Tokyo's Ambition Generation

Entrepreneurs and Japan's New Business Culture

An aerial view of Tokyo, May 2012. Kyodo / REUTERS

A deep uncertainty about the future has bottlenecked Japan’s corporate sector. Despite high profits, companies such as Fuji Heavy, the maker of Subaru, are refraining from raising wages; other big firms are hesitating to invest because of a shrinking domestic market and the lingering memory of the 2008–09 financial crisis and recession. Some of Japan’s large technology corporations, such as Sharp and Sony, are struggling to compete with their U.S., Chinese, and South Korean peers. More broadly, as Japanese officials are discovering, loose monetary policy and prolific fiscal spending—the central components of Tokyo's plan for economic revival—can take growth only so far.

Conditions such as these have led Japanese policymakers to recognize that spurring business dynamism will be key to reviving the country’s stagnant economy. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s policy blueprint for 2015–16 calls for a society “in which all citizens are dynamically engaged”—

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