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."
With this year marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, the Imperial Household Agency made public on Saturday Emperor Showa's voice from the master recording used to announce the end of the war. (The Japan News)
A lawyer for a Belgium-based graphic designer says his client will ask the International Olympic Committee and the Organising Committee of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics not to use the Games' current logo. (NHK)
The average life expectancy for Japanese women rose to a record high of 86.83 years in 2014 from 86.61 years the previous year, marking the world's longest for the third straight year, government data showed Thursday. (Jiji Press)
A fire occurred on an MOL Ferry Co. ferry about 55 kilometers off Tomakomai, Hokkaido, northern Japan, on Friday evening, leaving a crew member missing, according to the Japan Coast Guard and the operator. (Jiji Press)
Jimmy Page, the guitarist of the legendary British rock band Led Zeppelin, on Thursday visited Hiroshima and laid flowers for the victims of the U.S. atomic bombing of the city 70 years ago. (Japan Times)
Kanagawa Prefectural Police on Thursday said suffocation was the cause of death of a woman whose corpse was discovered floating off the coast of Miura City, reports TBS News (July 30). (Tokyo Reporter)
Last weekend, it was once again time for Japan's model and garage kit enthusiasts to gather for the summer iteration of Wonder Festival, held at the Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba Prefecture. (Japan Today)
Japan's Empress Michiko is set to receive checkups on her coronary artery using computed tomography on Aug. 9 at the University of Tokyo Hospital due to suspected myocardial ischemia, the Imperial Household Agency said Wednesday. (Jiji Press)
As a part of a crackdown on illegal drugs connected to musician Aska, Tokyo Metropolitan Police on Monday announced the arrest of a boss in an organized crime group, reports the Mainichi Shimbun. (Tokyo Reporter)
It was a triple murder that shocked a nation already reeling from the crime spree by a doomsday religious cult, coming just four months after the cult's deadly nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system. (Japan Today)
The pilot of a light plane that crashed into a residential area in the Tokyo suburb of Chofu on Sunday had run a pilot training firm without permission from the transport ministry, it was learned Monday. (Jiji Press)