• September 25, 2020
    • September 21, 2022

    Why Do People Take Off Shoes in House in Japan?

    Even if the shoe fits, take it off inside the house When going in the house, we take off shoes almost unconsciously. It’s very natural for us, like breathing. I’ve never even thought why that is, but it seems there are many curious people trying to find out the reason.  According to them: 1. It’s because the climate of Japan is high temperature and humidity; 2. It’s because of the Japanese unique culture to divide the world into in- and out-group; 3. It’s because of the Japanese unique culture to sleep on the floor.  The first one doesn’t answer why that is peculiar to Japan. The second one sounds reasonable but is remotely related. The third one has aroused my interest most. According to the third reason, we take off shoes inside the house to keep the floor clean because we sleep on the floor. My intellectual curiosity is stimulated, and I started […]

    • 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 18, 2020
    • October 3, 2022

    Japanese Cultural Exploration: Free from What Others Think?

    Can we free ourselves from other people’s values? Martin Luther said “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” The words first reminded me of wall paintings in Lascaux Cave where Cro-Magnon people tried to express themselves without expecting someone else to see. Martin Luther and Cro-Magnon people taught me that we can free ourselves from other people’s values. Having said that, I still wear neat clothes outside; so ragged ones at home that even Cro-Magnon people would be surprised to see me at home. Their lessons don’t seem to be enough for my independence in clothes choice, but the IT revolution might finally free me. We come to judge each other by online information Less and less people wear neckties. I think the CEOs of the big IT companies, such as Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, etc. might be […]

    • September 16, 2020
    • October 3, 2022

    Japanese Cultural Exploration: Big Brother Is Always Watching You in Japan

    A popular Japanese joke On a ship with people from various countries, you’re the first to notice the ship is sinking. What to say to make the people escape and jump in the water? To American people: “Jump, and you’ll be a hero!” To British people: “A true gentleman/lady would jump.” To French people: “Do not jump!” To German people: “The regulations say we must jump.” To Japanese people: “Everybody else has already jumped.” This is a very famous joke in Japan. I think it expresses one of the Japanese characteristics very well. In most junior-high and high schools, teachers tell us to behave the same as everybody else. At home, parents scold their kids, saying “No one would do something like that!” The only exception is when they beg for the same things as their friends have. If kids say “I want a new bicycle. My friend had one […]

    • 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 19, 2020
    • September 21, 2022

    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 […]

    • July 8, 2020
    • September 22, 2022

    Where to Visit in Japan: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Imperial Hotel

    The hotel was intact even after the Great Kanto Earthquake The Imperial Hotel was built in 1923, demolished in 1967. Only the entrance is still left as a museum in a small city in Aichi prefecture, far away from Tokyo where it was built. In order to make it the best hotel in Asia, the hotel company placed an order for Frank Lloyd Wright to design it. The name of the architect is one of the big factors for the building to go down in history like this, but there’s another big factor. On the very day of unveiling the hotel, the Great Kanto Earthquake hit Tokyo and claimed more than 140000 lives. Surprisingly enough, however, the hotel remained intact in such an unprecedented disaster. God in the decorations I visited the museum sometimes when I lived near the small city where the museum is located. What impressed me first […]