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."
The 16-year-old girl in the city of Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, suspected of killing and dismembering a high school classmate did not hold a grudge against the victim, investigative sources said Tuesday, retracting an earlier view that there may have been personal problems between the two. (Japan Times)
A record high 13.5 percent of existing housing units in Japan were vacant as of last Oct. 1, up 0.4 percentage point from five years earlier when the survey was last conducted, the government said Tuesday. (Kyodo)
McDonald's Holdings Co. (Japan) apologized Tuesday for a recent scandal over chicken meat provided by a Chinese producer, promising to do "whatever it takes" to ensure the safety of food on its menu. (Kyodo)
On July 7, Tokyo Metropolitan Police arrested 30-year-old Ikki Jin for allegedly slipping a sleeping powder into an alcoholic drink consumed by a 23-year-old male and robbing him of a total of 350,000 yen in cash and valuables in February. (Tokyo Reporter)
Coverage of Hyogo prefectural assemblyman Ryutaro Nonomura's July 1 televised tantrum is finally winding down in the mainstream media. But on the Internet, where a YouTube video of his press conference registered over 2 million views in just two days, it's still going strong. (Japan Today)
During her first court hearing at the Tokyo District Court last week, Kasumi Tochinai, a former employee at staffing agency Pasona who has been charged with possession and use of stimulant drugs, came up with a few creative explanations for how she could have tested positive for illegal chemicals in her system. (Tokyo Reporter)
A series of anonymous murder confessions were posted on the popular 2channel Internet forum Saturday evening, prompting police to investigate their possible link with the death and dismemberment of 15-year-old Aiwa Matsuo in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture. (Japan Times)
Eleven people died, one person remains unconscious and two are missing after water-related accidents across Japan over the weekend, police and Fire and Disaster Management Agency officials said Monday. (Japan Today)