A New Japan

Rakuten to Jump Keidanren Ship?

Rakuten boss Hiroshi Mikitani publicly mulls abandoning the Japan Business Federation over electricity policy.

On Friday, Hiroshi Mikitani, president of Rakuten Inc., announced via Twitter that he’s considering withdrawing Rakuten from Nippon Keidanren, or the Japan Business Foundation. Nippon Keidanren is one of Japan's three major economic organizations, but Mikitani is considering withdrawing because he disagrees with Keidanren's position on the nation's electricity policy, which seeks to preserve the current structure of the sector. This is the same structure that has given rise to regional monopolies, a lack of separation between electricity distributors and providers, stifling of efforts to implement renewable energy, and some of the most exorbitant electricity prices in the world.

What's notable about this development isn't so much Mikitani's boldness—he has already established himself as an innovative, forward-thinker with his all-English edict for Rakuten. What's interesting is that other members of the Keidanren haven’t yet withdrawn, made noises about withdrawing, or in some way at least expressed displeasure with Keidanren in the way Rakuten has.

Instead, they’ve stayed on, offering support to the nuclear power industry in Japan, frequently spouting dubious justifications for doing so, such as ones I’ve mentioned before here. There are some big names on Keidanren's roster, including Panasonic and Nissan. These are transnational powerhouses that have been greatly affected, domestically and internationally, by recent events including the nuclear crisis. It would seem, then, that these corporations would have a lot to be angry about. The fact that they haven’t seemed so—and their continued solidarity with Keidanren and its blind support of the nuclear industry—is all pretty surprising.