Land of the rising sin

Published in Accounting Technician

A culture of secrecy and the exaltation of authority explain Japan’s spate of high-profile accounting scandals, says Sally Percy

There is a Japanese saying: ‘Iwanu ga hana.’ It translates literally as ‘Not speaking is the flower’, but its meaning is similar to English expressions such as ‘Some things are better left unsaid’ or ‘Silence is golden’. And it’s a saying that explains much about Japanese business life.

The Land of the Rising Sun is known for its deferential, hierarchical corporate structures – and the country’s biggest companies are generally revered. The Japanese take a lot of pride in the organisations they work for. They commute extended distances and rack up long hours, and their social standing is intrinsically linked to their company and their status within it. Long-term relationships are prized and the samurai sense of honour still penetrates the Japanese psyche to the extent that suicides are relatively common, even at the highest echelons of society. Last year, for example, the Japanese minister of financial services, Tadahiro Matsushita, was found by police to have committed suicide. Meanwhile, many Japanese companies prefer to keep their problems behind closed doors and shun outside interference.

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