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."
Tokyo labor regulators sent their investigation papers on footwear retailer ABC-Mart Inc. <2670> to prosecutors on Thursday, accusing the company of having forced employees to work illegally long overtime hours. (Jiji Press)
Reigning champions Japan will meet the United States in the Women's World Cup final for the second tournament in a row after a 2-1 defeat of England on Wednesday, victory coming after a cruel and unlucky injury-time own goal from Laura Bassett. (Kyodo)
The nation's population stood at 126,163,576 as of Jan. 1 this year, down 271,058, or 0.21 percent, from a year before, marking the steepest fall ever, a government survey said Wednesday. (The Japan News)
Police in Kanagawa Prefecture have arrested a 23-year-old man on suspicion of stealing a bag belonging to the director-general of the Civil Aviation Bureau, while he was on a train last month. The bag contained a tablet computer which contained confidential information as well as a contact list for emergencies. (Japan Today)
A 71-year-old man who set himself on fire on a shinkansen bullet train Tuesday had repeatedly complained that the pension he received was not enough to live on, one of his neighbors said Wednesday. (Kyodo)