At the beginning of the movie, Oishi Kazihiro is in a training camp for failing executives. He has been a failure in his business career thus far because he is too lenient with his workers. He is tagged with countless banners and it is screaming particular phrases repetitively. This shows the dedication and rigorous conformity required in the Japanese work culture and the often extreme methods used to achieve a satisfactory work demeanor.
When Michael Keaton meets with the Japanese board of directors, there are several cultural differences he encounters. The first is during the presentation he blatantly asks “do you guys speak English?” to which one of the Japanese businessmen belligerently replies “yes.”
Later during the presentation, Mr. Keaton takes a more relaxed demeanor, making politically incorrect remarks and profanities, to which the Japanese businessmen do not laugh or even adjust their rigid deportment. Finally, at the conclusion of the meeting, Mr. Keaton asks if anyone has any questions, and seeing it rude to ask questions, the Japanese businessmen all remain silent.
Mr. Keaton went to Japan because local auto plant in Hadleyville, Pennsylvania, which supplied most of the town’s jobs, has been closed for nine months. As the former foreman for the plant, Mr. Keaton goes to Tokyo to try to convince the Assan Motors Corporation to reopen the plant and produce their automobiles there.
The closure of North American plants to outsource for cheaper or better quality automobile production is a common recurrence throughout North American. Especially during the recent recession, GM went bankrupt and Ford had to close several plants and fire countless employees.
During the first day of work, the Japanese executives wish to begin the day with calisthenics, to which the Americans also find comical and refuse to perform. When Mr. Keaton goes to meet with the Japanese executives, they all give them a business card, a customary action during a Japanese business meeting, to which Mr. Keaton mocks.
Japanese executives eat their lunches with chopsticks and bathe together in the river near the factory which the American works find both absurd and mock as well. Finally one of the Japanese overseers refuses to allow one of the American employees to take a newspaper into the bathroom to read; which is a norm in American culture.
The Japanese introduce job rotation so that every man is capable of performing every job. As opposed to the previous American methodology of allowing each employee to specialize in a specific job on the production line, the Japanese demand that each man can perform any job with quality and effectiveness. In Japanese factories, all employees are able to do so, and this is expected of the American employees
Quality is extremely important to the Japanese executives. From the moment they arrive in the American plant, they pride themselves on the superiority of their automobiles in comparison to American automobiles and hold to the employees’ work to seemingly impossible standards of efficiency and quality.
They are constantly critiquing the employee’s work on the car demanding that their methods of production be adapted in the plant. Oishi Kazihiro explains to Mr. Keaton several times the pride that Japanese works take in the work and the extend there are willing to go in order to get their work done; staying after hours with no play to complete their work.
Also, the incredible amount of shame their experience of their company does poorly. The Japanese refuse to even produce cars of subpar standards and when the CEO arrives, refuses to count any cars with minor imperfections.