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[Tokyo Outlook] This Spring, Remember that Failure is One of the Secrets to Success

Spring in Japan is about new beginnings and change, and we should not be paralyzed by fear of mistakes. Just remember, even the greatest minds start by failing.



Green leaves emerge as the sakura blossoms begin to shed their petals. (© Hidemitsu Kaito)

Spring is a season of transitions. It seems only recently that soft-pink blossoms decked the sakura trees in Japan. But now, pops of fresh verdure have already started to appear. 

After being brought to a halt by the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is on the move again, and people's hearts are responding to the change. The power of nature never ceases to astonish.

Diplomacy between heads of state is also rapidly picking up. On March 21, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida paid a surprise visit to Kyiv, Ukraine to hold talks with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, traveling from India where he had been on an official state visit. Crucially, this took place right when China's President Xi Jinping was visiting Moscow to meet Russia's President Vladimir Putin

Not long ago, Kishida's trip would have been unthinkable for Japan — a country that has long avoided facing the possibility of war

Unfortunately, it is still too early to predict when Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine will end. But it can be stated unequivocally that this war is reshaping Japan and the world.

Kishida Ukraine
PM Kishida and President Zelenskyy at the joint statement signing ceremony. (© Cabinet Public Relations Office)

The True Face of Japan

JAPAN Forward is an English-language news and opinion website dedicated to presenting the true face of Japan. Our daily updates range from international politics and domestic affairs to cultural topics like sakura. We also offer analysis from real Japanese perspectives on fundamental questions pertinent to all, such as why wars occur.

But what has recently stood out is a string of news stories on failures, as if to warn us of the decline in Japan's science and technology.

For example, the maiden launch of Japan's next-generation heavy-lift launch vehicle H3 failed on March 7, 2023. In November 2022, ultra-small lunar lander OMOTENASHI failed to become the first Japanese craft to land on the moon.

On top of that, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries abandoned the development of Japan's first jet airliner SpaceJet and withdrew from the business.

But we must not be disheartened. Dr Hideo Itokawa, the father of Japanese rocketry, was no stranger to failure. In fact, one of his most famous quotes is "In life, it is important to have a history of failures."

The article below by The Sankei Shimbun was published in English on JAPAN Forward on March 15. It reflects on the story of Dr Itokawa's life and wishes the H3 rocket team renewed vigor for a successful launch.

Hideo Itokawa with the Kappa-9L rocket. The first Kappa rocket was launched in 1956. ( via Wikimedia Commons)

Beyond the Mountain of Mistakes

I must confess that, although I am the editor in chief of JAPAN Forward, I have also made a mountain of mistakes in my life. Earlier this year, I was given the opportunity to speak in front of sophomore and junior students at my alma mater, International Christian University High School.

The theme of my speech was "Know the World and Think about Japan." I openly shared a small portion of my numerous failures, including my shockingly poor grades and failed university entrance exams. 

My intention wasn't to focus solely on failures. But I was reminded of the importance of making mistakes as I carefully read each piece of feedback from more than 160 students compiled by the school:

"I was struck by your words, 'No matter what you experience, that experience will always shape who you will become in the future.'"

"It was a wake-up call for me when you said we were allowed to make mistakes."

"When a foreigner asked me about Japan, I wasn't able to give an answer. The experience made me want to learn more about Japan."

JAPAN Forward Editor-in-Chief Yasuo Naito speaks at the International Christian University High School. (© International Christian University High School)

Shaping the Future

I had a terrific time connecting with these young students whose sights were set on their futures. I hope to have more opportunities like this. 

Without being impeded by the fear of failure, JAPAN Forward will continue to challenge itself to become a one-of-a-kind media outlet.

We hope to demonstrate to the young generation that there is always something to be learned from failure — and that failure is, in fact, the key to success.

Hear one of Japan's greatest technology minds, Naozumi Takezawa discuss this theme along with other angles on success and his friendship with Ryuichi Sakamoto on April 11 (Tue) in person or online.

Watch for the next issue of "Tokyo Outlook" in May. 

Become a Supporting Member of JAPAN Forward

JAPAN Forward is now in its 7th year! Join us as we continue to share the true voice of Japan with the world. For inquiries, please call 0570-033-433 (Sankei iD) or email us at info@japan-forward.com.


Author: Yasuo Naito, Editor in Chief, JAPAN Forward

(Read the article in Japanese.)

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