Time for Japan to internationalize?

July 26th, 2010By Category: Starting a Business

Of the two ‘lost-decades’ that Japan has experienced since the bursting of its economic bubble, there have been few economic success stories. Sure, new products from the likes of Sony or Toyota have been big hits, but since 1991 new and original companies have been few and far between.

One of those few, however is Uniqlo, the brand that began in Yamaguchi Prefecture and has since gone on to conquer the streets of Ginza and now has its sights set on the likes of Oxford Street and Fith Avenue. Uniqlo President, Tadashi Yanai recently gave an interview with the Mainichi Shinbun in which he raised some interesting arguments for Japan’s economy, amongst them; that Japan is economically defeated – the US and Asian rivals are now angling for the top positions in the world while the country is in steady retreat.


This, according to Yanai has been allowed to happen as a strong yen and export-driven economy have kept the quality of life artificially high. In turn, Yanai argues that this has made Japanese folks over-reliant on their own country and stubborn in their faith in Japan’s position ahead of Asia.

Yanai paints a grim picture, claiming that if changes by the government do not happen soon that the economy in general faces the risk of collapse. His suggestions?

Allow mass immigration. As he argues, immigrants would expand the market size in Japan, allow for more robust economic growth and help the country as a whole internationalize itself. As Asia continues to rise, working closely with its neighbors is also in Japan’s best interests, he argues.

Read more on what Yanai has to say over in Mainichi – it’s in English and the CEO makes several interesting points on the general economic situation of Japan. One of the final points he makes is that he is forcing all of his staff, from store manager up to speak English at TOEIC 700 and is rapidly hiring more foreign staff.

Thoughts are welcome below – do you think Yanai’s way of creating an English-speaking company in Japan is the right way to go? Do the benefits of mass immigration into Japan out weigh the drawbacks?

Author of this article


GaijinPot is an online community for foreigners living in Japan, providing information on everything you need to know about enjoying life here, from finding a job and accommodation to having fun.

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  • Simon says:

    “Speak” English to TOEIC 700? TOEIC doesn't assess actual communication skill, just passive comprehension. As a test of overall English ability it is fatally flawed.

  • Omicronda says:

    It's all common sense. I live in Kanto area and nothing is new and interesting here. As for the English language, I think it is obvious to use the language to internationalize Japan and give it a new vibe. President of companies such as Rakuten and Uniqlo are breaking away from decade- old traditions which is a good sign. This is one of way of forcing Japan to make radical changes and make risks to stimulate the economy by empowering its people. Japan should conduct more trainings and seminars to make its people create their own businesses rather than wait for existing companies to hire them. I disagree with mass migration because it should be controlled but Japan should open its doors widely to skilled foreigners. There are still many places in Japan that are bound by age-old traditions that might not be ready for people with different cultures. This is also the same for future immigrants that have no knowledge yet or will have trouble understanding the Japanese culture.

  • Poo says:

    Proof reading anyone?