• August 31, 2020
    • September 21, 2022

    Over-Engineering Problems: Most of the Japanese Companies Go Too Far

    Using a chainsaw to cut butter The above words are a wise saying by Barry Commoner, an American biologist, to express the inefficiency of nuclear power generation. By the way, this topic is not about energy policies; don’t worry. I interpret the point of his saying is adequacy rather than efficiency. In terms of adequacy, our production may have a problem. I think it would be quality that best features our products. Sometimes we have faced requests or advice, like “It’d be better to sacrifice quality a little bit to save costs.” Indeed, our production sometimes goes excessive: making a flush surface even in out-of-sight parts, for example. We are always too serious to be sloppy and may have to be a little more permissive. For example, the only 20-second delay of a train is subject to apology here in Japan, and we’re surprised to see it is reported overseas […]

    • August 26, 2020
    • October 13, 2022

    Japanese Culture and Traditions: The Design Concept of Old Temples in Japan

    Horyuji temple, the world’s oldest wooden building The above image is Horyuji temple in Nara prefecture. Did you know it was the world’s oldest wooden building? It was built in 607 and is registered as UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. As many of you know that, Japan is a country of earthquake. As you can imagine, it’s a harsh environment especially for wooden buildings. Actually, the average lifetime of current residential buildings is about 30 years in Japan. That is much shorter than that of US (around 100 years) and UK (around 150 years), for example. Let’s see why Horyuji temple can exceptionally exist for such a long time. The secrets of old temples in Japan There are mainly two reasons for that. One is its earthquake-proof structure. The joints of the building frame were designed to be flexible to reduce the shaking force of earthquakes. Many researchers were surprised by […]

    • August 24, 2020
    • October 21, 2022

    Marketing Tips: “Made in Japan” Back with the Weaker Yen

    The 30-year long deflation in Japan Last year, I went to Germany, China, US, India, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Taiwan. Such many business trips overseas help me see Japan more clearly. One of the biggest discoveries I recently had about Japan is “the price of things is comparably cheaper.” Let me show you the evidence. Japan is the third biggest country in GDP but ranked 23rd in the World Big Mac Price Ranking (Jan 2019). MacDonald’s Japan might make bigger efforts, but it’s true that we have many other choices for lunch only for 5 dollars here in Japan.   Japanese people get too used to no price rise The huge bubble burst in 1991, and the Japanese economy completely collapsed. The era after the bubble burst was once called “Lost two decades” but now becomes “three decades”. No worries. I don’t mean to detail […]

    • August 19, 2020
    • October 13, 2022

    Economic Psychology Trivia: The Internet Narrows Your View

    The bounds of human imagination Do you think you can create an imaginary creature which is completely different from existing ones in this world? A unicorn looks like a subspecies of horse; a dragon is just a big lizard with wings. You see? They are imaginary but not so creative creatures. I think this question well expresses the bounds of human imagination. It’s very difficult or almost impossible for us even to imagine something we’ve never known. Today’s topic is a trap we’re likely to encounter in this information overload era. Echo chamber enhanced by the Internet When I was a college student, it always took time to write essays because I had to struggle with many books for evidence. Now, Google can make surveillance more quickly and accurately. It’s definitely true we can easily get much more information on the internet, but here is a trap we need to […]

    • August 5, 2020
    • October 13, 2022

    Marketing Tips: More People Are Willing to Pay for ESG

    Differentiation doesn’t work any more Differentiation in value is no longer a determinant factor for survival in the current harsh market because people basically choose something not for its value but for its meaning. This is the point I made in the newsletter last week. Today, I want to dig this subject a little more deeper. A woman in the thumbnail image is the CEO of a biotechnology venture company that raises flies. They are not normal flies but thoroughbred ones quickly changing livestock excreta to fertilizer. She says enthusiastically their biotechnology will solve world food crisis and organic waste problems at a time. I believe the company is one of the top unicorn companies on which many Japanese investors have eyes. This is not only because a great growth can be expected but also because many people find social value in it.   We need something more than material […]

    • August 3, 2020
    • December 13, 2022

    How to Design Furniture, Michael Schneider #2

      This time, Michael talks about how product designs would change according to the changes in the market, especially about changes due to the recent rise of subscription and sharing businesses. Michael Schneider: I assume that subscription and sharing businesses will expand further in the furniture market. People will rent even pieces of furniture for a certain period of time. They will go back to factories for refurbishment and again be sent out to other users. This cycle could go on and on until they eventually go out of fashion or break. We will make furniture on the premise of continual refurbishment and changes in ownership. Accordingly, designers would have to focus more on efficiency in order to make production, packaging, and delivery easier. Despite such a trend, some of the current mainstream furniture will remain, patronized by people who appreciate true authentic value. Take Karl Lagerfeld for example. He had […]