Table Speech

Initiation Speech

December 1st,2004

Mr.Takehiko Yamaguchi
Mr.Satoshi Ohoka

Vice Chairman of the Kitano Construction Co. Ltd.,
Mr.Takehiko Yamaguchi

“Earthquake Ridden Japan and Construction”

Even before the 10th anniversary of the Kobe earthquake which was unusual in that the epicenter was immediately below the city, another underground earthquake has struck the Chuetsu region measuring 8 on the Richter scale.

Japan has one of the most frequent earthquake zones in the world, and the development of the construction techniques in this country have been in step with precautionary measures.

Japan is proud to have the oldest wooden structure in the world, the 5 story pagoda in Horyuji Temple constructed in 1300 which has been designated as a World Cultural Heritage and has safely weathered the trials of nature since then.

Why has the pagoda not crumbled? The answer lies in principle of shock absorption whereas when a quake strikes, the first level’s roof shingles bend to the left, the second level’s shingles to the right, then the third level to the left thus absorbing the quake’s energy.

Another important factor is the ‘shinchu’ (center pole) which is hung from the ceiling. It does not support the weight of the structure, but limits the sway of the structure.

In entering the pagoda you find a complicated network of wood ribs which are used to absorb the shock.

When we opened our country in the Meiji Era (1867−) western construction techniques were introduced and our government office building were built in brick.

Finding them easily destroyed by earthquakes, we have been building in steel and concrete. At present in order to make our structures earthquake proof, we use CFT construction which places concrete in steel pipes, or PC construction employing piano wires in our steel and concrete structures. Re-enforced concrete is also now being used.

There are methods to release earthquake energy utilizing methods which were used for our pagodas.

After the earthquake, attention was called to ‘earthquake aversive’structures by insulating the structure itself from its base. To do this, dozens of sheets of thin metal plates and rubber sheets are laid one upon the other.

Another method is to control the earthquake shock by using the principle of the shock absorber for automobiles.

It will be an effective plan for you to have your structure diagnosed for its earthquake worthiness and have it reinforced where needed.

Thus our goal has been to construct buildings which can withstand earthquakes, and it is our mission as a country of earthquakes. There is a limit to human intelligence and ability but we believe that this is the path that we must follow.

Professor of Nippon University
Mr.Satoshi Ohoka

We frequently talk of international rivalry or competition.

On the other hand, this is done in vague terms as in Economics there is no strict definition for this.

I would like to point out a few facts concerning this matter.

First of all, who is engaged in this international competition? This concerns on how we look at firms owned by foreign capital. Generally, we consider them as also being ‘one of us’, and if so, Japanese firms operating abroad are not considered as Japanese corporations. When we speak of national interest or our international competitive ability what firms should we include? This is a difficult question to answer in this age of globalization.

The second is what should we consider as an index to competitiveness?
There is no such thing in international competition. There are rankings which are given annually. One is by the influential Swiss business school IMD which shows that the best 5 are 1. U.S.A. 2. Singapore 3. Canada 4. Australia 5. Iceland, and Japan is No. 23. You may be depressed to learn that Japan ranks so low. But Germany ranks 23rd, Great Britain 22nd, and France 30th, so there is no reason to be overly pessimistic.

This ranking is done based on how business in each country is facilitated or not, and is not a measure of competitiveness.

Another viewpoint is from that of trade. Even though the economic prowess of the nations are the same, a difference will occur when the economy is export dependent or not.

The foreign trade balance is also used often as a measure. However, even a small and poor country may be able to record a good foreign trade balance, and a country such as the U.S. will make a poor showing in spite of her increase in competitiveness.

Next, we can look at this from the standpoint of productivity. No. 1 in this case is Luxembourg, and those nations ranking high are Switzerland, Norway, Denmark and Japan. From these numbers, it looks that the Japanese are quite competitive and enjoy a high standard of living.

This index is affected by the currency conversion rate. In 1997, Japan was 4th and the U.S. 6th, and in 1999 and 2000, Japan was 2nd and the U.S. was 4th, so Japan had the edge in international competitiveness.

There is thinking that the difference in individual GDP is the result of a difference in productivity. However, productivity depends on prosperity, and all is well if the nation prospers.

Then we come to the 3rd point, which is to define what international competitiveness is, and whether it has a meaning at all.

There are economists who argue that competitiveness is a concept which has no meaning and thus is useless. Truly, it is unable to be clarified using single index.

However, by using multiple indices conclusions may be obtained and a correct understanding of the situation may be obtained of the economic situation of a country. And I believe that to do so is quite meaningful.