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Japanese Facing Succession Issues

Posted January. 01, 2008 03:24,   


Saikoji temple located at a small village, Gojo City, Nara Prefecture, Japan, rings a bell three times a day (at 6 a.m.,12 p.m., and sunset) to inform residents of the time.

The bell is rung not by a priest but by a machine equipped with timer. The residents of the small village put the machine nearby the bell as the last resort after failing to find the head priest of the temple. Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun reported that around 1,600 temples across Japan have installed automatic bell-ringing machines costing from 600,000 to 1 million yen each.

With birth rates lowering and life expectancy getting longer, not only temples but also unpopular jobs and traditional art sectors have struggled to find successors. The number of pilots who help ships to navigate tough waters fell from 759 in 1996 to 651 in 2006. Their average age is 63. No Japanese younger than 50 works as a pilot. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport substantially lowered the qualifications for pilots in an effort to prevent the job from disappearing.

Japan’s Kyohan Railway had held Kiku Ningyo (chrysanthemum doll festival) in Hirakata city, Osaka since 1910. However, it decided not to hold the exhibition anymore in 2005 due to the aging of Kiku doll craftsmen and a lack of successors.

The fate of small-scale firms is not different.

According to the Japanese daily Mainichi Shimbun, the number of public baths in Aichi Prefecture has recently decreased to 190 from around 800 in the 1960s. Similarly, Tokyo also has seen around 50 public baths close every year.

A Japanese research center announced that about 80% of Japan’s small-and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are worried over succession issues.

An investment company made a good use of such a sour reality and launched a fund related to succession issues.

J-STAR based in Tokyo offers a new service from January 2008 to provide CEOs and financial support for SMEs, which have difficulties running a business due to a lack of successors. The investment company has raised 12 billion yen for the business.

Japanese have traditionally inherited the family business. A couple without a son has even adopted a boy or husband for their daughter to transfer their business. However, lots of Japan’s youngsters are not willing to inherit the family businesses and are saying, “To run a business, I have to endure many difficulties.”