Japanese billionaire Hiroshi Mikitani decided two years ago that the employees at his company, Rakuten Inc., should work almost entirely in English.
The idea, he said, was a daring and drastic attempt to counter Japan’s shrinking place in the world. “Japanese people think it’s so difficult to speak English,” Mikitani said. “But we need to break the shell.”
With the move, which took effect at the beginning of last month, Mikitani turned his e-commerce company — an Amazon competitor — into a test case for corporate Japan’s survival strategy.
You won’t find the word "Englishization" in the dictionary, but Google it and your search will lead you to links discussing imposed multilingualism and the loss of Japan’s indigenous culture.
Hiroshi Mikitani sees nothing wrong with the word, incorporating it easily into our discussion about Japan’s future. The internet entrepreneur and CEO of Rakuten Inc, Japan’s largest e-commerce site, intends to change his country from the inside out.
"And Englishization is a part of it," he says bluntly.
With 6,000 employees and sales topping $3 billion a year, Mikitani intends Rakuten to keep growing into a global player. The goal: be as common a household name as Google in 10 years