TOKYO — 'There's a clear difference in the way things are now and the way they were for my parents. Before there was an automatic escalator moving up. Now, your future isn't guaranteed. And now young people think good quality of life, not work, is the most important thing. They look at people who die of karoshi [overwork] and don't think it's something to respect anymore.'
- Michiyo Taki, housewife
'I see a more stratified society and a clearer distinction of class based on work. The people who will succeed will be those with real skills. [In the future] I don't think anything will survive [of the Japanese business culture]. It will change that quickly.'
- Mariko Fujiwara, research director, Hakuhodo Institute of Life & Living Inc.
'There's tacit socialism here, but things like equal pay raises are being challenged - it's no longer sustainable. Japan has to follow Wall Street, but inside the country we carry over the old hierarchical system [of employment and business].'
- Yasunori Sone, political scientist, Keio University
'Japan has realized it cannot live by the same rules anymore - lifetime employment and seniority-based pay. It's time to create and apply new rules. For our future, it's extremely significant to put money into something like the information or networking businesses.'
- Tadashi Sekizawa, former company president, Fujitsu
'It's the old Japanese system of being nice, of ambiguity. You can't ask people for money they owe you. It's the same with employees. I felt I had to raise their pay every year, which is hard for a small company. Japanese people have to change. If they don't, they'll go under.'
- Masatoshi Nakajima, former business owner
'The system will be changed. The very important thing for us politicians is to be independent of the bureaucracy.'
- Koichi Kato, politician former secretary general, Liberal Democratic Party
'The Japanese want foreigners in, but that's different from saying it'll be a more-open system. There won't be a shift to a US-style system here; the Japanese don't want that. I don't see the system here unraveling. What's going to happen next? We really have no idea.'
- Ron Bevacqua, economist, Merrill Lynch
'Japan has achieved a lot economically, and there are so many good aspects to its history and culture. But sometime in recent history we forgot all the good things and just went after wealth. We forgot about respecting our ancestors. People have to stop running, so there's time for them to think about what's the right direction to go.'
- Yoko Matsumura, Tokyo lawyer's assistant