I though of this photo taken at Tokyo University (note the finger) when I read this article in today’s NY Times, “In Japan, Young Face Generational Roadblocks” and associated comments such as this one:
I recently graduated from Waseda University – and tried the job hunting process. It posses your life from when you’re a junior until you graduate. So many of my friends were either unable to get a job offer (or “naitei” in Japanese), or had their job offers withdrawn – and were forced to stay another year in university. We call them Super-Seniors, and its a rapidly growing population in universities across Japan who are becoming too fearful to step out into the job world. There were rumors about 7th and 8th year students at the university – they’re not failing any classes – they actually get high marks, and they willingly stay in the sheltered university system. I managed to land a job at a smaller company through an internship. My personality didn’t survive in the conformist job hunting system where even the tint and texture of your black suit or the pattern of your tie could cost you a job offer. Many companies don’t even tell new recruits which department they’re in until they show up at the office on the first day. Its clear evidence major japanese corporations don’t have a hiring strategy, and view recruiting as a ceremonial tradition to draw fresh blood.
I got lucky when I went outside the system, but I think I’m a very rare case. Its a big risk for many people – not only are there financial security implications for people but social implications like how they face their parents who expect them to land a big job at a Sony or Toyota.
As for entrepreneurship the level of available venture capital is incredibly low – and the ability to break into the mainstream with a product is much harder in Japan when users are locked into walled gardens of mainstream services.
The causes are far deeper than just an aging population for Japan – there are historical, economic, and cultural factors at play.