• February 26, 2021
    • September 26, 2022

    Japan’s Overwork Problem: How the Problem Occurs

    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
    • September 16, 2022

    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
    • September 25, 2022

    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.” 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 […]

    • September 23, 2020
    • October 3, 2022

    Japanese Cultural Exploration: You Will Want to Eat Japanese School Lunch

    Japanese good manners trained in school lunch As I wrote 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 visiting the full article on our blog. It’s just a part of normal daily life, 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. A homeroom teacher and students eat together in a class […]

    • September 21, 2020
    • October 3, 2022

    Japanese Cultural Exploration: We Are into the Woods in Japan

    Necessity is the mother of geographical characteristics As you can see it in the above left image, Japan is a country of backward parking. Even speeding drivers follow the rule. Do you know why that is? Some people outside Japan may think there’s no difference between forward and backward parking. It may look like putting off trouble later or not, but actually there’s a big difference. In the first place, if it’s just a matter of personal preference, the ratio should be nearly fifty-fifty. The fact is very simple. It’s easier to park backward in a small country like Japan. I don’t explain here the details why backward parking is easier in a small area, but it is clear from the fact that forklift trucks required to turn in a small radius are rear-wheel steering. Japan is a forest country I may have been misleading you in the above paragraph. […]

    • September 2, 2020
    • October 2, 2022

    Japanese Cultural Exploration: Take a Hint, Difficult Communication Skills Even for the Japanese People

    Kyoto language is too difficult even for most of the Japanese people Japan is basically a monolingual country. Most Japanese people can’t even speak English. In other words, we can communicate only in Japanese anywhere in Japan, but there’s one exception: It’s Kyoto. As most of you may know, it’s the ancient capital of Japan. No offense if you originate from Kyoto, but Kyoto people are often said to be snobbish and still believe Kyoto is the center of Japan. This is a stereotypical idea many Japanese people outside of Kyoto have in their minds, and I’m sure it’s generally truthful. Making matters worse, their language is too difficult. It’s not about their accent or dialect. In Kyoto, we’re always required to understand the implication of their words. Let me give you some examples. Concealing true intentions is ancient wisdom for Kyoto people to survive If your kids are running […]

    • 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 24, 2020
    • September 17, 2022

    “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 […]

    • June 1, 2020
    • September 21, 2022

    The Background of Product Development: How to Make a Chair #1

    The long-selling chair was born unexpectedly This is a story about one of our long-selling chairs, of which name is “Golfer.” You will find it in the line from the rear leg to the backrest. The back part of the chair frame looks like a golf club when it’s seen from the side. That is the reason why the chair was named Golfer. Funnily enough, the design of our long-selling chair came from a rough sketch drawn by a new girl in our factory. A new face inspired the veteran craftsman In the very early days of the company, the management always seeked the ideas and designs of new products from the staff members. One day, a rough sketch caught the attention of our founder and reminded him of his training period. When studying furniture manufacturing in Germany, he saw the chair at a furniture shop. It was one of […]