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How Japan can move forward, one year after Fukushima

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Stacey Vanek Smith:This weekend marks the anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami and subsequent meltdown of Japan’s nuclear plant, Fukushima.

Scott Tong was there for us last year, and revisited for this report.

Nori Kodama: They only eat vegetables.

Scott Tong: A year ago, Nori Kodama walked me down a Tokyo street, lamenting what he called “herbivore men.”  They’re risk-averse, wimpy.

Kodama: They are getting kind of weak. I mean, their preference is not to be, like manly-men.

So after the tsunami, he vowed to be a bold carnivore man. He quit his job at a multi-national last summer, started his own company.

Kodama: Everybody thought this is a bad idea.

Nori was 39. His wife was expecting.

Kodama: She was very worried, but she knows she cannot stop me.

To chase his dream, he started a firm to help others find theirs. It trains young professionals to discover themselves, and improve their English. One session requires them to say a famous speech out loud.

Leader: I have a dream…

Students: I have a dream..

Leader: That my 4 little children…

Students: That my 4 little children…

Kodama: Don’t afraid to make mistakes. Now we need that kind of attitude, after the earthquake. Be foolish, like Steve Jobs. Take off your pants.

“Take Off Your Pants” is the title of Nori Kodama’s new book. It’s about how he came to America at age 20, and learned enough English to get a Harvard MBA, and win a national buffalo wing cookoff. The serious point is, Japan Inc needs to reboot; try new things.

Kodama: New industries or new companies have to emerge in order to sustain this Japanese economy.

Japan as reinvented itself before. In the 1800s, it sent scholars out to engage global ideas. After World War II, founders of Sony and Honda stoked another miracle. Do they have one more in them?

Kodama: We have some switch, I guess. When we have a crisis, that switch turns on. We have a lot of energy.

The confident words of a Japanese manly-man.
In Tokyo, I’m Scott Tong for Marketplace.

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