The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan



Breaking Down Walls

Diversity and education are reigning themes in our January issue of the ACCJ Journal—as well as diversity in education.

Last month I had the pleasure of interviewing the US Embassy in Tokyo’s second-in-command, Jason Hyland. I am fascinated by the stories of career diplomats, and perpetually in awe of these individuals’ linguistic abilities.

Success in the field requires a commitment to educating oneself on more than just language, and the trajectories of diplomats present a vocation as diverse as anyone could hope for.

Deputy Chief of Mission Hyland is a person who can at once be intimidating yet disarming. He reminds us that cultural education is ongoing outside of classrooms, as evidenced by his love of literature, films, and yes, even NHK morning dramas.

The written word
The role of literature in cultural edification is also taken up in this month’s Cool Japan column. When readers in other countries are asked about famous Japanese authors, one name is likely to recur: Haruki Murakami.

Though audiences at home have often criticized Murakami’s works as being particularly “un-Japanese,” he is the one author who has truly captured audiences outside Japan.

In November, he became the first Japanese to accept Germany’s Welt International Literature Award, further proving his international appeal. In his acceptance speech, Murakami spoke about the many “walls” that serve as barriers to human interaction, referencing the Berlin Wall of the past and the current political “wall” Hong Kong protesters are struggling to overcome.

Murakami’s message and global presence demonstrate that diplomatic service does not necessarily entail an embassy posting.

Best of US–Japan
Diversification surfaces in our top story, which covers Japanese companies seeking new partners and clients overseas. This is good news for US companies, as financial backing from a Japanese entity usually implies a long-term commitment.

Although Japan’s import-oriented businesses—and those of us who frequently travel abroad—continue to bemoan the weak yen, this doesn’t seem to interfere with domestic firms’ appetite for expansion.

A stronger Japanese presence in US business can have mutually positive repercussions. I attended the December luncheon honoring the 2013 ACCJ Person of the Year, Toyota Motor Corp. Honorary Chairman Fujio Cho.

In his spirited and humorous presentation, Cho described several nuggets of knowledge he had gleaned from his fellow US managers, while workers at the company’s Kentucky plant praised the Toyota kaizen method of continuous improvement. He called the US plant an example of the best of the United States and Japan coming together.

In Cho’s words, the most successful people are those who are good at learning from others. Here’s to a new year of diversified learning.



Brandi Goode