Alcohol and Japanís Business World
Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – For the past month, I have been immersed in conversations I have been having with Japanese businessmen in my building. This experience has opened a new world for me into corporate structure and the problems of that nation’s economy.
Although I live in Asia, I didn’t know much about their lifestyle as I had never visited their country. I understood them to be very hard working people. They suffered a horrific disaster during the tsunami which ruptured nuclear power plants. They gave cherry trees to the United States that has resulted in a spectacular floral display during spring in Washington. They are also kings in the electronics and automotive industries.
They recently had an election where Shinzo Abe replaced the government that had been in power for about three years. (I wonder if his campaign slogan was “Shinzo “Honest” Abe.”) Apparently, people’s discontent seems to be with the management of the economy which is blamed on an aging workforce without replacement by younger people.
After having held more than 100 discussions, I have come to some impressions about corporate Japan. I realize, of course, that I cannot stereotype an entire nation by these minor, unscholarly conversations. But I am going to do it anyway because any country that wants to rebuild atomic power plants after the disaster deserves it.
From what I gather, corporate Japan lives in an alcohol haze. They work 12-to-16 hours per day because they need at least four or five of those hours to sober up and clear their minds. There must be huge demand for pain relievers. At night, they drink heavily with others and call it "networking." This is part of their so called 12-to-16-hour work day.
I believe sales are made when buyer and seller are in a state of inebriation. When there is a sober time, the seller can't believe at the low price he sold it for and the buyer can't believe he bought so many. As a tribute to each other, they also exchange a case of liquor.
On Saturdays and Sundays they go to the golf course because that is the only quiet place they can find to hopefully stop the pounding in their heads, what with the wife and kids running around the house. They call that "networking," also.
They can't speak English because they are sloshed most of the time and can barely speak Japanese. Apart from earning an MBA, they need to go the United States to sober up and dry out. Their favorite city, and in most cases the only city they visit in any depth except for their university town, is Las Vegas.
In Japanese corporate society, it is very important to move up the corporate ladder, and this can only be achieved through networking, a.k.a. socializing, with those above you. This includes many evenings out hoping the boss will like you enough to promote you to a higher position.
Because so many junior executives are clamoring to rise to achieve a higher position, a degree from the United States has been put in place, the Vegas ceiling. Prospective upper echelon executives must obtain an advanced degree in their field to rise further. To earn this advanced degree, they must learn English. They must pass a written free-form essay and they practice with me.
Once they have returned to Japan brimming with new knowledge, they quickly discover their new found theories are useless in their society. However, the business culture they thought they left behind still remains intact, only this time they drink and trade titillating stories about their experience in America. And still tell their wives they are networking.
According to a Bloomberg report, many young Japanese families are not having children. I believe it’s not that they don’t want to, it’s just that with all the alcohol, late nights and golfing their husbands can’t – er – perform. And then on the weekends, when they should be able to, they are busy on the golf course. Hence, according to Bloomberg, young single Japanese ladies are emigrating in record droves, which I think is caused by watching carefully their fate with future husbands in the corporate world. “All he’s going to do is drink and play golf” must be the common complaint.
Many problems in Japan can be solved by quitting drinking. If only the entire world economy can be corrected that way.
…Life is good. . . . .