Leaders March 2017

Adapt and thrive

Make the most of change

The end of February saw the inaugural Premium Friday in Japan, a day when firms are encouraged to let their staff leave at 3pm. The government hopes that the initiative will encourage people to spend and travel, although uptake was reportedly muted. While all of us would surely enjoy a bit more time to get out there and see the world, some people are fortunate to be doing so for a living.

We chat with Ben Southall, an adventurer and digital journalist who has been able to use social media to help sustain a life of escapades. He tells us how he stumbled on these powerful tools and the lessons he’s learnt.

Down to business
It is not all fun and games though. We get an insight into what the upper echelons of business think 2017—with its new political administrations and trade negotiations—has in store.

First is John Dwyer, PwC’s global and UK deals leader, who gives us the inside track on the mergers and acquisitions environment.

Then we have coverage of the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan’s (BCCJ) 2017 Business Trends from the C-Suite event, at which the Japan heads of Jaguar Land Rover Limited, Barclays Bank PLC and GlaxoSmithKline K.K. spoke on Brexit and US President Donald Trump. They gave frank assessments of doing business today.

Another BCCJ event feature covers a workshop by BT Group plc’s Japan arm on adaptable workstyles. BT has been a pioneer of flexible working, going back as far as 1990. As the Premium Friday initiative suggests, new attitudes to work are increasingly going mainstream. Even if implementation is sometimes lacking, the BCCJ event made the benefits clear, and pointed the way forward.

That was also the case with another BCCJ event covered in this issue, this time on the issue of mainstreaming equality, diversity and inclusion. Although firms often tout their commitment to these principles, the results don’t always quite live up to the rhetoric.

Thankfully then, Matt Burney, Japan director of the British Council and member of the BCCJ executive committee, and Neil Shepherd, head of HR, gave a clear, practical guide for how firms can integrate diversity and inclusion into their everyday operations. Find out how simple tools such as the Access Checklist can immediately make your business open to a wide range of people, something that helps your bottom line, too.

Lighter notes
Guy Perryman MBE returns for his second BCCJ ACUMEN column, this time looking back on his interviews with Coldplay—who will play Tokyo Dome in April—over the course of his career. It is easy to forget that the band has now been going for 21 years, and with no line-up changes. Find out how they have achieved that remarkable feat and what it means for their creative process.

Speaking of creativity, Japanese artisans have been putting their own twist on that perennial favourite of British breakfast tables—marmalade. Utilising ingredients such as yuzu, these marmalade-makers have been winning recognition in the UK, taking several gold medals at the Dalemain Marmalade Awards. With the 2017 edition scheduled for 18 and 19 March, we speak to last year’s winners. I wish them the best of luck with their entries this time round.

Finally, we may only be a few months into the year, but you might already be thinking of a break. For those not inclined to engage in Ben Southall-esque adventures, we have a run down of short, luxury breaks in Japan to help you recharge and unwind.

From the Publisher
Simon Farrell

After a local government survey in February revealed that 45% of Tokyoites polled did not know Japan will host the 2019 Rugby World Cup (RWC), I found an easy and cheap way to help promote the third-biggest global sporting event (according to some metrics), while supporting good causes and obtaining a historic limited-edition collectible.

In February I won a lottery organised by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (I was the only entrant!) to become the proud owner in my ward of a vehicle number plate sporting the digits 2019 and the official RWC logos.

It is the first time Japan has allowed designs on vehicle number plates other than the regular format; some 46 of the 2019 plates will be raffled in each ward (one for each hiragana), but all registered owners of private or commercial vehicles (not motorbikes) can buy the RWC logos.

To get the ultimate one over the Joneses, visit:


To do so, simply apply for the RWC logos online by entering details from your shaken (MOT) certificate (Tokyo residents pay ¥8,000), enter a weekly draw for the magic 2019 number, or both.

Should you sell your vehicle or change number plates, officials will kindly stamp holes in the RWC plate to nullify it and then give it to you as a unique souvenir of what will surely be a great occasion.

Proceeds go to charities and infrastructure investment in the 12 RWC host cities.