JFTC Essay Competition

Remarks by Selection Committee Chair, Mr. Atsushi Nakajima

This year marks the 10th year of the JFTC Essay Competition. Each year, many participants, mainly from abroad, put in tremendous effort into their work and have contributed vastly to this competition. Their contributions along with the valuable efforts of the Selection Committee members and those involved from the JFTC have helped to establish this competition’s stature in the world.

For the 10th annual JFTC Essay Competition, we decided to go back to our roots of this event and chose two topics: “Future of the ‘SHOSHA’ in the Global Economy” and “Toward Developing Japan’s ‘Resources’ by 2020: A Strategy for Utilizing Them for the Benefit of the World.” It was the first time for us to offer two topics at once, but the competition drew a total of 195 entries, which is the second largest number we have ever received. Once again, foreign nationals, led by those in their 20s, accounted for the majority, namely, 67% of the entries.

What is distinct in this year’s entries is that the essays taught us about the existing “resources” in Japan that we had not fully recognized. Such examples included “wa (harmony)” and our metropolitan city, Tokyo. Many of the essays offered recommendations and proposals on how to utilize these resources effectively. The proposals were very encouraging, and we realized that their words offered deep insight into how Japan and its economy should move forward.

Another feature to point out is how well most foreign nationals had studied the Japanese shosha and wrote about its future role, with a thorough understanding of its facts and realities. Undoubtedly, information is easily obtained anywhere in the world owing to the internet, but we were impressed once again by the accuracy and depth of their knowledge of Japan.

As in previous years, many strong essays made it to the final round. Among these, we selected one Grand Prize, three Prizes for Excellence, and one Selection Committee Chair’s Special Prize. We would like to thank the vice chairs, the members of the Selection Committee, and the people of JFTC for their time in reviewing a large number of essays and providing constructive and fair evaluations.

The Grand Prize
Mr. Shahadave Shrestha:
Shosha:Road Map for Future Development

After mentioning the diversity of businesses with which shosha deal, and the fact that shosha has adapted to the changes in the global economy, the author points out that shosha can play a significant role during Japan’s economic slowdown. He emphasizes the importance of “innovation,” “concentration on value creation,” “search of new market opportunities,” and “human resources,” and explains that shosha needs to work on these areas when planning future growth.

The author touches upon various aspects of the shosha business, clearly showing his strong understanding of its functions. Also, by offering interesting ideas such as innovation prizes, reverse business innovation, and bottom of the pyramid (BOP) business, he makes persuasive arguments as well as sends out a clear message as to how shosha should evolve specifically. Furthermore, he stresses the importance of the balance between business and social contributions, and gives the business a deeper and broader perspective. Additionally, he refers to the enormous hydropower potential of Nepal, his home country, which shows not only his affection for his country but also his passion for the development of developing countries.

All in all, the essay is well organized, with clear points, and, by offering a perspective that is balanced on both development and stability, it is well deserving of receiving the Grand Prize.

The Prize for Excellence
Mr. Hiroaki Matsuyama:
What to expect of the “SHOSHA” for the sake of Japan’s genuine globalization
– For the global presence with the global mind –

The author argues that true globalization cannot be attained only through increases in Japanese exports and outward foreign direct investment. Increasing inward foreign direct investment, which is extremely small in Japan’s case, will promote the globalization of human resources, thereby creating a new positive cycle and leading the Japanese economy toward true globalization. He then introduces the economic model of Luxembourg, a country which has been successful in attracting foreign investment. He gives several reasons for Luxembourg’s success: institutionalization of tripartite consultations (government, labor, and management); business regulations set based on research of foreign companies’ opinions; and its strength in languages. Based on these reasons, he suggests that shosha could play a role in Japan’s true globalization by applying its functions of facilitating foreign investment into Japan. He also mentions the idea of inviting foreign educational institutions to Japan.

It was interesting that Luxembourg was cited as a model of economic globalization to follow as its economic model is not exactly well known in Japan. Additionally, expecting shosha to act as a contact point for inward investment, and not just making outward direct investment themselves, provides a new range of possibilities as to how to contribute to inward direct investment.

By including the argument of inviting overseas educational institutions, which strays from the argument of the roles expected from shosha, the essay somewhat loses its coherence, yet is still full of insight and serves as a useful reference for Japan’s globalization.

The Prize for Excellence
Mr. Ramesh Subbaraman:
2020- An Olympic Strategy to use Japan’s Methods, Pathways and ‘Wa’ for the World

The writer states that Japan’s resources lie in its efficient methods, pathways and the culture of wa, which is the harmony of human virtues that build peace as well as quality of life. He then points out that Japan should strategize to make use of its resources such as technology and software, along with the wa spirit, for the benefit of the world citizenry and not rely solely on exports. In addition, he provides specific methods such as selecting partnering nations and specific projects that Japan could deploy, all targeting at 2020. He calls this Japan’s Global Social Responsibility (JGSR), an enlarged version of corporate social responsibility (CSR).

The idea of employing the wa spirit in the framework of Japan’s contribution in the world is indeed very interesting. Also, the essay is easy to read and the arguments are very clear, therefore resulting in a piece of high quality. If there was more breadth in the argument on how the projects deployed with the wa spirit could benefit the development and revitalization of the Japanese economy, it would have made it perfect.

The Prize for Excellence
Mr. Simon Campbell:
How Japan’s Cultural Capital Can Enrich The World

The writer states that Japan has a rich and diversified culture, and that indeed its culture and its people are the very resources of Japan. He then points out that Japan’s wealth of cultural capital is a valuable resource. He states that, for Japan, having endured the two lost decades—two decades of economic stagnation—and two devastating earthquakes, the 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate Japan’s quality of endurance, rejuvenation, innovation, and to present its cultural capital to the world. He then proposes that Japan undertake the following ideas in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics: holding a “kaizen contest” and setting up a shokunin craftsmanship campaign to teach the world about Japanese culture.

It is intriguing that, after explaining the idea of “cultural capital,” he argues that Japan should make use of its cultural capital as an opportunity to open up its future. Furthermore, his unique ideas are unconventional, such as holding a kaizen (improvement) contest with the Japanese cultural capital at its base. He discusses each of these ideas in depth, and although he tends to introduce a variety of ideas but that have less apparent connection, overall it is well organized and merits the Prize of Excellence.

The Selection Committee Chair's Special Prize
Ms. Lejla Hodžić:
Japan : Insight into World’s Future

The author tells that, in addition to its human resources and technology, Japan can offer the world its views on the philosophy of life, such as humbleness and gratitude, and that these resources can lead Japan to economic prosperity. Bearing that in mind, she asserts that the 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo would be a good opportunity for the world to look at its future, and that the future depends on what Japan has to offer, such as green technology, fast transportation, and robotics.

The essay is easy to read, and her young, candid way of writing leaves a favorable impression. More importantly, I would like to applaud the fact that, while having limited access to information from abroad, such a young person has taken interest in Japan, and through careful research has entered the contest. Although the format and depth of discussion are not on par with the other award-winning works, it is nonetheless an excellent essay for a teenager and has deservedly earned the Special Prize.