Although Japan is widely known for its traditionalism and ritualism, globalization and related trends have affected it over the last 20 years. The main segments of state life, influenced by globalization are business and economy, social life and politics. In the 1950s-1960s, Japanese economy was to great extent isolated from international trade, after the establishment of government organization Japanese model of management was developed, so that the view on business in this country differ tremendously from those in the United States and Western Europe (Carte and Fox, 2004).
It needs to be noted that before globalization japan had extremely strong government industry, which satisfied practically all needs of domestic population and allowed sustainable export of technological products and motor vehicles into the neighboring countries (Brislin, 1981). As Carte and Fox state, “the liberalization of international current transactions and capital transactions advanced after Japan acceded to the Organization of Economic Co-operation and development in 1964.
Meanwhile, the liberalization of short-term money markets and capital markets, which leads to the lifting of bans on lending and borrowing in foreign currency, was delayed about 20 years and progress was finally achieved in the late 1980s” (Carte and Fox, 2004, p. 328). The same course of development was used for international trade and the inflow of offshore assets into Japanese industries, in addition, the privatization of government industries that began in the late 1970s, has led today to the engagement of foreign business into local market competition as well as to the penetration of transnational corporations into the domestic market.
Nowadays, with regard to active international cooperation between Japan and Western European countries, the government facilitates and encourages the establishment of foreign businesses in Japan (Brislin, 1986). The ‘Japanese miracle’ of the 1960s- 1980s, brought about by the fruitful international cooperation and diplomatic relations between Japan and the Western world became a brilliant example of reasonable consensus between traditionalism in economy (that dominated in post-war period) and openness to change and acceptance of new business principles (ibid).
As for Japanese national culture, it has also experienced a number of modifications and transformations after the beginning of globalization. For instance, the national clothing known as kimono was widely used in post-war Japan, but after the beginning of business partnership between the U. S. and Japan, the style has substantially changed, especially after the popularization of European-style casual outfit (Brislin, 1986).
National culture if Japan is still supported by certain government programs, as it has today become a sort of ‘fetish’, especially in European countries, but it is important to remember that the vestiges of Japanese culture that can be noticed nowadays are nothing more than commercial tool that allows attracting more foreigners. That’s why certain experts assert that national culture has been revived comparing to post-war period, when J-pop, or American popular culture literally became an obsession of ‘common people’ (Brislin, 1981; Carte and Fox, 2004).
Under the influence of globalization Japanese culture has absorbed a number of comparatively new objects and issues like video games, gambling houses and American cartoons, but instead of passive acceptance, these attributes of Western pop have been adjusted to local cultural context: video games have been ‘japanized’, as an alternative for commixes and cartoons, mangas and anime (skillfully drawn and animated films for adults and teens) were created. Japanese cinematography, although designed primarily for a local viewer, is now rapidly growing and progressing, although it still cannot be compared to such ‘mega-industries’ as Hollywood.
As Mead (1998) writes, “ the traditional and contemporary customs coexist among people in Japan even though the way people act and think has changed through time. For example, Japanese have Christmas, Mother’s Day and Father’s Dayalong with other traditional days even though the majority of Japanese people are Buddhist and Shinto” (Mead, 1998, p. 472). Nevertheless, the ‘temple culture’ is still strong in Japan, so that certain (mostly rural) areas are protected by government as ‘sacred places’. Another important cultural change has occurred in Japanese people’s mentality.
For instance, in the 1960s, an average Japanese office employee needed entire life to make a successful career, i. e. grow into an executor or top-manager, contemporary Japanese graduates seek to make rapid career at young age in order to afford all material benefits promoted by American culture, in which individuals under 30 can purchase an expensive car or have their own private accommodation. This means, Japanese office employees try today all opportunities to increase their salaries, which remain comparatively low.
In this sense, one of the most painful issue in contemporary Japan is ‘karoshi’, or death as a result of excessive workload that prevails among lower-chain managers (Carte and Fox, 2004). As for the specific recommendations for an entrepreneur, who intends to run business in Japan, it is important to mention that the vast majority of Japanese have profound knowledge of English language, so the problem of verbal communication cannot be viewed as a major trouble to encounter when establishing a business.
As Carte and Fox wisely note, “because of Japan’s size, substantial investments are necessary, and therefore the inherent risks are also large; you either win big, or lose big” (Carte and Fox, 2004, p. 351). Furthermore, Japanese customers are extremely demanding, as they used to receive highest-quality products from local industries, especially those dealing with telecommunications, motor vehicles and digital technologies.
Japanese constitute 10 per cent of the world’s Internet users, so that the would-be-entrepreneurs, who intend to connect their businesses with communication technologies, should consider carefully the quality and, more importantly, novelty and uniqueness of their products before launching them (Carte and Fox, 2004; Mead, 1998). An ideal variant is a multifaceted marketing research that would find the actual needs of the population and suggest the optimal ways of satisfying these needs and meeting the requirements (ibid).
Management style is a separate issue that deserves in-depth exploration, but in case of the hypothetic entrepreneur it needs to be noted that it would be useful to combine American and Japanese models. Most applicants in Japan, seeking to take certain vacant place, expect well-determined hierarchy in the organization as well as flexible job responsibilities and warm, friendly internal environment, thus, the foreign entrepreneur should be ready to provide or clarify all these aspects.
It is vital to remember that the dominance of financial conglomerates known as Kereitsu is still a strong tradition – the customers would use time-honored and well-known products instead of foreign ‘know-how’. In addition, Japan is “a very bureaucratic country in many ways, with a dense network of regulations, permissions, certifications, procedures, offices and authorities with approval procedures for many things, which don’t need approval in the US” (Mead, 1998, p. 490).
Japanese bureaucracy existed before globalization and is likely to resist and survive globalizing trends, so the easiest resolution of the situation is obedience to local norms, which can be learned and observed appropriately through hiring several Japanese consultants and lawyers. To sum up, although Japan is gradually approaching to the western model of social life and business, it is still a country with numerous peculiarities, which should be researched thoroughly through studying the earlier investigations and conducting the new ones.
Brislin, R. Intercultural Interactions – A Practical Guide. Sage, 1986. Brislin, R. Cross Cultural Encounters – Face to Face. Pergamon, 1981. Carte, P. and Fox, C. J. Bridging the Cultural Gap: A Practical Guide to International Business Communication. Kogan Page, 2004. Mead, R. International Management: Cross-Cultural Dimensions, 2nd edition. Blackwell Publishers, 1998.