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."
Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force said Monday that a crewman of a destroyer killed himself after being bullied by his superior, a 42-year-old petty officer first class, since October 2013. (Jiji Press)
Nineteen more people were confirmed by the health ministry on Monday to have contracted dengue fever in Tokyo, following three last week and bringing the total number to 22 in the first cases of domestic infection in Japan since 1945. (Nikkei)
Hokkaido Prefectural Police on Monday accused a restaurant in Chuo Ward of violating labor laws by attiring waitresses under the age of 18 in bikinis, reports the Hokkaido Shimbun (Sept. 2). (Tokyo Reporter)
The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office on Monday decided not to indict Torao Tokuda, former head of hospital group Tokushukai, over a high-profile election fraud case, because he is seriously ill. (The Japan News)