Teaching Note | HBS Case Collection | June 2013

A Politician in a Leather Suit and the Paradox of Japanese Capitalism

by Karthik Ramanna

Abstract

Two lost decades later, capitalism in Japan embodies peculiar contradictions—preserving wealth and social stability in the face of declining economic power. Scant transparency in Japanese corporate practices plays an important role in this phenomenon. Sometimes justified as an embodiment of Japanese culture, the opacity of Japanese corporations is credited with empowering managers to make long-term business decisions that preserve employment and business relationships and maintain social harmony. But opacity also facilitates fraud and corruption, which erode investor confidence and stifle risk-taking. A flamboyant politician Kotaro Tamura attempts to raise public awareness around these tensions, but his provocative style earns him few friends in Japan's conservative political establishment.

Keywords: Crime and Corruption; Economic Systems; Economic Slowdown and Stagnation; fairness; Values and Beliefs; corporate accountability; corporate governance; Civil Society or Community; Japan; Tokyo; Japan;

Citation:

Ramanna, Karthik. "A Politician in a Leather Suit and the Paradox of Japanese Capitalism ." Harvard Business School Teaching Note 113-139, June 2013.