Law of the Harvest

The Long Term Perspective - Japan's deep, relatively homogenous cultural roots have given its people a long-term perspective on individual and corporate behavior.

Social Responsibility - The Japanese place a very high value on "social responsibility." Selfishness, or too much independence is considered very negative. A Japanese proverb, でる釘は打たれる, or "the nail that sticks up gets hammered," is a good example of the negative connotation associated with getting too "independent."

Cleanliness and Aesthetic Beauty - Japanese people feel an obligation to leave a clean, orderly world for future generations. Each is expected to consider the long-term "harvest" of its present actions. Japan's clean streets are only partly a result of efficient city work crews. In early morning walks we often see shopkeepers sweeping and scrubbing the streets and sidewalks before they open their doors for the day. It is also common to see business men and women in suits and ties don company t-shirts and spend an hour sweeping up trash around their office building.

Customer Service - In spite of Japan's large population, the world of business is remarkably small and tight knit. What goes around definitly comes around, so every customer expects to be treated like a repeat, long-term customer. Quality control, excellent customer service, beautiful packagin, and perfect politeness are considered "normal."

Order - Because of its high population density, Japan has evolved a society where "order" is among the highest priorities. Jaywalking is not only a technical violation of the law; it is considered socially unacceptable behavior. As a general rule, those climbing the stairs are expected to do so on the left, those descending also stay to their left. Tokyo's Shinjuku train station is the busiest station in Japan (busiest in the world as of 2007). Over 3.6 million people per day go through Shinjuku station. The crowds are incredible, but people move on and off trains in a remarkably smooth manner.

Punctuality is expected - Chronic tardiness results in loss of societal trust and respect. Hard, efficient work Japan has few natural resources, so it places a very high value on its "human resources." Its people and companies rely on working harder and being more efficient than the competition.

Longevity - Corporate longevity is a key factor in consumer trust, and "respect for elders" is a key component of Japanese society's rules of engagement. If you are not in it for the "long-haul," you will not be viewed as trustworthy.

No Forgiveness - When a Japanese person or corporation breaches protocol or violates the law, the punishment can seem harsh by Western standards, and the effects can seem almost permanent—forgiveness is tough to obtain. A juvenile who goes on a vandalism spree may never recover his social standing—he probably won’t be able to get into the right high school, which would allow him to get into the right university, which would allow him access to jobs at the most prestigious companies, or in government service. If an employee voluntarily leaves his or her job to work for a competing company, even if he or she is extremely talented, it is unlikely that he or she would ever be welcomed back. From the perspective of the employees who stayed behind and were loyal to the team, the former employee was "selfish" in seeking greener pastures, and therefore is no longer trustworthy. The same principle holds true with corporations to a certain degree. If a corporation once loses societal trust, or the trust of regulators, it is very difficult to recover.

Politeness and Harmony - Politeness is a way of life. Rudeness is generally not tolerated (although it often happens when someone of superior or elder status is addressing an inferior). 平和 or harmony, is highly valued, so frequently "blunt or confrontational truth takes a back seat to "maintaining harmony."

Long working hours - Although the statutory workweek is 40 hours, employees expect each other to work much longer than the required minimum. A general rule of the societal hierarchy is that a lower level employee may not leave work until his boss leaves. He is also expected to arrive before his boss. If an employee leaves promptly at the end of the official workday on a consistent basis, he may be viewed as lazy and will probably be passed over for advancement.

Precision and Efficiency - The Japanese train/subway system is a great example of the precision and efficiency that Japanese society values. If the train schedule says a train will arrive at 1:12 p.m., all of the passengers expect it will be precisely on time. If it is off by even a little bit, the conductor will apologize for inconveniencing passengers by his inexcusable error. Many of the cutting edge manufacturing processes, inventory management theories, etc. were developed in Japan where efficient use of resources is the price of success.