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28/05/2009 - par Mark Tungate

By the time you read this, I will be in Tokyo. It has always been a fascinating destination for those who work in the media. The standard image of the country is that it is constantly in advance; that technology eagerly adopted by consumers over there will eventually make it over here. The science fiction writer William Gibson is enamoured of Tokyo precisely because it transports him to the future.

But I'm not so sure that Tokyo is a vision of our future. One of the reasons I like Japan is that it is totally different to anywhere else. It's as though you've left the planet without actually climbing into a space rocket. So it stands to reason that the media habits of Japanese consumers are specific to their culture.

Take mobile phones for instance. I recently discovered that, although people in Japan watch TV on their mobile phones, this has barely dented the viewing figures of traditional TV – because the reception isn't that great on the metro. With that one piece of knowledge, the image of Japanese technological efficiency goes up in smoke. It turns Tokyo back into the flawed and human city that it is.

Movies always present Tokyo as a neon-lit labyrinth. But it can also be calm, with wide clean streets, parks, temples and cherry trees. The metro is cleaner and more efficient that ours will ever be, even three decades from now. Tokyo will continue to provide inspiration to cool-hunters and trend forecasters. But it is not a crystal ball. It is a multifaceted and very different city, right here and now.

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