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."
North Korea took another step toward its goal of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland, with the range of the rocket launched Sunday estimated at up to 13,000km. (Nikkei)
The annual number of accidents during gymnastic formation performances has exceeded 8,000 for four years in a row since fiscal 2011 in primary, middle and high schools, according to the Japan Sport Council (JSC). (the-japan-news.com)
As if accommodating Chinese visitors on their usual shopping sprees weren't enough, major Japanese retailers are now actively working to lure this demographic to their storefronts for the Lunar New Year. (Nikkei)
The day before his arrest at his apartment for possession of stimulant drugs, former professional baseball player Kazuhiro Kiyohara visited a dealer in Gunma Prefecture, investigative sources revealed on Friday, reports Sports Hochi. (Tokyo Reporter)
The number of people charged with stimulant abuse in Japan tops 10,000 every year, and the number of such people aged 40 years or older has been increasing in particular, police said. (the-japan-news.com)