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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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June 23, 2014

Go Home, Gaijin

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Posted by Derek

Too many foreigners in your drug company? Outsiders being put into positions of power and influence, threatening the entire firm's culture? That's the objection that many Takeda employees seem to have to the company's recent tendency (unusual in Japan, to say the least) of bringing in many non-Japanese hires at all levels. The Financial Times broke the story in the English-language press:

In a letter to Takeda Pharmaceutical, 110 former executives and individual investors questioned the company’s appointment of non-Japanese to several senior positions.

“The company’s globalisation is a wrong globalisation. It should be globalised as a Japanese company. However, from the top to the bottom ,there are hundreds of non-Japanese working in the company in Japan,” said Yujiro Hara, a former head of Takeda’s real estate subsidiary who represents the group.

“We say it was acquired by a foreign capital. We cannot accept it,” he added. “Three main executive positions, finance, HR and purchase, are taken by foreigners.”

This is not a large group, in terms of shares held, but they're certainly a vocal one, and they may well represent what some others are feeling. Japan is its own place, maybe more so than anywhere else in the high-tech industrialized world, and this is a fine example of it. Try to imagine a letter like this in the US!

Comments (28) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business and Markets


1. Simon Barrows on June 23, 2014 9:33 AM writes...

Takeda has underperformed its sector for 5 years -change clearly needed ; whether it comes from a foreigner or not is irrelevant.

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2. biotech scientist on June 23, 2014 10:33 AM writes...

If this happened in the US, the media would find the person representing this group, label them a racist, look at everything possibly questionable they have ever done in their lives, and basically Donald Sterling them.

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3. Cato the Elder on June 23, 2014 10:53 AM writes...

or better yet, "foreign devil"

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4. Nony on June 23, 2014 10:58 AM writes...

That's right, in the US we restrict such complaints to blog comment sections.

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5. noname on June 23, 2014 11:32 AM writes...

Sounds like the people who say "they are stealing our jobs" or "they took our jobs." They are so unaware of the world and era we live in.

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6. wei on June 23, 2014 12:15 PM writes...

gaijin probably means improvement in chinese

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7. Kris on June 23, 2014 12:56 PM writes...

Ah, foreigners taking senior positions in Japan = "wrong globalisation"? So, Japanese taking senior positions abroad = "correct globalisation" then? :>

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8. KF on June 23, 2014 1:03 PM writes...

@biotech scientist: That would be because this is incredibly racist behavior...

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9. Anonymous on June 23, 2014 1:03 PM writes...

Probably sarcastic, but for those that are familiar with the term.
Gajin is a derogatory Japanese term for foreigners (not necessarily white, but often). Though some use it lightly, generally it is still a rather serious label. Some "Gajin" have taken it as a badge of pride like Yankee and self-label themselves as such.

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10. pgwu on June 23, 2014 1:22 PM writes...

These guys apparently have not mastered the art of self-dealing.

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11. annonie on June 23, 2014 2:02 PM writes...

Why would anyone be surprised? Name a country that has the same promoted and equal "equal opportunity" policies as exist in the US, as imperfect as US practices can be.

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12. Roberto Ros on June 23, 2014 2:21 PM writes...

@11 The UK, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland ... quite a few actually, all civilized places and that is actually to be proud of and not the other way around.

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13. Ted on June 23, 2014 2:24 PM writes...

I wonder how many Japanese women functioning at the exec. level it would take to take to mollify their concerns...


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14. John Thacker on June 23, 2014 6:24 PM writes...

The closest thing I can remember in the US is Ralph Nader wanting US corporations to say the Pledge of Allegiance at their shareholders' meetings, but that's a lot tamer.

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15. entropyGain on June 23, 2014 7:54 PM writes...

I think you missed that the shares of the founding Takeda family are also objecting, which makes this a bit more serious.

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16. Anonymous on June 23, 2014 11:17 PM writes...

In the US, they would say this about much more junior levels of staffing, and weed them out from there. As a foreigner in the US, I have noticed this everywhere, and find it to be a very effective anti-foreigner policy.

#11 - I can't even. Don't be so completely ludicrous.

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17. Lu on June 23, 2014 11:20 PM writes...

Hah! Foreigners!
Just look how they treat their own women.

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18. Rising Sun on June 24, 2014 4:18 AM writes...

This isn't very surprising, for a developed country I think it's the most xenophobic one in the world and it's quite socially acceptable to be racist. Most crimes etc are blamed on Koreans and Chinese. I spent 5 years in a Japanese laboratory so you learn a thing or two about people's views on things.....

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19. CR7 on June 24, 2014 4:40 AM writes...

Boy... am I not surprised...

It seems the best kept secret about globalization is that for the most part, many see it as being "multinational", and choose to not benefit from the advantages derived from diverse thinking.

Most companies are attracted to globalization by the promise of expanding outside their home countries as a quick way to increase revenue. However, they act as though the mothership culture has to be preserved everywhere they have a footprint.

In the pharma industry, this introduced more complexities and dysfunuction in an already complex task. You can figure out how this will end...

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20. bejoy on June 24, 2014 6:31 AM writes...

That's a perfect point to point out

first chance should be given to Japanese citizens

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21. Da Vinci on June 24, 2014 6:54 AM writes...

@11 Are you serious? The US as an equal opportunities country? Laughable. Look at the civilised world in Europe for equality.

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22. newnickname on June 24, 2014 7:16 AM writes...

I also see an historical component, similar to some things we squawk about here. Japan R&D was highly successful years ago (post-WWII to the 1980s, maybe early 1990s) when it was homogeneous and not particularly open. What changed? "Open doors! Diversification! We must go back to the old, successful, closed system!"

In Pharma, many of us harken back to the old days of Leo Sternbach, Max Tishler, et al when drug discovery was different and Pharma leadership was different.

Far more variables have changed and we can't turn back the clock here or in Japan.

But maybe we can make a pill for that ...?

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23. Anonymous on June 24, 2014 8:20 AM writes...

Its very simple here folks, dinosaurs must evolve or they will go extinct.

This situation is a microcosm of why japanese corporations are not thriving over the last 15 years and why, if they don't evolve in multiple ways ('Foreigners' playing a role, increasing venture capital, welcoming women in the workplace) there is not much hope for this dinosaur of a company and others like it. Sony, panasonic, yada yada

Hey, Japan, the 1950s called, they want their attitudes back!

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24. cliffintokyo on June 26, 2014 8:40 AM writes...

Post-hoc comment; sorry to be late.
On the other side of the coin, if all these foreigners working for Japanese pharma start voicing their opinions as they are used to doing in their own back yards, pretty soon they are going to become acutely aware of a related facinating facet of J-pharm culture - shooting the messenger.

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25. Anonymous on June 26, 2014 11:05 PM writes...

Worked for Eisai at one if their foreign sites until they threw me out last year. Sounds familiar. Globalise the company by making everybody act Japanese. The level of equality there measured by the fact that they have posters in their elevators telling you not to grope women's breasts.

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26. c_m on June 28, 2014 12:03 AM writes...

Gaijin often isn't derogatory but depends on the context.

I heard a funny story where a Japanese girl was working in a sushi bar in Australia and when asked who to serve a plate to she replied, pointing to a white guy, "Ano gaijin."

He pointed out, "Hey! I'm not gaijin in my own country, dammit!"

But for those who might not know, "gaiin" is any non Asian Westerner regardless of where speaking.

I once told a friend in the U.S. "Well, you're a gaijin now." She looked confused and said "Huh?..." then laughed, "Oh, yeah! I guess I am!" But really she wasn't. That would be "gaikokujin" (foreigner)

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27. Mike Goodman on June 30, 2014 9:28 AM writes...

Over the past decade, Takeda has spent over $25 billion in acquisitions of western firms. Ingesting that much infrastructure and operations necessarily puts western mgrs and processes in place. Indeed, that was part of the rationale for the acquisitions, which began with the rise of Hasegawa, presumably with the acquiescence of Takeda's board. Nycomed and Millennium, in particular, changed the DNA of Takeda. That train has left the station.

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28. kj on June 30, 2014 7:53 PM writes...

"Its very simple here folks, dinosaurs must evolve or they will go extinct."

I support immigrants to the US (why wouldn't you when most/all of your ancestry is from immigrants?). However, if they come with a medieval, elitist belief system from the (such as Catholic or Muslim), that's not good. Fortunately this is changing, especially in Latin American countries.

The hoops an immigrant needs to jump through are staggering and a result of a dinosaur-esque beurocracy.

Good riddance brittle, old systems that can't handle change!

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