Decline of entrepreneurship blamed for Japan woes

Aug 03, 2012 by YURI KAGEYAMA
In this photo taken Friday, June 29, 2012, InTecur founder and CEO William Saito speaks in front of his library at his office in Tokyo. Saito runs InTecur, a consultancy, identifies upcoming innovators, teaches at several universities and sits on Japanese government panels. Saito, a son of Japanese immigrants to California, believes Japan Inc. has simply lost its entrepreneurial spirit. His assessment underlines a growing view among experts here. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

(AP) — Worn out and resigned to its dwindling status, Japan Inc. is said to be quietly shuffling off the world stage. But don't tell that to Kenji Hasegawa, who is ready to conquer the global auto market with his nifty innovation, a bolt that doesn't need a nut. Or Chiaki Hayashi, who makes millions teaching big-name companies to be creative again.

As different as they seem — Hasegawa runs auto-parts supplier Lock'n Bolt Corp. and Hayashi is a rare woman to help found a Tokyo startup — both highlight the potential of innovation and in a nation that is often typecast as facing an unrelenting decline.

Of the decline, there is plenty of evidence.

Long in the doldrums after its 1980s bubble economy burst, Japan has been eclipsed by China as the world's second-biggest economy. Many of its consumer technology companies have been overtaken by South Korean competitors and are racking up huge losses. The number of young Japanese choosing to study abroad has dropped. And while Facebook lured hundreds of millions of members worldwide, management at Japanese social network Mixi never looked to grow overseas.

The naysayers claim Japan is stagnating, only looking inward and squandering advantages such as its well-educated workforce, low crime rate and a rich history of technological prowess. But even while acknowledging big challenges that include its swollen national debt and rapidly greying population, Japan Inc.'s boosters say it can still rekindle the sparks of ingenuity that in the past delivered network-connecting mobile phones years before the arrival of smartphones, and made "instant noodles" part of the global diet for the last four decades.

First though, Japan must recognize that what ails it is at least partly in the mind.

"In order to have innovation, you must accept a certain amount of failure. To the Japanese, this has become taboo," said William Saito, a prolific technology inventor who now runs a company that identifies up-and-coming innovators and tries to match them with investors.

Saito says conformist Japan frowns upon failures, and doesn't allow for second chances. Worse, Japan appears to be wallowing, when what it needs is action, Saito and others say. Even the rising yen, long cited as the death knell for an exporting economy such as Japan, should be reframed as an advantage, delivering bigger purchasing power for Japanese companies abroad.

For some, Japan's revival can come from re-inventing what it has long known best — manufacturing, but with innovative ideas.

As tiny as a nut-less bolt is, it has the potential to make Hasegawa, the supplier, rich. Much of machinery, including cars, ships and factory equipment, use bolts — untold numbers of them. And so a bolt that doesn't require a nut is a big timesaver.

In this photo taken Friday, June 29, 2012, InTecur founder and CEO William Saito smiles in his office in Tokyo. Saito runs InTecur, a consultancy, identifies upcoming innovators, teaches at several universities and sits on Japanese government panels. Saito, a son of Japanese immigrants to California, believes Japan Inc. has simply lost its entrepreneurial spirit. His assessment underlines a growing view among experts here. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

A nut-less bolt, based on the idea of a smaller bolt within a bolt, a patented secret, is also significantly lighter than a regular bolt, delivering cost-savings in fuel and raw materials and other perks like better mileage in a car.

Hasegawa is talking with a long list of interested companies, including Panasonic Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. He is looking into production outside Japan, perhaps Vietnam, he said.

Hasegawa says the key to Japan's revival lies in breakthroughs such as his that developed because of a legacy in "monozukuri," which translates as "making things," but is more akin to craftsmanship.

Hayashi's young business, Loftwork Inc., earned 900 million yen ($11 million) in annual sales taking a different but equally Japanese route as Hasegawa's.

She offers a service that stems from her diagnosis of the sickness at major companies — the loss of the innovative spirit. She hopes to start a kernel of creativity going at companies that "starts small but snowballs."

Top Japanese companies have a load of talented hardworking people, but they have become so obsessed with rigidity like quality control in mass production that their thinking has grown static, and they can't figure out where to start or how to change, she said.

"The companies need our help because they've grown to be a giant Gundam robot that isn't able to handle delicate innovations, which are like ants at its feet, and may instead squash them," Hayashi said, referring to a Transformer-like robot.

Saito, a son of Japanese immigrants to California, believes Japan Inc. has simply lost its entrepreneurial spirit. His assessment underlines a growing view among experts here.

Saito's own career took off when he was just a teenager, partly because management of major Japanese companies like Sony Corp. and NEC Corp. weren't afraid to take risks in the past, even on a child prodigy like Saito, when he came up with fingerprint-recognition encryption for security.

Microsoft Corp. licensed Saito's core technology in 2000, and bought his company nine years ago, allowing him to technically retire.

"But I've never been busier, doing a ton of different things, to really give back to society, and to reinvigorate the creative spirit and become a more entrepreneurial society again because it used to be here," said Saito. "It's just bringing it back. All the parts exist. It's just a matter of how to execute that."

Saito, the computer whiz, has opened "Creative Lounge Mov," in a fashionable shopping mall in Tokyo's Shibuya, known as this nation's Silicon Valley, complete with locker rooms, offices and sofas, to provide a place where venture types can exchange ideas and hook up with investors.

He and others believe such ventures will nurture entrepreneurs, and in the longer term get Japan back in front.

Despite being ahead in key technologies like the mobile Internet and electronic money, Japan saw its lead eroded by latecomers with more imagination, according to Gerhard Fasol, a consultant who works with Japanese companies.

" hasn't woken up," said Fasol.

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User comments : 24

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Shootist
Aug 03, 2012
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Shelgeyr
3.5 / 5 (8) Aug 03, 2012
Decline of entrepreneurship blamed for Japan woes

It is larger than that... More than just "entrepreneurship" is in decline there; it could be argued (and often is) that their entire culture is.

Since there's nothing wrong with the Japanese as an ethnicity (i.e. no biological reason for the decline), that leaves good old "bad government / bad political policies" as the primary antagonist forcing down the Japanese people. And sadly, that situation is historically about as rare as sea salt.

http://translate....d%20that
ormondotvos
3.4 / 5 (5) Aug 03, 2012
Shootist was raised by wolves, not people. That's why she doesn't believe in society as a helping hand that supplies the structure businesses are built on - laws of contract, infrastructure, legislative stability, courts.

And yet, she just blurts out the latest flash email propaganda distortion, which, of course, she didn't build.
rwinners
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 03, 2012
Shootist is rabid and deserves the fate derived from
"its" name.

OTOH, Japan might become the first post industrial nation. I think this is going to be interesting.
Vendicar_Decarian
3.3 / 5 (7) Aug 04, 2012
"You didn't build that" - B H Obama

You didn't build the roads, or the schools, or the power grid or the health care system that makes American Business possible.

Government did that.

As usual... Obama is right on the money and Libertarian Shelgeyr is living a tard boy fantasy.
obama_socks
2.5 / 5 (11) Aug 04, 2012
And where did government get the money to hire people to do all that? From the taxpayers of course. Government depends on grabbing money from taxpayers to finance all the infrastructure. And taxpayers are paying for that service because American taxpayers can't do it themselves. So they pay to have it done.
obama_socks
1.9 / 5 (9) Aug 04, 2012
Obama is a fool and a nitwit. He really believes that government is autonomous and does things on its own. Bull dingies. It's the American PEOPLE who make it possible with the tax money that is taken out of their salaries with or without their consent.
Most Americans don't mind so much because they can't build the roads and tunnels themselves, so they need someone to do it for them. And that's why the government workers, (and that includes the President) are voted into political office to make sure these things get done, and they expect the work to be done right for the money.
obama_socks
2.2 / 5 (10) Aug 04, 2012
Same thing with the Japanese. They pay their taxes and their government ensures that the work gets done. One hand washes the other, so to speak. But when you have a breakdown in government and they don't want to or cannot do their job, then they have to be replaced with other who will do it right.
Vendi, I'm surprised that you're so ill-informed. Maybe you should put away all that hate and open your eyes to see what's really going on, eh?
obama_socks
2.2 / 5 (10) Aug 04, 2012
You might think that the POTUS is someone really special. He's not. He's a glorified government worker and he's being paid handsomely to provide a service. So far, he's doing a lousy job of it and it's got nothing to do with race, if that's what you're thinking.
obama_socks
2.5 / 5 (10) Aug 04, 2012
I've been commenting on this website since 2004 with my primary user name and in all that time, I've read all kinds of nasty things said about the USA from people who don't know much about the truth in my country, And quite frankly, I'm starting to believe all those who are spouting the nonsense, including the MSM, are really stupid.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (6) Aug 04, 2012
And taxpayers are paying for that service because American taxpayers can't do it themselves. So they pay to have it done.
-Total imbecility - exhibit A.
Obama is a fool and a nitwit.
No YOU are a fool and a nitwit. Obama is obviously a pretty clever guy. Exhibit B.
Vendi, I'm surprised that you're so ill-informed.
Piro/Ritchie/russkiye/pussy/Obie/dumfuk gets lost in their own illogic and quickly switches to personal attack. Exhibit C.
and it's got nothing to do with race, if that's what you're thinking.
And neither do your sockpuppets racistblackguy or jewsrule, do they? Exhibit D.
I've been commenting on this website since 2004 with my primary user name and in all that time
P/r/r/p/o adds obligatory persona-building for yet another phony sickpuppet. Exhibit E. We have already determined that you are a compulsive liar, and a very bad one. So why try?

Tell you what - tell us your primary user name and I'll shut up.
Estevan57
3 / 5 (12) Aug 04, 2012
"Tell you what - tell us your primary user name and I'll shut up"
_Otto.

If I tell you mine will you shut up?
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (4) Aug 04, 2012
"Tell you what - tell us your primary user name and I'll shut up"
_Otto.

If I tell you mine will you shut up?
Sure. Would it be Sally McTwatsky perhaps?
Estevan57
2.8 / 5 (11) Aug 04, 2012
My primary (and only) user name is Estevan57, so do your part...
obama_socks
2.3 / 5 (6) Aug 04, 2012
LOL I see the Otto Blotto is at it again. He can't help himself because he's so stupid. I've read his posts for years now when he was using his other otto sock puppets as well as s.p. that don't have otto in them. Otto Blotto is desperate for attention and will say anything to get it. He wants all the attention to be on him and hates to share it. And if someone else gets some attention it drives him nuts.
On my primary name I never got rated lower than 4.5 and when I change back it will be the same since I'm a specialist in my field. Strange that OttoBlotto wants my primary name. Maybe it's niggling at his soul.
Now he wants a racist black guy? And a Jew? I thought he already got some pussy. Oh wait, he doesn't like pussy. He wants something else. :)
I don't even want to know -LOL
obama_socks
2.3 / 5 (6) Aug 04, 2012
Hold on. I just checked theghostofottoblotto1923's Activity page. There's some dude there with the name dick_loves_otto. I clicked on that name and it looks like OttoBlotto has found his "racist black guy" from what I see in the picture.

Getting back to Japan's woes...maybe they need to move to another island.
Ooops, scratch that. There will never be another Ginza.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (5) Aug 05, 2012
So estevan
On my primary name I never got rated lower than 4.5 and when I change back it will be the same since I'm a specialist in my field. Strange that OttoBlotto wants my primary name. Maybe it's niggling at his soul.
Now he wants a racist black guy? And a Jew? I thought he already got some pussy. Oh wait, he doesn't like pussy. He wants something else. :)
Pirouette/Ritchieguy/russkiye/pussy/Obie is obviously lying here again. P/r/r/p/o is the kind of person who floods this good site with inane descriptions of their fake personal lives and details of their lascivious behavior. And links to gay porn sites. Is this really the sort of poster you want to defend?
ryggesogn2
3.7 / 5 (6) Aug 05, 2012
"Israel itself had to change in order to spur economic growth, abandoning the old socialist solidarity of the kibbutz for a political culture that encourages entrepreneurship, investment, and risk-taking. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cut taxes, reduced government spending, reformed pensions, and begun privatizing state-owned companies, including El Al (Israels national airline) parts of its electric company, and its major banks. The new Israel, Netanyahu has said, is based on free enterprise, privatization, open capital markets, an end to cartels, lower taxes, [and] deregulation. "
If the Palestinians want to follow the Israeli model for economic growth, then they too will have to reduce taxes, regulations, and the burden of government. They will have to foster a culture of entrepreneurship and success. They will have to realize that the politics and policies of resentment and envy do not create a single job, start a single business, or add a single dinar of wealth."
ryggesogn2
3.7 / 5 (6) Aug 05, 2012
The formula should work in Japan too.

"This is true outside of the Middle East, as well. Is there any doubt that Europes welfare-state culture and the entitlement attitude that drive the high taxes and bloated governments of countries such as Greece and Spain are at least partially responsible for their problems?"

http://www.realcl...008.html
obama_socks
2.1 / 5 (7) Aug 05, 2012
So estevan
On my primary name I never got rated lower than 4.5 and when I change back it will be the same since I'm a specialist in my field. Strange that OttoBlotto wants my primary name. Maybe it's niggling at his soul.
Now he wants a racist black guy? And a Jew? I thought he already got some pussy. Oh wait, he doesn't like pussy. He wants something else. :) Obama_Socks
Pirouette/Ritchieguy/russkiye/pussy/Obie is obviously lying here again. P/r/r/p/o is the kind of person who floods this good site with inane descriptions of their fake personal lives and details of their lascivious behavior. And links to gay porn sites. Is this really the sort of poster you want to defend?
ottoblotto

Looks like old OttoBlotto is sucking up to Estevan57 in his desperate search for allies to support his "delusions of persecution" when he isn't in his delusions of grandeur moments.

TheGhostofOtto1923 is perhaps THE biggest sock puppet maker in this website and I now have the proof.
obama_socks
2 / 5 (8) Aug 05, 2012
Tonight I will be extremely busy at ground control so I won't be commenting on this website for a few days on either name. When I return to this site, I will post my evidence with this name of TheGhostofOtto1923's desire to be the dominant force of this website with the power to determine who can continue to post and who has to stop posting because he feels threatened by their knowledge. His references to "inanities" of other posters infers that he is the ONLY one, except for a select few whom he has selected, that has enough knowledge of all topics for which he posts.
OttoBlotto is delusional and wants everyone to regard him as "the fountain of knowledge". Anyone who displays better and factual knowledge is a threat to him and they are permanently on his shit list.
If there is a topic for which he is not familiar and someone else is, he does a "quick wiki" to pretend knowledge of the topic.
Everyone who posts on this website knows that he is delusional and loves attention as a child.
obama_socks
2.1 / 5 (7) Aug 05, 2012
"The new Israel, Netanyahu has said, is based on free enterprise, privatization, open capital markets, an end to cartels, lower taxes, [and] deregulation. " If the Palestinians want to follow the Israeli model for economic growth, then they too will have to reduce taxes, regulations, and the burden of government."
*Ryggesogn2*

That is a model which the United States under the direction of Obama and some past Liberal Democrat regimes have failed to uphold and support. Instead, the Democrats and some Liberal Republicans have chosen Socialism as a model to fundamentally change and destroy the U.S. and the greatness it might have had. Under the Obama regime, the "shining city on the hill" has now become the rotting city of Detroit in too many ways. Romney is our only hope to get us out of this Obama/Bush mess.

Good luck to us tonight (Sunday). Our hopes and dreams are up there.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (4) Aug 05, 2012
Tonight I will be extremely busy at ground control...OttoBlotto is delusional
Heehee
TheGhostofOtto1923 is perhaps THE biggest sock puppet maker in this website
Believe me there are others here much more prolific than me. You for instance.
so do your part...
No problem.
Estevan57
2.5 / 5 (11) Aug 05, 2012
Otto what the hell are you talking about?
I have defended nobody. With your little war with Pussycateyes I told you both to shut the fuck up. Both. Remember?
Then you follow me through my posts and use your damn sockpuppets to downvote EVERYTHING.
I am not Pirouette/Ritchieguy/russkiye/pussy/Obie's supporter or yours.
Get over the competition complex that you have here. Your shit behaviour reflects your insecurity and immaturity. Grow up and get a job, or a life.
You are a cancer on this site and the reason I am leaving.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (4) Aug 06, 2012
Then you follow me through my posts and use your damn sockpuppets to downvote EVERYTHING.
And I told you those weren't me.

I am not a liar. I have great respect for this site and cannot help but respond when someone like pussy/Obie trashes it.

And I will continue to do so.