Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Small is beautiful

March 9, 2010

It’s been over two weeks since the final puck was walloped and the last skin-tight lycra suit was hung up at the Vancouver Olympics. 

And while Japan’s poor performance still rankles, the passage of time has given me the chance to find some bright spots in the country’s measly haul of three silver and two bronze medals.

Not least of which is the role played by small Japanese companies in supporting our athletes at a time when corporate behemoths, such as carmaker Nissan Motor and Seibu Holdings, an operator of hotel chains and train systems, have severed ties with teams including baseball and ice hockey squads.

OLYMPICS-SPEEDSKATING/

Two of the three women in the team that won silver in the ladies’ pursuit speed skating belong to a skating club formed by tiny surveyor Daichi Corp in Toyama Prefecture, northwest of Tokyo.

Daichi, which employs only 40 people and posted $11 million in sales in the last financial year, spends about $220,000 annually on its skaters. Its president and its founder even took a pay cut to make more funds available for the club, a company spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, Keiichiro Nagashima and Joji Kato, who won silver and bronze medals, respectively, in the men’s 500m speed skating, are members of a team at Nidec Sankyo, a maker of ATM card readers.

CEO Shigenobu Nagamori inherited the club as part of a merger and decided to keep it as he wanted a common goal to to help unite his employees. Indeed, Nagamori will pay 8 million yen ($88,500) out of his pocket to the two medallists, in addition to another 8 million yen from the company itself, according to a Nidec Sankyo spokesman.

Without this support, Japan’s medal tally would no doubt have been even more dire. Let’s just hope these guys can afford to keep up their good work in the run-up to  Sochi 2014.

Photo credit: Jerry Lampen/REUTERS

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