Yoshiyuki Iwamoto recently published in New York a book in English.
He said, “In advance, my American friends, college teachers and published writers told me that to find a publisher in the United States would be very difficult.
“The rejection rate is as high as 98 percent. However, one publisher, Algora, brought out my ‘Japan on the Upswing: Why the Bubble Burst and Japan’s Economic Renewal.’ “The paperback edition came out last September and is enjoying brisk sales.”
Iwamoto says he is not an academic scholar. His career has been in marketing and advertising for U.S. firms doing business in Japan, and for Japanese companies doing business abroad.
For the purposes of his book, he said his understanding “comes largely from talking with consumers, reading and experience.” The result is a subjective look at what has gone on in Japan since the late 1980s up to this year.
Born in Kobe in 1934, Iwamoto was of an age to benefit from postwar enthusiasm for the English language. “American teachers at my high school and night school helped me get first prizes in two local high school English speech contests,” he said. “In the late ’40s and ’50s, it was a fashion to want to go to the U.S. to study. So I just went there, in December 1953.”
Introduced by a missionary teacher and with sponsorship from a church group in Shreveport, he enrolled in the Centenary College in Shreveport, La.
In June 1955, he went to a resort in Wisconsin to take a summer job as a bell hop. He traveled by bus, which drove through Madison “where the University of Wisconsin is located. I liked the beautiful school campus, and the university’s reputation.
My early ambition was to study English literature and become a scholar in that field. I loved Ernest Hemingway and Scott F. Fitzgerald. In that summer of 1955 I earned enough money to pay the tuition for the first year at the University of Wisconsin, so I transferred there.”
Later, Iwamoto received a tuition scholarship. He worked as a cook in local restaurants, and as a research assistant at the university’s nuclear research laboratory and at the American Foundation for Biological Research. “I wanted to study English literature, but wound up majoring in mathematics and taking a host of science courses,” he said.
After graduating in mathematics in 1959, Iwamoto as a biophysicist stayed on at the American Foundation. Confidently bilingual by now, he had developed an independent turn of mind and action. Two years later, he returned to Japan. Even without job prospects and with only 5,000 yen in his pocket, he wanted to go home.
He found employment in the Osaka branch of a joint venture advertising agency.
For half a dozen years, Iwamoto moved between different advertising offices in Osaka and Tokyo. He wrote articles in English for literary journals and published his first English-language book on “Selected American Advertisements and Colloquial Expressions.”
In 1968, Iwamoto moved to the Japan office of the Hong Kong Tourist Association where he focused on travel trade promotion. Still a young man, in 1972 he decided upon career independence and established his own company MarBrain Inc.
Originally, MarBrain set out to provide marketing consultancy services. Iwamoto was confident he could supply cross-cultural understanding for marketing plans and problem-solving for small companies engaged in international business.
Within a few years, Iwamoto added technical translation and interpretation to the services he offered. His early appointment as translator to Nippon Steel “worked like a charm, and I had no problem getting other technical translation orders.”
When Iwamoto sensed in 2002 that Japan’s economy was at a major turning point, he decided that recent history and its aftermath should be recorded in English for the rest of the world to know. He set himself to do the recording.
In his comprehensive book he detailed Japan’s accumulation of bad debts, presenting the human side of business life through 220 pages to the introduction of companies and manufacturers “that make up the driving force behind Japan’s upswing.”