If the barbarians are at the gates, Japan is letting them in.

The country is becoming increasingly comfortable with foreign private equity funds and activist investors, a development that gives staid boardrooms the chance to enact the unparalleled wisdom of Western management. In reality though, the expertise could just as easily flow the other way.

At the start of the latest annual shareholding meeting season, a record 77 companies faced proposals from stock owners, many of them foreign investors. An important example is the long-running attempt to take Toshiba Corp. private, which progressed last week with the addition of two activist hedge fund representatives to the long-suffering conglomerate’s board. Some see that potential deal as the litmus test for the future of private equity in Japan.