Entrepreneurship booms in Japan

Portland State alumnus Hajime Kuwayama returned to campus Tuesday, Jan. 16, to lecture on a unique aspect of Japanese culture: the booming entrepreneurial scene.  

“I’m not so sure that many Americans associate entrepreneurship with Japan,” said Ken Ruoff, director of the Center for Japanese Studies at PSU. “We decided that a lecture series on entrepreneurship in contemporary Japan would be interesting, and happily we got a grant from the Toshiba Foundation to support this.”

“Often Americans think of the salaryman culture,” Ruoff continued. “These are individuals who are employees in these very big corporations, but the fact of the matter is that Japan has this incredibly rich history of entrepreneurship, and lots of it is actively going on now.”

While it’s far from uncommon for students around the world to feel lost, Ruoff remains hopeful. “The main point is to remind people that there is a vibrant entrepreneurial sector in Japan,” he said. “Even though the macro stats may say that Japan is growing at .5 percent a year, certain industries are dying and new industries are being developed. Somebody started most of the big corporations at one point; they were operating out of garages at one point.”

For those who want to work in Japan without teaching English, PSU graduate Zac Bradberry recommended gaining “IT experience, especially programming, because there is a shortage of those types of workers in Japan.”

As a bonus, Bradberry said, “It doesn’t matter so much even if you can’t speak Japanese in those fields.”