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February 25, 2011

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Ian C

Good piece - thanks.

One of the features of the 'disappearance' of Japan could be that its inability to get itself out of economic torpor means US and EU policymakers and media look away in alarm - what if we ended up that way? The linguistic, cultural and geographic distances between Japan and the West don't help in stimulating interest.
On the other hand, one obvious fact about the interminable Japanese 'slump' is that Japan has not collapsed into anarchy or scarcity or inability to produce and consume. It's functioning - and there seems to be no mass public discontent with the state of the economy (though I am keen to be educated on this). Could Japan be a secret counter-example to the worldview that sees prosperity coming only from high growth? Maybe the Japanese have in many ways decided that they don't want high growth lives?

Adario Strange

I think the comment from "Ian C" is the most accurate, concise, spot on explanation of the difference between the Japanese market and the American market. Here it is:"Could Japan be a secret counter-example to the worldview that sees prosperity coming only from high growth? Maybe the Japanese have in many ways decided that they don't want high growth lives?"

I say the answer to that likely rhetorical question is YES.

I've been traveling to Japan for business for nearly 10 years and I think this difference in approach is the chief reason why most American firms never really 'get' Japan. Their business motives and market DNA are fundamentally different from America's devotion to growth and scale. In Japan it's not about growth, it's about consistency and quality, often even to the detriment of the business.

I think that's also why, in terms of tech startups, Korea & China & Singapore will ultimately leave Japan behind.
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Strategist

"In Japan it's not about growth, it's about consistency and quality"

Sounds like Germany!

Roland Kelts

Very insightful and capacious essay--and equally adroit comments. Thanks to you all.

I'm chiming in because I wrote a magazine article about Japan as a "counter-example" to the prevailing American growth-model in a recent issue of Adbusters magazine:

http://www.adbusters.org/magazine/93/whats-wrong-being-no-2.html

It rattled more than a few folks, whose comments and complaints were most revealing. Sustained stability, consistency and quality are apparently threatening concepts.

Thanks again for the great post and comments.

Bobby Lingerie

A thought-provoking article, thanks. Though I think it says more about how the West formulates its ideas of 'the future' and 'the global' than it does about the current state of Japan.

"Could Japan be a secret counter-example to the worldview that sees prosperity coming only from high growth? Maybe the Japanese have in many ways decided that they don't want high growth lives?"

Nope - I think this is a red herring. There's no evidence to suggest that a shift in values is taking place. Feel free to also see my comments to Roland's article (linked to by the man himself above).

(No Roland, i'm not stalking you - it seems we both read the same websites.)

Nick Mann

As someone who made a living out of investing in Japan for many years I'd say this was well observed. However bad things might get in my new life, at least I don't have to persuade investors that the Japanese equity market still looks sexy. Because it really isn't.

Will Davies

Thanks for all these comments.

In reply to Bobby's that the post "says more about how the West formulates its ideas of 'the future' and 'the global' than it does about the current state of Japan"... I think I'm pretty explicit about that in the post. So yes, clearly.

Danny Bloom

The real problem with Japan is that is controlled by 100 families, the super-rich of Japan, and it remains a semi-police state in cahoots with gangsters. And it's not a real democracy yet. Until all that changes, it's sayonara, Japan.

Michiel

Riiiiight....

If you are interested in reading a different opinion about Japan, you may want to look at the work of Ulrike Schaede of UCSD:

http://irps.ucsd.edu/faculty/faculty-research/ulrike-schaede.htm

She claims that a lot of the parts, materials and machinery used for the iPhone etc. are actually Japanese. See page 16 of http://irps.ucsd.edu/assets/001/500975.pdf

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