JAPANESE interest groups - from a recycling movement to an association of Japanese who were raised overseas - have discovered an advantage to networking. Links between groups of like-minded activists have been rare in Japan. There is a a cultural bias toward preserving a group's identity - even at the expense of being more effective by cooperating with other groups. But last November, 600 people attended two conferences in Tokyo and Osaka to build bridges between their separate causes. The Japan Networkers' Conference, the first of its kind in this country, brought together a wide variety of groups.
``The movement is a great quest to discover a new social system,'' says Yasuo Harima, a conference organizer and head of the Networking Society Institute in Nara.
A major difficulty for many Japanese interest groups is getting government leaders to listen. ``There's a despair among people that it's impossible to change politics,'' adds Hidetoshi Nishimura, a writer for the daily Asahi Shimbun.
Kimihiro Masamura, an economics professor at Tokyo's Senshu University, says it's hard to develop this networking movement partially because industry absorbs to much talent that could otherwise deal with political and social problems.