Japanese M&A: Beating the Galapagos Syndrome

Could the recent surge in Japanese M&A help beat the “Galapagos syndrome”?

European Pressphoto Agency
Thomas the Tank Engine helps Tomy Co. join other Japanese companies fight the “Galapagos Syndrome” and take off in overseas markets.

To understand the answer, first some explanation. The phrase “Galapagos syndrome” or the tongue-twisting literal translation “Galapagozation,” became common here in the mid-to-late 2000s when talking about Japanese mobile phones, which were extremely advanced for the time, yet couldn’t be used outside the country.

These days, it’s used to describe the perception that Japan is increasingly becoming isolated from the outside world, in the same way that the Galapagos Islands did over centuries when their species evolved on their own separate paths.

In the Galapagos case, isolation gave Charles Darwin a lesson in natural evolution. But Japanese business leaders, who don’t want to go the way of the dodo, are trying to beat Galapagos syndrome. And the recent surge in mergers and acquisitions overseas, which is forcing Japanese companies to become more global, is one perceived cure.

As toymaker Tomy Co. president Kantaro Tomiyama put it, when explaining why the company bought the U.S. maker of Thomas the Tank Engine railroad sets last year: “We wanted to break away from the Galapagos syndrome.”


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