A New Start

The year 2015 has come to an end. Were you able to enjoy tasty sake? The three years from 2013 to 2015 began with an odd number and was a yang period. Both the government and companies cleaned away the negative aspects of the three years from 2010 to 2012, which began with an even number and was a yin period, and set about compiling growth strategies for their management. As a result of those efforts, I imagine your sake tasted quite good at New Year’s.

The period from 2010 to 2012 witnessed the Great East Japan Earthquake and the terrible nuclear plant accident, and it can be described as the nadir of Japan’s “lost 20 years.” Indeed, hit hard by flooding in Thailand and the appreciation of the yen, the Japanese economy stagnated and the “lost 20 years” just ground on and on.

At present the Toshiba problem is becoming very serious. I think a major cause of the issue lies in the fact that the nuclear plant accident, which followed Toshiba’s acquisition of Westinghouse Electric Co., imposed a heavy burden on Toshiba all of a sudden. Meanwhile, one after the other makers who were struggling due to the yen’s appreciation moved their manufacturing operations overseas, and the domestic economy found itself in an extremely severe situation. It was a destitute time without a doubt.

The period from 2013 to 2015, however, opened with “Abenomics,” the government’s economic policy, and the domestic economy immediately switched course to a growth strategy. Various indexes began to point upward, and although there was the counterblow of the consumption tax hike to 8%, the general feeling was that the Japanese economy had broken away from the “lost 20 years.” The manufacturing operations that were transferred overseas are showing signs of coming home as well. The positive cycle is manifesting itself in employment, and it can be said that things are beginning to look up.

So I would like to think that everyone enjoyed a sweet drink at New Year’s. But of course, it’s not so straightforward. For companies, every age has its positive elements and its negative elements. Still, the overwhelming majority of companies will answer that business is going well. That is the characteristic, the effect, of a yang period.

But as we greet the new year, let us think in terms of this yin-yang principle. This year marks the start of a three-year period of yin. In such a year, the aspects of adjustment and offensive are intermixed. If gambits are beginning to pay off, it is time to sit back and examine them closely. If the green light signals, then it is okay to add some further positive factors and go on the offensive. But in the opposite case, if the red light shines, you should contract your business or pull out as quickly as possible. It’s all a matter of timing. Positive and negative elements underlie everything, so beware of half-baked reforms that could boomerang and lead to nothing.

After the three-year yin period that is just starting, there will be another three-year yang period. It is essential to prepare ourselves by firmly building a vision for the three years beginning in 2019, after the current period ends in 2018. At the present stage, as we are still loaded with negative elements, it is hard to expect substantial results even if we do attempt reforms, and it is physically difficult to make any bold moves. We are going to have to suffer in terms of both human resources and funds as well.

What I mean is that if we do not always have the attitude of thinking from a future perspective, we are not going to be able to accurately understand the present and respond properly. The only way to depict the future is through my “tomorrow’s today” philosophy. Unless we forecast the future and make observations from the essence, our corporate management is going to founder.

As we embark on the new year, I intend to move forward with an attitude quite different from before, and I hope that our industry follows suit. It’s time for a new start.