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Japan legal blogs to be big

After developing some of Japan’s hottest Net ventures, Joichi Ito, a 37-year-old entrepreneur, has a new mission according an article in our Seattle Post Intelligencer: Making blogs, not just a thriving business but also a key element of everyday life in Japan. Ito argues blogs are far easier to set up than Web pages – nearly as easy as sending e-mail – so a whole new class of people can participate, Ito argues. “Weblogs are doing a lot of what people were excited about the Net when it first came out – the fact that anyone can be a publisher,” Ito said at his Tokyo office while clicking now and then on blogs.

For Japanese lawyers and law firms doing working in Japan, it looks like a blog is going to get you good exposure in Japan in addition the this country. Ito is no lightweight and Japanese blogs are becoming a big deal.

Here’s just a little of what the PI reported on Ito:

A college dropout, he is the founder and chief executive of Neoteny Co., a venture capital firm that has raised $40 million. Ito has helped set up or run such companies as Infoseek Japan, the nation’s second-largest portal after Yahoo! Japan, and Rakuten Inc., Japan’s biggest Internet shopping site.

When not jetting around the world to lecture in France about mobile technology or sit on blogging panels at U.S. tech conferences, Ito advises the Japanese government and appears on Japanese talk shows.

“Joi is an incredibly dynamic person,” said Justin Hall, an American writer on technology culture and a friend of Ito’s for several years. “He’s got a fantastic curiosity. His metabolism or something – he’s wired a little different.”

Ito joined friends from international schools in creating Japan’s first Web pages.

“People thought we were crazy. But we had great confidence because we saw that it was going to be giant one day,” said Cyrus Shaoul, one of Ito’s international-school buddies. “The point wasn’t to make a lot of money. The point was to change the world.”

Admittedly Ito has a vested stake in blogging. He recently decided against expanding Neoteny’s dozen-company portfolio to focus on Six Apart Ltd., the California company behind Movable Type and TypePad, among the leading tools for blogging. He promotes the technology in Japan as chairman of Six Apart’s Japanese subsidiary.

Ito also leads the international and mobile operations of Technorati Inc., a Web service that ranks blogs by popularity and monitors the Net for the latest buzz among bloggers.

Blogs are a big deal in Japan as reported by the PI:

Blogs have been rapidly growing in popularity in Japan, catching on especially in the past year at a pace that’s believed to lag only the United States. At least a dozen companies in Japan provide blogging services. Internet service provider Nifty, which licenses Six Apart’s software, has drawn about 25,000 bloggers.

Most of the blog services are free so far. But once blogging gains acceptance as a self-publishing medium, business opportunities such as advertising and premium photo-sharing services should emerge.

Ito has yet to launch a specific moneymaking service for bloggers, but he has created a Neoteny blogging team to feed the fad.

Blogs here look similar to those in the United States. People comment on the news and music, pass around jokes, rate restaurants.

In a society that emphasizes conformity and harmony, blogging makes it easier for people to express unpopular opinions and get tangled in emotional debates.

“The thing neat about weblogs is you find each other,” Ito said. “It gives you a feeling of empowerment. For grass-roots movements and things like that, it will be great.”

Junjiro Hara, who has known Ito for decades, is sold on blogging and prefers it as an outlet for his views than his real job at major newspaper Asahi Shimbun.

“Japan can’t change for the better until it becomes a place where everyone starts blogging,” Hara said.

The article concludes by stating that Ito believes blogging will one day prove as influential as the printing press. “Blogging will fundamentally change the (way) people interact with media and politics and provide us with an opportunity to overhaul our outdated democracies,” he said.

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