Japan Research Center

The Harvard Business School Japan Research Center (JRC) opened in January 2002. Located in Tokyo, its primary purpose is to support HBS faculty research and case-writing activities in Japan. JRC plays an important role in helping HBS advance its activities. Through its work in Japan, facilitated by the JRC, HBS strives to deepen faculty's understanding of and exposure to Japanese management issues, trends, and practices, as well as developing locally relevant case studies and course materials for use in MBA and Executive Education programs around the world. The School is heavily involved in strengthening ties with important constituencies in Japan (including companies, universities, government, and HBS alumni) - these relationships are critical to ensuring that the School's efforts have an impact. The work of the JRC has enabled the School's faculty to identify and study important management advancements in Japan, or develop and test their ideas within a Japanese framework.

In mid March 2014, HBS Japan Research Center (JRC) hosted "Japan on the Move," an educational immersion program for HBS faculty members, and the Japan Research Symposium, showcasing recent research findings to Japanese executives, scholars and HBS alumni. Eighteen faculty members came to Japan; the largest group to visit at once in HBS history.Nikkei newspaper (online) covered the week in an article titled "Re-evaluating Japan: 18 HBS faculty came to Japan" on March 29, 2014. Read More.


Governing Sumida Corporation (9-306-022)
Lynn Paine (General Management) developed a case on Sumida Corporation, Japan's top manufacturer of electronic coils, focusing on its governance system. In Japan, the revised commercial code, which became effective in May 2002, allowed companies to select either the traditional, statutory auditor system or a "committee system" inspired by U.S. practice. Sumida was the first company to adopt the latter. The case describes how Sumida's governance system had evolved historically and asks whether further improvements are necessary.

NOK (A) (9-506-040)
Das Narayandas (Marketing) developed a case on NOK, a global auto parts company run by President Masato Tsuru (HBS MBA '77). The (A) case is set in 2001, when NOK is trying to change its profit management approach, from managing profits at the firm level to the level of individual products and customers. This was challenging as NOK's two established divisions, auto and electronics, had entirely different sales and marketing structure, development processes, lifecycles and manufacturing requirements. The (B) case is set in the summer of 2005.

Toyota Motor Corporation: Launching Prius (9-706-458)
Forest Reinhardt (BGIE) and Dennis Yao (Strategy) developed a case on Toyota's hybrid car, Prius. In 1993, a project team was formed to conceive a car for the 21st century. The team's efforts, combined with other initiatives underway, resulted in development of the world's first commercial hybrid vehicle. The case focuses on challenges facing Toyota, including weak product planning and declining share in the domestic market, and the leadership of its new CEO Okuda.

Transformation of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. 2005 (A) (9-905-412)
Mike Yoshino (General Management) developed a case on Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd., a global leader in electronics appliances. The company suffered poor performance during 1990s and Kunio Nakamura, who became CEO in 2001, sought to transform the company in a fundamental fashion and succeeded in a remarkable turnaround. It is a serial consisting of (A), (B) and (C) cases.

Nomura Holdings (9-705-427)
Tarun Khanna (Strategy) developed a case on Nomura Holdings which focuses on the relationship between the company's strategy and its governance structure. In 2003, as a result of the change in the commercial code, Nomura Holdings was trying to adopt a committee system, a governance structure very similar to the one widely used in the U.S. The case allows discussions on Nomura's strategic choices, governance structure alternatives, and the relationship between the two decisions.

eAccess, Ltd. (9-805-117)
Tom Eisenmann (Entrepreneurial Management) developed a case on eAccess, a startup providing the largest wholesale ADSL service in Japan. The case describes the history of eAccess, the telecom industry background, Softbank's entry and the subsequent, explosive growth of the market. It is set in November 2004, and concludes with questions as to eAccess's strategic alternatives, especially with regard to its potential entry into wireless business.

NTT DoCoMo, Inc.: Mobile FeliCa (9-805-124)
Steve Bradley (Strategy) and Tom Eisenmann (Entrepreneurial Management) developed a case on NTT DoCoMo's initiative to provide "life infrastructure" service using mobile phones. The service, using contactless ICs (developed by Sony) imbedded in the mobile phones, allows users to make payments in stores, ride trains or secure entry into buildings. The case discusses the competitive environment and strategic options for NTT DoCoMo using FeliCa technology.

Japan Communications, Inc. (1-805-119)
Dan Isenberg (Entrepreneurial Management) developed a case on Japan Communications Inc., a telecommunications service provider offering wireless communications services, founded by Frank Sanda (AMP93) in 1996. The case discusses the challenges facing Sanda as the underwriters recommended that the IPO of the company should be withdrawn subsequent to a precipitous drop in the stock market. The case was used in Entrepreneurial Manager, the required course in the first-year curriculum.

Ito-Yokado: The Challenge of Apparel (9-505-048)
Rajiv Lal (Marketing) developed a case on Ito-Yokado (IY), the most profitable superstore in Japan, with focus on its apparel business. Toshifumi Suzuki, CEO, who successfully built Seven-Eleven Japan (SEJ), implemented the Reform Program and revolutionized the way business was done at both IY and SEJ. In 2005, Suzuki faced a challenge because his initiatives, which proved successful in the food business, were not working in the apparel business. This case can be used with the note titled "Overview of the Japanese Apparel Market" and/or the note titled "Tanpin Kanri: Retail Practice at Seven-Eleven Japan"


Professors Warren McFarlan (General Management), Andrew McAfee, (TOM) and Tom Eisenmann (Entrepreneurial Management) jointly updated a case on Rakuten, a successful internet shopping mall company founded by Hiroshi Mikitani (HBS MBA93). The case focuses on how Rakuten increased its customers, merchants, and traffic; how the company diversified through acquisitions; and how it competed with Yahoo! Japan.

The Continuing Transformation of Asahi Glass: Implementing EVA(9-205-030)
Professor Mihir Desai (Finance) wrote a case on the initiatives undertaken by Asahi Glass to transform itself into a truly global form, including introduction of EVA, corporate reorganization into worldwide business groups, the appointment of non-Japanese managers to key positions, and corporate governance reforms. The case explores in detail how Asahi used EVA to improve resource allocation and evaluate performance of top executives.

Orix KK: Incentives in Japan(9-905-013)
Professor Nancy Beaulieu (Negotiation, Organizations and Markets) developed a case on Orix with focus on its performance evaluation and compensation system. The company's CEO Miyauchi faces the challenge of mixing and balancing the traditional Japanese system, which emphasizes teamwork and non-monetary rewards, and the western system, which focuses on individual performance and monetary compensation.

Making China Beautiful: Shiseido and the China Strategy(9-805-003)
Professor Geoffrey Jones (Entrepreneurial Management) developed a case on Shiseido's international strategy and its focus on the China market. Having entered China in 1981, much earlier than any of its competition, the company has established an enviable position: its Aupres brand has the largest market share in over 90% of Chinese department stores. The case examines challenges and strategies of Shiseido in face of intensifying competition.

7- Eleven, Inc.(9-504-057)
Professor David Bell (Marketing) developed a case on Seven-Eleven, Japan's leading convenience store chain, with a focus on the fresh foods business. The case was initially developed for the Agribusiness Seminar, but was also used in a second year elective course in the MBA Program taught by Rajiv Lal (Marketing). Interviews were conducted both in Tokyo and Dallas.

Transforming Mitsubishi Corporation, 2004(9-904-419)
Professor Mike Yoshio (General Management) developed a case on the Mitsubishi Corporation with a focus on the challenges faced by Japan's largest trading company and its newly elected president, including high reliance on limited lines of businesses and geographic areas, human resources development, and market valuation.

MK Taxi: Private Chauffeur Service(9-605-029)
Professor Andrew McAfee (Technology Operations Management) developed a case on MK Taxi's Private Chauffeur Service, a new service using mobile phones and GPS (Global Positioning System), offered in the Tokyo area. MK Taxi is a medium-sized taxi company run by an innovative founding family, originating in Kyoto. The case will be used in Managing in the Information Age, a second-year elective, this fall.

Peace Winds Japan(503-055)
This case on a successful Japanese NGO, which was developed by John Quelch (Marketing) in 2003, has been revised and is now accompanied by a teaching note. The case provides an opportunity to explore the basics of an international NGO's mission, strategy, organization, and budget at a very personal level based on the profiles of the founding entrepreneur and field managers for Afghanistan and Iraq.  


Transforming Matsui Securities(804-064)
Lynda Applegate (Entrepreneurial Management) developed a case examining the transformation of Matsui Securities from a small offline securities firm into a leading online securities company. The case focuses on President Michio Matsui's leadership and a series of innovations that led to the transformation of the firm.

The case may be used in combination with a note titled "Online Securities Trading in Japan" which describes the landscape of the Japanese securities industry and how online firms such as Matsui, E*TRADE, DLJ direct SFG, and Monex have become major players in this fast-growing sector. Professor Applegate has been researching networked global markets and organizations for several years and has developed other cases as well, including Understanding Securities Markets in the United States and Japan (2002) and NASDAQ Japan: E-Merging Markets (2001).

Kikkoman Corp.: Consumer Focused Innovation(504-067)
Rohit Desphande (Marketing) developed a case on Kikkoman, the world's largest producer of soy sauce and a pioneer in overseas markets since the 1950s. The case discusses the company's international marketing strategy and brand management as CEO Yuzaburo Mogi explores innovative ways to grow revenue in the face of saturation and increased competition in the Japanese market.

Yamato Transport: Valuing and Pricing Network Services((A) 9-704-475; (B) 9-704-477)
Tarun Khanna and Felix Oberholzer (Strategy) developed a case for the required first-year strategy course on Yamato Transport, the leading door-to-door parcel delivery company in Japan. Beginning with an overview of the industry, the case discusses how Yamato developed its "Takkyubin" business ("Takkyubin" is the brand name of Yamato's door-to-door parcel delivery service) and sustained its leadership position through a series of innovations. The case also focuses on the ways Yamato created competitive advantage and value for its customers. In late 2003, Yamato's president, Atsushi Yamazaki, had to deal with the privatization of Japan's Post Office and its plans to become increasingly aggressive in the future.

Investing in Japan(203-036)
Luis Viceira and Peter Hecht (Finance) developed a case describing the Japanese financial markets from an investment management perspective. The case outlines the extraordinary challenges faced by fund managers in Japan, given a deflationary economy and weaknesses in stock and real estate markets.

The Renault-Nissan Alliance(303-023)
Mike Yoshino (General Management) developed a case on the strategic alliance between Renault and Nissan, which was formed in March 1999. The case deals with strategic and operational issues related to realizing synergy from the alliance while maintaining the identity of the two companies and two cultures. The case interviews were conducted around the same time as those for Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.--2002, which dealt with the transformation of Nissan under the leadership of Carlos Ghosn.

Peace Winds Japan(503-055)
John Quelch (Marketing) wrote a case on the Japanese NGO, which was established in 1996. Peace Winds Japan provides assistance to the victims of political circumstances and natural disasters in regions such as Northern Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and East Timor. The case discusses the strategic and operational challenges of this fledgling NGO as well as its environment, where philanthropy is not well established or understood. 


NTT DoCoMo: Marketing i-mode to Masses(502-031)
Youngme Moon (Marketing) explored how NTT DoCoMo built and executed marketing strategy for the new service. The successful strategy went against the conventional wisdom and established marketing techniques.

Australia-Japan Cable(203-029)
Ben Esty (Finance) developed this case for his project finance course. The company is engaged in building a submarine fiber optic cable connecting Australia, Guam and Japan, and is jointly owned by Telstra, MCI World Com, NTT Communications, Japan Telecom and others. The case deals with governance issues of the project company.

Nissan Motor 2002(303-042)
Mike Yoshino (General Management) and Masako Egawa wrote this case on the restructuring of the auto company under Carlos Ghosn's leadership. The case focuses on the period from spring 1999, when Renault took control over Nissan, through mid 2002, when Ghosn successfully turned around the company through Nissan Revival Plan.

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