Light Stories from Japan
Interesting and exciting stories from business and political scenes
Business and politicsBack to the front of the English pageOthersBack to the front of the English page

No. 14: Leave human resources. This is the best. (January 13, 2012)

The current government is in the middle of cabinet reshuffle, even though it started several months ago claiming "right person for the right place." Seeing the departure of several incompetent ministers, Japanese now realize that the ruling party is in short of excellent human resources. Absorbed too much in factionalism, current leaders seem to have missed the duty of developing human resources. Shigeru Yoshida, unquestionably Japan's greatest postwar politician, left such excellent leaders as Nobusuke Kishi, Eisaku Sato, and Hayato Ikeda. Developing human resources is a toilsome and time-consuming job, but it one of the most important duties that a leader has to perform. Several months ago, it was clarified that the president of a leading paper mill company donated as much as 10 billion (not million) yen to gambling establishments in Macau in secret for nothing. He is a grandson of the founder of this company. Shinpei Goto, a great politician from the late 19th century to the early 20th century, gave an excellent lesson to his successors. He said, "Leaving money is the worst, leaving a company is in the middle, and leaving human resources is the best."

No. 13: Ongoing and endless discussions on nuclear power generation (December 29, 2011)

In Japan, there are still ongoing and endless discussions on what Japan should do with nuclear power generation. As a matter of fact, Japanese are very fond of discussing an issue that does not have a correct answer. The discussions always end with no consensus, and the only agreement is that lots of more discussions are necessary to find the right solution of the issue. The opponents resort to sentimental argument, while the supporters emphasize the safety and reliability of the technology. It is totally out of the question to focus on sentimental argument in this issue. Doubtlessly, Japanese and people on the earth alike sympathize with the victims of the disaster on March 11, 2011 with no exceptions. However, the fact remains that we cannot go back to the past. The more affluent a society grows, the more energy it needs. It is very simple and clear. A diet member told, gWe should ask all the Japanese people on what Japan should do with nuclear generation.h National ballot? What can we learn from the national ballot? A national ballot will create another endless discussion on a nationwide scale. Diet members are representing the opinions of Japanese to avoid endless discussions of this kind, arenft they?

No. 12: Yes or No? The answer is between the two (December 6, 2011)

The Japanese government is still unsuccessful in formulating decisive and effective policies on how to get involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). All diet members and Japanese alike share the same opinion that it is necessary to make the domestic agriculture industry stronger. Nonetheless, diet members fail to reach an agreement on Japanfs direction toward the TPP. The turmoil can be attributed to the declaration of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

He declared, gThe Japanese government will start negotiations with the countries involved to start discussions toward the participation in the TPP.h This rather unintelligible declaration caused the current stalemate. The Japanese government does not take his declaration as an official decision to participate in the TPP. What on the earth is his attitude, yes or no? The answer is between the two. As is often the case, no breakthrough can be found for this stalemate. A strange equilibrium exits between the supporters and opponents.

Because necessary measures and policies depend on future progress, both parties are very cautious about taking concrete actions. However, the Japanese government should not forget that it formulated only follow-up measures in the Uruguay Round (1986-1993) under the slogan gDo not allow foreign rice to come to the Japanese marketh and wasted a 6 billion yen budget. The present Japanfs top leader does not seem to take a risk, as is often the case of a leader with excellent academic records. It should be noted that excellent academic records are merely one of the prerequisites to be a top leader.

No. 11: Once upon a time in Japan (December 4, 2011)

P„€satom, Russiafs government managed nuclear company, will come to Japan with its nuclear technology. Under the initiative of Prime Minister Putin, the state company wishes to establish business relations with Japanese leading companies in the nuclear business and plans to participate in the operations in the devastated Fukushima nuclear power plant. Once upon a time, we Japanese had an easygoing prime minister claiming proudly that Japan should abandon nuclear power generation and focus only on renewable energy. Time passes very fast. While Japan had barren and wasteful discussions on what Japan should do with nuclear generation, other countries are developing nuclear technology very fast. It is necessary to make strenuous efforts for one year to make up for a loss of half a year created by negligence.

No. 9: Who is the real winner in the long run? (November 3, 2011)

The price of a residential photovoltaic generation system has been decreasing in Japan because of the inflow of low-priced products from Europe and China. The industry sources are much concerned about the decreasing profit of domestic makers. They say that the average price of a system dropped to 529,000 yen per kW lately, an 8.5% decrease from the previous year. Because a solar battery module accounts for 50% of a photovoltaic generation system in cost, countries capable of building solar modules cheap naturally have a strong competitive edge. However, you need to think about the background of the inflow of foreign products. European countries including Germany reduced the support for the introduction of a photovoltaic generation system. Actually, the world market is estimated to decrease 20% in 2011 from 2010. Then, Japan is a rather promising market because it will enact the system to buy whole amount of renewable energy next year. In a word, the policy to enhance the happiness of Japanese people ends up with the decreasing profit of Japanese makers and makes the domestic economy even worse. What an irony this is.

No. 8: Look west! Times have changed (October 28, 2011)

Look West! This is the phrase that Japan has to keep in mind to activate its economy. Under the strong and impressive leadership of the incumbent president, Korea is increasing its presence in the world market quite rapidly. In contrast, Japan is losing its presence as we see from the TV business. Neither Panasonic nor Sony is the biggest TV set manufacturer in the world market. The world leaders are Samsung and LG Electronics of Korea. Under any circumstances, Japan should not hesitate to participate in TPP. Look East! This is the phrase that Mahathir bin Mohamad, Malaysiafs fourth prime minister, used to stimulate the economy of his country. Times have changed. Now the time Japan has to look west. There is no room to place too much importance on consensus. It is totally impossible to work out measures equally acceptable to all people concerned.


No. 7: Democracy is not the same as the agreement based on discussions (September 11, 2011)

One of the ministers of the present government quit because of his careless statements. He seemed to have been overjoyed by his promotion to a minister. He talked to the accompanying newspeople in a friendly manner during his on-site review of the devastated Tohoku region, not knowing how influential his statements were to the Japanese society. What is important here is not his departure from the government staff. What matters most is that the formation of the present cabinet was totally based on the deliberation to allocate the ministerial positions equally to political cliques. That is, it can safely be said that the agreement based on the discussions between political cliques formed the current cabinet. An underlying concept is vital to make the agreement based on discussions workable as democracy. In this case, it is what is the best cabinet to tide over the current turbulent economic and political situations. Without an underlying concept, an agreement is just an agreement.

No. 6: The manifesto contained too many dreams. (July 23, 2011)

The current government officially admitted that the Democratic Party was too optimistic about how to realize the promises mentioned in the manifesto. The party promised to realize lots of hard-to-realize dreams as if money falls from the sky, but scarcely any of them were realized. The Japanese bureaucracy remains unharmed despite the partyfs declaration to crush it. There is no charge-free super expressway despite the partyfs declaration to make the expressway toll free. The situation around Japan is growing serious and grave despite the partyfs promotion of the spirit of fraternity, and the Okinawa issue still remains unsolved. The ear-pleasing phrases like gfrom concrete to peopleh have to change to more realistic ones. As always, windy eloquence ends in misery.

No. 5: Disclose everything to minimize the damage should an accident occur. (July 21, 2011)

No company can be free from harmful rumor. The president of a Japanfs leading department store, Takashimaya Department Store, always asks his employees to disclose everything should an accident occur to minimize the damage. One day, the department store mistakenly sold a sandwich containing an egg-based material to a customer who should have bought an egg-less sandwich. It immediately announced the mistake using the in-house broadcast, but it was not able to specify the customer. Subsequently, it announced the mistake on its website and published a press release through mass media. Transparency is of the highest importance to corporate value, and it is vital to minimize the damage. The current Japanese government should have learned this golden rule. It did not disclose critical information in the Fukushima disaster supposedly on purpose not to let the Japanese worry about the worst scenario, but the worst scenario is developing contrary to its intent.


No. 2: Private companies naturally try to save their assets. (July 12, 2011)


Meats contaminated by radiocesium were shipped to retailers and restaurants in Japan. They are from cows shipped by a farmer in Fukushima Prefecture. The farmer gave straws to his cows in violation of the government order not to give straws because they are contaminated. That is, rich people and gourmets had very delicious meats with lots of radiocesium in exchange for lots of money. Private companies, whether they are big or small, naturally try to save their assets. This simple action is epitomized by Tokyo Electric Power. Despite the fact that leading scientists around the world claimed that meltdown had already occurred inside the nuclear reactor, the company gave the first priority to the recovery of electricity. All Japanese agree to allocate lots of money for the reconstruction of the afflicted areas because tunami is a natural disaster. However, the huge and serious damage caused by the meltdown is not a natural disaster but a human disaster.


No. 1: Who is the top leader? (July 9, 2011)


Turmoil is still prevailing in the Japanese political world despite the disaster on March 11. Three Diet members including the prime minister presented three different opinions on what Japan should do with nuclear power plants across the country. Asked why there are three different opinions in the Diet, the prime minister said without the slightest hesitation, gWhy donft you ask other two Diet members directly about the subtle nuance of their opinions?h What an answer! Who is the top leader of Japan? He has to study leadership from the very beginning. Do you trust a company where the president and two executive have three different opinions on the direction of future business?


@

No. 10: Do not try to be a John Wayne (November 20, 2011)

The current headline news in the Japanese baseball world is not a battle between baseball teams on the ground but an internal battle between owner and manager of a baseball team in the office over the teamfs future lineup. In the sports business, you can find this kind of battle quite easily. George Steinbrenner of New York Yankees may be the most famous figure. The Japanese manager in question seems to be too proud to succumb to the owner and try to be a hero. Most Japanese understand the manager and have some uncomfortable feeling about the attitude taken by the owner. But that is the way the world goes. gRio Bravohstarring John Wayne is a movie. The reality is what you see in gHigh Noonh starring Gary Cooper. Do not try to be a John Wayne. The manager had better keep in mind what Gary Cooper said in the movie. He said, gItfs crazy!h

No. 4: It is an amazing cycle, isnft it? (June 20, 2011)


The incumbent prime minister declared in a press conference that Japan would abandon nuclear power generation as a national policy. Under a fierce accusation, he said it was his personal opinion. A press conference is not a place to present a personal opinion. In addition, he is an outgoing prime minister. It is truly dishonorable for an outgoing prime minister to announce his personal opinion for the future of his country in a press conference. To make the story worse, there are scarcely any ongoing projects on the development of natural energy under the government initiative. This is because his administration cut expenditures for projects related to natural energy under the name of budget screening. You can easily imagine that lots of government committees, associations, and research institutes will be established for the development of natural energy, while lots of existing organizations related to nuclear energy will be closed. William Holden gave a very interesting comment to John Wayne in the John Fordfs movie gThe Horse Soldiers.h He said, gOne is dead, and one is born. It is an amazing cycle, isnft it?h

No. 3: Be prepared and have no regret. (July 20, 2011)

How much is the annual average delay of a Tokaido bullet train? It is merely one tenth of a minute. That is, only six seconds. This punctuality characterizes the Japanese people. More than 15 bullet trains, each of which is 400 m long, are traveling on the same track at higher than 250 km/h simultaneously for the distance of 550 km between Tokyo and Osaka. Despite this fact, the Tokaido bullet train line has never had an accident since its inauguration. The same is true of the Tohoku bullet line. When the Tohoku Earthquake occurred at 2:46 p.m. on March 11, a total of 27 bullet trains, both on up and down tracks, were traveling at 270 km/h on the Tohoku bullet train line. Two bullet trains traveling nearby the quake-stricken area automatically activated the automatic train stop system 9-12 seconds before they were attacked by the first quake, and decelerate the speed to 100 km/h when they were attacked by the biggest quake. None of the 27 bullet trains were damaged. Be prepared and have no regret.