CATEGORY

culture

    • March 18, 2021
    • September 26, 2022

    Typical Japanese Office Environment Has Changed with the Times

    Changes due to remote work Do we still need an office? This discussion gets lively everywhere because remote work becomes common due to the COVID. The anti-office people are arguing there’re many advantages: productivity improvement by concentration improvement; more effective use of time by no commuting; stress-free from relationships at work. Before the COVID, I had a lot of business trips and was rarely in the office. Funnily enough, I once worked remotely but now work here in the office, against the times. Let me share what I, unfamiliar with working in the office for a long time, think about the discussion. The basic rules of typical Japanese offices In the first place, I think I should explain something more about the basic rules of typical Japanese offices. Executive desks are positioned at the window, closely facing to their team members. Private rooms are rare, only permitted for big bosses […]

    • March 16, 2021
    • September 22, 2022

    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
    • September 26, 2022

    The Uniqueness of Japanese Chopsticks: How Japanese Chopstics Are 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
    • 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 […]

    • February 18, 2021
    • September 29, 2022

    Good Money Sense: How to Spend Money Wisely

    We have to develop money sense It is common for me to lose (rare to make) thousands of dollars a day in the stock market. On the other hand, I sometimes give up buying cereal only because it doesn’t sell at a bargain price, though eating it almost every morning. I once bought a suit at more than 2,000 USD but hardly ever wore it. This may be a natural result for a man like me who always wear UNIQLO (synonym for cheap clothes in Japan) from head to toe at home. Spending money seems as difficult as making it. Today’s subject is “How to spend money correctly.” Let me share an interesting paper by Harvard psychologists. Buy experiences instead of things “Money can’t buy happiness. This sentiment is lovely, popular, and almost certainly wrong.” One of the coauthors, Daniel Gilbert started the paper with such a sensational introduction, proposing […]

    • January 4, 2021
    • September 25, 2022

    Tidy Up to Spark Joy!

    The scent of the Sun I was so surprised when learning that it is prohibited to hang the laundry outside in some places overseas. We, Japanese people really like to hang the laundry under the sun light. Japanese climate of high humidity is said to be the main reason of it. Recently, more washing machines come to have a drying function. Even so, most Japanese people would still prefer hanging the laundry outside, saying they like to smell the scent of the sun. I completely agree. The scent of towels and bed linen hung outside reminds me of younger days in bright summer. However, there’s one thing I can’t abide about washing. It’s folding the laundry. What is the point of it all? We have to unfold clothes to put them on. It seems irrational, meaningless, and a waste of time. To fold or not to fold My above statement […]

    • 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 30, 2020
    • October 3, 2022

    Japanese Cultural Exploration: The Secrets of Japanese Food to Enrich Your Daily Meal

    Make life happy without money Do you believe money can’t buy you love? I may be too old to believe in such a naïve world as the Beatles sang. According to Daniel Kahneman, a genius winning a Nobel Prize in 2002, money can buy you happiness. No rush. I didn’t mean like “Hey look! There’s nothing more to life than money!” His point is nothing like that. His words continued, “as long as your annual income is less than 75,000 dollars.” He raised a serious problem for us. The more we get paid, the more likely we are to lose an ability to enjoy life. Money is not omnipotent. Let’s learn from the wisdom of our ancestors to make life happy without relation to money. Simple food on well-thought-out dishes Before the COVID pandemic, I flew around the world. The business trips taught me many unique points of Japan. Most […]