While monozukuri normally refers to craftsmanship in the creation of physical products, it was also ever present in Japanese food and services. On each day of the Kakehashi program, the group would be treated to a different cuisine, and each meal further demonstrated this attention to detail. Upon arriving in Tokyo, we were given steamed box dinners. Many of us had never seen or even thought of portable, steamed meals before. Yet this technology was used in Japan because of the special care that the Japanese place in ensuring that their food is always of the best quality, even if it must be consumed on the go. Subsequent meals were in beautiful local restaurants, each meal artistically prepared in the true style of Washoku. Even street food on bustling city corners was expertly crafted, with cooks taking care to understand the requests of both the tourists and locals they were serving. Whether at the airport, bullet train station, or a small gift shop, every employee constantly went above and beyond to provide excellent service.
Junansei: The Japanese Art of Adaptability
One would expect that a nation whose people and business put so much thought and care into the minute details in their lives to be resistant to change. Yet in Japan, this is anything but the case. What truly makes Japan unique is not just monozukuri, but the flexible and adaptable nature of the Japanese people that accompanies it. This notion of Japanese flexibility, or “junansei,” was ubiquitous.
Perhaps the most prominent example of junansei is in the Japanese perspective on climate change. As an island nation, Japan is more vulnerable to the forces of climate change than inland countries, and unlike several countries, including the United States, the vast majority of Japanese politicians and businesses are aware of and willing to address the challenges that climate change poses. Japanese businesses are leading the global business community in terms of creating sustainable, green businesses. Take, for example, Daikin Air Conditioning. As part of the Kakehashi program, we visited a Daikin showroom and learned about the energy efficient, green air conditioning units that Daikin has developed. Daikin showroom staff informed our group that the company had released the patent for this green technology in order to ensure that other air conditioning companies can also produce energy efficient products. This willingness to reach out and collaborate allows for Japanese businesses to stay abreast of the latest technology and face demographic and geographic trends head-on. In a series of lectures at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japanese government representatives reiterated the Japanese commitment to collaborating with other global leaders in order to address climate change, further demonstrating the Japanese commitment to understanding and addressing pressing global challenges.