The Cabinet's Special Adviser, Former President of the Science
Council of Japan
"The Ohzumonization" Taken Up in Nikkei Shimbun
To my delight, "The Oh-zumo (Big Sumo)-nization of Universities," which I had been asserting many times from the beginning of this year at different places, has finally made the front page headlines of the Saturday morning Nikkei Shimbun of Nov. 4th. "The Ohzumonization" is a concept I use in my English lectures.
I have a friend, Joichi Ito, who is in the IT venture startups and blogs etc. business. He is more renowned world-wide than domestically in Japan, even listed as one of the "The World's 100 Most Respected Japanese" in the Oct. 18th Japanese issue of Newsweek. His blog is one of the top ranking hits in the world.
He is also appreciative of my concept of "Ohzumonization," and his comments supporting it are introduced in (FORTUNE editor at large) Justin Fox's The Curious Capitalist blog http://money.cnn.com/blogs/curiouscapitalist/index.html
of Oct. 23rd (which posts Joichi Ito's reaction to an earlier posted blog of Justin Fox's interview with Michael Zielenziger on Japan.) The following is a direct quote of the blog:
Monday, October 23, 2006
Joi Ito's take on outsiders in Japan
In my interview with Michael Zielenziger about his new book on Japan, Shutting out the Sun, we discussed the role of such business mavericks as management consultant Kenichi Ohmae, tech mogul Masayoshi Son , and blogger/investor/ Gnome Mage Joi Ito . Michael's take was that they remain marginalized. Joi e-mailed me this morning to say he didn't entirely disagree. But I'll let him tell you:
In some ways I agree with the characterization and in some ways I don't. The "old guard" of Japan is not some monolithic single group, but rather a complex web of various interdependent networks. I think Ohmae, Son and myself all have various connections to various segments of the "old guard".
What do think about what Joichi Ito says?
Japan very often takes "outsiders" and gives them access under the right circumstances. Sumo is an interesting example that my friend Kiyoshi
Kurokawa often uses. Even though Sumo is one of the most traditional Japanese activities, recently there is a fairly large number of foreigners. I don't remember the exact figures, but there is a single digit percentage of sumo wrestlers that are foreigners. What's interesting is that there is a double digit number in the top tier and 100% of the champions are foreign.
This is not necessarily generalizable, but it is often the case that a lot of your influence in Japan has a lot to do with just how much time you spend focused on developing relationships. I am cyclical. I spend several years outside of Japan, running around, then I focus on Japan to rekindle relationships...
But it is true that the most powerful Japanese power brokers are people who live in Tokyo and have never spent a single minute not focused on developing and managing their power base here. On the other hand, I don't think it is that dissimilar in other countries. Also, I do think that "changing Japan" is REALLY hard. I've tried it a number of times and I think it requires a revolution. Single individuals can't do it and in many ways I've given up. I think a lot of it will have to do with timing. I try to keep an eye on everything in Japan with enough activity to jump into stuff if an opportunity opens. However, I have decided, as many others have, that putting all of your eggs in the Japan basket is risky, frustrating and reaches a point of diminishing return in many cases."