Vice Chairman, Nippon Keidanren
President, The Tokyo Electric Power Co., Inc.
According to a survey on global distribution of wealth announced by the United Nations University at the end of last year, Japan had the world's highest per capita wealth at $181,000. This figure greatly exceeded that of $144,000 of the United States, which ranked second. Many claim not to feel any sense of affluence, but given the aforementioned figure, Japan is indisputably one of the world's most affluent countries.
However, can it not be said that this very affluence is threatening the survival of our country? Affluent lifestyles are producing an increasing number of physically and mentally weak people. Thanks, or no thanks, to personal computers, car navigation systems, and the myriad other convenient tools that surround us to the point of excess, many Japanese today cannot do mental arithmetic, write kanji characters, remember routes, nor use chopsticks properly. Their inability seems to suggest the loss of brute instincts that are inherent to human beings. In essence, what we are experiencing is a "hollowing out" of human abilities among the Japanese.
Again, perhaps as a result of the lukewarm environment produced by affluence, there seem to be an increasing number of mutually indifferent, unassertive young people today. Although it is only natural for people to have opinions that may differ from others, the young generation today cannot understand what another person is thinking or why that person thinks that way, because there is an overwhelming lack of communication among them. Worse still are those who refuse to even make the effort to understand each other. By nature, the Japanese are said to be poor at reaching decisions through discussions, but now is a critical time to make some changes. Unless we establish a sound foundation for the expression of opinions without fear of confrontation and a well-developed procedure for consensus building, our society will only grow weaker.
To begin with, people are frequently known to turn their poorness, failures, heartbreaks, and other such adversities into success. Trials and tribulations give people the power to live strongly, the strength to care for the weak, and the courage to challenge the new. In other words, they are what create "tough" people with outstanding human capacity.
Japan today needs more "tough" people. They hold the key to invigorating society, promoting innovations, and bringing economic growth. It is precisely these "tough" people who have the potential to transform Japan into a "tough" nation full of hope.