‘Let Us Take Leave of Absence from School’ -2: Interview with the President of Japan Foundation


Every now and then I write in this web-site that to have broad first hand experience, to find ‘what you want to do’, NOT ‘what organization/company you want to work for’ is very important in your life.  This same notion is clearly expressed in books such as ‘Insider’s Observation of the Failing of ‘Pay for Performance’ Policy by Fujitsu (original title: Naibu kara Mita Fujitsu Seikasyugi no Hohkai, in Japanese)’ and ‘Why do youth quit in 3 years?  Seniority-Based Promotion Ruins the Future of Japan (original title: Wakamono wa Naze 3nen de Yamerunoka? Nenkojyoretsu ga Ubau Nihon no Mirai, in Japanese)’ by Shigeyuki Jo, or ‘A Company Will Rot from the Head (original title: Kaisya wa Atama kara Kusaru in Japanese)’ by Kazuhiko Toyama.  For details, please check at ‘Amazon’.

Come to think of it, to most Japanese, men especially, forming their career on one single career path has been a common value.  We are in a society of seniority-based promotion, the ‘Tate Shakai (Hierarchical Society)’.  Since 1960s until 1990, Japanese economy continued to grow even though its velocity slowed down. Thus. social structure was built in accordance with this economic growth pattern.  For example, huge amount of ‘retirement lunmp-sum payment’, no sliding sideways (like moving from Mitsubishi Bank to Mizuho Bank…), etc.  People’s thinking adapted to this pattern, too.  This is prominent especially in Japanese men.

As I have written in my previous posting on ‘My lecture at Keio University SFC’, recently I am sending out messages by the key-word ‘Let us Take Leave of Absence from School’ for one year.  I am talking about this to many people including the government officials at the Ministry of Education.  I wish that universities get more actively involved in such programs.  What needs to be done is not to come up with reasons for why something cannot be done, but to think hard how it can be done and take action.

This was the topic of my conversation (in Japanese) with President Kazuo Ogura of Japan Foundation, too.  I have linked the interview.  What is your reaction to our message?

This similar message strongly appears in the article by Anne-Marie Slaughter, Director of Policy Planning of the U.S. Department of State, written two years ago when she was the Dean at Princeton University (I have mentioned this in my column) as well as in her recent lecture in February.

My speech at the World Bank also includes the same message.