Japanese business, finance and economics explained

Why are there so many consumer finance companies?

The rewards are huge (up to 25% annual interest) and the market is big as banks are insanely restrictive with who they will give loans to and credit cards have to be paid off in full every month

Why do Japanese companies try to produce everything?

“Because companies were manufacturing merchandise with relatively little added value, it was logical for them to focus on expanding and diversifying their product lines” Saying Yes to Japan pg 95

Why does everyone wear slippers in some offices?

Why are Japanese companies more interested in market share than profit?

It’s a natural reaction to an economy that grows rapidly for 30 years- if the market and your competitors grow and you don’t, you basically disappear. As predicted by this theory, businesses have been much more interested in the bottom line since the growth finished.

How come some writers say Japan’s military spending is very low (and hence the economy grew so quickly) and others are shocked it is so high for a so-called “Self-Defence Force”?

Why did deflation happen (for such a long time)?

How can the Japanese government and Bank of Japan worry about deflation and inflation at the same time?

Why could they not reverse deflation?

Interest rates were already at zero, and they were in a bit of a trap as that was one of the things depressing spending as it meant the huge savings were producing no interest.

Why does a crappy plastic house in Japan cost so much?

Because however expensive it gets Japanese will still buy rather than rent, to increase their much loved sense of security.

Why do Japanese companies not ask for volunteers to be sent abroad?
Why did the -in-famous MITI that many people held responsible for the Japanese economic miracle get disbanded?

Jealousy from the other ministries

Why have Japanese women made so little progress in the Diet and in big business since the war?

My guess is that those worlds as so crap that the women don’t want any part of them.

Why do Japanese office workers move desks so often?  So they get used to being moved around so they don’t protest when they are forced to change jobs, cities or even countries with 2 weeks notice?? A less paranoid theory is that when such a change is suggested the Japanese lack an expression for “fucked if I’m doing that again”

How do the Japanese manage to have low income tax and sales tax, but high government spending on things like public construction works?

Mainly high (3rd world level)government debt, but also some high taxes like inheritance tax and low spending on things like unemployment benefits

Why, despite the hardworking and serious nature of the average salaryman, are there so many accidents, spillages and safety problems in Japanese nuclear facilities, food companies, chemical companies etc. etc?

Firstly, that hardworking salaryman is tired and overworked and cannot possibly do everything he is asked to do by his boss. If missing long term safety inspections are going to be the thing he is least likely to get bollocksed for, those are the things that are going to be missed. A lack of a whistle-blower culture also doesn’t help (over 90% of Japanese employees say they would not report their company if they realized it was doing something illegal).

Why do the Japanese has such a bad reputation for playing hard ball, standing alone and being inflexible during international negotiations?

There is no Japanese, or even Japanese English, translation for the expression “win-win”. In Japan, people are divided into kachi-gumi and make-gumi: the tribes of winners and losers.

Why is seating position (and even standing in a lift position!) so important in Japan?

Before flat tatami floors became standard, people’s status would be shown by the height of the mat (or a dias for the very important) that they sat on. Seating position became more important as this faded out. Sitting on more cushions as a way of showing who is better can still be seen in traditional competitive comedy performances.

Why has the long Japanese near recession coincided with an increase in the number of flagship brand shops?

According to Shutting Out the Sun, because “with the previous decade’s deflation and the consequent erosion of land prices in Tokyo’s best neighbourhoods, the real estate needed for such a large project had become cheap enough…to acquire” pg 150

Why did “continuous improvement” develop in Japan rather than anywhere else?

It can actually be seen more as a historical accident than as something connected to culture, but theories of why it fits in with the Japanese personality include that Japanese farmers have always had to continually adapt because of the unpredictable weather and that improving by increments suits the lack of willingness to take risks and training to make creative jumps.

1 Comment

  1. R.Moribayashi said,

    January 7, 2013 at 11:43 am

    The genesis of modern Japanese manufacturing techniques can be found in the work of W. Edwards Deming and Walter A. Shewhart both of Bell Labs. Deming refined Shewhart’s work in statistical control and from June to August 1950 he trained hundreds of Japanese engineers, managers, and scholars in statistical process control and concepts of quality including one session for top management that was attended Akio Morita of Sony Corp. Until recently, adoption of his ideas in the west has been hindered by the “Us vs Them” relationship between management and labor. The Deming Prize is Japan’s top honor for quality.

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