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Resilience and Innovation: How Japan's Earthquake is Shaping Corporate Strategy

This recent Financial Times piece sheds light on the formidable resilience of Japan, particularly exemplified by the fish and vegetable market in Wajima, following the catastrophic earthquake, tsunami, and fires that ravaged its western coastline in 2024.

Japan’s natural disaster preparedness has a corporate price
Companies serve as visible units of permanence in an unstable world but that can make for unwieldy strategy

This event not only underscores the intrinsic survival instinct of Japanese businesses, many of which boast over a century of history but also highlights Japan's adeptness in preparing for and responding to natural calamities. This ingrained resilience has become a cornerstone in the evolution of Japanese corporate philosophy, pivoting from a focus on longevity and endurance over mere expansion.

Historically, Japanese corporations have navigated through phases: from rapid expansion with protective cross-shareholdings to a post-economic bubble era marked by resource hoarding and reduced bank dependence.

Presently, we're witnessing a strategic evolution. Companies are streamlining, divesting non-core segments, and re-evaluating cross-shareholdings as liabilities. This shift is accompanied by a rise in domestic mergers acquisitions, and a trend towards privatization, all aiming to alleviate the pressures of public markets.

A particularly interesting aspect discussed in the article is the unique challenges within Japan's unlisted sector. Here, a significant number of businesses owned by individuals over 70 face a demographic dilemma, leading to an unprecedented wave of business sales.

This situation resonates strikingly with the Japanese art of Kintsugi, which embodies the philosophy of embracing flaws and imperfections. Kintsugi, involving the mending of broken pottery with lacquer mixed with precious metals, symbolizes resilience and the beauty in recovery. This concept parallels the adaptability and endurance of Japanese businesses in the wake of the disaster. It's a powerful metaphor for the current business landscape in Japan, where challenges are not merely obstacles but integral parts of an entity's history and identity, shaping a stronger and more resilient future.

In essence, the article and the concept of Kintsugi together highlight a profound insight: in the face of adversity, the true measure of resilience is not just in surviving but in how one adapts, transforms, and emerges stronger, weaving the very fabric of challenges into the tapestry of one's identity and growth.