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They are burning Japanese cars in Detroit. The top management at Toyosan Motors must decide whether to begin offshore production of its cars in the U.S. But our hero Mr. Kudo fears that offshore production will devastate the numerous local subcontractors of Toyosan, leading to a hollowing out of the auto industry in Japan, leaving only a financial shell. The American color TV industry has already suffered such a fate. The villain, Mr. Tsugawa, calls Kudo a wimp and sees a splendid opportunity for union busting. Will our hero prevail?
Thus begins the first episode of this rollicking yet incisive introduction to the world economy from the Japanese point of view. Other episodes treat the appreciation of the yen, the impact of the 1970s oil shocks, deficit financing, the internationalization of business and banking, and the post-industrial future of Japan and the Pacific Rim.
The book is an English edition of volume 1 of Manga Nihon keizai nyumon, originally published in 1986 by Nihon Keizai Shimbun, the Japanese equivalent of the Wall Street Journal. It is based on a serious introductory text put out by the newspaper and is packed with informative charts and facts. When the comic book was first published in Japan, it was an immediate best-seller, selling over 550,000 copies in less than a year.
The stories in the book reflect Japan's national mood during the "Japanese miracle" and into the 1980s economic bubble: apprehension and optimism jostle one another, and there is a sense of national self-pity. The book also reflects a deep suspicion of politics and bureaucrats. The prime minister appears more worried about his government's popularity than about taking the right economic course. Ultimately, the employees at Toyosan Motors demonstrate that the success of the Japanese economy will not depend on natural resources or politics but on business practices that are ethical, socially responsible, and forward-looking.