The Story of J@pan Inc

Back to Contents of Issue: April 2002

The term 'Japan Incorporated' was first used in a 1936 Fortune magazine article that said: "The industrial hierarchy of Japan is so compact that you can almost think of its works as the products of a single beautifully integrated and highly diversified corporation -- For a generation -- it has been Japan Incorporated against the world."

In the mid 1960s, consultant and scholar James C. Abegglen used the term in a speech in Washington D.C. to, as he says, "convey the nature of Japanese corporations as having a common financial and personnel policy yet competing among themselves, like units in Alfred Sloan's General Motors."

The term quickly spread, but much to Abegglen's dismay, reporters were giving it a different spin. "In their hands it veered from my attempt to convey a complex combination of cooperation and competition to a paranoid view of lockstep Japan: 'It's all one big plot and they're winning, goddamn it! They're all marching together to a common drummer, and if we could find the bastard and shoot him, we'd solve the problem!'"

In 1999, while trying to come up with a name for our new technology magazine, we hit upon J@pan Inc. "We were just trying to take an old term and make it new," says publisher Terrie Lloyd. "By switching the 'a' for '@' it allowed us to say Japan was turning over a new leaf." The Wall Street Journal called our name "cheeky" in an April 27, 2000, article that started off with, "It's time to say sayonara to Japan Inc. Not the country, but the cliche"

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