Search This Blog & Get A Rife

Loading...

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Fudō Falls in Oji - A Hiroshige Ukiyo-e

The image above is an ukiyo-e... a woodblock print created by master ukiyo-e artist Hiroshige Ando (surname first) of Oji Fudō no taki (Fudō Falls in Oji), created in September of 1857. One of my readers suggests it can also be read as 'Fudoh'... which is correct, but adding an 'h' does not look right at the end of a word - at least in this case..

When I was in Japan, I purchased a few ukiyo-e - but never could afford any of the ones by masters like Hiroshige or Hokusai - though I do have a print by Hokusai showing various forms of bridges, taken from some technical manual... so not an ukiyo-e in the classical sense, anyways.

It wouldn't have mattered... the beautiful nature scene in the above picture would not have captured my attention back when I was purchasing in the early 1990s mostly because any scene I saw I needed to have a reference point for.

Basically, unlike the Japanese for whom these drawings were originally created, I needed to know what it was and where it was...

Okay, the Japanese of the 1850s certainly knew, but did not in fact know if these drawings were truly representative.

The pieces I saw never had description about them - well, they did - but only in Japanese, and on the drawing themselves. Dumb gaijin (foreigner).

Even still... many Japanese of today, had/have great difficulty in reading the script on some of these old works, simply from lack of exposure to such script styles....

So... aside from two nature pieces - one of a pagoda in Nikko done in the 1940s and one from 1855 showing one of 53 stages of the Tokaido highway, every ukiyo-e I purchased was of a woman (because those I recognized), and of everyday scenes of life.

Hey! Waitaminute! The Tokaido Highway ukiyo-e I have! That's by Hiroshige! I do have quality!

Scenes of life, however, are key. If I had seen the above ukiyo-e with its gorgeous nature and people scene and could have afforded it, I would have purchased it on the spot.

Twenty-five years later (almost), I have a much broader view on Japanese art and thanks to the Internet and books, I can find out greater details on things. 

Let's look at the waterfall scene in some greater detail.

You will notice, that there is a hemp rope with tassels (collectively known as shimenawa) hanging high across the waterfall.

This rope, while part of a decoration, also has a religious meaning, implying that the site is sacred.

In Japan, a waterfall is revered, containing not only medicinal properties, but also religious and mystical aspects as well.

The Fudō Taki (Fudō Falls) is in the north part of Tokyo and is named after Fudō-myōō (不動明王), and is considered one of the important deities of Japanese Buddhism.

Fudō-myōō as written in Kanji, implies that he is the 'immovable king of wisdom".

One legend holds that a naked young girl once prayed under a waterfall for her sick father to be healed, and guess what, her wish was granted. As such, bathing in waters of Fud
ō Taki is supposed to provide healing.

In the ukiyo-e, you can see Japanese people looking to partake of the restorative powers of the waterfall.

There's the old man just about to enter the waters.

There's a wet man sitting on low table reaching for a cup of hot o-cha (green tea) being served by an old woman - perhaps a vendor, perhaps his wife.

There are even a pair of kimono-clad women either there for the sights or there to undress and bathe under the waterfall. It almost makes me wish Hiroshige drew this about 20 minutes later.

Hiroshige is the master of the gradient color... the bokashi technique... with the way the blues in the waterfall change and the greens in the surrounding forest imply depth of field while working with shadow and light.

For me, a simple guy with little knowledge on art except that I like what I like, I didn't even notice the forest surroundings until much later. It's just background.

And if that sounds harsh, just recall that Hiroshige wanted the viewer to see the waterfall and how it was being utilized.

How the waterfall is presented - within the forest - and with the shimenawa hemp rope - well... that's not as important as the water or the people who use it.

In fact, if you glance at the ukiyo-e from the top, because you know it is a waterfall, your eyes quickly cascade down the area of the water to the base, where you then spy the people. Everything else is secondary.

But when you do, he adds touches that make you stare in wonder and look around for more surprises... which for me was the small plants at the far left of the pooling water - a couple of weeds. Why add them? Because it's part of nature.

That's why Hiroshige is, in my mind, a master artist.
Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Japan's Haiku Master Bashō

Living in the city of Ohtawara-shi in Tochigi-ken, Japan, I spent a lot of time at the Bashō Haiku museum in nearby Kurobane, that was, when I was there between 1990-1993, a separate village, but has now become a part of that city.

The photo above is taken by my self in the Spring of 1991 on a bicycle trip with Sakuyama Chu Gakko (Sakuyama Junior High School) when they undertook the class trek of "Search For Bashō." The photo is of a mounted Bashō with faithful companion Sora walking beside him. Me... I was there 302 years afterwards.


Bashō Matsuo (surname first) (松尾 芭蕉) is perhaps the best known of the haiku poets.

He is perhaps best known for the following haiku poem - one that I was exposed to here in Toronto when I was just eight-years-old when we had to write our own haiku for an afternoon class. lacking imagination back then, my poem also included a frog, as Bashō's did:

Furike-ya
kawazu tobikomu
mizu-no oto.

It translates to:

Breaking the silence of an ancient pond,
a frog jumped into the water -
a deep resonance.

Even in English that sounds cool.

A Haiku, in case you are unaware, is a three-line poem with 17 syllables... with the first and third lines each having five syllables and the second line seven syllables. It sounds simple, right? It is. I can still create a haiku in a minute on any subject you throw at me. Of course, it doesn't mean my poems are any good.

In this blog I have done many Godzilla haiku - yukking it up for laughs, but in Japan I did write several more serious ones, and even created one in seconds - it just flowed out of my head and onto the paper via my pen - for a beautiful young woman that I fell in love with at first sight. It's a rare thing, my friends. I rare thing. You'll know when it happens...

Born in Ueno-shi, Iga-ken in 1644, Bashō was actually named Kinsaku Matsuo (松尾 金作), then Chūemon Munefusa Matsuo (松尾 忠右衛門 宗房). He was born of noble birth - his father was a samurai warrior - but a low-level one, and of course, in Japan at that time, the son was expected to follow in his father's footsteps.

I can't even imagine what it was like for Bashō or his father, when he decided at age 11 to become a poet.

At around 10 or 11 years of age, Bashō became a servant to Tōdō Yoshitada - surname first - (藤堂 良忠): together they shared a love for haikai no renga, which is a form of comic collaborative poetry composition. I've not tried that with poetry, but certainly have with short story writing, where I would write a page or a chapter and then my fellow writer would continue that thread, and then I would and so on. It's fun.... 

In the haikai no renga format, it begins with an opening verse written in 5-7-5 mora (syllable) format - a verse that was known as a hokku, which literally means 'starting verse'.

It was not until the late 19th century, when poet Shiki Masaoka (1867–1902), renamed this stand-alone hokku to the more familiar term haiku, though the term 'hokku' still refers to the opening verse of a longer Japanese poem. 

Anyhow, back in the days of Bashō when he wrote the collaborative poem, after the initial hokku verse, the next person would create a 7-7 syllable verse.

It was at this time that both Bashō and Tōdō utilized haigō (俳号), which in English means poetry pen names. Bashō's pen name was Sōbō (宗房), which is another way to read the kanji of his adult name Munefusa (宗房).

In 1662 Bashō created his first real poem... and more followed. But, when Yoshitada died in 1666, Bashō's life as a servant was over, though he continued to create poems while struggling to discover what type of job he could hold.

His poems continued to be published in anthologies in 1667, 1669, and 1671, and he published his own compilation of work by him and other authors of the Teitoku school, Seashell Game, in 1672.

Eventually giving up any chance of remaining within the samurai-class, in 1672 he left his home town and traveled to Edo (now Tokyo) which was the head of the Tokugawa shogun government, to do more poetry writing, and, because even today there probably isn't a poet out there who is rich (excluding Ted Geisel/Dr. Seuss), he made a living as a teacher.

In 1674 he was inducted into the inner circle of the haikai profession.

At Edo, however, Bashō created his own style of haiku, which he called Sho Fu (Bashō Style). Really. You'd think that for a guy with such an awesome imagination, he might have come up with something either more creative or imaginative - say Bashō Whimsy.

What is Basho Style - well, I'm not a poetic historian, but apparently he decided that his haiku did not need to follow the comic stylings of the Danrin haiku school led by Nishiyama Soin (surname first) which was popular because of colloquial content and light humor.

And the reason why people globally know the name Bashō is because of his use of Nature in his writings, making it literary art.

According to those who seem to know, such as what I found here: http://web-japan.org/museum/others/uta/haiku/haiku_01.html, Bashō's work "emphasizes the atmosphere of "sabi" (elegant simplicity), "shiori" (a deep sympathetic feeling for both nature and humanity), "hosomi" (understatement) and "karomi" (a light tone). It is also focused on the mood of "yugen", spiritual profundity expressing the inner beauty of art and nature and "kanjaku", a serene desolation.

I'm not sure I could write that sentence in my own words if I tried.

Tired of Edo, Bashō renounced the social, urban life of the literary circles (teaching and poetry) and thought he should wander around Japan.... heading on various treks west, east, and far into the northern wilderness to gain inspiration for his writing.

A simple look at any of his poems - and you can Google his poems yourself, if so inclined, you can see that he was greatly influenced by what he saw and felt around him... able to capture that feeling in three simple lines, perhaps aided by Dosojin, Japan's god of the traveler, whispering to him.

And so... because he wanted to travel the paths of other great poets where the days and the months are travelers of a hundred generations, he undertook several journeys around Japan, much like other poets had, who traveled and composed until they felt the weight of the years.

In the spring of 1689, Basho undertook his third trek... this time going to the northern provinces, and though only 44 or 45 years old, he seemed to think he wasn't coming back, selling his home.

For Basho, he admired other poets who had died while on a journey. He probably thought there was something romantic about dying while doing what you love best. Me? I want to come and go at the same time. I think there's a spelling mistake in that last sentence.

This northern trip inspired him to create his famous book of poems: Oku-no Hosomichi (The Narrow Journey to the Deep North) - 奥の細道, originally おくのほそ道  - a travelogue.

It was on April 3, 1689, that Basho (and Sora his travel companion) arrived at the town of Kurobane in Tochigi-ken. Or was it May 21, 1689? It was both.

That first date is via Japan's use of the old lunar calendar (see HERE). The solar calendar we use now would make his arrival date May 21.

Haiku and description carved into a stone monument commemorating Basho's work at the Kurobane Bashō museum.

In 1691, Bashō took his third trek around Japan, this time heading west, leaving Edo on March 4, 1691 and arrived at Nagashima on July 25, 1691. I'm guessing this isn't the Nagashima in Kagoshima (the large island to the southwest), but is instead the one closer to Osaka, near Mie-ken (it's recently merged with other towns to become the expanded city of Kuwana).

One of my favorite Basho poems involves his travels to see the mystical Mt. Fuji:
"In a way / It was fun / Not to see Mount Fuji / In foggy rain."

I can dig it. In three years of passing by and standing supposedly at the foot of this legendary Japanese mountain, I never caught a glimpse of it while on Japanese soil. Cloud, smog, rain, snow... what the hell?! It makes me wonder if it actually exists.

The last trip that Basho made, was when he left Edo in the summer of 1694, first spending time in Ueno (now a part of Tokyo) before traveling to Kyoto and then nearby Osaka.

He developed a stomach sickness and died peacefully in a country inn in Naniwa, Osaka.

Perhaps because he only thought he was sick and not going to die, he did not prepare a zetsumei-shi, (絶命詩) - a death poem, which the literati in Japan and some other cultures prepare in advance of the death.

However... he did write the following haiku, which is generally accepted to be his last poem.

Tabi ni yande
yume wa kareno wo
kake meguru

Which translates to:

Falling sick on a journey
my dream goes wandering
over a field of dried grass

Nowadays, many a poet travels the path of Bashō, hoping to be similarly stimulated.

Me... I now get my inspiration from being curiouser and curiouser.

Cheers,
Andrew 'Wander' Joseph

Monday, July 28, 2014

1946 Japan Via Life Magazine


Here's a set of photos taken in 1946 by Life Magazine, presented via the blog Vintage Everyday.

The photos provide a neat look at Tokyo, Japan following the aftermath of WWII with a stark reminder that life goes on... somehow.

Click HERE.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph  

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Fireworks Over The Sumida River

Here's a photo from Reuters, taken by Kato Issei (surname first), of fireworks going off over the Sumida-kawa (Sumida River) in Tokyo on July 26, 2014 with more than 25,000 fireworks being exploded that night.

This is one of the oldest fireworks displays in Japan, going back to 1733, with this year's event having an estimated 960,000 people attending.



If you click HERE, you can see a short article I wrote alongside an ukiyo-e print commissioned in August of 1858 showing Hiroshige Ando's (surname first) (also known as Hiroshige Utagawa) masterpiece of Fireworks by Ryohgoku Bridge

I can only assume the fireworks display has become even more spectacular in the succeeding 166 years - at least it appears that way to me. 

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Japanese Superstitions: Four Ways To Die In Japan

Welcome to another edition of this blog, where we provide the 'what for' for all your superstitious needs.

One of the people I enjoy reading on-line—and there aren't that many—is Muza-chan… who provides the world with awesome photographs and some guidance about Japan, who recently posted a short piece on the Number 4 and Japanese superstition of said number.

She says that the Number 4 in Japan is an unlucky number, much as the Number 13 is in other countries. I knew that, but she offered a unique take on things, involving Tatami Mats (grass mats), of all things. Go check it out HERE - and come back when you are done. That, in reference to the blog title, is #1) .

Truth be told, however, the Number 4 is unlucky in many other countries besides Japan.

Known as tetraphobia (in Greek, tetras = four; phobos = fear), it is the 'practice' of avoiding the number four (4). It's not a FEAR of the number 4 - it's just a superstitious (or not) belief that the number can be construed as 'unlucky.'

As I said, it's not just Japan that seeks to avoid the number 4, it's China, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, and other countries within East and Southeast Asia.

Okay… so what's up with the number four?
#2) In those countries (some of them for sure I know about), the way the word 'four' is pronounced in the respective languages, sounds exactly like how the word 'death' is pronounced.

In Japan, for example, it is 'shi' (sounds like 'she') for death (死) and four (四). Of course, the kanji used is different for those two words (in the brackets), but apparently it's the thought that counts… people simply dislike talking about death.
The only thing I find scary about Japanese pop-rock girlie band Scandal, is wondering if I have the stamina for four before death takes me via dehydration.
In China, the word for four is '' and 'sei', and the word for death is '' and 'sei'. In Korean, both are pronounced 'sa'; in Vietnamese it's 'tur'… if not exactly the same in pronunciation, then at least it is pretty bloody close, or so I hear.

Because this blog is about Japan, I'll try and stick to the topic, but know that in Japan, they take their shi very seriously. Ha.

# 3) It is not uncommon for apartment buildings in Japan, or parking lots to avoid having the Number 4 - as in a door number.
Cryptic? Or are the even numbers in the Japanese parking lot on the other side of the camera? 

It also means that an elevator will not contain a button with the Number 4… it will have 1/M-2-3-5-6-7-etcetera.

Just as in the West where the number 13 is avoided in apartment/office buildings, I wonder if the Japanese are wary of living on the 5th floor, knowing that it is, in reality, the 4th Floor… the Floor of Death?

Probably not.

The fourth physical floor of my apartment building in Japan listed a number 4, so I guess the building owners said either 'screw superstition' or 'screw the tenants', and unluckily numbered it appropriately.

I'm unsure if the numbering practice of shi avoidance still exists in Japan, however, as modern buildings and facilities are trying to ensure the country doesn't look so 'superstitious' in the eyes of the world.

Perhaps if there IS a floor number four/shi... people simply either never say the word, or they use a different word.

Yes, Japan has found another word to represent the word 'four'.

So, in order to avoid calling out death, or what sounds like death, all Japanese use the word 'yon' to represent the number four. It's the same kanji, however for the number four (see above).

People count as yon (four); ju-yon (14); niju-yon (24); sanju-yon (34) and so on. Ju means 10; ni is two, so 20 is niju - 2-10… san is three, so 30 is sanju. Yes… 44 is yonju-yon.

When it's ingrained in your number counting system(s), you know they take it seriously… but why have even created the word 'shi' for the number 'four' in the first place?

No one knows - except that when the word was created, the early Japanese probably weren't that afraid of a bad luck word considering there were so many other things that could kill them far more painfully. Like the sun or the moon spirits, or a wolf or bear or a poison fish, or a demon, ogre, hag, ghost or a joke-loving turtle spirit. All things the Japanese would be concerned about in the old days.

Now… Japan seems to want to avoid a few other numbers for fear of uttering a word that could be construed as something to call upon sickness or evil, like this:

Japanese hip-hop group High4. They never studied in school, but are cuter and richer than I am, if you like that kind of stuff - apparently many people do.
The Number 9 is another example. Why? The word nine in Japanese is pronounced as 'ku'.

Apparently, for some overly sensitive people, it reminds them of the Japanese word 'to suffer', which is 'kurushimu'.

Uhhhhhhh-huh. So the beginning of the word is apt to cause some stress to the Japanese? Yeesh.

As such, Japanese hospitals, in particular, tend not to use number Nine, which must make for some interesting medical choices when a 99-year-old patient needs 9-cc's of medicine after being in a car accident. The Japanese word for car is 'kuruma', which the last I checked, the first part of the word sounds the same as the Japanese word for nine.

My head hurts.

To make it complete, some Japanese dislike the number 49… because of the reasons above which combine to represent the words "death" and "suffer"…

They also seem to dislike the number 43, yonju-san, because it apparently sounds like the Japanese word for 'still-birth'.

To compensate, when the Japanese give gifts, it should never be in a set of four.

#5) Hmmm… I wonder if the Japanese feel uneasy when speaking English knowing that 'he said/she said' could bring the speaker bad luck. What if your name was Sheila?

Does hearing a gaijin (foreigner) say the word 'she' make them cringe inside? Could I have brought death upon every Japanese woman I slept with if I said the word 'she' while atop/below/behind or in front of them?

Just call me 'Killer',
Andrew Joseph

Friday, July 25, 2014

Japanese Good Luck War Flag


In doing some research a couple of days ago for something wholly-unrelated to this, I found a Japanese flag - which we'll discuss below as a secondary item, as research on it was somewhat fruitless. But it did lead me to another tidbit earlier today...

... something called a hinomaru yosegaki (good luck flag) -日の丸寄せ書き - that individual soldiers would carry around with them during WWII. These national flags (Red circle on a field of white) would be gifts to individual soldiers from family or friends and would have messages on them wishing the victory, safety and luck.

The Japanese flag is known as hinomaru (which means 'round sun'). When these flags were signed, the 'signatures' would radiate out from the rising red sun to appear as rays of light. Yosegaki means 'sideways writing'.

These personal flags may have first come around the first Sino-Japanese (China-Japan) War of 1895-95, but that's probably from just a few people doing something like that... it didn't really catch on until Japan started going to war in China in the 1930s, in Manchuria through the end of WWII from a period of about 1937-1945.

Which leads me to what I was originally going to write about - a WWII Japanese regumental unit flag - or whatever it is.


As far as the Unit flag that individual soldiers in the Army or Navy belonged to, these regimental unit flags are rare, as each would have its own colors and standards applied to the flag.

Japanese organizational colors and standards from Army and Navy units are extremely rare.

Why? Well, one reason is that such regimental flags from WWII were only issued once... and if it wore out, it wore out - no new replacement flag was reissued. 

The other reason is that after Japanese Emperor Hirohito talked to Japan by radio on August 15, 1945, saying Japan had surrendered, Japan's GHQ (General Headquarters) ordered all units to burn their flags before the Allies would arrive on August 28 and the formal surrender on September 2, 1945.

As such, there is only one officially recognized regimental flag still in existence.... the flag of the 321st Regiment on display at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.

Of course, that doesn't mean that there aren't more, as Allied soldiers might have picked up a few souvenirs before coming home.

As you can see, this silk flag has a lot of fringe around it - but it's golden in color. Traditionally, the Japanese army fringe color was purple, so it's kind of a mystery as to exactly what it is for, except that it is a Unit flag.

It is supposed, through some translations, that the golden fringed flag is a 1945 Military Aviation School flag - for cadets, possibly training to be part of a bomber crew.

While it conforms to the size and style of regimental flags, the insignia and golden yellow fringe are atypical, leading to speculation that it might be a flag for veterans or alumni.

Width of Hoist
27
Length of Fly
37

This is a double-sided silk flag with machine stitchings. It contains leather reinforced corner patches with grommets.

Anyhow... At least you learned about Japan's hinomaru yosegaki.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Japanese Phone Companies Set To Take Over Asia

Below is a story taken from Nikkei, about Japan's phone companies getting their hands into the telecommunications strategies of other countries - it's like the dream of Imperial Japan is coming true 80 years later - just with a lot less bloodshed.

I can't rewrite the story, because, well... it's a good story and I don't know anything about mobile phones because I don't have one and have never used one. I'm not saying I won't at some time in the future, it's just that I don't see the point at this juncture of my life.

No one to talk to and no one calls. That's fine by me, I suppose. I've always been a whole lot of a loner.

Anyhow... busy day... left work early to take my still suffering wife and her soon to be removed gall bladder out to visit her mother in a nearby city after the old lady collapsed on Tuesday evening.

Yes... when it rains it pours... and my roof leaks. I'd call you and ask for help, but... you know... I never ask for help and I don't have a cell phone. I'd say I like to suffer in peace, but I get to tell 2,000 people day how my day is. That's the real long-distance feeling.

I do have plenty of stories on the go, but it needs a gentle touch, and I, for one, lack the time to do so at this juncture.   

By the way... Myanmar... how come the BBC calls it Burma... the old name? They used to call it Myanmar... but a few months ago I caught them saying Burma. I can't even pronounce Myanmar, but I wouldn't call it Burma unless that is what the country's name is. 

Here's the story:

Japan's KDDI, Sumitomo set out to develop Myanmar's wireless frontier

YUKIHIRO KAWANA, YUKI HANAI and MOTOKAZU MATSUI, Nikkei staff writers

Mobile phone use is increasing in Yangon, Myanmar's commercial center.
TOKYO/YANGON--Major wireless carrier KDDI and trading house Sumitomo Corp. have established a joint venture to enter Myanmar's nascent mobile service market.
The Japanese companies on Wednesday announced they will invest some 200 billion yen ($1.95 billion) and work with Myanma Posts and Telecommunications to offer wireless services in the country. KDDI and Sumitomo hope to repeat their success in Mongolia, where they corralled the largest share of a growing mobile market.
KDDI's international expansion strategy of focusing on developing countries stands in contrast with Japanese rival SoftBank's penchant for large-scale acquisitions in more mature markets.
Yuzo Ishikawa, KDDI's senior vice president, on Wednesday told a news conference that his company's goal is to lead the development of Myanmar's telecommunications infrastructure. The 200 billion yen will be spent over 10 years to build base stations and other facilities needed for quality mobile services.
Second chance
KDDI, the company behind Japan's au mobile brand, and Sumitomo began eyeing Myanmar's wireless market in 2010. Last summer, they bid for a license, only to lose to Ooredoo of Qatar and Telenor Group of Norway.
Then came a second chance: MPT invited major foreign telecom companies to form a partnership to compete with Telenor and Ooredoo in one of the world's least connected countries. Orange of France, formerly France Telecom, and Singapore Telecommunications, known as SingTel, also showed an interest, but KDDI and Sumitomo apparently offered the better deal.
Under the arrangement, KDDI cannot use its own brand and must share profits with MPT. But because MPT already has a customer base of 6.83 million, the Japanese companies expect to start making money from the business quickly. Partnering with the state-run provider will also give KDDI an advantage when it comes to frequency allocations and other regulatory matters.
A senior KDDI executive said the deal enables a quick start and minimizes risks.
Myanmar's government welcomed the agreement. At a ceremony held Wednesday in the capital Naypyitaw, Myat Hein, the minister of communications and information technology, said he is convinced that KDDI's and Sumitomo's global experience and fundraising expertise will help boost MPT's competitiveness.
Due in part to MPT's limited funds, Myanmar's telecom infrastructure is underdeveloped. Only around 10% of the population currently subscribes to the state-run company's wireless service.
The government led by President Thein Sein has set a goal of raising the ratio of mobile subscribers to 80% of the population in 2016 by opening the market to foreign players. One local agent predicted that without improvements to its antiquated network, more than 90% of MPT's customers would flee to its new competitors. The planned investment by the Japanese consortium could be MPT's ticket to retaining and adding subscribers.
Mongolia model
The Japanese market's limited growth potential has forced telecom providers to look abroad. SoftBank has raised its international profile with a series of moves, including last year's $21.6 billion acquisition of Sprint Nextel of the U.S. But KDDI came to the conclusion early on that emerging nations were its best bet.
KDDI and Sumitomo started a wireless business in Mongolia in 1996, when there was not much of a cellphone market there. Not only did they build up the necessary infrastructure, KDDI also launched other services such as online gaming and digital content distribution.
KDDI's share of the Mongolian market hit 80% at one point. It has lost some of that ground, but it remains in a strong position with 50%.
Will KDDI's strategy work as well in Myanmar? Both Telenor and Ooredoo plan to roll out services this summer, aiming to take customers away from MPT. KDDI will need to act fast to capitalize on the market's growth, with one estimate projecting that 47.5 million people will sign up for mobile services in the next three years.
Ross Cormack, CEO of Ooredoo Myanmar, has said the company's service will reach 97% of the population within five years.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph