Other Systems: 1986

Japanese Commodore catalogue
Japanese Amiga books (1)
Japanese Amiga books (2)

Commodore and the Amiga computer in Japan

Commodore was ostensibly an international company, with branches in the UK, Australia, France, Japan, etc. making independent marketing & purchasing decisions, and even sometimes leading design work in collaboration with their US counterparts. That said, Commodore Japan pretty much gave up the ghost after their only success, the VIC-20 (VIC-1001 in Japan), spurred increased competition from NEC, Sharp & Fujitsu's home computers, and their neutered C-64 (entitled Max Machine) was a colossal failure in the ensuing home-grown onslaught.

From that point on, Commodore retained a presence, however miniscule, in the Japanese market, primarily as a mere distributor of its US models. Japanese system software never materialized from Commodore themselves, making their computers niche products for Japanese lovers of Western hardware and English-only games.

The Amiga nevertheless drew attention from the Japanese computer press and TV industry -- as it did in North America -- for its role as an inexpensive video production, animation, and graphics tool.  Over time, user groups and specialist shops formed, and oddly, around 1993 for some reason, a new wave of Japanese Amiga evangelicism produced several books to cater to Amiga beginners and graphics users.  I'll provide some scans from these books below.  But first, the Amiga's introduction in 1986:

The July 1986 issue of the programmer's magazine, Bug News, ran a story on the Amiga and its capabilities, showcasing some of its more famous animations, games, and graphics & painting capabilities.
Incidentally, here's a Japanese Macintosh (promoted and distributed by Canon) ad from the same magazine.

Commodore Catalogue (circa 1989)

Commodore printed very similar catalogues in the West, so I'm sure they simply translated the text verbatim and expected(?) obscure computers like the A2500, C-64, and C-128 to sell themselves...

The final page in that catalogue is a price list; let's take a look at how much these Amigas cost in Japan back then...

Product Name
List Price - Yen in 1989
1989 Yen Price in US$
Adjusted for Inflation
(2014 Dollars)
Amiga 500 Computer
Amiga 2000 Computer
Amiga 2500 Computer
Commodore 1084D Monitor
Amiga 1011 External 3.5" Floppy Drive

$541 in today's dollars for a floppy drive??!?  Well, we have to remember that back in the early-mid '80s floppy storage was very expensive, never mind hard drives.  The prices of the systems themselves are not that terrible: The A500's list price in the U.S. was $700; the A2000's, $1500.  Not terrible considering import fees and the Japanese tendency to set "image-conscious" high prices across the board.

Amiga Publications

Como Esta AMIGA! is a typical book that was published in the early '90s during some kind of Japanese Amiga boom.  The book, like several others, substitutes as a Japanese instruction manual for the computer, as well as an introduction to its peripherals, popular software, and the fabled Demoscene.

The title, I suppose, is a play on the Spanish-ness of the Amiga name, as well as perhaps the similarity between Commodore, and Como Esta, to Japanese ears.

The book is similarly full of hobbyist quirkiness, but it also has a practical side, introducing Deluxe Paint, Mac emulation, and even Japanese text entry & editing software.

More Books (from 1993-94)

This book, like the one above, is a wild and whimsical look at the Amiga computer, its history, unique features, and potential appeal to Japanese computer users.

I don't know who that frog character is, but it's a little pun on the Guru, since the sound a frog makes in Japanese when it croaks is "gero".

This thick tome explains all the ins and outs of the various Amiga models and hardware, and then goes on to show how the Amiga is actually used on a daily basis in Japan: mainly in the broadcasting field (for genlocking, chroma keying, and graphic illustration) as well as in academics (realtime 3D imaging.)

Look closely at the corner of each page, and you'll notice that there's even a DPaint anim, ready for viewing in a flip-book fashion. ;-D

The Greatest Amiga may have a frog on the cover, but it actually puts this helmet-haired mascot, on the right, in various complications to make a point during the book.
Here, Amigas are shown in actual use (along with an MSX computer) in the editing rooms of the industry.
The talented character designers at Japan's huge public broadcaster, NHK, used Amigas for their work.
Even more huge is the private media conglomerate, Fuji, with their television network.
And finally, institutes used the realtime features of the Amiga for research work. Shown are 3-D shutter glasses connected to an Amiga for geographical imaging.

This book, Amiga Graphics Expert, is a far more serious publication than the one above.

It's essentially a Japanese software manual for DPaint, Brilliance, Imagine, LightWave 3D, etc., each chapter introducing a new piece of software and providing a full-blown tutorial on its features.

I've got the feeling that this was used as a textbook at art schools or something.

That's about all I have about the Amiga in Japan for now. If you liked this little peek into another world, please let me know!