"Prescription for Change" (ACCJ 2011)


Single-track Careers Kill Initiative

Kurokawa has little doubt that his independence from major institutions is one of the main reasons for his success in influencing Japanese thought. He has little time for the one-company careerist who can only answer “I work for [insert name of company]” when asked how they make their living. “When I came back to Japan and I saw these smart kids in Tokyo University, and I thought to myself ‘these kids are bright,’ you then have to ask yourself why after ten years in a large company are they so dumb.”

He once gave a lecture where he asked his audience of Bank of Japan staffers about their opinion on whether or not the Japanese economy was stagnating. The vast majority of the audience did not want to commit themselves to an answer. His saddened answer to them: “You must have been working here since graduation, so you can’t ask questions. I see no hope for your male-based society―but you are not out of the ordinary.” He adds, “I have been fairly outspoken since I came back, but if I talk to a group, and they don’t ask questions, they’re just a masochistic bunch of men.”

He is equally critical when it comes to Japanese academia. He references “the four-line résumé,” where academics are content to gradually progress from graduate, senior staff, associate professor, and finally to professor at the same university until they retire. “It says nothing about you or your achievements, just about the positions you held.”

There are several interesting points in Dr. Kurokawa's argument, though we should be careful to take everything for that.

After the last year's disaster, I frequently wondered why lawmakers, bureaucrats, utility companies, and nuclear power experts took behaviors against the benefits of people and sometimes released false information.

I know these people are smart and basically not evil.
(Recall that in the past nuclear engineering major was the most difficult to enter under the Shin-furi system of The University of Tokyo.)

However, they can't make rational decisions once they join large organizations.
At the same time, I think I would have behaved in a similar manner if I had been in the same position.

Foreign media reported one of the causes of Fukushima's nuclear disaster rooted in "cultural value" of Japanese, such as obedience to authority.
But I believe the problem is somewhat organizational or institutional, as a case of "Single-track Careers" Dr. Kurokawa raised, rather than cultural.