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Friday, First Business Day for Most Japanese Companies

Friday was the first business day of the year for most Japanese companies. In a New Year tradition, many company presidents gave speeches to their employees. This year, they stressed the need for new strategies to recover from the economic downturn.

Company bosses are hoping 2002 proves to be the year of recovery. Many electronics-makers posted their first losses, and pulled out of some business sectors because of the technology slowdown last year.

The president of electronics firm NEC, Koji Nishizaki, tells his workers on their first day back at work on Friday that he aims to foster a corporate environment, in which workers are not afraid of failure. "When we look at our rivals around the world, they are also badly affected. It is a good opportunity for us to come up with a better strategy. The NEC group needs to carry out structural reform and have a recovery this year, so that we can be regarded as a global company of excellence," Mr. Nishizaki said.

Japan's airline industry also hopes for a better year. The already struggling industry has weakened further since the September 11th terrorist attacks in the United States.

The president of Japan's second largest airline group, All Nippon Airways, Yoji Ohashi, told his employees he hopes the airline will make a turnaround.

Mr. Ohashi said "workers may feel insecure about the company's future, after the terrorist attacks and the alliance of two domestic competitors. However, he thinks that it is a big chance for the airline, and that the company needs to come up with a new strategy." Japan's financial daily, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, reports that the country's top automaker, Toyota, plans to export several low-priced compact cars to the United States to target younger consumers. In the United States, data on national auto sales showed Toyota had its best year ever, with U.S. sales rising 7.5 percent in 2001.