The private sector of the Japanese economy has gone through some ups and downs over the last few years. Despite that, there are many reasons to look forward to its future. Jesper Koll, one of Japan’s top economic strategists and “Japan’s eternal optimist,” shares why we should be optimistic about Japan’s future.
What is the current status of investment in Japan?
Koll: The most important issue facing Japan is unlocking the incredible asset base that Japan has.
Japan has an enormous amount of wealth that is locked up in savings accounts that are very conservatively invested, and we need to mobilize those savings to invest for future growth. That’s going to be the key challenge going forward in Japan.
Why should we be optimistic about Japan’s economic growth?
Koll: It’s a great time to be optimistic on Japan because Japan is unbelievably rich. And rich where it matters, and that is intellectual property.
If you look at research and development spending as a share in national income, Japan is right up there at the very top of the world. If you look at patent registrations, you find that Japan’s companies are very innovative, and that the breadth of the innovation is very large. Whether it is robotics, regenerative medicine, or new technologies for tires, you find Japan’s breadth of innovation. Potential of intellectual property is unbelievably rich.
The great news is that now that Japan has political stability, you will see that this innovation potential will actually be commercialized. I think it’s correct that over the last twenty years, Japan was very innovative, but bad at commercializing that innovation. And one of the reasons is because there was this regime uncertainty. Every twelve or fifteen months, there was a new political leader (prime minister).
Now that you’ve got stable government in Japan, that wealth of intellectual property, that wealth of innovation power, can be commercialized successfully. It’s this richness of Japan where it matters—intellectual property, innovation, power—unlocking that.
That’s why you should be optimistic on Japan.
How should people pursue a career in Japan?
Koll: I think, you absolutely should study Japanese. Learn the Japanese language, and get over to Japan as soon as you can. Get an internship, become an English teacher, whatever it is. Familiarize yourself with the culture here, and focus on constantly improving yourself and your knowledge of the country.
The second point is the Japanese are craftsmen. They value perfection. They value somebody who is not giving up on what it is that they want to pursue. So hone your expertise in what you are good at, no matter how small it is. Even a waitress in Japan can have a very high social standing because if you are honest and true to your heart and trying to perfect what it is that you’re trying to do, the Japanese will respect that.
So number one: Learn the language. Number two: Be in good faith and constantly perfect what it is that you’re doing.