Entrepreneur urges mindset change

by Tetsuji Ida

Kyodo

A U.S.-based entrepreneur who became the first Japanese invited to a U.S. presidential State of the Union address has said that Japan must shake off its “stagnation” by fostering innovation and ditching outdated ideas.

Speaking in Tokyo, Hiroyuki Fujita, the 47-year-old founder and president of Ohio-based electronics firm Quality Electrodynamics, claimed “there are too many tacit, meaningless rules in Japan, for instance, people majoring in science cannot be a diplomat, and that has generated a sense of stagnation in Japanese society.

“Those are problems that have long been pointed out, but people don’t seem to have an intention of changing them,” he added.

Fujita was invited to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address in 2012 as the White House seemingly sought to emphasize the importance of nurturing small and midsize companies that have contributed to the nation’s economic growth and helped create new jobs.

“Four days before the speech, my secretary suddenly stormed into my office, feverishly saying, ‘It’s a phone call from the White House,’ ” Fujita said. “The speech that I heard at the site was truly powerful.”

Last October, Fujita published a book titled “Michi naki Michi o Ike” (“Take an Unmapped Path”) in which he detailed his experiences as an entrepreneur in the United States — including his attendance at the address — and sought to provide encouragement for Japanese businesspeople.

Born in Nara Prefecture, Fujita first visited the United States while he was a university freshman, staying for two months to study English. He said he was fascinated by American society, which he found rich in diversity, as well as liberated and dynamic. He then left the university in Japan and entered a college in Illinois in 1988.

Fujita said that he was interested in medical engineering, which spans a variety of fields, such as mathematics, physics and medicine, and that he worked for a company manufacturing coils for magnetic resonance imaging systems before founding Quality Electrodynamics in 2006.

“The life here in Ohio where the winter is long and severe seems to suit my personality,” Fujita said, expressing a desire to stay in the United States for many more years.