Japan was literally reduced to ashes at the end of the Second World War. Japanese people scavenged for anything to sustain themselves in those dark days following surrender. A piece of bark from a rotten tree or a limpid carrot root must have passed as a great meal.
Each exhausting day must have been just as bleak as the previous one. The infrastructure, what remained of it, was in total disarray. The country was in chaos. Panic was ensuing after news spread of the devastation that the atomic bomb had wrought on the peoples of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The losers (Japan) could not decide whether to embrace their conquerors or fight to the bloody death. It was only a painfully humiliating radio broadcast (at the urging of General McCarthur) by the Emperor Hirohito in which he admitted he was not divine that allowed the Allies to bring a horrific world event to a definable end.
One constant explains the miraculous economic recovery that Japan – a resource-poor island nation of 130,000,000 people – was to experience in the post-war years. That constant was its people and their strict adherence to rules, conformity, perseverance sacrifice, and a Confucian respect for the elderly.
Let us fast-forward to the Year 2006. Japan has regained some of its resiliency. The arrogant swagger of the early 80s has returned in some quarters after the economic malaise of the late 90s. An Internet Technology (IT) boom has arisen in an eerily similar manner to the one in the U.S. a few years’ back. Large companies are restructuring and discovering new business paradigms and marketing models. New trends in retailing are emerging.
In Japan’s aging society, youth rule the roost. The ubiquitous cellular phone is even more popular than cigarettes and booze. Old-fashioned, archaic company structures have given way to promotion by merit. Language of respect has all but disappeared except in stuffy, unwieldy organizations that represent the old Japan.
Let me address the negative side of Japan? Public manners are becoming atrocious in some circles. Elders are often ignored or disrespected. Murders, kidnappings, extortions and a host of other crimes that were almost unheard of (outside political and gangster circles in Japan until the mid-1980s) are surging at an alarming rate. These sore points are slowly being addressed.
Significantly, young people have no sense of urgency and no sense of direction. Money and the pursuit of it have weakened the Japanese underbelly. Grown, employed children often live at home until well into their thirties or forever. Supported by mom and dad, they stay put under the pretext that it is too expensive to live independently.
The terror and hardship of war mean nothing to these new-age drifters. They are showered with gifts, with money, with toys, with contraptions. They are the first generation of children spoiled by prosperity and they harbor no sense of community responsibility.
As bad a picture as I just painted, Japan is ready to be the center of a marketing boom. The technology, the infrastructure, and the trappings of modern life are all firmly planted. A new, prosperous lifestyle is emerging here that is fitting for the advanced society Japan has become. This is a great place to live and to work in the next generation, as the world shifts from the West to the East.
A savvy entrepreneur or netrepreneur should definitely be looking to the Orient and to modern Japan as the gateway to emerging markets.
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