Michael Cusumano agrees. He’s a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who spearheaded entrepreneurship and innovation initiatives at the Tokyo University of Science from (to
, and lived and worked in Japan for eight years. “Closing a company or selling it is also considered something of a failure and shame in Japan, and this feeling goes back centuries. So these cultural issues also seem to encourage families to keep firms going, ”he says. “Japanese society, and the economy, is not as flexible as the US, and so Japan does not generate big new firms so easily. The tendency is to preserve what they have. ”
Yet shinise companies aren’t exempt from hardship. Kongo Gumi, a construction company founded back in , lasted a staggering 1, (years) before going into liquidation in due to debt. In the future, Matsuzaki believes that there will be benefits in combining the strengths of the two business models.
“The key will be to foster more synergy between shinise companies and start-ups,” she says. “Shinise companies’ strength in resources, their reputation in the industry, [a] strong network. ” By mixing new technology and rapid decision-making with shinise, she thinks “start-ups can become a lethal weapon for Japan’s future”.
Yet back at Tsuen Tea, current owner Tsuen has no such lofty goals. “I was born here by chance. My ancestors continued the tea business and I’m taking over, ”Tsuen says. “My goal is not to make the company bigger or expand sales or go worldwide. What’s most important is to just continue this. ”
Additional reporting by Yoko Ishitani and Mari Murakami.