New build— Japan


Japan is at a momentous crossroads. Despite the tragedy that has engulfed the nation, now is a time for it to embrace large-scale change as it rebuilds. And this means playing the international market and realising its full arts and business potential.

2011, Japan, earthquake, international market

Every morning for the past three weeks I’ve been waking up and hoping for a bit of good news from Japan. I’m not quite sure what this particular bit of good news would sound or look like, but I’ve found myself in front of my screen by 05.00 London time scanning the websites of The Mainichi Daily, Yomiuri Shimbun, NHK and the BBC wishing for a “breaking news” banner with a headline flashing “Fukushima plant under control”, “All homeless to be re-housed by late spring” or “Japanese consumers go on spending spree to bolster economy”. Sadly no such…

The recovery process: an action plan

For the moment, the Japanese government needs to focus its efforts and resources on fixing the situation at Fukushima, ensuring there’s first-rate housing for the homeless, reuniting families, offering maximum care and comfort to the injured, and implementing assistance programmes to everyone from farmers and gifted shirt-makers to single mothers. Soon, however, it might want to start thinking about how it performed in front of the media and its own citizens (not particularly well) and take a proactive stance to restore eroded public confidence and create a fresh mood of confidence. The following might be a starting point:

  1. Hire a top PR team and get them to work up a communications plan for internal and external affairs and also cast for a multilingual team of the best spokespeople.

  2. Employ a globally minded agency to develop a series of campaigns to sell Japanese innovation, stimulate inward investment and also bolster the tourism industry.

  3. Get that same agency to encourage more Japanese to study, work and travel abroad.

  4. Put English higher up on the national curriculum and also encourage more companies to demand higher English proficiency.

  5. Launch a short term “buy Japanese, buy now” programme to get people back into shops, into trains, sitting in restaurants and booking into ryokans.

  6. Bid for the Olympics again.

  7. Develop Asia’s most respected government and diplomacy school to groom a new generation of leaders and civil servants for the national and global stage.

  8. Put more effort into developing and exporting service brands – JR-East, Tokyu, ANA, Transit General, Lawson.

  9. Strengthen NHK’s output and make it Asia-Pacific’s major broadcast news player. This means stronger presenters, better producers, more relevant shows and better graphics.

  10. Put an emphasis on bolstering its small- and medium-sized specialist and craft focused enterprises. These will become a huge asset in an increasingly automated, mass manufacturing world.


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