Okinawa International Film Festival

 The 1st day of the festival saw 550 artists and directors walk on the red carpet, and 53,000 spectators. This red carpet is the world’s longest. The event lasts for 8 days and has 57 sponsors. During these eight days, 74 works from 9 countries were shown, with 20 works competing for awards. The event was seen by a record-setting 420,000 people!
  Mr. Osaki, President of Yoshimoto Kogyo and chairman of the executive committee, said “I want to see Okinawan industry sing and dance on a daily basis!”
This event is a powerful force in Okinawa. Involving 41 municipalities, this event shows off the charms of Okinawa to the world. In the beginning some saw it as an event that came from the mainland, but in time the locals took over responsibility for it. This year, for the first time, all of the movies were free.
 This is more than just a movie-watching event. There is also a market and an exhibition hall with 50 companies represented. The booths become more and more authentic every year, and they are not only interesting for industry insiders, but also crowded with parents and children.
 This year the “Creator’s Factory” talent search was held for the first time.
It’s designed to find the stars of tomorrow in directing, filming, and acting.
Producer and actress Kiki Sugino won the highest award for “Odayaka” and Yoshimoto Kogyo will fully support her next work.

 The event also gives birth to new businesses. Using “Pashaoke” (an auction-style shopping appli) one could purchase the right to walk down the red carpet with NON STYLE (a pair of Japanese comedians). For a good price, a woman was able to proudly walk down the world’s longest red carpet with her head held high. The proceeds went to a group in Ginowan city that promotes children’s dance and is sponsored by Yoshimoto Kogyo.
 Competition jurist and director of Batman Forever Joel Schumaker said that, “There is no other festival like it.” Many film festivals are finished once the awards have been handed out and seem like “fake” events put on by the entertainment industry, but the Okinawa Film Festival is different. It is more like a school arts festival involving artists, directors, the industry, and spectators. It involves movies, music, plays, and videos.

  At the same time, the Okinawan Elementary School Film Festival is held, featuring seven works by elementary students. The schools are supported by visits from Japanese comedians. There is also a competition to make the best commercial promoting local charms called the “Jimot CM Conpe.” In this competition, the 41 municipalities of Okinawa and 46 mainland prefectures choose 87 plans from over 1000 ideas and put them into action. It’s a local event into which people invest their time and passion.


Digital Picture Book Award

  An awards ceremony for digital picture books was held.
  This award goes to a digital picture book that is displayed to children on smartphones, tablets, or digital signage rather than on television or a personal computer.
 The sponsors of the event are NPO “CANVAS” and Digital Picture Book, Inc.

 The center of attention this year was “My Glasses Yearn to be Butterflies” by middle school student Yusuke Uno. In this story, his eyeglasses become entranced by a beautiful butterfly and through a variety of means attempt to become one. Currently Mr. Uno is building a 3D car race game. He’s also studying English so that he’ll be able to release English versions of his software as well. He’s a very powerful young man.

 The jurists commented on the works.
 The first comments were to draw attention to the possibilities of digital picture books.
 Psychiatrist Rika Kayama said that, “At first I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to make one by myself, but I was rapidly drawn into the world of digital picture books.”
 Mr. Sugiyama , president of Digital Hollywood, said that, “Digital picture books are a new form of expression that jumps from the frames of smartphone and tablets, and will entertain everyone from children to adults.”
 Game creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi claimed that, “parents can now participate in the creation of a picture book. It’s a new way of doing things and is diversifying the field.”
 President Kadokawa of KADOKAWA publishing stated that “the field is growing rapidly, and those who are currently paving the way are great.”

  Pediatrician Noboru Kobayashi offered up an assignment. “From the moment when a child let’s forth its first cry, it looks around for information. People crave information. Information feeds the heart and soul. I hope that this year’s winner will look into this phenomenon. Japan is falling behind the US and Korea in the computerization of education. For the sake of the future of Japan, I’d like them to think about ways to develop ‘Children with the ability to gain information.”
 Kouji Ishikawa, creator of picture books, said, “In the 90s, multimedia works failed to deliver that which was expected of them. They mostly required the use of a keyboard. Smartphones and tablets allow for a more analog method of interaction. I’m glad to see that a junior high school student took home the top award.”
 Yuichi Kimura, also a picture book artist, said, “A digital picture book is more than just a picture book that has been digitized. There are more possibilities. Three years from now I don’t want to be a jurist, I want to be an award recipient.”
  Finally, neurologist Kenichiro Mugi offered these words of encouragement: “Some people misunderstand the word ‘digital.’ Those who argue that a picture book must be on paper have no foundation for their argument. Digital means ‘interactive.’ If you think about it, kamishibai (picture-story shows) were interactive. One could think of digital picture books as an evolution of kamishibai. However, Japan has been slow to adapt. We’ve been asleep for 20 years. We need a sense of urgency. YouTube has become a great force, even without awards. Digital picture books must become great as well; with-or-without awards ceremonies. I’d like to see digital picture books advance not because they were chosen by jurists, but because they are chosen by everyone.”

 Let’s give it our best!


4Development of the Automatically-Interpreting Phone

  NTT has released an appli that automatically translates conversations in 10 different languages, including English, Chinese, Korean, and French. They say that it can be used at meetings and during phone calls.
 Accuracy is said to be at 90% for Japanese and 80% for English. By using a database in the cloud, it will likely improve rapidly. After some time of being able to translate on the web using Google Translate, the ability to use such a feature in conversation is finally here.
I’m impressed. I was actually the 1st person to be involved with the development of the automatically-translating phone.

In 1985, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications announced a “Master Plan for the Development of the Automatically-Translating Phone.” I was a coordinator. It was my first task after entering the government.
 The previous year, while working as a bureaucrat, I was sent to the frontline of negotiations with the US over the liberalization of telecommunications. When the privatization of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone yielded the government 2 trillion yen, there was competition within the government to create a project with a gigantic research and development budget. Due to lack of sufficient manpower, I was put in charge even though I was new.
 We were to make a system that combined voice entry, machine translation, and speech synthesis. It would require the construction of a huge database. This project was the first of its kind. I organized a research meeting with academia and related business circles, with professor Nagao of Kyoto University as the chairman, and formed a plan.
There was much political strife during development, and while building up a promotional organization I only slept for 10 hours per week until the end of the year. Having such an experience during the first year of my employment was one of the most valuable experiences of my life. Yoshio Utsumi, my boss at the time, later became the secretary general of the UN’s ITU (International Telecommunication Union). He was 42 years old at the time. In the old days, even young officials did great work.  22-year-old and a 42-year-old did this work.
 In the end, investment institutions set up research centers to facilitate the development of the required fundamental technologies, and the ATR (Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International) was set up in Keihanna Science City. ATR eventually grew to become a world famous research center.
 Thirty years have passed since then. Another thing that impresses me is that the form of the device is completely different from what we had imagined at the time. I had envisioned a black phone with lines connected to foreigners who would do the interpreting. At the time, the cost of a call between Japan and the US was 1,530 yen/minute. Development at the time was centered around KDD’s research lab, which had a legal monopoly on international calls.
 However, when the idea finally became reality it was on a mobile device called a “smartphone” using a communication network called the “internet” for next-to-nothing. What’s more, rather than just talk to a person overseas, you can now see them as well, and the translation is carried out over the internet. The developer wasn’t KDD, but a descendant of Nippon Telephone and Telegraph. Media certainly is interesting.


Digital Textbooks: 1 person; 1 year; 10,000 yen

 In 2010, when the DiTT (Association of Digital Textbooks & Teaching) was established, there were those who said that our goal of having digital textbooks and a device in the hand of every student was just a castle in the air. Some recommended that we amend our goal to use regular textbooks rather than digital. In the last year, things have changed.
 Osaka City, the Arakawa section of Tokyo, Takeoshi city in Saga prefecture, and Bizenshi city in Okayama Prefecture have all pledged to put a digital device into the hand of every elementary school student.
 The government, under the Intellectual Property Plan, has decided to take the necessary measures up to and including changing the law, to make this a reality.
 At the national level, a diet caucus has resolved that education ICT (Information and Communication Technology) shall involve five measures, one of which includes placing a tablet PC into the hands of every student.
 This has strengthened our resolve at the DiTT, and we have proposed an outline for the introduction of digital textbooks and resolved to assist 100 areas and 100 of the best teachers to achieve this goal.
 However, one major hurdle remains: the cost. It takes money to do this. Exactly how much it will cost and who will shoulder the burden remains to be answered.
 In recent days, the question, “So in the end, how much will it cost?” has been asked more and more. If we imagine one machine for one person, how much will that cost per person? This aspect was never really discussed at the table.
 In the diet, there were conflicting claims. “The makers claim that it will take 17,000 yen per person, but that’s impossible.” “In Thailand one tablet is only 80 dollars.” “It will be about 10,000 yen, won’t it?”
 We imagine a policy under which it costs 10,000 yen per year per person. A set consisting of a Wi-Fi tablet, applis, and support should be rented or leased. Rather than a set selling cost of 10,000 yen per person, we imagine the implementation of a three-year rental program, or a 5-year lease. It also might be a good idea to accommodate used equipment.
  A certain city has said that if the procurement cost can be kept to 10,000 yen per student then they will be prepared to equip the students. If we can establish this service model then the idea will take hold amongst municipalities and budget measures will be strengthened and the implementation will spread widely.
 Therefore we at the DiTT are recommending a 10,000 yen per person plan to municipalities. There are already some plans in place by telecommunications companies. They’re waiting for even more attractive proposals.