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."
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe defended his reflationary policy, dubbed Abenomics, on Friday while opposition leaders argued it is failing, after the House of Representatives was dissolved on the day for a snap election. (Jiji Press)
Japan's Lower House speaker has issued a very unusual order. He told lawmakers to redo their "banzai" cheers because some chimed in before he finished reading the official declaration to dissolve the chamber. (NHK)
Murder suspect Chisako Kakehi invested most of the about Y1 billion she inherited from her spouses and lovers in futures trading and other financial products over the past few years, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned from investigative sources. (The Japan News)
A highly pathogenic avian influenza virus has been detected in duck droppings collected Tuesday in the town of Nagara in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, the Environment Ministry said Friday. (Jiji Press)
Japanese public prosecutors on Friday demanded a prison sentence of 10 years for Yusuke Katayama, who is accused of hijacking other people's personal computers and using them to send online threats. (Jiji Press)
According to various Japanese news sources, 83-year-old retiree Yasuji Shibata was arrested for selling obscene material via an Internet auction in April for 3,400 yen (about US$28) after police found explicit photos in his home on November 16. (rocketnews24.com)
Police raided Internet proxy server operators across Japan on Wednesday over a spate of online banking fraud cases, with at least two of the operators suspected of helping illegal access from China. (Jiji Press)
Chinese fans expressed an outpouring of sorrow for the death of veteran Japanese actor Ken Takakura, who rocketed to stardom here and became an icon who could bridge the icy relations that exist between the two nations. (Asahi)