Japan has performed a miracle. The country’s economic performance following its crushing defeat in World War II is nothing short of astounding. The economic expansion of Japan is second to none. All of the elements are in place for Japan to continue increasing its share of the world’s wealth as America’s gradually declines. The country is on track to becoming the world’s largest economy. How did Japan do it? There are many theories and studies that have traced the Japanese miracle without success.
The answer to the mystery can by examining Japan’s culture, education, and employment system. Japan’s success is not just a case of good technique and technology in business, but a real recognition and development of the necessary human skills. A better understanding of the Japanese society provides the framework to understanding the workings of Japanese business (and possibly the Japanese mind. ) The ayes of the Japanese provide a foundation for their economic adaptability in modern times.
Japan is a culture where human relations and preservation of harmony are the most important elements in society. It is their sense of identity and destiny, which gives their industrial, machines its effectiveness. Among the Japanese, there exists an instinctive respect for institutions and government, for the rules of etiquette and service, for social functions and their rituals of business. Japan is a traditionally crowded island; the people are forced to share the limited space with each other and to live in harmony.
The Japanese are very protective of their culture. They are very conservative to outside intrusion. Their distinctive ways are a source of pride and national strength. Japan’s striving for purity is very different form a North American idea of open doors and diversity as strength. Accordingly, one of the main sources of Japan’s strength is its people’s willingness to sacrifice, to be regimented and homogenized, and to subordinate personal desires to the harmony of the working group. The Japanese people have had to become a group-oriented society.
While in the western world, individuality and independence are highly valued, Japanese society emphasizes group activity and organization. The people accept that they will belong to one social group and work for one company for life. The crowded island conditions have driven society to value conformity. The culture that Japanese people are brought up in causes them to recognize that they have to work together to succeed. Only harmony will provide improvement. This development of the human nature and attitude relates directly to Japan’s business practice and provides a basis for good business relations.
Japan’s education system has grabbed the world’s attention as it is specifically designed to teach the children skills and aptitudes to give them an edge in the business world. The educational system, based on the principle of full equality of educational opportunity, is widely recognized as having greatly contributed to the prosperity of Japan by providing a highly qualified work force supplemented by extensive in training programs by many of the major employers. The primary and secondary educational system is probably the most comprehensive and most disciplined in the world.
Where North American students attend school 175 days a year, Japanese students attend 240 days. Japanese students attend elementary and secondary school six days a week and for two months longer each year than North American students. In addition, they have long hours of homework. A large majority of Japanese students attend Juki, or preparatory schools, in the evenings and on Sundays.
In higher education, while lacking the strong University system which exists in North America, the curriculum is equally rigorous, and Japan is graduating 75 000 engineers per year, 3 000 more than the U. S. , from a University population one fifth the size. The education system itself is a unifying force. It molds children into group oriented beings by demanding uniformity and conformity form the earliest ages. The attainment of excellence within this complex environment, and the importance it holds for one’s future is stressed early. This emphasis places a great burden on the young to perform well in school a to earn admittance to high status universities.
The public school system not only produces good, obedient citizens, it produces good workers. A willingness to give oneself to the corporation’s best interest, to arrive early and stay late, and to produce good work is attributes learned in the Japanese schools. Those who cannot learn these skills do not do well in school or do not rise in the ranks of the corporate world. The education system is an excellent example of how the Japanese recognize and develop the necessary human skills that are needed in society and stressed in the business world.
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