There's no shortage of pundits eager to tell Shinzo Abe how to shake up Japan's economy. Instead of looking to academics for advice, though, the prime minister should get into the trenches with some of the nation's more unconventional corporate heads.
Abe talks, for example, about wanting to make Japanese companies worldlier. For pointers, he should study what Tadashi Yanai has already accomplished at Fast Retailing Co., home of the Uniqlo brand. Yanai has become Japan's richest man -- and the only Japanese on Time magazine's latest 100 most-influential list -- largely because of his success at expanding abroad.
At home, low-cost clothier Uniqlo smartly recognized that deflation was a secular, not cyclical, phenomenon. But going global, Yanai discovered, required two skills at which Japan Inc. has traditionally failed to excel: taking risks and speaking English. Yanai shook up the company's ranks by promoting on merit rather than seniority, and revamped its marketing with edgy ad campaigns. Equally important have been Uniqlo's efforts to tap foreign talent and to hold staff meetings in English, so that executives can perform better overseas.
Abe has nodded toward some of these ideas, promising to bolster English education. But then, so have the last 10 prime ministers. Will Abe actually address what researcher C.H. Kwan dubbed the "Economics of Engrish" back in 2002? Abe could start by challenging Finance Minister Taro Aso, who has suggested that corporate Japan's poor language skills are actually an asset. Japan escaped the worst of the 2008 financial meltdown, Aso has claimed, because its bankers were mystified by subprime loans: "Managers of Japanese banks hardly understood English, that's why they didn't buy."
A woman in her 20s who was bitten by a mosquito in Ueno Park in Tokyo's Taito Ward earlier this month has been confirmed infected with dengue fever, the Tokyo metropolitan government said Friday. (The Japan News)
Japanese director Takashi Miike, whose violent and often controversial films boast a huge cult following, will be awarded the 2014 Maverick Director Award at the Rome film festival, organisers said Saturday. (AFP)
Two vending machines were torched and the money taken from them in Tokyo's Katsushika Ward on Saturday morning, bringing to 19 the number of vending machines which have been destroyed by fire in the area since Sept 15. (Japan Today)
Police in Tokyo said Friday they are looking for a man who sprayed a 17-year-old girl with a liquid resembling paint thinner as she walked home on Wednesday night-the third such incident to occur in the area since last month. (Japan Today)
A 61-year-old truck driver has been arrested after he hit a group of elementary school children in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, killing one 9-year-old girl and injuring two other children, aged 8 and 9. (Japan Today)
Following the bust of a shopping site selling shoes containing a miniature camera used to take illicit photographs, Kyoto Prefectural Police are now seeking the return of the merchandise from customers, it was revealed on Tuesday, reports the Mainichi Shimbun (Sept. 17). (Tokyo Reporter)