Asia Bioplastics Chronicles

Can Japan Lead Bioplastics Industry?

What differentiates Japanese Bioplastics companies from Western companies? What should Japanese companies do to lead the bioplastics industry?

Japan is a cultural success story. We can learn from Japan and Japan can learn from the rest of the world. Although we shouldn’t generalise, let’s have a look at how the world perceives the Japanese.

Group Mentality

  • Japanese will put the group before the individual.
  • Japanese prefer to work in groups and take group decisions rather than individual decisions.
  • The group is seen a sacred; as an institution.

Upbringing, Manners & Politeness

  • Japanese are very polite and well mannered. We’ve seen the images of the Japanese locker rooms after the Russia World Cup 2018.
  • They may remain formal, too polite and distant from a person, even if they’ve known them for a while.
  • They’re very punctual.
  • They do not share their emotions openly and could be perceived as shy.


  • Employees will ask their superior before taking decisions. There’s a “Ho-ren-so” business mantra: Houkoku (report), renraku (contact) and soudan (consult).
  • Calling people by their first name is not done, especially not your boss.
  • Leaders are seen as benevolent.
  • It’s unusual to tell your boss what you think. There may be a lack of critical or independent thinking.
  • Japanese may be perceived as too obedient; definitely not disruptive.

Hard Working

  • Work is probably more important than family.
  • Employees work a lot of overtime. It’s seen as bad to leave the office before your coworkers, especially before your boss.
  • Drinking with your co-workers is a social obligation. You shouldn’t leave the pub before your boss.

Cultural and Economic Dominance

  • Japan is an island. Centuries of isolation led to a unique culture. Some may call it  an insular mentality.
  • Japan invaded China in the 1930s and is the only country to attack the US directly at large scale (Pearl Harbour).
  • Japan is the most hi-tech country and a leader in the automotive industry.
  • Japan cuisine can be considered as one of the top 5 greatest cuisine and sake is probably one the finest alcohol.


  • Sometime it’s not clear what Japanese companies try to achieve. It’s like they may consider several options and will decide at the last minute.
  • Japanese are not afraid to change and act.

Shame & Taboos

  • The strongest condemnation of an individual is “haji shirazu”; to have no concept of shame.
  • Don’t talk about Samurai, Kimono, Geisha or Hara kiri while you’re in Japan.


  • Japanese do not like to cause trouble for others.
  • They will not openly communicate their disregard and will accept situations that makes them unhappy.
  • Japanese business contracts are usually shorter than western contracts.

Traditional Gender Role

  • It may well be that there’s a traditional vision on gender role in Japan.

What should Japanese Bioplastics Companies do to lead the Bioplastics Industry?


  • Japanese bioplastics companies should adapt to the culture of the countries in which they operate especially with regards to sales, marketing and communications.
  • They should delegate and trust their foreign partners more and move from a “we decide on everything and you execute” process to a “You’re free to decide but you should reach the objectives”.

Critical Thinking

  • Japanese bioplastics companies should create an environment in which employees can openly share their thoughts without fearing any consequences. They should ask their employees to identify one official decision, action or policy per month where they disagree with, give the reason why they disagree and propose a better solution or alternative. Japanese companies should challenge their employees on how to improve the status quo.


  • Japanese bioplastics companies should communicate more to increase their visibility. They should tell the rest of the world how great their are and make sure everyone in the sector knows that they exist and what they’re doing.
  • They should make their emails and website addresses easier and shorter. Use abbreviations like the Americans do for instance.
  • Reply to every email they receive, even if the reply is: we cannot help you.
  • Japanese universities should communicate more with the rest of the world on their development, innovations and discoveries.


  • Japanese bioplastics companies should let their potential customers know how they can help them.
  • They should tell the world how great their bioplastics chemicals, materials and products are; and why they’re so good.
  • They should spend more money in marketing to generate more sales.
  • They should become more vocal and disruptive.


  • Japanese bioplastics companies should become more agile, flexible and faster.
  • It’s OK to be contacted by a salesperson, to receive sales information and to start a dialogue without becoming a client. It’s OK to hire a consultant and let them show you how they can be useful to your company instead of only hiring consultants for specific needs.
  • The other way around …twice as much !!
  • Japanese bioplastics companies could become more streetwise and bold.

Supportive Legislation

  • Japanese Government should make it mandatory for Japanese carmakers to use bio-based plastics to ensure Japanese bioplastics companies become the leader in the automotive sector. The same should apply for Japanese electric consumer goods industry.

Relax and Fun

  • Once in a while it’s good to leave the ivory tower and to come to the playground.
  • Take more holidays.
  • Limit the overtime in the office and allow more private-work balance.
  • Be more casual. Americans do it and they rule the world.

The Role of Women

  • Japanese women should be given more opportunities to participate in and lead the growth of the company.
  • Japanese women are an asset to Japanese companies and could help Japanese companies become more progressive.

Japanese Bioplastics companies

Foreign Bioplastics Companies Active in Japan


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