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Youth Is Not Wasted In Japan

I'm Barry Petersen, and this Letter from Asia comes from Tokyo.

Youth, it is said, is wasted on the young. Another way of saying that young people aren't wise enough in the way of the world to appreciate what it means to be young. Well, here in Japan, youth may not be wasted. The younger generation seems to have goals and dreams and an awareness of how things have changed in their favor.

We found this out the other day when we stopped at a hip Tokyo company called Link and Motivation, and chatted with 22 year old Natsuko Okabe.

"I just want to have fun at working," Natsuko says. "I like to live laughing, I like playing and I want to think about the job and it's very fun."

Co-worker Mitsumasa Fujimoto teaches Japanese companies how to motivate employees, and knows that Japan's young want more from a job than a paycheck.

"We're more interested in doing things we want to do," Mitsumasa explains. "Want to fo very good for society. Not just getting money, but to do something for society."

To contrast this, we must go back to World War II and the shock Japan felt when it lost. So as a nation, they resolved that if Japan could not be a military superpower, it would become an economic one.

The generation that emerged got called the salary-men; company soldiers working 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week, rebuilding Japanese companies. It was a patriotic duty. As for women, once they got married, they quit work to run the family and raise the kids and that was that.

And today? We asked Natsuko if she would work after getting married. "Yes," she said. "Because I want to have a career."

But other things have also changed. Now men share raising children. A generation ago, it simply wasn't done. Mitsumasa's father was always at work, with virtually no time for his only child.

When asked what kind of father he would be, Mitsumasa says, "A home father. I want to play sports with my children.

And here's the part we especially like; a younger generation capable of thinking for itself, and allowed, if you will, to have dreams.

"My dream is I want to work for Basketball in Japan," says Mitsumasa. "I play basketball, I love basketball, but basketball is not a major sport in Japan, so I want to make it major in the future."
Japanese used to complain that their strict, work oriented culture left little room for creativity and no room for fun. That's changing and you have to wonder what this place will look like a generation from now.
by Barry Petersen