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Home > Interviews > Special Interviews Last Updated: 15:02 07/18/2007
Special Interviews

Eric Dinmore (Ph.D. candidate, Princeton University)
Mention the word "dams" or "damn building" in Japan these days, and you're likely to get at least raised eyebrows, or even a diatribe about wasteful pork-barrel spending by the Ministry of Construction.

But as Eric Dinmore, a Ph.D. candidate in the Dept. of East Asian Studies from Princeton University points out, the rush to build dams and pave river bottoms sprouted, not from a need for economic stimulus, but for a post-war historical imperative - Japan's dire need for energy.

Indeed, Japan once had grand designs for hydro-electric energy systems patterned after the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in the United States, with Lake Biwa alone slated to produce 100s of thousands of kilowatts per year.

While the idea of dam building became a cornerstone of public spending, for various reasons, the grandiose visions of an energy-independent Japan, based on hydro-electricity, never got off the ground.

In his interview, Mr. Dinmore explains the history behind the so-called "TVA enthusiasm" in Japan, and the arc of an idea that never came to pass.

Mr. Dinmore, also co-moderator of the National Bureau of Asian Research's online Japan Forum, says his research is part of his broader interest in the "Japan is resource poor" mantra, that, while undoubtedly true, means different things in different periods of Japanese history. (07/07/2003)
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Kumi Sato (President, Cosmo PR)
As president of Cosmo PR - one of Japan's most successful PR service companies - Kumi Sato is fast establishing a reputation as a forthright and critical business leader - one who harbors no sympathy for the gerontocracy that sits passively atop the corporate pile that is the old Japan Inc. She is one of the business establishment's most outspoken critics of this county's corporate governance and business transparency, or lack thereof, and as such she brings impeccable credentials to the table. In 1998 the she was named by the Davos World Economic Forum as one of the globe's "top 100 leaders," and in 2000 Business Week called her one of Asia's top leaders for change.

In some ways, her self-appointed mission to speak out against Japan's lack of corporate responsibility is trivially easy; check any recent headline and you'll find a potpourri of organisational malfeasance - from mislabeling meat (to win government subsidies) or selling substandard milk products (which sickened thousands) to covering up shoddy nuke station inspections.

These scandals seem to follow the same script: a midlevel-corporate mouthpiece issues firm denials while senior managers are "unavailable for comment;" the tabs and media smell blood and take up the story; irrefutable evidence of malfeasance spills into the public domain; president or CEO or both resign to take responsibility. Rinse. Repeat. Only the cast of players changes.

"Can you even recite the name of a president among one of the megabanks? I don't think so," asks Sato animatedly. "There are no leaders," she says, later adding, "Everybody is pushing responsibility onto the next one. If you can't even see the face of the leader it means the country is suffering from a lack of leadership."

Observers could be forgiven for concluding that there is little hope for change amongst the recidivist elder-gen that runs this country; that there are no voices being raised to identify and brand the perps. But Kumi Sato's is one, and she's well worth listening to. If you're wondering, "Whither Japan Leadership?", don't miss this program. (06/11/2003)
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Toyoo Gyohten (President, Institute for International Monetary Affairs)
"Unfortunately, during the last decade or so, many Japanese business leaders were too complacent about the 'memory of success' during the high-growth period."

Toyoo Gyohten is a senior dean of Japan's financial community and one of this country's better-known experts in economics, banking, Asian cooperation, and monetary matters. But as an author, economy-watcher, and keen student of government policy, he thankfully avoids the vague double-speak too often dished out to the media here. In contrast, Gyohten is an eloquent and passionate spokesman for change - particularly change informed by a clear understanding of what brought Japan to economic superpower status in the first place.

After a 34-year career at the all-powerful "MOF" (Ministry of Finance), where he rose to serve as Vice Minister for International Affairs, Gyohten-san joined the then-Bank of Tokyo as Chairman. In 1995 he moved over to become Senior Advisor to the (now) Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi and in 1996 he founded the Institute for International Monetary Affairs, a think-tank and research house of sorts that does a great deal to disseminate independent opinion and analysis in both English and Japanese. As IIMA president, he continues studying this country's economy and finances and speaking to a wide variety of audiences both at home and abroad.

In today's GLOCOM Platform video interview, Gyohten-san covers an eclectic range of issues including Asian monetary unification, the abnegation of moral reflection required to limit capitalism, and the loss of entrepreneurial drive. (04/30/2003)
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Daniel Dolan (Founder, Communication Japan)
Traditionally, mid-level Japanese corporate warriors have been packed off to US business schools to pick up an MBA and gain experience in a foreign culture. The rather hefty fees were covered by a few managers' firms as part of Japan Inc.'s staff development process. Those keen on an MBA but not sponsored by a deep-pocketed corporation had to cover their own costs - and smaller companies couldn't afford to send anyone - so numbers have been limited. But now there's a better way - or, at least, a way to participate in masters-level seminars and other business training right here in Japan.

Dr. Daniel Dolan, long-time Japan resident and ex-GLOCOM alumnus, is founder of Communication Japan, a unique consultancy focused on bringing masters-level business seminars to Japan. In May 2003, the firm plans to start offering year-long business administration seminars in Tokyo and other locations taught by instructors from UC Berkeley; seminars will cover organization and management, leadership, corporate finance, project management, and other topics.

With ongoing economic problems, the need to boost competitiveness, and post-9/11 security concerns, there's been a tectonic shift in how Japanese grad students view the value of an MBA degree and in how they go about getting a business education. For students here, the decision to study elsewhere - or at home - is based on a unique mix of educational, cultural, linguistic, and business factors. This program is a must-see for anyone interested in this dynamic market. (04/10/2003)
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