Japan is located in eastern Asia, and it comprises a curved chain of more than 3,000 islands.


Japan is located in eastern Asia, and it comprises a curved chain of more than 3,000 islands. Four of these- Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushi-account for 89 percent of the country's land area. The population of Japan is approximately 128 million, with over 12 million people living in the nation's capital, Tokyo. According to the CIA World Factbook, the country's gross domestic product in 2009 was approximately $32,600 per capita. Japan has faced a long period of stagnant economic growth. Japan's economy was especially hard hit by the global economic financial crisis, with GDP contracting by 5.2 percent in 2009.

Surprisingly, Japan has become a fashion mecca. Spanish clothing company Zara, Swedish brand H&M, French designer Louis Vuitton, and American jeweler Tiffany & Co. are very popular and prosperous throughout Japan. The new generation of fashion aficionados also makes Japan a country to watch. Japan is usually associated with a minimalist nature, not owning more than is necessary. In Tokyo, however, younger people are beginning to express themselves by quickly purchasing any item that appears to be part of a new trend, only to abandon it for the next craze in the blink of an eye. Investment in Japan has been supported by this phenomenon, since many fashion companies use Japan as their new testing ground before launching expensive lines in other markets. While New York City in the United States was once considered the primary region to try out new styles, experience has shown that what catches on in Japan often works across the globe as well and that the Japanese are much faster to respond to new products. This does not imply that everything that is tested in Japan will work worldwide. For example, bags with bubbly, cartoon printing containing the likes of Hello Kitty or indistinguishable characteristics that thrive in the kawaii, or "cute," market segment may not make a profit elsewhere. Essentially, there are times when Japan is distinctly ahead of the crowd, and it may take quite some time for the rest of the world to catch up.

Considering workplace ethics and customs in the home, most would not immediately think of Japan as such a vogue region. For instance, in business, employees often dress conservatively, are well groomed, and do not leave the work space until after the boss has left, which can be many hours after the office has officially closed. In fact, it is usually embarrassing for a worker to leave the moment the office closes, since that is seen as leaving "early," and it singles out the employee. Homes can be small, with little extra room for extravagant purchases, though with gift giving so prevalent in the country, it is unpredictable what someone else may procure for your household. These reasons and many more would imply that the Japanese would not want to call more attention to themselves. However, as Japan continues to move toward individualistic tendencies, citizens may be scrambling to find a way to express their own unique voice.
www.japanlink.com, www.businessweek.com; http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107666.html.

1. Based on their home country, how might the organizational cultures of the four fashion companies mentioned be distinct from one another, and in what ways could they be the same?
2. If the first two companies and the last two companies want to form joint ventures (Zara with H&M, and Louis Vuitton with Tiffany & Co.), what could be some potential ways the organizational cultures interact?
3. What types of problems might a culturally diverse top management team at headquarters create for the two joint ventures? Give some specific examples. How could these problems be overcome?
4. How could work structures and schedules of these companies at their respective headquarters affect operations in Japan? In what ways are they different or similar?

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