Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Nobel Laureate Nakamura is Angry

U. Cal. Santa Barbara Prof. Shuji Nakamura took time to criticize Japan's rigid business culture the day after learning he was awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize for Physics. A naturalized American, Nakamura claimed what encouraged him in his work was "anger."

Nakamura insists (link) Japan is a stifling environment for entrepreneurs.

Such words largely echo those of another Nobel Prizewinner who fled Japan: Prof. Susumu Tonegawa of MIT asserted in 1987 that (link) "Japanese culture remains a major block to true creativity. Scientific thinking ... is a product of individualism, and in Japan, individualism has never been of personal value."

Nobel Laureate Tonegawa's warnings, made 27 years ago when Japan's economy seemed golden, were largely ignored. The subsequent economic crash and decades of stagnation have greatly weakened Japan. Will Nobel Laureate Nakamura's cautions get more respect? One dimension of his vision is stated clearly: "If Japanese companies don’t reform drastically and implement English as their daily business language, the economy will only continue to contract."

In 1989, New Scientist magazine pointed to the growing number of foreign researchers in Japan, citing Tsukuba Science City especially. But 25 years later in some key areas, divergence from Japan's homogeneity is still proudly smothered: multiple nationality is generally disallowed, and there are still confusing claims that foreign researchers cannot apply for and receive tenure at Japanese national universitiesThough in fact there seems no legal barrier to regular employment of gaikokujin by universities, confusion & uncertainty hurt recruitment. Both students and Japanese colleagues are weaker because of shortsighted policies and continuing discrimination against outsiders. There still remain huge access barriers in housing and finance for foreigners in Japan.

Japan suffers from mismanagement in a large part because policy inputs flow only from domestic, home-grown sources. Nobody champions great ideas already successful elsewhere. Japan's leadership wove a costly cocoon for itself, and still delays emerging to engage with the wider world.

Legal reference to public universities in Japan hiring foreign nationals: