Global Mindset in Japan: A Critical Evaluation


Summary. This article critically sheds light on current socio-economic challenges for Japan and the need for developing a global mindset for companies in a globalizing world. With little chance for getting a management position before the age of 40 and confronted with dominating domestic demand for a monolingual male workforce, Japan’s youth gets blamed for being ‘insular’ and individually responsible for the lack of global mindsets. To improve global success, Japanese HR practices’ global talent management programs have to address the need for highly skilled and globally minded talents in Japan and their expatriates. Japan-specific, step-by-step, and creative alternative solutions may be required to make it happen.


Japan’s current unclear development of its role in global economy comes from various challenges such as two decades lasting economic stagnation [1] and increased competition from China and India [2]. Salary men sweat devotedly for the big companies and government agencies for the return of stable careers, while their wives take care of raising the next generation guaranteeing the continuation of the system that has become antithetical to fast-paced global changes [2]. A global mindset is needed for many Japanese organization, and there are calls for a related shift in education ([3]; [4]). However, most Japanese companies favor domestic monolingual male workforce [5], which informs higher education in the way that fewer and fewer students in Japan envision to study abroad [6]. The collectivist Japanese culture might emphasize that trend as the unity of family raises expectations for children not to stay away from their family and take care of their parents [7].

Japanese see the development of a global mindset as an individual rather than an organizational burden. Due to seniority-based promotion systems, only 9% of Japanese managers are below the age of 40, compared to 62% in India and 76% in China [1]. Ironically, the lack of talents with global mindsets has not been associated with strict hiring practices, bigoted immigration policies, or with conservative firm cultures but instead the ‘insular’ young people, the so-called ‘uchimuki,’ are blamed for keeping the island inwardly retreated [8].

Japanese HRM practices’ global talent management initiatives have been reported to not being suitable to attract sufficient talent with a global mindset for multinational enterprises [9]. English in Japan is still treated as belonging to the US or UK rather than being a global language [8]. HR brokers until today have mostly focused on low-skilled short-term immigration [10]. Therefore, not surprisingly, Japan ranks last behind all major industrialized nations regarding the percentage of foreign academics and engineers employed [11].

A trend of an increasing number of Japanese self-initiated expatriate entrepreneurs to developing countries in Asia indicates the presence of not only entrepreneurial but also global mindsets as related to social and sustainability missions [12]. Japanese multinationals, however, comparatively have difficulties to go international with their often highly successful local businesses in which the home-country expatriates obviously need to re-assess their globalization abilities [13]. For example, Japanese business men are used to relationship-based marketing [14] and would need to adapt to a more need-based style when selling abroad [7]. Maybe hybrid forms of globalization activities, developed through Japan-based HR training can advance the integration of cultural differences to promote global success [1]. Anti-globalization sentiments after the nuclear plant accident in Fukushima in 2011 and perceptions of unfairly exploitative global businesses may require an alternative kind of globalization as happening in the arts that, e.g., builds on alternative smaller destinations [15]. Step-by-step quick wins could increase confidence in more long-term investment into global mindsets to improve results from globalization [16].


[1] Ananthram, S., Pick, D., & Issa, T. (2012). Antecedents of a Global Mindset: A Mixed Method Analysis of Indian, Chinese and Japanese Managers. Contemporary Management Research, 8(4), 305-329.

[2] Ananthram, S., Grainger, R., & Tominaga, H. (2014). Constituents of a global mindset: an empirical study with Japanese managers. Japan Studies Review, 91-114.

[3] Li, S. (2014). The Conversion of Homogeneous State to Global Society: The Changes in Japan from a Higher Education Perspective. Procedia Social And Behavioral Sciences, 140(1), 553.

[4] Danielewicz-Betz, A., & Kawaguchi, T. (2014). Preparing Engineering Students for Global Workplace Communication: Changing the Japanese Mindsets. International Journal Of Engineering Pedagogy, 4(1), 55-68. doi:10.3991/ijep.v4i1.3297

[5] Kobayashi, Y. (2013). Global English Capital and the Domestic Economy: The Case of Japan from the 1970s to early 2012. Journal Of Multilingual And Multicultural Development, 34(1), 1-13.

[6] Normile, D. (2015). Japan looks to instill global mindset in grads. Science, 347(6225), 937.

[7] Michaeli, M., Lazo, A., Thao Phung, N., Moussavi, M., & Steinberg, H. (2017). Global Cultural and Accounting Difference between Japan and the USA. Allied Academies International Conference: Proceedings Of The Academy Of Accounting & Financial Studies (AAFS), 22(1), 22.

[8] Burgess, C. (2015). To Globalise or Not to Globalise? “Inward-Looking Youth” as Scapegoats for Japan’s Failure to Secure and Cultivate “Global Human Resources”. Globalisation, Societies And Education, 13(4), 487-507.

[9] Furusawa, M., & Brewster, C. (2015). The bi-cultural option for global talent management: the Japanese / Brazilian Nikkeijin example. Journal Of World Business, 50(1), 133-143. doi:10.1016/j.jwb.2014.02.005

[10] Conrad, H., & Meyer-Ohle, H. (2018). Brokers and the Organization of Recruitment of ‘Global Talent’ by Japanese Firms–A Migration Perspective. Social Science Japan Journal, 21(1), 67. doi:10.1093/ssjj/jyx032

[11] Oishi, N. (2013). Migration and competitiveness in science and engineering in Japan. Migration Letters, 10(2), 228-244.

[12] Yokoyama, K., & Birchley, S. L. (2018). Mindset and Social Entrepreneurship: Japanese Self-initiated Expatriate Entrepreneurs in Cambodia. Journal Of Entrepreneurship And Innovation In Emerging Economies, 4(1), 68.

[13] Black, J. S., & Morrison, A. J. (2012). The Japanese Global Leadership Challenge: What It Means for the Rest of the World. Asia Pacific Business Review, 18(4), 551-566.

[14] Yang, L., & Peter R.J., T. (2008). The link between cultural value systems and strategic marketing : Unlocking the mindset of Japanese and South Korean managers. Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal, (1), 62. doi:10.1108/13527600810848836

[15] Mōri, Y. (2015). New collectivism, participation and politics after the East Japan Great Earthquake. World Art, 5(1), 167.

[16] Yamada, K. (2016). Financing Sustainable Development with Enhanced Domestic Resource Mobilization: Transitional Role of International Cooperation. Asia-Pacific Development Journal, 23(2), 61-80.

About mathias sager

Thinking and writing for happiness, painting colorfully, and enabling personal growth for all. Fostering co-operative and humanitarian principles, economic and social equality, as well as environmental sustainability. Using broad international experience and progressive, egalitarian and global outlook to promote care for the next generation.
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2 Responses to Global Mindset in Japan: A Critical Evaluation

  1. jwswift22 says:

    Great article!! The Mono-Culture of Japan is an interesting thing. I personally know a Canadian expat who lives in Japan, has children born in Japan ,who in turn have had their own children born in japan. Non of these ” born in japan” individuals are accepted as Japaneses citizens.

    The Cultural identity of Japan and the Japanese as a people is one of the most important facets of life for the Japanese.

    The Japanese social structure, would so radically change that the generation that experiences it in a large scale way would not know what hit them. Everything they know would change. Societal expectations, the family structure, and the culture handed down through family story would eventually fade in the face of global interaction and integration.
    intermarriage with non-Japanese triggers a pretty raw nerve just for that reason.

    • mathias sager says:

      Thanks a lot for these additional thoughts and experiences. Very valuable. I agree with your comments. Interestingly, there is a Japanese fascination with individuals from inter-marriages, the so-called “half” people who are, for example, often used in modeling/advertising. On the other side they, as the name says, are considered only half Japanese. This matters from an integration perspective even more as the culture/society is quite homogenous and closed (only ca. 2% foreigners overall). It is easy to underestimate these effect when thinking about cross-cultural relationships with Japanese:-).

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