Japan On Its Way To Be The World’s Largest Economy
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
be found 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.

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A better understanding of the Japanese society provides the framework to
understanding the workings of Japanese business (and possibly the Japanese
mind.) The ways 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 machine its
effectiveness.”1 “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.”2 Japan’s striving for purity is very different form a
North American idea of open doors and diversity as strength. Japan is relatively
closed to immigration to outside countries. However, this feeling of superiority
does not stop them from being careful. “This is probably because the Japanese
know their economic house is on shaky ground, literally. Japan is eternally at
nature’s mercy, vulnerable to the sea that surrounds it, to earthquakes of the
soil beneath it and a real shortage of raw materials, particularly food and
fuel.”3 A period of extended isolation could be disastrous to the country.

Japan’s trade surplus is its only generator of wealth. This is a fact of life
that is preached through the media and taught constantly to Japanese throughout
their lives in school, from parents, and when they enter the working world. The
message is clear: Japan is always vulnerable, we must protect her. “Obsessed
with national character, the Japanese are proud and ambitious, constantly
measuring themselves against the world’s best and biggest. 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.”4 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 highest priority is placed on WA, or harmony.”5 The Japanese have learned
to share their limited space and value the precious distance between themselves
and others. 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 intraining programs by many of the major
employers.”6 “The primary and secondary educational system is probably the most
comprehensive and most disciplined in the world.”7 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