The Japanese success story and lessons


The Land of the Rising Sun was at one point “Rising”. They seem to be slowing down now, and hardly make a splash unless it’s a new video game or a new car or a weird Japanese toy (well they pretty much own these sectors). The Japanese are culturally unique, their food is exotic (sushi and miso soup) and their economy was/is one of the most vibrant.

The Japanese have always been ambitious. There must be something about being an island nation that make you want to conquer the world (like the Brits). The Japanese had done pretty well in the 1930s and had a few colonies (lording it over China before WWII started). The “Japs” then made the mother of all mistakes by bombing Pearl Harbor and calling out the Americans. They then received as a result of their efforts samples of the Atomic bomb in two installments. On August 14th 1945 when the Emperor of Japan surrendered the isles of Japan were smoking heaps of rubbles laid to waste by firebombs. Their rise to economic prominence from such a state of helplessness is nothing short of meteoric and inspiring.

There’s a bit of a historical and political lesson behind how they got to be Japan Inc. General Douglas MacArthur was heading the supreme command of the Allied powers and he arrived in Tokyo (after blowing Nagasaki and Hiroshima to bits) with a massive army. His massive army consisted of nation builders from agriculturalists to specialists in every field. The Allies wanted to make sure Japan would never be a military threat and also that they could make reparations (payback) to the countries it had occupied.

To make a long dissection of History short. The Americans did not allow the “Japs” to rearm themselves and they (Japs) spent all their money/budget on getting back on their feet. A lot of political reforms also came about like equality for women and democracy. However Japan benefitted best from a skirmish that broke out in 1950 called the “Korean War”.

The Americans took the help of their big war enemies for necessary materials. With American dollars and technical expertise the Japanese industries made trucks and other equipment. South Korea’s present day freedom from communism is owed to Japanese factories as much as the big brains in the Pentagon.

Japan grew at a rate of 10.5 % per annum from the 1950 to the 1960s while the average for the rest of the world was 4.7%. Putting their guns away definitely helped the “Japs” get a step ahead. The figures are incredible and by 1952 their Gross national product was one third larger that that of the UK.

By the 1970’s its GNP was bested only by the US and the Soviet Union. Their phenomenal rise was due to their work culture and innovation. Even today most Japanese have more than one job and work part time at several places. Their innovative nature is reflected in their refinement of normal ritual into art (even suicide is Harakiri-a ritual). This trait carried over into microchips, which after the oil crises of 1973 increased the costs of heavy industry.

By 1980 Japan owned 80 per cent of the world market in electronics and “Made in Japan “was a badge of pedigree and status. They had also become the second largest producers of automobiles in the world. Even today the label still commands tremendous respect in and over other nation’s labels. (Sony, Sanyo, Aiwa, Funai, Furukawa , Yamaha, Honda, Mitsubshi, Toyota and so on and so forth)

If the Oil crises exposed their over reliance on exported oil it also highlighted how energy efficient they were over their western counterparts and their oil guzzling machinery. The global economy was shaken with the recognition of the Peoples Republic of China and the Japanese realized that their days of favor with the Americans would soon be over and promptly took over a few American Companies.

Their onus to growth was much like what we face today in India where the exploration of high technology fields such as software and microelectronics could be achieved by using home made brain power. It was no coincidence that by 1980 the directors of 67% of Japanese companies were degree holders in applied sciences or engineering. 

Japans success was seen as a threat and American and European trading partners in a bid for self preservation enacted protected tariffs and trade restrictions. The Japanese countered this by investing instead of competing in the west. Among their investments were coffee farms in Brazil, factories in New Zealand and Automobile plants in the UK. (They also got the world addicted to Video Games around this time… “Mario” sold more than 1.63 million copies in Japan alone)

Long Story short (and I have babbled on quite a bit) the Japanese are here to stay and will keep shifting stances to give the world what it needs. The Japanese are in business and we better start learning.

  • Let’s start “talking Tokyo” and play to our strengths, the “Japs” are all about improving and making an existing concept design smaller. What can Indian’s do? (Besides obviously sticking our label on their stuff)
  • Our work ethic has to match theirs, they work up to the age of 80 with multiple jobs (average Jap lifespan is around 90) In India we retire and start preparing for the next world by 60.
  • The Japanese are tenacious and survive anything. (Two Atomic bombs and still standing) If anything their non existent weapons program gives them more money to spend on education and their citizens. Can we ever put our guns away (um…? China-Pakis-Bangladeshi-Maoists = not happening)
  • The Japanese value talent over connections and every person has earned their job with performance and merit. Indians are too busy promoting their race agendas,and engaging in Nepotism, where whole families are on the board regardless of skill or talent(notable exception Tatas) and playing office politics
  • Their government is strong because crime is controlled. (Ok it’s controlled by the Yakuza-Jap Mafia but it’s controlled) (Japan mei Dum Hai kyuni Crime Kum Hai) Fact is their bureaucracy works and does not come to work at 10, discuss the menu till 11, sleep till two and leave for home by three after shuffling files like an inebriated gambler.

India has a lot of things to learn and I believe we can do it. Just as long as we think Japanese, wear English and trade American. (replace with China, Russia, Germany and England at leisure) Our change has to be within this generation which thinks differently from the previous safe job seeking 9 to 5 Indians. (Either that or wait for your children to write similar articles and inspire you)

India must learn from everyone and utilize its resources better or as Raj Kapoor would say “Mera Joota hai Japani…”

References and Photo courtesy:

About me:- I am a Content Writer and a Voice & Accent trainer. I also moonlight as an arm chair political thinker and economist. My views are usually cynical (take no heed) and hopefully enlightening. My views are mine and solely mine and in no way shape or form reflects the stance, leanings or ideology of


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