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IAC News No.23, September 2014

Japan Society of Civil Engineers  International Activities Center Sep. 3, 2014 IAC News No.23 

Joint Company Information Session in Civil Engineering for International Students


Black Ships for the Japanese Construction Industry

My colleagues in Japanese construction companies are worried about the future of their industry. Since domestic investment in public infrastructure is decreasing, Japanese construction companies are expected to move to emerging markets where the demand for infrastructure development is high. However, despite their world-class technology, Japanese contractors tend to experience difficulties in projects that are open to international competition.


The difficulties faced by Japanese construction companies in international markets are related to the uniqueness of the Japanese domestic market.  Only 160 years have passed since Japan was forced to open up to international trade by the American “black ships”. Because of their limited prior exposure to international exchanges, Japanese officials could communicate with American counterparts only by first translating Japanese in to Chinese or Dutch, and then to English. While most of the society has changed dramatically since then, the Japanese construction market appears still to be isolated by international standards.

Human resource management is one example in which Japanese construction companies seem to be lagging behind. Although the volume of construction projects has decreased significantly from the days of rapid economic growth, construction companies report shortages of young highly-educated engineers entering their ranks. Incidentally, this year, there may be no Japanese student from the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Tokyo interested in joining the construction industry. On the other hand, every year dozens of top-class engineers from Asia and other continents graduate from this department but most are unable to find jobs with the Japanese industry and leave to other countries.

I believe that the lack of international players in the domestic construction sector is related to the lack of success of overseas. Naturally, it is difficult to enter other markets for employees raised under de facto closed market conditions with little experience of direct cooperation and competition with individuals and organizations from different backgrounds. Internationally-successful companies, such as Hochtief or Skanska, compete in their domestic markets with similar firms under similar systems as they would in the Middle-East or Eastern Europe. It goes without saying that their employees who successfully obtain and manage projects under fierce competition at home and around the world are not necessarily German or Swedish-born.

Opening your home is essential for succeeding outside of your home. Such change may lead to disruptions and frictions, which may be unwelcome by the established stakeholders who are accustomed to the shrinking but stable status quo in the Japanese construction market. However, without reforms that demonstrate that the Japanese construction industry has a future beyond the Olympics, young Japanese graduates will prefer to join other sectors, such as finance or management consulting, which are popular despite the fierce international competition in such industries.

Japanese contractors must accept foreign talent to become major international players. Unlike black ships, which forced changes on Japan from the outside, the International Center of JSCE is a self-help response of the Japanese civil engineering community to the pressing situation. I believe the International Center is in a great position to help Japanese contractors open their doors to international engineers and thus make great contributions to global civil engineering and the Japanese industry from within.


IAC Japanese Civil Engineers the Global Leaders Symposium Series No.2

IAC held IAC Japanese Civil Engineers the Global Leaders Symposium Series No.2 “Mike O’Callaghan•Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge” at the JSCE HQ Auditorium on Aug. 5, 2014.

On this symposium, assessing the current situation that large overseas projects constructed by Japanese construction companies are widely recognized not only in those countries, overseas projects and civil engineers being active in there were introduced, for the purpose of making Japanese civil engineering and civil engineers’ activities widespread, as well as letting young people who shoulder the future of Japan, know the significance of infrastructure and works in foreign countries.

The symposium began with Vice President Prof. Yoshihisa Kawahara’s opening speech. In first half part, besides the speech given by Prof. Junichiro Niwa from Tokyo Institute of Technology, who received 8th annual Merit Awards for Industry-Academia-Government Collaboration by this project, as a keynote address, video letter from Mr. Dave Zanetell, who was the employer of this project, worked as project manager in Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), was also introduced. In second half part, outlines of this project was introduced by Mr. Katsuji Fukumoto, Mr. Michiya Sadamatsu, and Mr. Yuhei Takatoku who practically pursue the project from Obayashi Corporation, and a speech was given with the episodes of construction work charged by themselves. Experience and troubles were talked about from the view of civil engineers be engaged in this project, as well as the advice to young generation who will be active in.

Over 120 people took part in this symposium, opinions were changed actively in question and answer part. It was really a successful meeting.

Prof. Niwa delivers a presentation.

The video letter from Mr. Dave Zanetell

International Activities Center has planned that “IAC Japanese Civil Engineers the Global Leaders Symposium Series” will continuously focus on overseas projects. The 3rd symposium is planned to introduce Pahang-Selangor Raw Water Transfer Project by Shimizu Corporation. Details like launching date are available on JSCE HP.

Message from JSCE Taiwan Section

JSCE Taiwan Section was established as the first internationals section of JSCE in April 2000. Prof.  Jenn-Chuan Chern, Mr. Chi-Shou Hsieh, Dr. Lie-Liung Chou, Mr. Yih-Lieh Shih, Prof. Der-Her Lee, and Prof. Jing-Wen Chen are the 1st to incumbent Section President respectively. Assist. Prof. Kai-Lin Hsu the 1st Secretary General and Assist. Prof. Wu-Te Ko the 2nd and current Secretary General have worked with those presidents. The Taiwan Section is proud that they have never missed the International Section Meeting which is held usually during JSCE Annual Meeting.

Taiwan Section members come from various backgrounds such as the local civil engineering professionals and researchers who have studied in Japan, the Japanese civil engineers who have engaged in projects in Taiwan, the Ministers, Deputy-Ministers and administrators of public works in the Taiwan Government. The number of Section members peaked from 2000 to 2008 when several big projects were implemented, which exceeded 40, and after than gradually has declined to 20 something recently.

The Section, focusing on building communication and cooperation between the Taiwanese and Japanese civil engineering industries, has offered various assistances and conducted a wide range of activities. Making travel arrangements for JSCE delegations and research teams, giving them local knowledge, information and a tour, and introducing latest Japanese civil engineering technologies in various forms in Taiwan are some examples. Moreover, the Section gathers data analyzes information about current Taiwanese civil engineering technologies, the Japanese civil engineers’ contributions to the development of infrastructure in Taiwan in the prewar days, the construction projects undertaken by Japanese construction companies in Taiwan, write reports on those for the monthly JSCE Magazines and other journals, and furthermore translates them into local languages.

Last, the Taiwan Section holds joint symposium with Japanese counterparts on a regular basis and builds good communication and friendship with the Korea Section. It is very interested in having communication with the other International Sections, and organizing joint activities with them in a near future.

Taiwan-Japan Joint Symposium on Disaster Mitigation of
Cultural Heritage and Historical Cities in
Tainan, Sept 3-4, 2008,

Japan-Korea-Taiwan Joint Seminar in
Kuamoto, Aug 24-25, 2012


What's Happening

●2014/9/10・・・・・The 16th International Summer Symposium in 2014(Osaka‐Osaka University)
●2014/9/10・・・・・2014 JSCE Annual Meeting Discussion Session on “What We Have Learned in Japan:
                        Messages from the leading civil engineers who have studied in Japan”(Osaka University, Osaka)
                        ※A talk with the speakers “Messages from our seniors and messages to our juniors”will be held within the discussion session.
●2014/9/10-13・・・・・2014 International Workshop for Young Civil Engineers(Osaka‐Osaka University)
●2014/9/13・・・The 8th JFES-AIJ-JSCE-WFEO Joint International Symposium on Disaster Risk Management
                       (Kobe‐Kobe University)http://www.jsce-int.org/node/279
●2014/10/7-11・・・・・ASCE Global Engineering Conference 2014(Panama City, Panama)
●2014/10/22-24・・・・・KSCE Annual Meeting 2014(Daegu-Gwangyeoksi, Korea)



●The summary of feature articles in the JSCE Magazine is available on the JSCE website.
●Concrete Committee International Newsletter No. 38
●Journal of JSCE
The Journal of JSCE is the collection of research papers which can be viewed on the JSCE website.
●JSCE 100th Anniversary Postal Stamp will be released in September, 2014.
http://jsce100.com/node/250(Japanese Only)

IAC News Subscription

The IAC News is one of the communication tools to share information and ideas with the members. We would like to invite you, your friends and colleagues to join the communication and to subscribe the IAC News. Please register online: (http://www.jsce-int.org/pub/registration/non-international_students). We look forward to meeting you.


Editor's postscript

How about summer vacation in this year? We faced the fury of the nature such as landslide disaster caused by heavy rains on this summer.
We appreciate that Dr. Petr Matous wrote about internationalization of Japanese Construction Industries for this issue on such a short notice. I felt that employing foreign engineers in Japanese companies is very important as well as exporting the Japanese knowledge and engineers of civil engineering. (S.K)