I write often about how Japanese consider themselves to be a decade or so "behind" the U.S. and Europe, and almost take it for granted that their country is less advanced than the West. For example, I've heard people here remark that no one from Japan could have created a company like YouTube, capable of serving videos to every point on the globe, because no one here could think on such a nakedly large scale. Although it's all too easy to judge Japan from my American point of view, there are some core areas that could be improved, starting with thinking about the web. Yahoo Japan's video site would like to be #1 here, but it not only requires Windows 2000/XP/Vista to work, but you have to be using Internet Explorer, which is a real bummer for Linux, Mac and all Firefox users. Japanese web companies don't seem terribly interested in the outside world, either: Mixi.jp, the leading Facebook-like site in Japan, requires an email address with a Japanese ending (yahoo.co.jp as opposed to yahoo.com) to sign up. Banks can be frustrating, too. Back in my single days, I went hitchhiking up to Hokkaido, being sure to bring my bank card so I could get money from the "cash corner" (ATM) when I needed it. Unfortunately, banks and their ATMs were closed for the Golden Week holidays back then, so I wasn't able to get any cash out all week. (Banks have gotten better, but are still frustrating -- it still costs $6 to send $50 to someone's bank account, as there are no personal checks in Japan.) In the past, many of the most innovative ideas have flowed from Japan, like the Sony Walkman or the idea of putting a camera in a cell phone, but I don't think something like Skype could ever have been invented here.