Think about Japan with William Hiroyuki Saito

July 16, 2014 Juju Kurihara 0 Comments

A while ago, I received two books from Japan. Both books are pointing the problems Japanese society has in the business scene. One of them is "The Team (ザ・チーム)" and the other is "その考え方は、「世界標準」ですか? (Is it "world standard" way of thinking?)". The aurthor is William Hiroyuki Saito who was born in Los Angeles as the second generation of Nikkei. 


Both books are a kind of Mr.Saito´s biography, which is also interesting since he has done so many things in his twenties. He has invented TV conference system, finger print authentication, biometrics encryption system and more. Of course not everything was successful but the good thing is he kept trying to create new things.    

He was once retired when he was younger. My favourite part is he started learning cooking professionally since he had a lot of time. I wonder if he knows the word "boring".


the team 

First I read this, "The Team". William Saito insists that Japan has no team. I thought it was strange but now I see it. Japanese society is a total pyramid society. I remember now when I was in the last year of Uni, I was sending my CV to over 70 companies to get a job. Only 2 out of 70 called me for the interview and one of them wasn´t even an interview but an orientation. At the entrance, we had to sign out name with the name of the university. Whole page was full of the name of the famous universities. 

Saito says that Japanese enterprises are ruled by the people who graduated from the same universities. Why? Because they think the same way and the companies are not seeking different ideas. If majority of the team is just working for the elites to support their idea, that cannot be called a team. I´ve noticed after reading the book that collective is different from team work.   


Another interesting point was Japanese people are not educated to debate. This is absolutely true including me. Whole 4 years of my Uni life, I never needed to debate in the class. When I started studying master in Spain, I immediately realised the different style of the class. The professors just sit but don´t explain much. There was a white board but they barely stood up and wrote something. Every week we were given a lot of documents to read and what we did in the class was just discuss about it. Not only my Spanish level was too low to argue but also I realised I had no skill of debating. It was shocking. 


world standard

I have learnt in Europe that debate isn´t personal or a fight. Yet it´s sometimes difficult for me not to take it personal. I´m simply amazed by people arguing over some theme and they get very overwhelmed. However after moving on to other topic, they are completely fine and laughing together. 

I´m usually between them and trying to find the middle point so that they don´t end up hating each other. Debate is still a little stressful for me.


I don´t know what is "the world standard" way of thinking but it´s true that Japan is losing the value of "Japan" as a brand name. Saito also mentions that there are very few women in the important positions in Japan. 

As we saw the other day, Japanese women are still fighting for their right in the society where sexual harassment is socially accepted (by men). I wonder how Japan will be in the next 10 years. It worries me. 


After reading these two books by William Hiroyuki Saito, I started to think that it´s important to change my way of thinking rather than try to change Japanese society. Because at the end, I´m a part of Japan. These books are available in Japanese but I think it´s worth reading for non-Japanese to understand Japanese business scene and also for Japanese people to realise what each one of us can do to make our future better. 



More about Japanese books

Second hand books shop, Book-Off

Poet, Taro Gomi

King of short short, Shin-ichi Hoshi

Japanese Haiku, Matsuo Basho

More about Japanese behaviour

How do you say my wife in Japanese

Herbivorous boys

The concept of kindness

Women agenda

Japanese mums and obento

Japanese girls´ bowlegs

Iyashi-kei girl

Uso mo hoben

Are Japanese women too nice?

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