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.
Reinhardt, Forest, Mayuka Yamazaki, and G.A. Donovan
The (A) case describes the launch of a new passenger vehicle in China, produced jointly by Nissan of Japan and by Chinese automaker Dongfeng. Early sales results following the April 2012 launch were disappointing, and the joint venture's managers had to decide how to respond. The case includes information on the structure of the industry, on government regulation, and on the preferences of Chinese purchasers of automobiles, including information about environmental considerations.
Reinhardt, Forest, Mayuka Yamazaki, and G.A. Donovan
The short (B) case, designed for distribution in class, describes further complications, as an international dispute between the Japanese and Chinese governments created further uncertainties for Chinese consumers and hence for the carmakers.
Reinhardt, Forest, Mayuka Yamazaki, and G.A. Donovan
The (C) case concludes the story; it too can be distributed in class.
Gompers, Paul A., Nobuo Sato, and Akiko Kanno
This case explores the opportunity to purchase the condominium management business of a distressed real estate developer by Advantage Partners, a leading Japanese private equity firm. The case explores investment structuring, bidding strategy, and the ability of private equity firms to add value. The role of private equity in Japan is also explored and allows students to compare the Japanese merger and acquisition market to that of the U.S. and Europe.
Gompers, Paul A., Nobuo Sato, and Akiko Kanno
This case presents the final decision and outcomes for the (A) case.
Alcácer, Juan, Mary Furey, and Mayuka Yamazaki
Despite a rough start in the Japanese telecom market, by late 2003, Vodafone seemed to have weathered the storm, largely based on the strength of their mobile phone unit. But was it simply the calm before the storm?
Hill, Linda A., Francisco de Asís Martínez-Jerez, Masako Egawa, Emily Stecker, and Mayuka Yamazaki
Professor Linda Hill (Organizational Behavior) and Professor Asís Martínez-Jerez (Accounting and Management) developed a case on Lawson, the second largest convenience store chain in Japan. The case describes how Lawson has changed its organization and management systems to foster innovation under the leadership of Takeshi Niinami who became CEO of Lawson in 2002. The case then describes Lawson's new store formats such as Natural Lawson, Lawson Plus and Lawson Store 100 in which target different targets and offer different products than regular Lawson stores. This is an untypical move in the convenience store industry in which standardization and uniformity have been defined as the basic principles.
Professor Andrei Hagiu and Professor Masahiro Kotosaka (Ritsumeikan University) developed a case on GREE, Inc., one of the world's most profitable mobile social gaming companies. The case explains the company has been successful in Japan through developing its own games and offering the development platform for third-party game developers. The case then poses a question whether GREE can replicate its success in Japan in international markets.
McFarlan, F. Warren, and Akiko Kanno
Professor F. Warren McFarlan (Accounting and Management) developed (B) case on Nippon Steel Corporation's globalization strategy focusing on the development of its Brazil operation (Usiminas) after 2008. The Usiminas project is Nippon Steel's only overseas upstream plant operated jointly with a local partner. In 2012, the company decided to increase its direct participation in the management of Usiminas together with a new partner Ternium, an Argentine based leading steel company in Latin America.
Professor Karthik Ramanna (Accounting & Management) developed a case on the history of post-war Japanese economy particularly "the lost two decades," corporate culture and controversy over Japan's lack of transparency. Holding the initiatives to open and globalize the Japanese capital market and corporate culture taken by Kotaro Tamura, a flamboyant former politician, the case discusses the challenges and prospects of the Japanese economy.
Becker, Bo, Daniela Beyersdorfer, Scott Mayfield, and Mayuka Yamazaki
Cosmetics company L'Occitane en Provence must decide if it is the right time to go public, and, if so, where to list. The firm could list on Euronext in Paris, close to the firm's headquarters in southern France, on one of the large exchanges in the U.S., or perhaps in Asia, where much of the firm's future growth is expected. The case provides opportunities to discuss the benefits and costs of going public, including valuation implications, and illustrates the choices faced by a prospective IPO firm that operates in a global setting.
Olympus (A) and (B)
Professor Jay Lorsch and Suraj Srinivasan developed a case on the accounting fraud scandal of Olympus, a camera and medical photo-imaging company, which emerged in the fall of 2011. The case describes how the fraud renewed the focus on corporate governance policies world-wide, but especially in Japan, where the lack of board independence and a deep-rooted corporate culture entrenched in personal loyalties fostered an environment that made it difficult for scandals such as this to be unveiled, let alone for whistleblowers to come forward about them.
Hiroshi Mikitani, the CEO of Rakuten (Japan's largest online retailer), is at the helm of an organization that is rapidly expanding into global markets. In a critical stride toward becoming the world's No. 1 Internet services company, Mikitani announces Englishnization-a highly publicized aggressive two-year English proficiency mandate for all 7,100 of Rakuten's Japanese employees. At the time, only an estimated 10% of the Japanese staff could function in English. The stakes are high: those who do not reach their target score by the deadline risk being demoted. As Englishnization progresses, loss of productivity, lack of time to study, and conflicted views among managers impede staff success. Some employees even question the relevance of Englishnization, particularly for staff working exclusively in Japan. Fifteen months since the announcement, the vast majority had not yet reached their target English proficiency scores. With the deadline rapidly approaching, Mikitani must decide how to proceed to ensure the success of Englishnization, the continued global rise of his organization, and even the future of Japan.
Professor Hirotaka Takeuchi developed a case on Eisai, a Japanese pharmaceutical company, which defines human health care (hhc) as its corporate philosophy. hhc means putting patients and their families at the center of the health-care and the company has known for its deep commitment to the philosophy. The case explains how Eisai has driven innovation by focusing on hhc and adopting "knowledge creation" theory. Given that the patents of major drugs would expire in the U.S. market around year 2010, Eisai has worked on two fronts simultaneously - one is to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of R&D through M&A and re-organization in order to develop new drugs, and the other is to expand into emerging markets. The case ends with a question how hhc and knowledge creation would play a role for Eisai to move forward.
Professor Mikolaj Jan Piskorski developed a supplemental case of "mixi （ミクシィ）(A)". The case includes updates on mixi, a Japanese social network service, up to spring 2010. Still being the largest social network in Japan with over 20 million users, mixi faced severer competitions from other two Japanese social network companies, DeNA and GREE. mixi firmly denied to go on the path of the other two which rapidly grew by putting their focus on social games, defining itself as "the only true social network in Japan."
Professor David Hawkins and Karthik Ramanna developed a case on deferred tax assets (DTAs). DTAs was one of the controversial topics in the discussion at the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) which was to define what should be included in core capital in a new international supervisory framework for banks, Basel III. As the title suggests, the case describes how Japan came to allow its banks to include DTAs as their regulatory capital. The case also explains the case of Resona Bank, which received a huge government bailout to be nationalized in 2003 when audit firms disapproved its DTAs and therefore its capital ratio would fall to below half of the required level. The case ends as of 2010 when it was approved to include DTAs in Basel III core capital, despite the strong oppositions from the US and UK representatives.
Professor Mukti Khaire developed a case on Graduate School of Management, GLOBIS University, which was offering a successful part-time MBA programs which allowed students to acquire MBA without taking time off from work. The school was planning to launch a full-time English MBA program in September 2012. The full-time English program was a necessary step to fulfill the ambition of Yoshito Hori, founder and dean of the school, to make GLOBIS the No. 1 business school in Asia, however it remained to be seen whether the school could attract international students who needed to relocate to Japan and compete with other world-class international business schools.
Professor John Quelch developed a case on the highly publicized Toyota's recalls in the U.S. in 2009-2010 which severely damaged Toyota's brand, once revered for its commitment to quality and reliability. The firm's initial public response to the problems - a mixture of silence from top executives and vague, misleading public statements - frustrated U.S. government officials and the public. Not until weeks after the news first broke did Toyota organize a clear message around its commitment to return to quality. In late February 2010 Toyota President Akio Toyoda reluctantly accepted an invitation to testify to the U.S. Congress, 148 days after the first recall announcement.
The case ends right before the hearing when Toyoda had to decide what to say. Prof Quelch also wrote subsequent cases; "Toyota Recalls (B): Mr. Toyota Goes to Washington," which describes the testimony to the U.S. Congress of the Toyota CEO and "Toyota Recalls (C): Bumpy Road Ahead" which describes situations between February and July 2010 when Toyota sales recovered but recalls continued.
Vodafone (A), (B) and (C)*
Professor Juan Alcacer developed a series of cases on the operation in Japan of Vodafone, a UK-based global mobile phone group. The (A) case describes how Vodafone entered the Japanese market in 2001, then the most advanced mobile phone market in the world and how it worked on corporate reform of the acquired Japanese telecom group. Despite the initial rough start, Vodafone seemed as of 2003 to perform well mainly thanks to the profitable mobile phone business called J-Phone. The case ends as of October 2003 when Vodafone changed the brand name from J-Phone to Vodafone and announced the plan to accelerate the global standardization strategy. The (B) case then describes the downturn of Vodafone between 2003 and 2005 as their "global standardization" was not accepted by Japanese users and the (C) case describes the merger of Vodafone by Softbank for 1.75 trillion yen and how the company has been since operated as Softbank. There is also a case on Vodafone by Prof Alcacer about the successful operation of Vodafone in Qatar ("Vodafone Qatar: Building a Telco in the Gulf"). Comparing the Japan's case with the Qatar's case, students would learn why the same company is successful in regional expansion in one market but fails in another market. * The cases are not still widely available.
Professor David Hawkins and Professor Suraj Srinivasan developed a case on Japanese consolidation accounting practices with relation to Kanebo's accounting fraud. In April 2005, Kanebo, a large Japanese cosmetic manufacturer, revealed that it had committed a series of fraudulent accounting practices. The company had failed to properly consolidate its money losing subsidiaries in accordance to change in Japanese accounting rules where consolidated financial reporting became mandatory for public companies from FY2000. Kanebo's accounting scandal profoundly affected the Japanese auditing profession, accounting standards, and securities regulation practices. The case speculates on how Japanese companies might implement IFRS with particular emphasis on consolidation accounting.
Ricoh, the Japanese major copier manufacturer, has been committed to enforcing environmental practice and has set out its long-term vision to reduce its environmental impact to one-eighth of its 2000 levels by 2050. It has implemented various environmental initiatives to its operations, and its recycled copier business broke even in 2006. The company has applied environmental accounting methods and produces detailed annual environmental reports, but Ricoh is concerned that their efforts are not being fully recognized by the investors.
Nomura Holdings Inc., Japan's largest investment bank faces the opportunity to expand its firm internationally through acquisition of various parts of Lehman Brothers, an insolvent global investment bank. The management of Nomura Holdings Inc. faces various challenges of cross-boarder acquisition, including multinational insolvency, difficulties of post-merger integration, currency hedging and international taxation.
Japan's largest steel producer faces challenges in pursuing strategy to become a true global player. Nippon Steel had long been a leading Japanese company, however the emergence of a global player, Arcelor-Mittal, prompted globalization of the steel industry. The company feels an urgent need to also globalize its operations by not just increasing overseas production but also making necessary changes to the company structure.
Despite a tradition of high household savings, Japan has supported a dynamic and technically sophisticated consumer lending sector. The high profitability of the sector has periodically attracted interest from domestic banks as well as international investors. Most recently, in 1998 and 2000 respectively, GE Capital and Citi Financial both acquired Japanese consumer lending companies. In 2006, when the Japanese Supreme Court ruled that one of the leading Japanese consumer lenders must repay a borrower for "excess interest payments," this led to a surge in interest repayment claims against consumer loan companies. Citi CFJ (Citi Financial's Japanese subsidiary) must decide how to respond.
Professor Tony Mayo (Organizational Behavior) developed a case on Yoshiko Shinohara, founder and CEO of a leading temporary staffing agency, and the only Japanese woman to be on Fortune's list of the "50 Most Powerful Women in Business - International" for nine consecutive years. Shinohara founded and grew Tempstaff despite the extremely challenging environment against working women in Japan. The case explores how she overcame those challenges and grew as a leader.
TOTO, the leading manufacturer of toilets in Japan, is struggling to penetrate the U.S. market with its premier bidet-toilets, which are present in 63% of homes in Japan. The case examines the behavioral, cultural, and institutional barriers that TOTO faces in gaining adoption of an innovation. It also explores the role of product categorization in driving consumer behavior-in contrast to the U.S., toilets in Japan are considered a high-tech consumer electronic device. Finally, the role of organizational identity and culture is examined. The creation of the bidet-toilet category in Japan was a defining accomplishment for TOTO, and this history has created a strong commitment to promoting it in the U.S. But given that TOTO has been highly successful selling regular high-end toilets in the U.S., is this commitment to the bidet-toilet appropriate?
Considers the entrepreneurial career of the founder of Mitsubishi, Yataro Iwasaki, who built a large shipping company against the opposition of powerful Western incumbents. Although sometimes supported by the Japanese government, and often times opposed, the case identifies Iwasaki's entrepreneurial talent and organization-building skills as key drivers of success. This case provides a vehicle for examining the entrepreneurial factors behind Japan's remarkable transition from a feudal to a modern society in the second half of the nineteenth century.
This brief (B) case documents the fate of Mitsubishi and the shipping company NYK after the death of Yataro Iwasaki in 1885. The case supplements case 808-158, "Yataro Iwaski: Founding Mitsubishi (A)."
Steel Partners is a U.S.-based hedge fund that has made a large investment in Japan-based wigmaker Aderans. The case is set at the close of the annual meeting in May 2008, when shareholders have voted against all incumbent board members. Steel Partners must act quickly. The case serves as an overview of corporate governance issues in Japan, as well as describing the costs and benefits of the "stakeholder" view of corporate governance.
Toshihiko Fukui, who works for the Government of the Bank of Japan, faced a complex situation in the fall of 2007. An economic recovery had allowed the central bank to abandon its zero interest rate policy, which had been in place for years, and raise rates to 0.5%. The Bank of Japan was eager to increase them to more "normal" levels to exert effective monetary policy. Yet the appropriate timing and approach was a controversial issue, especially as the government did not want a rate hike that could potentially hinder economic growth and increase its already large fiscal debt burden.
In 2007, HOYA of Japan must decide whether to change its friendly offer for Pentax into a hostile cash tender offer. A surprising sequence of events had caused a friendly merger agreement to fall apart, resulting in a boardroom coup at Pentax and the intervention of the Sparx Group, an indigenous activist Japanese hedge fund. The case raises issues about corporate valuation, corporate governance, shareholder activism, takeover deal tactics, and the Japanese market for corporate control.
In 1730, Japanese merchants petitioned shogun Tokugawa Yoshimune to officially authorize trade in rice futures at the Dojima Exchange, the world's first organized (but unsanctioned) futures market. For many years, the Japanese government had prohibited the trade of futures bills because it was widely regarded as a form of gambling that caused rice prices to rise. However, when the price of rice fell to record lows in the late 1720s, the samurai (whose income was tied to the value of rice) saw their economic position fall relative to the merchant class, whose growing economic power worried the nation's elites. The shogun responded by easing restrictions on futures trading, but without officially sanctioning a futures market at Dojima. The question now was whether he should heed the merchants' petition and take the next step.
Kasahara, the founder and CEO of mixi, the most successful Japanese on-line social network, is deciding between two strategic options: (i) B2C or (ii) C2C, to leverage the power of the social network. In the B2C option, mixi would become a portal for on-line shopping for both digital content and tangible goods and charge the business sellers a fee. In the C2C option, mixi would facilitate exchanges between mixi's members through on-line flea markets or auctions and charge the members for successful transactions. In choosing between the two options he has to consider other upstart networks, particularly in the field of mobile social networking.
In 2008, the Japanese consumer payments landscape featured ongoing widespread use of cash, limited use of credit cards and rapid rise of e-money systems based on contactless technology embedded in cards and especially mobile phones. The case details the alliances that created new products, as well as the regulations that sometimes stood in the way. Throughout, the case identifies incentives for both consumers and merchants, including direct costs, efficiency benefits, rebates, and treatment in case of loss or fraud.back to top
Professor Rick Ruback (Finance) developed a case focusing on the efforts of the Industrial Revitalization Corporation of Japan (IRCJ), the government affiliated private equity fund, to restructure Daiei, the largest supermarket chain which had been virtually insolvent. The case discusses the institutional characteristics of the Japanese financial system (such as the role of the main bank) and how IRCJ fulfilled its unique role.
Professor Jordan Siegel (Strategy) developed a case on the Asian pop music industry, focusing on Japanese and Korean companies' efforts to export their singers outside their home countries. The case examines why certain markets are more profitable than others. It also allows for comparison of global strategy (with a focus on the U.S. and European markets) and regional strategy (with focus on East Asia).
Professor Misiek Piskorski (Strategy) developed a case on Mixi, Japan's largest social networking service (SNS) firm, founded in 1997 by Kenji Kasahara, then a 22-year-old student. The case explores how mixi developed its services to meet the characteristics of Japanese culture and communication style. In the summer of 2007, having achieved a stellar growth during the past few years and acquiring over 10 million subscribers, Kasahara began to consider strategic options to grow his company even further.
David Godes (Marketing) developed a case on Carlyle Japan, the Japanese operations of a major U.S. private equity firm. Carlyle Japan had been successful by leveraging the network of main banks which provided access to proprietary information. But finding attractive new investments were becoming increasingly difficult, after Carlyle Japan raised its second fund which was far larger than its first one.
Anita Elberse (Marketing) wrote a case on Sony Digital Entertainment focusing on its efforts to develop storytelling content on keitai (cellular phones). The case begins with discussions on how Japanese young generation began to write and read novels on keitai. It then describes the challenge of Sony Digital Entertainment to develop a sustainable business model based on the emerging contents.
David Godes (Marketing) developed a case on Terumo, a major medical device company in Japan. Facing fierce competition from global players and profound changes in the Japanese medical system, the head of cardio and vascular business had to improve the marketing of Solution Pack, a strategic, new product for Terumo. He also had to decide whether to start direct sales in the U.S. market.back to top
Tony Mayo (Organizational Behavior) developed a case on Kazuo Inamori, who founded two Fortune 500 companies, Kyocera and DDI (now KDDI). The case discusses Inamori's endeavor to found and grow Kyocera in an environment which was not conducive to small ventures as well as his challenge to build a new telecommunication carrier competing against NTT. It explores how Inamori's leadership was influenced by the contextual factors.
Anita Elberse (Marketing) and Andrei Hagiu (Strategy) developed a case on Roppongi Hills, a 12-hectar complex in Tokyo consisting of offices, residences, retail shops and restaurants, movie theatres, a hotel, and a museum, developed by Mori Building, a leading real estate developer in Japan. It's CEO, Minoru Mori, is pondering the future of the art museum, which has been consistently losing money.
Professors Rob Austin (Technology and Operations Management) and Warren McFarlan (General Management) have developed a case on Secom, Japan's largest security service provider. The case focuses on Mamoru Sekine, CEO of Jashopper, (an electronic commerce site), as he analyzes a proposal from Secom and considers how he might establish a security strategy for his fledgling IT venture. The case examines the recent change in the Japanese business environment where increased sensitivity to IT security is required of corporate executives due to the Japanese government's enactment of the Personal Information Protection Law.
Professors Andrei Hagiu (Strategy), Felix Oberholzer (Strategy) and Tarun Khanna (Strategy) studied Japanese animation industry, focusing on the following question: "Why there is no equivalent of Disney in spite of competitiveness of Japanese animation industry?" The case focuses on the challenges facing Production I.G, an animation production company which produced Ghost in the Shell and other excellent works, and its CEO Mitsuhisa Ishikawa.
Professors Mary Tripsas (Entrepreneurial Management) and Giovanni Gavetti (Strategy) developed a case on Fujifilm. Sales of its core product, color films, which contributed 70% of its profits in 2000, dropped by over 20% each year due to shift to digital cameras. In response to the change in its environment, its CEO, Shigetaka Komori, launched various initiatives to undertake "the second foundation" of the company. The case focuses on those initiatives and the challenges he faced in changing the organizational culture and employees' mindset.
back to top
Professor Tom DeLong (Organizational Behavior) developed a case on the challenge faced by Shinsei Bank to integrate diverse cultures and manage the organizational change. Its CEO, Thierry Porte (MBA1982), appointed Tom Pederson as Chief Learning Officer to spearhead this initiative. The case examines the challenges Tom Pederson faces in using performance evaluation program as a measure to influence the culture of the bank.
Professor Tom De Long (Organizational Behavior) developed a case on Shinsei Bank's challenge in integrating diverse cultures and managing the organizational change. Its CEO, Thierry Porte (MBA 1982) appointed Tom Pederson as Chief Learning Officer to spearhead this initiative. The case examines the challenges Tom Pederson faces in using performance evaluation program as a measure to influence the culture of the bank.
Professor Rajiv Lal (Marketing) developed a case on Takashimaya, Japan's largest department store. President Suzuki, who took the helm in March 2003, had succeeded in cutting costs to improve profits. But now he had to develop a firm plan to increase sales, especially sales in apparel which accounted for 36% its revenue.
Professor Robin Greenwood (Finance) developed a case on Livedoor, a small internet venture run by 32-year-old CEO, Takafumi Horie, focusing on its attempt to gain control over Fuji Television, Japan's top-grossing television network. In early 2005, Hisashi Hieda, Fuji Television's President, found himself in a difficult position and considered several options.
Professor Rawi Abdelal (BGIE) developed a case on JAFCO, the largest venture capital in Japan, focusing on its investment activities in China. The case discusses how the macro-economic and political environment influenced JAFCO's investment in China and its strategy. The case was used in a second-year elective course named Managing International Trade and Investment.back to top