC, Fujitsu, Hitachi and NEC. By early 2009, its top tier was occupied by IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, HP and Fujitsu with market capitalizations worth 10 to 20 trillion yen each. Currently, the tech giants or so-called GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple) plus Microsoft (B to C) dominate all the industries with a gigantic market value of 100 to 200 trillion yen each. IT companies that focus on corporate customers (B to B), such as IBM, Oracle and Cisco, have a much smaller market value worth 10 to 20 trillion yen.

 The IT market has undergone drastic changes thanks to the hard and soft technology innovations that promoted growth of personal computers in the early 1980s and the expansion of the Internet in the 1990s. Dramatic advancement in hardware was based on the “Moore’s Law,” advocated by the founder of Intel Corporation Mr. Gordon Moore that held the number of transistors on integrated circuits would double every 18 months. Moore’s Law culminated in the development of smartphones, which outperform what large-sized computers with a hefty price once did a few decades ago. Today, the development of quantum computers gains increasing interest as a solution to overcome heat dissipation in integrated circuits caused by miniaturization of semiconductor devices. Looking at the development of software, a far-sighted article “Software is eating the world” which appeared in the New York Times in 2011 says a lot. Written by an engineer Mr. Mark Andreessen, it predicted that “all companies will eventually become software companies”. Today, almost every industry depends on software to achieve and sustain its competitive advantage, including Tesla Motors cars designed as “sophisticated computers on wheels” and the exponential growth of Fintech fueled by software-driven innovation.

 Before I close my speech, let me touch upon artificial intelligence (AI). Thanks to “deep learning” and “big data,” AI currently enjoys its third boom with numerous practical applications, ranging from image recognition, language translation to games like igo. I am convinced that smartphones will be equipped with superb translation functions and enable people to communicate freely in multiple languages in the near future.

2009, its top tier was occupied by IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, HP and Fujitsu with market capitalization worth 10 to 20 trillion yen each. Currently, the tech giants or so-called GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple) plus Microsoft (B to C) dominate all the industries with a gigantic market value of 100 to 200 trillion yen each. IT companies that focus on corporate customers (B to B), such as IBM, Oracle and Cisco, have a much smaller market value worth 10 to 20 trillion yen.

 The IT market has undergone drastic changes thanks to the hard and soft technology innovations that promoted growth of personal computers in the early 1980s and the expansion of the Internet in the 1990s. Dramatic advancement in hardware was based on the “Moore’s Law,” advocated by the founder of Intel Corporation Mr. Gordon Moore that held the number of transistors on integrated circuits would double every 18 months. Moore’s Law culminated in the development of smartphones, which outperform what large-sized computers with a hefty price once did a few decades ago. Today, the development of quantum computers gains increasing interest as a solution to overcome heat dissipation in integrated circuits caused by miniaturization of semiconductor devices. Looking at the development of software, a far-sighted article “Software is eating the world” which appeared in the New York Times in 2011 says a lot. Written by an engineer Mr. Mark Andreessen, it predicted that “all companies will eventually become software companies”. Today, almost every industry depends on software to achieve and sustain its competitive advantage, including Tesla Motors cars designed as “sophisticated computers on wheels” and the exponential growth of Fintech fueled by software-driven innovation.

 Before I close my speech, let me touch upon artificial intelligence (AI). Thanks to “deep learning” and “big data,” AI currently enjoys its third boom with numerous practical applications, ranging from image recognition, language translation to games like igo. I am convinced that smartphones will be equipped with superb translation functions and enable people to communicate freely in multiple languages in the near future.


History and Future of Hibiya Park

September 16, 2020

Ms. Ayano Kosaka
President, HIBIYA MATSUMOTORO


 Hibiya Park opened in 1903 as the country’s first Western-style park. It was designed by Dr. Seiroku Honda known as the “Father of Japanese Parks.” The Meiji Government was keen to introduce Western civilization to Japan at that time and appointed Dr. Honda who had studied forestry in Germany to draw the masterplan. The Park has a variety of terrain and paths that showcase different landscapes. It is an aesthetic blend of Western style and Japanese spatial sensation, as a renowned landscape architect Dr. Shinji Isoya once compared to a savory “makunouchi bento (traditional Japanese lunchbox with a variety of colorful side dishes)”. There were no doors placed at the park gates which raised some security concerns among the Tokyo City Council members. Dr. Honda convinced them that “Japan will perish in misery unless morality of the Japanese people will be elevated so that nobody steals flowers and trees from parks. Parks do have an educational role in nurturing public morality.”

 There are three symbolic features in the Park that introduced Western culture and lifestyle to ordinary people at the end of the Meiji period: 1) flowerbeds with Western flowers planted such as tulips and pansies; 2) Western-style restaurant Matsumotoro serving meals such as curry-and-rice and coffee which were rare back then; and 3) Western music played on the stages of a public hall and outdoor concert halls in the Park.

 A number of trees have been planted in the Park as a token of international goodwill. Before WWII, dogwood and magnolia trees were sent from Washington D.C. in gratitude for the gift of cherry trees sent by Mr. Yukio Ozaki, the then Mayor of Tokyo City. After the War, roses were planted by Mr. Ryutaro Azuma, the then Governor of Tokyo, together with the Mayor of New York City Mr. Robert Wagner to commemorate friendship between two cities.

 Located in the heart of Tokyo, the Park served as a venue for state funerals for renowned politicians and generals such as the first Japanese Prime Minister - Hirobumi Ito, Shigenobu Okuma and Aritomo Yamagata. The Park has also been used for many political rallies, protests and even riots. In 1971, a student demonstration against the Okinawa Reversion Agreement escalated into violent conflicts and radical students threw fire bombs to Matsumotoro which was then burnt down.

 To commemorate the Park’s centennial anniversary in 2003, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government introduced a new park management plan, tapping into the expertise and ideas of the private sector. Events like the Gardening Show and the Hibiya Park Grand Bon Dance Festival started and attracted many visitors.

 As we look ahead, we want to preserve the historical and cultural authenticity of the Park handed down for many decades while seeking dynamic collaboration with the private sector to promote “urban development coupled with park management”. We can learn from successful initiatives like Bryant Park in New York City where the Rockefeller Foundation established a non-profit-organization to revive the Park into a safe, secure and attractive space and increased the real estate value of the neighborhood by providing a variety of cultural and intellectual outdoor activities. Parks play an important role in the heart of major cities. We want to make Hibiya Park a source of joy and comfort for people and hand down its historical and cultural heritage for many generations to come.