A business fable that clears up mushy American thinking about Japanese motivation and productivity. Christopher Newman is hired as new director of productivity by Covenant Corporation to fly to Japan and unearth the secrets of Japan's incredible business smarts. Covenant is reeling from the Japanese competition. On the plane he meets Texas cotton broker Henry J. Hornblower who laments that he must sell his cotton to the Japs since the US mills are shut down. Fellow passenger Ernest G. Faithful, a business school grad, is trying to dope out the foggy The Book of Five Rings (the heart, he says; of Japanese management). In Tokyo Chris first sees a subway being crushed full of people and a ""modular"" hotel for factory workers which is a beehive with tiny boles for workers to lie in, watch TV and sleep nights during their workweek rather than waste time going home. At the extremely tidy Toshima (read Toyota) automotive company he finds four robotic human workers who have been praised for recently attaching their millionth rear bumper; learns that women are barred from advancement into management, are temporary workers and the first to be laid off; that workers have a lifetime commitment to the company and therefore their unions always agree with management; and also that any entrepreneurial spirit or idea is thought dishonorable. Cheek by jowl to the noisy factory is a school, since study and work are the same thing in Japan, and this school's motto is Study Sweat Work, teaching repetition, not creativity. And so it goes, with Christopher exposed to ever more stress, tension, and rigid pressure to conform not only in work, education and sports but also in Japanese families and homelife. A wearying oppressiveness stifles Christopher. Back in the States he delivers an eye-opening report with tremendously sensible suggestions. Nobody, of course, wants to believe him and so he leaves to start up his own import-export company. All told, surprisingly valuable and even inspiring. Could take off.