File #3401: "ms102_04_01_01.pdf"


Thoughts en route from
Japan to Hong Kong
April 11, 1967

Dear Homer:
As I wrote from Japan in 1963, I will not write
about that exciting country again except to say that I am even
more impressed than before with its ene rgy and its unique
achievement of an effectively working accord between government and business with the unexpressed partnership of labor,
i n which the energies of the nation are directed in channels
intended to inur e to the benefit of the countr y as a whole -without 11 wasteful" competition at home but w ith effectiveness
It seems to be working remarkably well, and I
would expect it to continue for the immediate future. Wage rates
are rising and in another generation, when the awesome r espect
for the employer dims a bit, they may rise to heights more
comparable to those of the West. If and when that develops,
there will occur a more d ecis i ve test of the advantage of the
Japanese co-operative society and the rel a tively more freely
competitive systems of the West.
To present this from the Japanese point of view, not
necessarily my own, I have set forth what I believe to be essentially thei r posit ion in the form of a letter fr om a Japanese worker
to his counterpart in our country. It is attached.
With b est regards,

Tokyo, Japan
April 6, 1967

Dear American Friend,
How glad I am to be young !
My parents have sacrificed to send me to school.
have that much confidence in - - and fear of -- the future ,


But they

will stay in the village and continue to raise rice, for the city is too
The city has frightened me, too,
Today's city is not mine; it is run by people here long before

They don't think they need me, for I am too poor to buy their

expensive cars and clothes and televi s i on sets. But tomorrow's city
will be mine .

The y don't know that, but I do .

are sleeping, I am studying .

After work, while they

I have no degree today, but tomorrow I will

be a foreman and soon I will be an engineer ,
Still, this isn't a lonely battle,

Try as hard as I can, I am

only one of millions - - twelve million here in Tokyo -- the biggest city in
th e world.

Let me shout that again -- THE BIGGEST CITY IN THE WORLD!
London was great, it ruled the world, but weakly and foolishly

wit hdr e w so that today its fame rests on the Beatles and miniskirts .


New York, with its earthquakeproof skyscrapers, has been
the exc iting center with its ''decadent 11 riches (which I envy) and our
great United Nations.

But Tokyo, a desolate hovel of two million when

I was born in 1946, is now the greatest city in the world -- over eleven
million people.
Before I am married our country will be the third most
productive in the world.

Each day at work I say,

we've passed Germany, we're passing England. "


We 1 ve passed Italy,

When I say,


We will

soon pass the U, S.S. R. and even the United States," some of my friends
gigg le - - but we will.
We will be cause we work harder.

What does that me an?


work longer hours and we ask for less today, confident that, if we allow a
part of our share to go into new machinery, we can produce more and cheaper
and, hence, both have more and sell more tomorrow .
The Englishman won't work.

The American works only for him-

He still thinks he is alone on a frontier.

But h ere each of us knows

he i s only one of many and that, no matter how well he does, it is only in
r e lation to the group -- and a group is more important than I.
The American thinks that in a million selfishnesses more is
achie ved than in a group loyalty of the same number .

But we have both,

and the real secret is that, although w e, too, are selfish, we ar e willing to

H e only thinks of a bigger share of the pie.

of a bigg e r pie .

We'll take a smaller share


What the American doesn't yet realize is that our pie will
keep getting bigger every year if we workers are willing to take only a
modest share of it.

If I don't get a color television this year and let my

shafe go into new factories, I can have two televisions five years from

The American won't wait.

He eats steak while I have rice and fish.

I envy him today, but he will envy me tomorrow.
You don't believe that, do you?
It's true.
You Americans are rich inside your country.

You use up almost

all that you produce and you drive Chevrolets and Chryslers to your factory

I ride a bicycle seven miles to my job, but you don't turn out any more

work in a day than I do and l ess than I will next year .

Yet to support your

car and TV , you ask enough more money so that your company's production
costs much more than mine.

A friend of mine that works in the accounting

department of an American company's plant here tells me that the hourly
cost in the States is $3. 22 direct and $1. 17 fringe, for a total of $4 . 39 an
hour compared to 50¢ of direct and 36¢ fringe benefits, or a total of 86~ an
hour here.

It must be nice to get five times as much, but you are not going

to be able to sell in competition with our companies.
any more than you do.

I don't love my boss

I want more pay, but the company will never fire me

as long as it is successful, and so I want it to be successful.

I know it has

to make money and invest in more machinery if it is going to succeed.
does the government.



Your government is always fussing with your business.
Our government tells business what to do - - but not to punish them,
rather for their joint advantage -- and that means mine, too.

Your govern-

ment thinks it has to punish the company in order to please you.
that is.

How naive

Your workers are more sophisticated than we, but even we know

that we can't prosper unless the company does .

Where we are smarter

than you is that we also know that we can't progress unless our country
does well -- and our bosses know that, too.

If we demand the money that

would go into new machinery, we will live better for a little while, until
someone else, with that new machinery, gets the order and we lose our job.
Maybe you think I should not talk up so big, for I have a
bicycle and a radio while you have a car and a TV.

We are only just

getting to be the third biggest country, but we climbed up there from the
bottom because we worked harder and asked for less .

You see that we

are gradually getting more now and you think that , like in Western Europe,
as we workers get more, our costs will go up and we will lose our markets .
You are almost right.

Our costs will go up in Japan, but we will offset these

costs at home by exporting our capital and employing labor

in Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and the Philippines.

The wo rkers in those

countries will wait even longer -- not forever, but much longer - - for
their fair share.

The companies that build plants there and use the cheap

workers will capture more markets.


That, too, will be us.
know them.

Those countries are our neighbors.

You don't really know where Korea is .


You don't know which

is the country and which is the city -- Taipei or Taiwan -- and you think
Anna is still running Siam (it's Thailand now).
Stay that way, please ,

Talk to yourself and to the English.

Spend your production in higher wages and in welfare and super highways.
Be hesitant to "exploit" the cheap labor areas that are too proud to admit
that they are crying for your capital, your technical skill, and your market

Stay home and let politics raise your costs.

keep it up very long.

You don't need to

Already we have most of your technology .


take it and our capital and our mer chandizing and technical skills (who has
the small TV business, G . E. or Sony?) and our willingness to work and
wait -- and we 111 use all the cheap labor wherever we can find it,

With all

other costs about equal and our labor costs one-tenth of yours, we 111 outsell
you every place in the world -- even in the United States,
We'll be third by the time I marry.

We'll be first by the time

my son does,
Some say I shouldn't tell you this, but I don't worry.


won't listen.
You want a second car today and because you have been taught
to be mad at your boss, you want your government to limit his freedom to
grow bigger,

Hold him down to make you feel important .

We'll get your customers.

Please keep it up.


Your country had been very important, even generous.
That's great for your satisfaction.
your important history.

I am happy you can think back on

Enjoy it!

Ours is ahead of us.

I guess that's the difference.