Business advice from J-Cast

J-Cast is a relatively new Japanese online news service co-founded by Asahi Shimbun veteran and AERA founder Masao Ninagawa. Rather than aim to serve as a straight news site like the major news media (which would be practically impossible since online news organizations aren’t allowed into government press clubs), they try to form a conduit between “primary” information (direct investigation/reporting) and “secondary” information (news reports from other companies, websites, blogs, 2ch etc) to achieve something they term “1.5-degree information.” I’ve been using the site for a while because it has an RSS feed (that lets me read entire posts in my reader no less) and often has good links or covers an issue in more detail than I can get elsewhere (such as the recent controversy over claims that Prime Minister Abe wears diapers due to recent health problems).

But what I wasn’t aware of (in yet another “news to me but maybe no one else” moment) is that they have an English site. It doesn’t seem to get updated often enough, but I thought I’d share with you this useful highlight from a series on how to succeed in business as a foreign company in the rough and tumble world of Japan’s “capitalist controlled economy” (English mistakes theirs):

Why Are Bureaucrats So Arrogant?
by Atsushi Yamada

Administrative measures are taken according to the law, but government offices, not courts actually decide how to interpret the law for implementation. Bureaucrats’ feeling like “Sairyo” (discretion) or “Gyosei-shido” (administrative guidance) often set the rule of business. People who are not accustomed to this kind of system led by bureaucrats, especially foreigners would be bewildered. There are two ways to cope with this. First off, ask government offices openly. Regarding the non-transparent measures like administrative guidance or permission rights let your lawyers ask for the view of government offices in writings. You should explain that you would like to do it as business and ask them whether it was lawful or not for avoiding the accusation later. If they do not permit, ask them the reasons for it in writings.

As Japanese government offices lead the private sector with “Aunno-kokyu” (perceived feeling), they are susceptible when they are asked for logic. Act aggressively with the backing of the law. Recently this has become very effective. When foreign companies are not abundant in Japan, they do not react seriously even if you ask for the view directly. But they are not allowed the poor treatment now, as “transparency of administrative measures” is required. This kind of measure is the right one even though the relationship with the government office might become difficult. They would see you as “lousy” and would not treat you well.

Another way is “When you are in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

You would see them with low posture and respect. Try to go often to government offices and approach government officials. Try to find time to dine and play golf together with them. Build the cordial relationship that will allow you to consult with them. If possible, become a member of the related organization and contribute to the activities of the organization. Try to become friend with “Amakudari” officials in the organization, and get the information of government offices like internal situation or frank opinions. It might be possible to have an introduction to government officials. With the introduction from the inner circle, they react differently. It might be a good way to become senior official in the related organization and skill up the negotiation tactics. It might be possible to form an industry with only foreign companies. In that case, you could find a way to receive a politician who has an influence to government offices as an adviser. But in that case, you might be forced to buy tickets when the politician held fund raising parties.

Attack from the front or take appeasement policy, judgment is manager’s task.

Deference? Golf? Political fundraisers? Screw that, I think I’ll call my lawyer.

2 thoughts on “Business advice from J-Cast”

  1. Wow. When I first started toying with the idea of making Trans-Pacific Radio, I tenatively called it J-Cast. I decided the “J” thing was overdone and the using “‘cast,” as in podcast, was too cutesy.

    More on topic, whatever happened to good old-fashioned quid prop quo bribery? Building a relationship with a lot of amakudari guys might well make the whole experience even less pleasant.

  2. Any legal or administrative matter will go much more smoothly in Japan when you go to a government official, apologize, plead ignorance and beg for help. They will readily ignore just about any rule if you’re deferential enough.

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