Recently there has been much debate in Japan over whether the “Galapagos syndrome” — development in splendid isolation from the rest of the world — fits Japan. Galapago-ists argue that Japan should embrace its falling position in the world, adjust to diminished expectations, and find contentment in tending its own garden in its own particularly Japanese way.
Globalists, on the other hand, support Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s Third Opening of Japan to the world, after the first opening with Commodore Matthew Perry’s arrival in the 19th century and the second, after Japan’s defeat in World War II. Japan would enter into new free trade agreements, refigure Japanese agriculture and accept foreign workers.
The Japanese business world seems to be coming down on the side of the globalists, as the fall in domestic consumer demand forces them to look outward. Even as the job situation becomes desperate for recent Japanese grads, they are increasingly hiring non-Japanese grads — foreign students studying in Japan as well as those graduating from universities in their home countries.
Sony, for example, plans for 30 percent of its new hires to be foreign nationals by 2013. It has been recruiting at Chinese and Indian universities and now intends to expand that to other Asian nations such as Indonesia and Vietnam.
As a sign of things to come, perhaps, Olympus announced Feb. 10 that its new president will be a British citizen, Mr. Michael Woodford, in accordance with its strategic plan to become more competitive globally, moving further away from cameras to precision medical equipment such as endoscopes. Mr. Woodford first entered KeyMed, a British subsidiary of Olympus, later becoming executive managing director of all of its operations in Europe.
Smaller and medium-size companies are also reportedly starting to recruit foreign students, especially Chinese students, at job fairs in Japan. In order to better serve these less experienced clients as they advance into new territory in Asia, Mitsui Sumitomo Bank is now calling on its career-track employees to get a score of at least 800 on the TOEIC exam measuring English skills.
Like it or not, globalization seems to be here to stay, although surely that does not mean casting off all things Japanese as well.
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