Business: The Japanese Sandmen

In the middle of a gloomy, unheated factory building in Yokohama, a group of Japanese and American businessmen solemnly lined up last week behind a white-robed Shinto priest and faced a bright orange-colored power shovel. Waving branches of the sakaki (sacred tree) before a makeshift altar, the priest intoned: "On this felicitous occasion, we pray for the continued magnanimity of the gods in showing favor to this undertaking."

With this ceremony, the first of a new line of earthmovers, excavators and powered dump cars came off the assembly line in Japan. If the gods...

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