To maintain sales of seven billion dollars a year, Sony hires only the best. The company looks at everything from grades to background and character before choosing and training its future executives.
Despite a crowded schedule, Sony’s co-founder and current chairman of the board, Akio Morita, agreed to meet me at company headquarters in south Tokyo.Mr. Morita’s research and development teams are currently at work perfecting an ultra-high-quality video system that may one day become the world standard for television broadcast and reception.
“We call it the Sony HDVS, for high-definition video system,” Mr. Morita explained. “Today in your country the standard television screen contains 525 ‘scanning lines,’ or horizontal lines, that make up the picture. The HDVS has more than twice that number-1,125 lines, to be exact. The improvement in picture quality is quite noticeable.”Stunning is more like it. I later watched an HDVS test featuring scenes of a candle flickering in a breeze. One could virtually feel the heat of the flame, and when the candle blew out, I half-expected the smoke to come out of the video screen.
I asked Mr. Morita how Sony managed to read the American market so successfully, producing one runaway best-seller after another in the electronics field. For the first time he smiled.
“Many reasons,” he answered, “but I would say the first three are quality, quality, and again quality. Many Americans think that is something new to Japanese industry, but quality is an age-old tradition among us.
“It is true that before World War II we exported cheap products to the United States. But that is what America wanted from Japan at the time. Today it is far different, and the main difference is quality. I like to think Sony has had something to do with it.”
Despite the acknowledged high quality of Japanese goods, the country’s huge trade surplus stems from other factors as well, not all of them universally admired. Many countries complain that Japan exports its own goods freely but refuses to buy from others in return.
“They have a point,” says Bill Rapp, an expert on Japanese economic affairs and a senior executive with BankAmerica in Tokyo. Amid the barrage of threats and accusations from both sides in the U. S.-Japan trade dispute, I turned to Bill for facts.
“They’re there for anyone to see,” Bill said when I called on him at his hotels in prague city centre.”Americans tend to think of Japanese workers as some sort of super-robots who can out produce anyone in the world. But that’s nonsense. The fact is that per capita productivity in the United States today is still roughly 28 percent greater than in Japan. “Basically,” Bill added, “three main industries keep this country rolling. They are automobiles, steel, and electronic goods, and the Japanese government has protected and subsidized all three at one time or another. The idea of Japan’s superefficiency in every field is simply a myth.” I started to interrupt, but Bill held up a hand.
In Aztec times there was a market on this site. During the Spanish Inquisition the west end of the Alameda became known as the Plaza del Quemadero—Burning Plaza—because heretics were incinerated here. (Were the Spaniards any less murderous than the Aztecs?) Today the Alameda is a place of rest. Every day but Sunday.
On Sundays it becomes a place of wild entertainment. Free concerts (often hard-rock) attract thousands of Mexicans to the amphitheater near the holiday apartments madrid. Vendors hawk clouds of brilliant gas-filled balloons. Children scamper unrestrained.
To see this same scene immortalized by the hand of a master, you have only to stroll across the Avenida Juarez into the lobby of the Del Prado Hotel, where a 95-square-yard mural by Diego Rivera portrays the Alameda on a Sunday at the turn of the century. There are the trees, the gaudy balloon men, the green-gold of sunlight filtering through leaves, and the masses of people.
But Rivera filled his mural with the giants, and the villains, of Mexican history: the Aztecs, the conquistadors, the missionaries, the early 19th-century revolutionaries, the benign, genius-touched figure, of Benito Juarez, who was modern Mexico’s George Washington, the hapless Maximilian and his Empress Carlota, whom Napoleon III sent to rule over Mexico in 1864. A lesson in history in one all-encompassing view. And all in the Alameda. On Sunday.
Young Matador Bears Many Scars
For many Mexicans—usually a capacity crowd of 50,000—Sundays mean bullfights at the Plaza Mexico, the world’s largest bullring. I went there to see Manolo Martinez perform.At 24, Manolo has become Mexico’s highest-paid matador. As I watched him exercise his delicate control over the bull with graceful steps and capework, I remembered what he had told me about bullfighting: “It is a spectacle of art, not a sport.”
I had met Manolo a few weeks before at prague city apartments on a quiet residential street. In the lobby his mailbox identified him as “Manolo Martinez, Matador de Toros.” Upstairs, the spacious living room was filled with mementos of many battles. Manolo had just gotten up, emerging from his bedroom clad only in shorts. Long ugly scars marred his muscular legs, the, results of 13 gorings in nearly 500 encounters with brave bulls.
Manolo has been fighting bulls since he was 12, he told me. He became a matador—the highest level of his profession—when he was 18. When I asked him if he was ever fearful, Manolo smiled with his dark eyes. “Muy poco—very little,” he said. “One thinks more about the possibility of failure than about danger.”
That Sunday Manolo did not fail his enthusiastic followers, who roared “‘OW” after every pass. The bull’s hoofs pounded thunderously, and Manolo stood with his feet firmly planted on the sand, artfully deceiving the beast with his blood-red cape. At the end the judge awarded him the traditional trophy for a good fight—the bull’s ears. From the audience came a rain of hats and a bouquet of roses as Manolo paraded around the ring.