Is Japan a role model for the Middle East?

From my experience as a former ambassador, I can say that Japan can be a role model not only to Middle Eastern countries, but to all countries. There are a lot of things that can be said and learned from the Japanese model.

Contrary to popular belief, Japan has spent over 200 years building its strength and did not only flourish only after the second World War II. In order to understand why Japan could be used as a model, it is important to address some of its historical traits and characteristics.

What makes Japan distinctive is its strong belief in investing in and educating its people as a precondition for successful national development. For the Japanese, investing in human resources is considered as a precondition to any successful development of a country. To achieve that, they began by focusing on education at both the academic and moral levels.

Lessons to be learned

There are two important factors in this regard. First is teamwork, starting with Japan’s agrarian nature, where family members had to work together to produce crops. This expanded to cooperation between families in the villages, then in the cities. In addition, the country being prone to natural disasters - such as earthquakes, typhoons and volcano eruptions - have convinced Japanese that such challenges can only be overcome by teamwork.

The region should learn from Japan’s experience in training programs and administration. Such programs could contribute to lowering unemployment in Arab countries

Abdulaziz Turkistani

There is no doubt that teamwork is one of their most notable traits both historically and presently that have helped harmonize the Japanese society.

The second factor is that Japan was able and willing to open its doors to the world and learn from other traditions – both East and West – without losing the essence of its own culture. This is still true, as Japan has stayed true to its identity and culture despite waves of globalization.

Power of the youth

The Middle East can learn from its experience in developing basic industries such as petroleum and petrochemicals, and in extracting useful metals from the ground. More importantly, Japan has expertise in transforming those metals and products into industries that serve the community.

The Middle East should convince Japanese companies that technology is needed in the region to create knowledge-based economies through research and development.

Saudi Arabia & Japan: 60 years of partnership

Saudi Japan relations infographic

Saudi Japan relations infographic

The region should also learn from Japan’s experience in training programs and administration. We should learn from the Japanese business philosophy of Kaizen where continuous improvement of working practices and personal efficiency are emphasized.

We can follow some of their training programs, whether on-job or technical. Such programs, especially for youths, could contribute to lowering unemployment in Arab countries. A key example of Japanese harnessing the power of their youth was by training them in the technicalities of the car, electronic and plastic industries.

Finally, it is also worth learning about Japan’s successful experience in sports and arts. For instance, the country won more medals than it expected to at this year’s Olympics.

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Abdulaziz Turkistani is the former Saudi Ambassador to Japan. He first came to Tokyo in 1980 and was one of the first two Saudi students ever to study in Japan. He can be found on Twitter: @aziizturk

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 13:59 - GMT 10:59
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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