Category Archives: Japan: Business & Work

Working in Japan

JS Group – Do you know them? You should.

Lixil CompaniesPop quiz: Name a Japanese company with a US educated CEO.

Better yet, name one with a CEO and a Chairman who both have MBAs from different, well respected US Universities? Let’s narrow it down a little further for you with another hint: the company makes a habit of hiring “rejects” from other companies into its management team.

So how many of you are assuming that I’m talking about a little dot com that you’ve never heard of? What if I told you that the company has sales of 1.3 trillion yen and probably made either your toilet or your bath!?

Continue reading JS Group – Do you know them? You should.

Gaishi Entrepreneur #1 – What’s in a company name?

what is in a company name? you can't have a blank business cardThinking of starting up your own company in Japan?  Why not, Japan is the home of the small enterprise.  The tax system is set up to promote large tax holidays for owners of small businesses and there doesn’t seem to be much of an expectation from the tax office that you even need to break a profit.  I was surprised at how simple it was to start up a company when I inked the papers at the local government offices last year here in Japan.  There are plenty of under-worked book keepers willing to weave through the bureaucracy and just tell you where to sign.  The only two things that you really need to give thought to is the name of your new baby and which town you would like to establish her in.

Continue reading Gaishi Entrepreneur #1 – What’s in a company name?

Fujitsu CEO Nozoe Kuniaki blackmailed into resigning (Japanese Corporate Governance Watch)

Nozoe Kuniaki (野副州旦)
Nozoe Kuniaki (野副州旦) ousted former President of Fujitsu
How can the CEO of a 1.2 trillion yen company (13 billion USD!) can get blackmailed and forced to quit at the whim of one or two old cronies on his board?  To put this in perspective, despite being a truly global company with a strong international brand name, Fujitsu is the 40th largest company on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.  While I knew that Japanese companies have never really taken the concept of corporate governance on-board, I had thought that at least the top one hundred listed companies in Japan would have had some understanding of fiduciary duty.

Over the weekend it has emerged that Nozoe Kuniaki (野副州旦), the financially savvy president of Fujitsu, who “resigned due to health reasons” (病気療養 byoki ryoyo) back in Sep ’09 was actually blackmailed into resigning by Akikusa Naoyuki (秋草直之), another former president of the company.  note: Akikusa is famous for destroying 91% of shareholder value during his five year reign at the top of Fujitsu and blaming it on his employees who “don’t work hard enough”. Continue reading Fujitsu CEO Nozoe Kuniaki blackmailed into resigning (Japanese Corporate Governance Watch)

E-Commerce in Japan – English sites offer quality Japanese products

English Language E-Commerce in Japan - a growing trend
E-Commerce in Japan is a growing trend - and becoming accessible in English too
At the end of each year, there is always plenty of news about the Christmas shopping rush, and how and what people are buying. We just saw, that for Christmas 2009, the focus seemed to be firmly on online retail for Christmas shopping, a trend that seems to encroach more and more on the more traditional approach. The Wall Street Journal reported on December 15th 2009 that despite shop sales being flat compared to last year, online sales in the US had grown 4% in only the 6 weeks since the beginning of November. Also, online sales in the US totalled $913 million on December 15th alone, a record for a single day. So why is this happening, what does it mean, and what’s going on in Japan in online retail?

Continue reading E-Commerce in Japan – English sites offer quality Japanese products

Teramento – Taking the wind out of the FSA

Teramento Aquires Sony and Toyota, amongst othersIf you haven’t already heard, news broke a week or two that a small firm based in Kawasaki, Teramento (テラメント) Corporation falsely reported to have acquired a 51% stake in six large (giant) Japanese companies: Sony Corporation; Toyota Motor Corporation; Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corporation (NTT); Fuji Television Network Inc.; Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.; and, Astellas Pharma Inc. Continue reading Teramento – Taking the wind out of the FSA

Japanese Farmers and Subprime: Would the real farmer please stand up?

Cash Crop
Who is Japan’s little known rice growin’
financial hotshot?

The UK has it’s first bank run in 150 years. Citibank fired it’s CEO. The whole financial world is reeling from the financial mess called subprime (see here for our easy to understand footnote on subprime).

Even GM (last I checked they made cars and not houses!) has been forced to book a multi-billion dollar loss due to subprime. While hedge fund managers are collapsing left, right and centre, could there possibly be a Saviour? What’s that I see on the horizon? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No… it’s a Japanese farmer!???

This sort of turmoil in the international financial market is unusual. In July Ben Bernanke, head of the US Fed, saw subprime losses reaching $100 billion US dollars. By early October, most market watchers had increased this figure to $400 billion US dollars. And with yet another collapse in asset backed securities (ABS) prices in the last few weeks, the growth in the turmoil seems to be growing again. Continue reading Japanese Farmers and Subprime: Would the real farmer please stand up?

Shareholder Activism The Japanese way: Is it all about “Wa”?

Hanko - Signed and Sealed
Japanese Corporate Governance – Slowly Changing?

Maybe it is because I’m a closet fan of Koizumi and Takenaka, but I haven’t thrown in the towel on Japanese corporate governance yet. After the spectacular failure of Steel Partners to stop the Bulldog Sauce poison pill, most foreign investors seem to have given up hope completely. (Have you seen the Bulldog Sauce share price recently?) It’s simple to jump to the conclusion that corporate Japan hasn’t changed at all – but although you can only call them baby steps at best, I think that things are slowly changing.

Sure, an arrogant gaijin was a failure when he tried to pick a fight in true Western style, but we are slowly starting to see the emergence of Continue reading Shareholder Activism The Japanese way: Is it all about “Wa”?

Japan High Court Rules Against Saucy Gaijins

The famous “Bulldog” brand of Japanese
Tonkatsu Sauce

Facing a potential takeover by the foreign investment firm Steel Partners, Japanese tonkatsu sauce maker Bull-Dog was saved last week in a disturbing effort by the Japanese courts to prevent foreign money and ownership permeating into an important aspect of the Japanese cultural dinner table.

Steel Partners has made investments in over 30 companies in Japan over the past couple of years, with a number in the “washoku” industry, including the holy grail of the Japanese sauce portfolio, Kikkoman soy sauce. Since Steel Partners announced they owned over 5% back in 2005, the stock price has increased over 50%. But enough is enough, apparently. Continue reading Japan High Court Rules Against Saucy Gaijins

Female Shacho (CEO) in Focus: Emura Rika (江村林香)

Ms. EmuraEver since reading a recent article on about the under-representation of female CEOs in Japan, I’ve been racking my brains to find one. My first thoughts were of Tomoyo Nonaka of Sanyo Electric or Fumiko Hayashi of Daiei, but as Chairwomen, they both strike me more as figure heads than actual active, managing CEOs. During my search, I stumbled across the intriguing story of Emura Rika (江村林香), the 38 year old President of Air Transse, a small regional airline in Hokkaido. It did not take me long to discover that it is not the fact that Emura is a female that makes her a fascinating entrepreneur.

Emura’s talent as a manager flowered at a very young age. As the eldest daughter Continue reading Female Shacho (CEO) in Focus: Emura Rika (江村林香)

Why do the Japanese Work so Hard?

Japanese Salary ManThere remains this enormous and wicked sociocultural myth. It is this: Hard work is all there is.

Work hard and the world respects you. Work hard and you can have anything you want. Work really extra super hard and do nothing else but work and ignore your family and spend 14 hours a day at the office and make 300 grand a year that you never have time to spend, sublimate your soul to the corporate machine and enjoy a profound drinking problem and sporadic impotence and a nice 8BR mini-mansion you never spend any time in, and you and your shiny BMW 740i will get into heaven.

This is the Japanese Puritan work ethos (much like that in America of course), still alive and screaming and sucking the world dry. Work is the answer. Work is also the question. Work is the one thing really worth doing and if you’re not working you’re either a slacker or a leech Continue reading Why do the Japanese Work so Hard?