CATEGORY

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    • April 2, 2021
    • October 14, 2022

    Japanese Culture and Traditions: Ambiguous Expressions as a Courtesy

    No absolute justice S/he once sharply criticized the government. After winning the election, s/he comes to repeat ambiguous remarks and looks like losing her/his former self. I’m sure you’ve seen this kind of change of mind. You may feel betrayed and think “I could always achieve social justice.” I didn’t mean to defend all the politicians, but believe most of them are not faithless. First of all, there’s no such thing as absolute justice or evil. Indeed, it is right to pursue the greatest happiness for the greatest number in utilitarianism, but the tyranny of the majority sometimes hurts the minority so deep that people can’t coexist after confrontation. In a sense, decent politicians are meant to be ambiguous. Ambiguity as an ancient wisdom In terms of ambiguity, I believe Japanese people are second to none in the world. Majority vote is rarely adopted in a company meeting. Even company […]

    • March 29, 2021
    • October 27, 2022

    The Past Era of Craftsmanship: How Godzilla Was Created (Nissan GT-R)

    Nostalgia for monster cars Nissan GT-R (R32), Mercedes Benz 500E. These monster cars were born in around the same time (around 1990). When I was a teenager, my friend’s father owned them both, and they sometimes gave me a drive. I will never forget the impression I had when riding in the cars for the first time. The start-dash of GT-R was just violent, though it was not normal but souped-up to more than 700 HP. I felt like being in a vault when riding in 500E. As it may sound like nostalgia from an old-timer, I don’t think such legendary cars will never be made again. In 90’s, car makers could spend more budget on product development, and legal restrictions (crash safety, environmental conservation, etc) were much less. I know social conditions have changed a lot since then, but the root of the reason why I’m dissatisfied lies somewhere […]

    • March 25, 2021
    • September 26, 2022

    How to Build Pyramids: The Revelation of the Pyramids

    The pyramid construction is a public project to create employment It only took 20 years to make the pyramid of King Khufu by using many slaves. Is there anyone who still believes all this? Some decades ago, the Japanese biggest construction company (Obayashi Corporation) seriously calculated and estimated the construction period. Even if they tried with all their resources without limitation, it would take 5 years! I always thought the above fake legend of the pyramid construction would be too short time for people from about 4500 years ago. Think about it for a second. Don’t you think pyramids are too high-quality for low-morale workforces like slaves without heavy machines? In my opinion, the construction of the pyramids would be a super-long-term public project to create employment and to enhance the national prestige. In fact, it’s not my own unique view but becomes one of the common theories these days, […]

    • March 16, 2021
    • October 14, 2022

    Japanese Craftsmanship: Chairs Upholstered with Japan Blue Jeans (Okayama denim)

    Japanese natural indigo Indigo is a dye extracted from a plant. As Jeans may be a synonym for indigo, it was once used to dye fabric all over the world, not only in Japan. You may think most of the jeans are still dyed in indigo blue. Nowadays, in most cases, it’s an artificial dye because natural indigo is difficult to handle. It requires a delicate adjustment according to the day’s temperature, moisture, etc. In exchange for the difficulty, the natural indigo of Japan provides more beautiful and deeper coloring. Japanese natural indigo has a long history Japan blue. Some of you may have heard this color name because it’s the signature color of the Tokyo Olympic Games. As having looked up the origin of the name, I’ve found it is Robert William Atkinson, a British chemist who named it. The Japanese government invited him to Japan in 1875. He […]

    • March 4, 2021
    • September 26, 2022

    How to Run Small Businesses in Japan: Kaizen in Japanese Companies

    Small and medium enterprises are lower in productivity? In Japan, most of the small and medium enterprises (SME) like us may disappear in the near future. The SME Basic Act defines SME are companies with a capital of less than 300 million JPY or with the number of employees less than 300. According to the definition, 99.7% of the companies in Japan are categorized in SME. Soon after the change of government last year, the current prime minister organized an advisory board, and has implemented economic policies based on the advice of the board. The board members always treat SME like an enemy. They claim SME are the main cause of low productivity, though I strongly object to it. The cause and effect are reversed They always bring up a gap in wages in order to substantiate the low productivity of SME. I admit there’s a wage gap by company […]

    • March 1, 2021
    • October 14, 2022

    Japanese Culture and Traditions: How Japanese Chopstics Are Unique and Different

    Japanese chopsticks are unique One of the difficulties I have to face when going abroad is table manners. Among other things, it’s difficult for me to eat without chopsticks. How can you eat a lettuce salad only with a fork? I’m always frightened, worried if lettuce leaves may flip and dressing may splatter on my shirt. Even if it’s in Asia, things are still difficult. I can’t hold noodles with Korean chopsticks, for example. By the time I finish a noodle dish in Korea, my shirt will have a psychedelic pattern. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not so bad at using chopsticks. I feel invincible when I use my chopsticks. Japanese chopsticks are different in shape, material, etc. from those used in other countries in Asia. Fingers, a spoon, or chopsticks The world can be divided into three regions by table manners: 40% of people eat by fingers; 30% by […]

    • February 26, 2021
    • October 14, 2022

    Japanese Culture and Traditions: How Japan’s Overtime Problems Occur

    Karoshi, death from overwork It’s very difficult to summarize this problem briefly because it is so deep-rooted. Are you ready to gaze into abyss? The Japan government has started frequently using the word “Work style reform” since 2015. Sadly, a new girl working in the top advertising firm committed suicide due to overwork that year. Her average overtime hours were reported to exceed 100 hours a month. That is almost the same as that of mine when I worked in the Ministry of Finance. The painful sad news made many people including me think “That could be me.” Even now, about 300 deaths from overwork are reported annually. Japanese employment systems I believe this is a structural problem, stemming from the structure of employment systems in Japan. Although the structure is gradually breaking down, the basics of employment systems are still the same. It is a set of these two […]

    • October 16, 2020
    • October 12, 2022

    Japanese Culture and Traditions: How to Make Beautiful Packaging

    Cultural difference in gifting I think many Christmas movies have this kind of scene. Kids are excited at present boxes placed under a 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 Western 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 […]

    • October 9, 2020
    • December 7, 2022

    Japanese Culture and Traditions: A Blend of Many Cultures in Japan

    Japanese Christmas and Haloween If asked to say the best word to express the Japanese culture, I would say it should be “adaptation.” I believe we Japanese people 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. From 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 […]

    • September 23, 2020
    • October 25, 2022

    Japanese Culture and Traditions: You Will Want to Eat Japanese School Lunch

    Japanese good manners trained in school lunch As I wrote about an inconvenient truth of Japan in last article, I’m going to write something good today. It’s about Japanese school lunch. I happened to find that a YouTube video about Japanese school lunch is buzzing for people outside Japan. Surprisingly enough, it’s got more than 28 million views! Please do check out the video after reading this article. It’s just a part of normal daily life of Japanese school kids. It’s nothing special for us, but I learned from feedback comments for the video that viewers had found some good points about Japan. School lunch is one of the school subjects In the first place, I need to explain a little about Japanese school lunch. In most elementary and junior high schools in Japan, lunch is served fresh off each school kitchen. Of course, professional dietitians prepare the menu, which […]