Some of you might have noticed the temporary new banner on the right column of this website. SXJapan, what is that?

Many of you might know my passion about Japan and its related technologies, startups and innovations. Lots can be said. Lots can be admired. Lots can be criticized. In the end, the market stays an amazingly interesting one, in terms of lessons than can be learned.

Now, since I’m traveling quite a bit, I see that many people have a fascination for Japan but don’t know much -not to say nothing at all- about the country. The conversations are usually limited to the usual basic comments and preconceptions in the market. Like me a few years ago. I was totally clueless, locked in my vague assumptions.

Having attended my first South By SouthWest (SXSW) Interactive last year, one of the biggest technology conference in the world -the one that saw the rise of the likes of Twitter or Foursquare-, I thought that having a panel focused on Japan would be more than appropriate.
Mobile is surely one of the major trend that Japan experienced before any other country in the world. The lead in technologies might be dwindling to some eyes, but the relative shifts currently experienced, especially in the smartphone field -mostly foreign ones- do put the market in a new light. It is one of the topic that I propose to cover in mid-March 2011.

Here’s what I submitted -written in under 5 minutes as I was in a hurry, so please bear with the generalities:

Japan remains a big question mark. Sometimes qualified as strange, sometimes thought as very innovative, often unknown to many. Can you name one Japanese startup? Can you name one Japanese web service that you use? Do you know Facebook is almost inexistent there? With the recent successes of Twitter (almost 20% of worldwide tweets are in Japanese), the iPhone (shaking a very insular mobile market), is Japan opening up to the US and the world? Similarly, with Rakuten, the Japanese eBay, acquiring Buy.com & opening offices in the US, but also entering China and elsewhere, are we witnessing a new era of Japanese companies’ expansion? Japan remains a land of opportunities. A country where innovative models are popping up every day. Let’s learn about Japan.

SXSW asks people to submit their ideas for panels, then a committee choses those deemed interesting enough to go to the next stage. I was lucky enough to see my panel selected. What is the next stage? A voting by the general public. You, in short.

So, yeah, I’m fishing for your votes.

To better understand what I’m doing here, I’ve created a mini-site explaining, both in Japanese and English: SXJapan.com [Twitter / Facebook]

It includes information on how to vote (yes, that does require registration, but it’s both simple and spam-free). If you feel like it, you can even vote directly by going to the official panel page.

So, I know, it’s quite egocentric to believe that you might be interested in voting for a conference you might not even attend. And that, in some ways, I’d be personally put in the spotlight by leading its organization.

I’m aware of those shortcomings and I’ll try to be as open as possible in terms of what comes out of it.

I don’t know what liberty the SXSW committee will give me on the choice of the panelists. I want to put the spotlight on them. I want to get at least two Japanese in there, since it shouldn’t be a gaijin thing or whatever, but it will all depend on who actually makes it there.

I’ll also try to organize a social -and informal- gathering of those making it to Austin from Japan next March. Mixed with those who have a genuine interest in the market or have activities in it. No idea how and when for now, I’ll readily admit it.

I would like to thank Masato Kogure for blogging it in Japanese about it and those of you who have already tweeted it out, you know who you are.

Any feedback -and criticism- would actually be appreciated. There are ideas or topics I might not think about and even if the panel schedule will limit the coverage, I’m hoping to be as thorough as possible. Or you feel I’m just a douche and you’d like to tell it to me.

There are less than three days to vote.

I’m genuinely appreciative of anyone who’ll make the effort. Thank you.