From ancient times, as expressed in the maxim "Silence is golden," the Japanese have tended not to speak plainly. One reason is that the population of Japan is basically a single ethnic group with one common language, so we are often able to grasp one other's meaning even if it isn't stated clearly. Sometimes, for example, when we are opposed to someone's view, we think that even if we don't state our opposition in words we can convey it by such means as our facial expression or the way we speak. In America, however, where the population is composed of many different ethnic groups, that doesn't work. If you don't say clearly in so many words what is on your mind, you will not be understood. You may be opposed to something, but if you don't say so, you will come across as being in favor of it, and you can't blame the other party for the misunderstanding. Akio Morita experienced life in America early in his career, and he came to understand this first-hand: When something needed to be said clearly, it had to be said.
When trade friction arose between Japan and the U.S. as a result of Japan's long-term economic growth, America vigorously placed the responsibility on Japan's shoulders and criticized Japan for acting unfairly. At the time, there was no sign of any attempt on the Japanese side to mount a robust counter-attack. Morita felt, however, that it was dangerous simply to remain silent, and persisted in expressing his own views wherever he had the chance. He fully believed that if you speak your mind, Americans will take what you say seriously.
"There is a long tradition in Japan of feeling that friends can't have different opinions. When you live in such a confined society, you mustn't get into disputes with your friends. If your opinion differs from that of a friend, silence is golden. You just say 'Oh, I see,' and keep your views to yourself. But it's not like that in America. As long as you remain silent, people will think you agree to everything. So now, in America, I can't expect people to understand my opinion if I don't speak out as boldly as I can. But the Japanese don't understand this custom. No Japanese politician or official has ever said 'It's you that's acting unfairly.' And because they always keep quiet, the Japanese are always being told 'This is unfair' or 'That's unfair'." (Esquire, Summer 1987)
It is important to say to America what needs to be said. Akio Morita wrote Made in Japan in order to tell America that the United States has problems, too. His thoughts and expectations with regard to the USA are stated clearly and directly. This book was first published in the U.S., in English, and it has become a best-seller.
From:The Sayings of Akio Morita, published by Sony Magazines.