Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
The next boss of beleagured Japan Airlines is a 77-year-old ordained zen monk who founded multi-billion dollar tech and telecoms companies, and – unlike most Japanese corporate peers – actually backed the current ruling party.
Kazuo Inamori, honorary chairman of electronics parts maker Kyocera and critic of many modern CEOs as well as capitalism’s excesses (think an older Michael Moore at Kyoto’s Ginkakuji), says he will take the job for no salary, working only three to four days a week.
Long hours and zen resolve may be needed, though, as JAL shares slipped to 7 yen in value Wednesday, making its market capitalisation at about $200 million less than a single Boeing 747-8 aircraft.
Analysts say Inamori, who has launched a leadership school as well as his own foundation, may be the new government’s attempt to win a public buy-in that a principled outsider and his “Kyocera philosophy” of “doing good and doing well” can succeed where a slew of JAL managers have failed.
The character “shin”, or “new”, is on display at Kyoto’s Kiyomizu temple, selected by Japan’s kanji association as the word of 2009, with the chief priest’s calligraphy perched above the former capital, known more for its history than the au courant.
The word’s stock rose with phrases like “new Cabinet”, “new influenza”, new model Prius and new jury system. But looking at its dry, black ink on a recent trip, I wondered if the choice was also a comment on its ubiquity, or non-newness, in a marketing-saturated nation where the adjective is often pasted without any real commitment to the fresh or innovative. Two years ago the kanji for “fake” had been selected as word of the year.