2004: A Year of Global Change

At the beginning of 2004 I predicted that it would be a year of major changes and events in accordance with a nine-year cycle, and it has indeed been a year of unprecedented change.

First of all, there have been the natural disasters. A series of large typhoons made landfall in Japan and resulted in scenes that we have never witnessed before. Both the horrendous wind speeds and the torrential rainfall were record-breaking, and there were many victims. The cost of damage also reached an all-time high.

Then, exactly nine years after the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, the similarly large Niigata Prefecture Chuetsu Earthquake struck, forcing many people in the disaster zone to evacuate.

And there was the scorching heat. Temperatures rose to record-high levels and were evidence that Japan is becoming subtropical. Looking around the world, one can see similar phenomena in many other places. Global warming clearly is advancing at an accelerating pace. What is going to happen from now on as motorization gains momentum in China? The rising temperatures caused by the carbon dioxide carried across the sea by the prevailing westerly wind could make Japan even more subtropical, and the abnormal meteorological conditions could lead to more and more natural disasters.

This year has also been a year of war and terrorism. With the reelection of President George W. Bush in the United States, the fight against terrorism will no doubt create even more difficult conditions, and Japan will be dragged into the quagmire as well. Meanwhile, the death of Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat has further complicated the Middle East problem. I am concerned that these questions are going to cast a pall over the world economy.

Whatever the case, we must watch carefully to see how the various events that have occurred this year impact the world from now on.

As for our industry, among the new holy trinity, flat-panel televisions and DVD recorders have performed well, having only just embarked on a period of growth. The robust performance remained unchanged even after the Olympics, and the upward trend can be expected to continue for the next few years.

The driver's seat is being occupied by TVs. The development of TVs has led to the growth of DVD recorders and various other products, so that 2004 can probably be described as a year in which lifestyles underwent a change. And it has also been the year in which digital high-vision TV took root. In this respect, it has been a wonderful year indeed.

On the other hand, though, the intense competition has led to a breakdown of prices, which is beginning to have a severe effect on income. Amid much infighting in both manufacturing and sales, 2004 seems to have also been the year in which companies began to look concretely for ways in which they could all make profits. We must further promote the thorough permeation of profitable business.

The reorganization of distribution has also, I think, reached the final corner. The large new store of Yodobashi Camera has come to tower over Tokyo's Akihabara like a giant genie. It is scheduled to open in October 2005, at which time it is said that the daily working population of Akihabara will be 30,000 people and the intermediate population will be 130,000. This second coming of Akihabara as a world-famous district might well further spur the reorganization of distribution.

Everyone would surely agree that 2004 has been a year of major change. As we enter the busy year-end period, I can only hope that 2005 will be a good one.