Every April, companies across Japan welcome hundreds of thousands of fresh university graduates from across the country to join their ranks as full-time employees. Rakuten held this year’s annual spring entrance ceremony for new grads in person for the first time since 2019, after quickly pivoting to a work from home model and fully-virtualized entrance ceremony at the beginning of the pandemic.
On April 1, Rakuten welcomed all of the approximately 700 new graduate employees at its new Shinjuku East Side Square office in Tokyo. Rakuten Group CEO Mickey Mikitani and Rakuten senior executives were in attendance. Mikitani was on hand to deliver the welcome speech, in which he encouraged the company’s newest employees to embrace change and reflect on the world around them.
The following is a transcription of Mikitani’s welcome remarks to Rakuten’s newest employees, edited for clarity.
Good morning and welcome to the Rakuten Group.
Today marks an important turning point in your life. As you embark on your career with us here today, I am delighted to be here to welcome you in person.
So many things are changing around us. In Eastern Europe, a tragic humanitarian crisis is evolving in Ukraine. We will continue to work to help the people of Ukraine with humanitarian aid and, at the same time, sincerely hope for resolution of this situation and a return to peace.
“The biggest risk is not taking risks. We will never get any real rewards without risk.”Mickey Mikitani, Chairman & CEO, Rakuten Group
If you think about this conflict without modern technology, without the internet, what could have happened? Right now, everybody in the world knows what’s going on — all enabled by the internet.
When I first experienced the internet in 1993, internet speed was about 14.4 kbit/s, and now it’s over one gigabit. Internet speed, even for wireless connections, is now 100,000 times faster than when we started Rakuten Ichiba.
At the time, I knew the internet would transform not only business, but the world, because of two things. One was the very format of the internet itself, which has evolved to allow for everything from broadband, video, email, radio to web. The second was the advent of hypertext, or HTML. Hyperlinks enabled us to fly from one place to another with ease. The flow of information and the way we store data has been completely transformed.
This year also marks Rakuten’s 25th year anniversary. The internet has evolved so much, and the world continues to change dramatically. We have seen massive transformation in society, retail and business. We’ve seen changes in people’s lifestyle choices and even the way we define key concepts. And we will see even more changes in the next 25 years. You are starting your career journey in a very dramatic, very challenging, but also very exciting era.
The Three Mirrors
There is a well-known concept in Chinese philosophy known as the Three Mirrors. The first is the Bronze Mirror, in which you can see yourself — the face that you show the world. The second is the Mirror of History, through which we can learn about events from the past that are likely to occur again. Third, there is the Mirror of the People, which reveals what the people around you think about the way you’ve been acting. I have been thinking about these three mirrors and how their teachings can be reflected in business, and I believe there is one more very important mirror: the Mirror of the World.
“The last thing I want to share is this: Stay humble.”
Rakuten changed its internal communication language from Japanese to English in 2010. It was a significant turning point and the first time that a Japanese company of our scale began using English as its official language for communication.
There were several reasons for this. We wanted to hire the best and brightest from all over the world. Our competitors are not other Japanese companies — our competitors, and the companies we can learn from, are global companies. Not only the big companies, but also innovative entrepreneurs across a diversity of fields. What happens in other countries can happen in Japan — not only in business, but in society as well. We must look out towards those experiences. That’s what I mean by Mirror of the World.
Advice for young entrepreneurs
In your career, there will be ups and downs. But my advice to you is this. When you have good days, look up. There are other companies, other people doing better than you. When you’re in a bad place, look down. There are companies and people who are suffering more than you. You have to be strong mentally as well.
“You are starting your career journey in a very dramatic, very challenging, but also very exciting era.”
The biggest risk is not taking risks. We will never get any real rewards without risk. At the same time, we need to minimize unnecessary risks. We have developed a long-term philosophy that is embedded in our brand concepts. You have to be prepared. You need to have vision. That’s one reason why so many people are attracted to Rakuten. We are on a mission to empower people and society through the power of the internet.
The last thing I want to share is this: Stay humble. Rakuten continues to grow dramatically, and will likely lead the consumer industry, especially in Japan. Perhaps we will lead the wireless network industry on the global stage. Regardless, we must not grow arrogant. We have to remember to stay humble in our attitude and actions.
Once again, congratulations and welcome to the Rakuten Group.