Japan’s Abiding Sakoku Mentality

Japan embarked on internationalization (kokusaika) as a national objective more than a decade ago. As advertised, this open-door policy (kaikoku) was to involve, not only liberalization of trade and the opening of markets to foreign goods, but also reform of immigration practices to open the labor market to foreigners. Tokyo reluctantly enacted kokusaika under pressure from foreign governments, especially the United States and European countries, which alleged that Japanese systems were closed, exclusive, and discriminatory against foreign goods and services. Since then, however, Japanese progress has been superficial at best, amounting only to slight relaxations of the impediments against certain foreign imports and the regulations concerning immigration and foreign professional labor. Genuine kokusaika will most likely never be achieved without m&an-rental changes in the Japanese way of thinking.

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