Made In Japan, page 1
Table of Contents
MADE IN JAPAN
WAR: Survival and Hope I
PEACE: Our New Life Begins I
SELLING TO THE WORLD: My Learning Curve I
ON MANAGEMENT: It’s All in the Family I
AMERICAN AND JAPANESE STYLES: The Difference I
COMPETITION: The Fuel of Japanese Enterprise I
TECHNOLOGY: Survival Exercise I
JAPAN AND THE WORLD: Alienation and Alliance I
WORLD TRADE: Averting Crisis I
MADE IN JAPAN
AKIO MORITA and SONY
Akio Morita with Edwin M. Reingold and Mitsuko Shimomura
A SIGNET BOOK
Published by the Penguin Group
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Made in Japan previously appeared in a Dutton edition.
First Signet Printing, November, 1988 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4
Copyright © 1986 by E. P. Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Books USA Inc. The hardcover edition was published simultaneously in Canada by Fitzhenry & Whiteside, Limited.
All rights reserved. For information address Penguin Books USA Inc.
All interior photographs courtesy of the Sony Corporation.
REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA
Printed in the United States of America
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
Forty years ago, on the afternoon of May 7, 1946, some twenty people gathered on the third floor of a burned-out department store building in war-devastated downtown Tokyo to establish a new company: Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation, which was later to become the Sony Corporation. The founder of this company, Masaru Ibuka, was thirty-eight years old. I was twenty-five. Knowing him has been one of the greatest blessings in my life, and working with him has been a source of immense joy. This book owes its existence to my long association with Masaru Ibuka.
Almost a week after the fortieth anniversary of Sony, my wife Yoshiko and I celebrated our thirty-fifth wedding anniversary. Yoshiko has played a great role as my diplomat and partner, and together with my sons Hideo and Masao, and my daughter Naoko, she has provided me with the support and understanding that allowed me to devote myself to my work.
I cannot express enough thanks to my parents, to my mentors, and to my innumerable friends and colleagues within and outside Sony who have helped to nurture an environment of creativity and support.
My deepest gratitude goes to Edwin Reingold and Mitsuko Shimomura, who listened with endless patience and enthusiasm to my thoughts and long stories. Without them this book could not have been completed.
Also I wish to express my sincere appreciation to many others, particularly my assistants, Megumi Yoshii and Lidia Maruyama, for their important staff work in the preparation of materials for this book.
WAR: Survival and Hope
I was having lunch with my navy colleagues when the incredible news of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima arrived. The information was sketchy—we were not even told what kind of bomb had been dropped—but as a technical officer just out of college with a degree in physics, I understood what the bomb was and what it meant to Japan, and to me. The future had never been more uncertain—Japan had never lost a war— and only a young man could be optimistic. Yet I had confidence in myself and in my future even then.
For many months, I had known that Japan was losing the war and that continuing it was futile, but I also knew that the military would want to fight to the last man. I was twenty-four, with a degree from Osaka Imperial University, and was working with an interdisciplinary team of scientists and engineers trying to perfect thermal-guidance weapons and night-vision gunsights. The military authorities hoped that Japanese technology would turn the tide of the war, but although we worked diligently, we knew that it was late and that our projects were not destined to succeed. We were lacking in resources and in time. And now, after Hiroshima, it was obvious to me that time had run out.
Unlike the civilian population at the time, which was under the strict surveillance and control of the police and the military, I had access to naval information and I could listen to shortwave radio broadcasts, although it was illegal even for a naval officer off duty. I knew before August 6,1945, that American strength was overwhelming and that the war was as much as lost. Yet I was not prepared for the news of the atomic bomb. The bomb took everyone by surprise.
On that hot, humid summer day, we knew nothing of the horror of the bomb that was dropped. The news bulletin we got at our navy lunch table said only that the bomb that fell was “a new kind of weapon that flashed and shone,” but that description told us this surely had to be an atomic device. Actually, Japanese military authorities withheld the details of what happened at Hiroshima for quite a long time, and some officers refused to believe that the Americans had the bomb. We had not come far enough in our theoretical research to know the dimensions of the destructive power of such a weapon, to realize the tremendous loss of life it could cause. We didn’t know how horrible an atomic weapon could be, but I had seen the terrible results of conventional firebombing, and, in fact, I was in Tokyo just after the night of March 9-10, when the incendiary bombs from wave after wave of B-29’s had whipped up a fire storm that killed one hundred thousand people in just a few hours. I had also seen the horror of the bombing of Nagoya, my hometown. Parts of all of Japan’s major industrial cities, with the exception of Kyoto, were charred wastelands in 1945, depressing heaps of blackened remains: the homes of millions of Japanese. That an atomic bomb could be worse was almost unimaginable.
Although the bomb was dropped at 8:15 a.m. on August 6, we didn’t hear about it until noon on August 7. My reaction to the Hiroshima bomb was the reaction of a scientist. Sitting there at lunch, I lost all interest in the rice in front of me, as much of a luxury as it was in wartime Japan. I looked around at my colleagues and said to everyone at the table, “We might as well give up our research right now. If the Americans can build an atomic bomb, we must be too far behind in every field to catch up.” My superior officer got very angry with me.
I knew something about the potential of atomic power, but I thought it would take at least twenty years for an atomic bomb to be developed, and it was shocking to realize that the Americans had done i
Although we knew there was a difference between American and Japanese technology, we thought ours was very good, and it was, but we still tried to get as many new ideas as we could from elsewhere. Once, for example, we got some salvaged equipment from a shot-down B-29 bomber, and we noticed that the Americans were using some advanced technology and different electrical circuitry, but it wasn’t a great deal better than our own.
That is why when I first heard of the atomic attack on Hiroshima, it struck me that American industrial might was greater than we realized, simply overwhelming. I, for one, should have been prepared for it. In fact, as a boy in high school I had seen a film of the construction of the Ford Motor Company River Rouge complex in Dearborn, Michigan, and was thrilled by the concept of this gigantic project. The film showed big ships bringing iron ore from faraway mines to the Ford River Rouge steel mill, which turned it into different kinds and shapes of steel. When the steel was finished, it was moved to another part of the complex, where it was molded or stamped into parts for automobiles, and the parts were then assembled into cars in another part of the same plant. Japan had no integrated manufacturing like that at the time. It is ironic, though, that many years later, when Japan was recovering from the war and developing its own new industrial system, building new and efficient plants on tidewater locations and developing integration like we had seen in the Ford prewar operation, I had an opportunity to visit the River Rouge complex. I was surprised and puzzled and disappointed to see the very same scenes that I remembered from that film made almost twenty years before—the same equipment seemed to be in service, and it made me wonder then about the future of America’s industrial plant and its supreme position, the envy of the world.
But in August 1945, I was still reeling from the realization that there would be dramatic changes in store for Japan and me. I had been thinking for a long time about my future. I had been persuaded by an officer to enlist in the navy while in college under a program that would allow me to continue my studies and to avoid throwing my life away in some futile sea battle thousands of miles from home. And then after Hiroshima and the second atomic bombing at Nagasaki, it was brought home to me more than ever that Japan would need all the talent it could save for the future. I don’t mind saying that even then, as a young man, I felt that somehow I had a role to play in that future. I didn’t know how big a role it would turn out to be.
Neither did I realize then how in later years I would devote many hours, weeks, and months, and travel literally millions of miles to help bring Japan and the United States and other Western nations closer together.
I was born the first son and fifteenth-generation heir to one of Japan’s finest and oldest sake-brewing families. The sake of Japan is not only the national drink but also a cultural symbol to the Japanese people. It is even a part of many religious rituals—at traditional marriage ceremonies the couple shares a cup of sake. The Morita family of Kosugaya village, near the industrial city of Nagoya, has been making sake for three hundred years under the brand name “Nenohimatsu.” The name was taken from the title of a poem in the Man’yoshu, Japan’s famous anthology of poetry, which was compiled in the eighth century. The name comes from the traditional court custom of going into the countryside on the first day of the Year of the Rat, in the zodiacal counting of the years, and selecting a pine seedling to bring home and plant in the garden. The pine symbolizes longevity and happiness, and by planting a pine tree at the beginning of the new year, the people were wishing for health and prosperity throughout the year.
The Morita company also produced soy sauce and miso paste, a staple ingredient of the Japanese diet for making soup and for flavoring other foods. Being in a business so central to the life of the community, the Morita family has always taken a position of civic leadership as well.
My father was a very good businessman, but he took over a fine old business that was in serious financial trouble. Grandfather and his father were aesthetic persons who were devoted to the fine arts and crafts of Japan and China, and they both spent much of their time and money in their civic work and in patronizing artists, craftsmen, and art dealers. Fine ceramics and utensils for the tea ceremony, beautiful furniture, paintings, and the other objects that accompany the social rituals of upper-class Japanese life have always been highly prized—and also very highly priced. For many years, Japan has bestowed the title Living National Treasure on the best craftsmen and artists of traditional Japanese culture—painters, potters, textile makers, swordsmiths, weavers, designers, calligraphers, and others. The works of these superb craftsmen are always in great demand among lovers of fine things. Unfortunately, the taste of a couple of generations of Morita family heads was so refined and their collecting skills so acute that the business suffered while they pursued their artistic interests, letting the business take care of itself, or, rather, putting it in other hands.
They relied on hired managers to run the Morita company, but to these managers the business was no more than a livelihood, and if the business did not do well, that was to be regretted, but it was not crucial to their personal survival. In the end, all the managers stood to lose was a job. They did not carry the responsibility of the generations, of maintaining the continuity and prosperity of the enterprise and the financial well-being of the Morita family. And so that is why when the business fell into my father’s hands, as the first son of the family, he was faced with the immediate task of bringing the company back to profitability and restoring the Morita family fortunes. No outside manager could be counted on to do that for him.
It was not a simple matter. When he was called away from his studies to take over the business, my father, Kyuzaemon Morita, was a student of business administration at Keio University in Tokyo. The company was facing bankruptcy, and father understood that, although he was being forced to abandon his academic studies, he was being tested with a real-life crisis—not a textbook problem or case study, but the future of the Morita family. He returned home and began to set the company on its feet with hands-on management.
Ironically, and fortunately for all of us in the family, he got some of the money to pay off the company debts and put the neglected factory back into good condition by selling many of the fine art objects his father and grandfather had purchased. These things had appreciated in value over the years, and so the family’s investment in art, while it was not too wise from the point of view of running a business, turned out to be beneficial and in fact was crucial in helping to rescue the business. Among the treasures he had to sell were three especially valuable items: a Chinese scroll, a bronze mirror from China, and an ancient ornament of jade dating back to Japan’s Yayoi period somewhere between 350 B.C. and A.D. 250. My father was a serious and conservative man, and he knew how much these special items meant to his father, and so he vowed that as soon as the family fortunes could afford it, the items would be bought back. Indeed, in several years they were “redeemed” and once again added to the family collection.
By the time I was born, the first son of Kyuzaemon and Shuko Morita, the business was on its feet again, and I never had to know privation at home as a child. On the contrary, I was always privileged. We were a rich family, and we lived in a huge (by Japanese standards), rambling house on Shirakabecho, one of the finest residential streets of Nagoya. People called it a rich man’s street. We had a tennis court on our property, and the Toyodas across the street had one, and so did our other neighbors on either side. We needed a big house in those days because there were so many of us living under the same big tile roof: myself and my brothers, Kazuaki, who is two years younger than I am, and Masaaki, who is six
It seemed as though something was always going on in the house, and I guess it is no wonder, considering the crowd that inhabited it. We maintained our privacy, though, and my parents and their children usually dined separately from the rest of the household. But on special occasions, like a birthday, we would open all the sliding doors between the rooms and have a big party with twenty or thirty of us and our friends. On a birthday, we would gather for the party and have a lottery. Everybody won a prize and there was a lot of laughing and joking and eating. Of course, managing such a full household, and mediating the disputes and disagreements that came up among the children and the young servants and the students who lived with us, was a full-time job for my mother, a clever woman of great patience.
My mother was only seventeen when she married my father, and she and father worried for some time that they might not be able to have a child. Having a son and heir was very important then, as it still is in Japan, and it was seven years before I made my appearance, to their great relief. Mother was a quiet, artistic, and gentle woman who took her responsibility of managing the house very seriously, and she was constantly busy seeing that the work was done and that relations were smooth, or at least civil, among all those people. She was very assertive for a Japanese housewife, which in those days was very unusual. She had firm opinions, especially about my education, although she was never like today’s pushy “education mothers” who force their children through cram courses to make sure they get into the “right” schools and universities. I felt she understood everything, and she was easy to talk to, certainly easier than my father, whose life was dominated by the business he had to save, rebuild, and nurture, and so I went to her more often than to my father for advice and help.