• October 30, 2020
    • April 23, 2022

    What Is the Selling Point of Your Hometown?

    Country towns struggle to survive Do your cities (towns or villages) have taglines? This is not a question as an attention getter (as I often do), but I’m really curious. In Japan, with decrease in population, the number of municipalities is also decreasing. In order to survive, local governments desperately promote their municipalities. Unfortunately, contrary to their desperate efforts, some of the taglines don’t seem to work very well. They sometimes sound funny, even worse. Let me share the taglines of some municipalities to introduce the results of the officials’ hard work. Taglines of country towns Town of Picture Books As I researched, the town explains it’s because someone said the area looked like the countryside in the south of France. I know the explanation doesn’t answer to our question at all. Due to its nonsensical naming (and explanation), it successfully leaves us a big impression on the contrary. Bell-Ringing […]

    • October 27, 2020
    • March 29, 2022

    The Unbearable Lightness of Being

    A disposable worker Today, by writing this article, I try to make a stir in the philosophy of productivity improvement. I know it’s very tiny one, though. When I decided to resign from Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDAF), the title of this article came up and stayed in my mind. After 10-month hell-like training, what awaited me was real hell. My job was just sorting and packing aircraft parts carried on a belt conveyor in a huge automated warehouse. That was so cruel treatment for young me. I was trained to keep on walking even in boots with blood inside for many hours without sleep, but the job easily took away my will to fight. It’s not only because the job was monotonous but because I couldn’t see the whole picture and felt like I was just a small replaceable part of a machine. Productivity VS human dignity In terms […]

    • October 21, 2020
    • April 23, 2022

    Do You Know Wise Frogs in the Well?

    In Japan for these 10 years or more, “the journey of self-discovery” has been very popular especially among young people. A typical pattern is: suddenly quitting a job, going to Machu Picchu (or world famous spiritual sites, in most cases), and showing off such experiences after coming back. As you can see from the ironical tone, I’m not a big fan of such people. I think it’s too pitiful if experience is all that s/he has found as an identity factor even after going all the way to Peru. It’s about time we could break the spell of just seeking for wide experience for identity development. Why the journey of self-discovery becomes popular like this? I think it is because people can easily feel like developing their identities through such experiences. Careful consideration (even not very careful one) calls a reasonable question. Is it such a big deal? It’s not […]

    • October 19, 2020
    • April 23, 2022

    This Is Furniture Made by Homo Sapiens

    I assume many of you have already read the book, “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari. It has been sold more than 12 million copies in the world. It’s a must read for people full of intellectual curiosity like you. Homo sapiens were physically inferior to Neanderthals but won the battle for existence due to the superior ability of communication and cooperation. Before reading the book, I already knew the historical fact but didn’t know much about how our ancestors were superior in those fields. The book clearly answers the question. In short, it is an ability to talk about fiction. That makes us superior. Neanderthals were also able to communicate and share information, but it was only about existing things. We tend to forget it, but it’s very difficult to share information of non-existent things like fiction, mental images, etc. When we develop new products, […]

    • October 16, 2020
    • April 23, 2022

    How to Package Products Beautiful

    Cultural difference in gifting I think many Christmas movies have this kind of scene. Kids are excited at present boxes placed under Christmas tree. They are jumping at the boxes and eagerly tearing off the wrapping paper of their presents. I clearly remember how surprising it was when I saw such a scene for the first time. It’s a bad manner in Japan, but I later learned that people regarded it as a gesture to express a feeling of joy in Wester culture. Japanese rules in gifting On the contrary, it is sometimes thought to be impolite in Japan to open up a gift in front of the gift giver, to say nothing of tearing off wrapping paper. Mind you, it’s not a religious taboo, and won’t be impolite if you ask for permission beforehand. Why is there such a big difference? How was the Japanese rule developed? As I […]

    • October 14, 2020
    • May 16, 2022

    What Do You Work for?

    Investing is more profitable than working No matter how hard we work, we will never be rich, and the gap between rich and poor is widening. This is not my personal feeling but a truth proved by a French genius, Thomas Piketty in his best-selling book, “Capital in the 21st century.” His research revealed a harsh reality—Investing is more profitable than working. Don’t jump the gun. I didn’t mean to incite a worker’s revolution. While highly expecting government to keep income gaps within acceptable limits, we need to re-define the purpose of working. It’s too hard to keep working only for salary, looking sideways at millionaires building up fortunes without working. For a friendship What about a friendship? Don’t you think it could be a good purpose? As it’s rare for Japanese workers, I have changed jobs a couple of times. In addition, when I worked for the government, it […]

    • October 12, 2020
    • April 20, 2022

    Peer Pressure Seen in a Japanese Furniture Factory

    Most of your actions are not done by your free will How many times did you reach for a cup/glass to drink something today? Can you believe that you did it not by your free will but by a biological reaction? It is a well-known fact that 95% of our daily actions are unconscious biological reactions. According to John-Dylan Haynes, a neuroscientist, we decide our daily actions seven seconds before we make up our minds. The good part of this theory is we can justify ourselves in making the same mistake over again. When reading about his experiment for the first time, I was so convinced but now am getting confused. Other decision making factors still look powerful to me. Peer pressure, for example, seems to be stronger especially in Japan. Let me tell you one of them, the “last-piece-of-food rule.” The situation shown in the above image is not […]

    • October 9, 2020
    • April 23, 2022

    How Do We the Japanese People Abosorb Other Cultures?

    Japanese Christmas and Haloween If asked to say the best word to express the Japanese culture, I would say it should be “adaptation.” We are very good at cream skimming in culture. Let me give you an interesting example. Do you know the percentage of the Christian population in Japan? It’s only 1 percent. Even in such a country, Christmas is a huge event. The economic effect amounts to about 6.5 billion USD! That of Halloween is also hiking up to more than 1 billion USD. As some of you may have seen it on the news, many Japanese young people dress up in disguise and go crazy in Tokyo on Halloween night these days. Beef to wagyu Japanese people sometimes absorb and evolve foreign cultures into our owns independently. A good example is “Wagyu,” Japanese marbled beef. In Japan, eating meat had been officially prohibited for about 1200 years […]

    • October 7, 2020
    • May 16, 2022

    Red Pill or Blue Pill? This Is Your Last Chance

    Lies VS truth The new Prime Minister took office in Japan last month (September, 2020). He was the most unpopular candidate early this year, but now boasts a high approval rate of more than 70%. I think this is a good example to explain the power of an advertisement. It shows how easily advertisement manipulates people’s impression, in other words. One of the secrets behind his popularity is a fiction made up by advertising agents. They advertised he had been born to a poor farm family and attended university while working. Lies and truths are well mixed in this story. Truth about the Japanese Prime Minister The truth is he was not born in adversity. His family is a farmer wealthy enough to send three children to private universities. It’s definitely judged to be quite wealthy according to Japanese standards. And also, it is said that he is a hereditary […]

    • October 5, 2020
    • April 23, 2022

    Do You Know the Essence of Washoku, Japanese Food?

    Respect for nature UNESCO listed washoku (Japanese traditional cuisine) as an Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2013. I think many Japanese people seem to misunderstand the key point of the event. They may be bragging and saying “Sushi gets popular throughout the world!” but UNESCO is not the Michelin Guide. Washoku was registered because “it is associated with an essential spirit of respect for nature that is closely related to the sustainable use of natural resources.” I think this comment of UNESCO well expresses the Japanese culture. Respect for natural resources We Japanese say “Itadakimasu” before meal with our hands clasped. The word is often translated as “Let’s eat,” but the true meaning is completely different. That means I’m sorry for taking your life and appreciate your sacrifice. When kids leave even one grain of rice in the bowl, mothers scold them “You’ll lose your sight!” My mother, of course, always […]