Archive for category Japan

Nov
16

Browsing through the spam harvest

Posted by on Tuesday, 16 November, 2010


So as I said yesterday, having left this site unattended for a few months, had left quite a few spam comments through the spam filter. Yes, Spam Karma is a bit outdated, but it still captures most of it. I did however activate Akismet today as a compliment, to see if we can get down to even lower figures.

Anyway, I was then browsing through the spam harvest for fun, and I found some really WTF comments in there. Here are some examples (sorry for the poor image quality):

And then these two, from the same source, right after each other: (Make up your minds!)

Well well… Let’s see what these imaginitive people come up with next.

Nov
15

iPhone losing market share in Japan

Posted by on Monday, 15 November, 2010

For someone working in the mobile phone industry (oh wait, that’s not the hip way to call it anymore – we’re in the Information Communication Technology industry) it seems I’ve not kept up with trends here in Japan lately. I was under the impression that Softbank, with their exclusive distribution deal with Apple, had the Smartphone market at its knees in a permanent submissive state. I thought that the iPhone 4 was the almighty ruler of the high end cellphone market in Japan ever since it’s launch earlier this year.

While reports like Android Sales Overtake iPhone in the US and …Android Revenue Eclipses iPhone have drifted before my eyes when browsing the tech writers throughout the Internet, I was thinking that here Japan, there were basically only three Smartphones available, and iPhone was the undoubted king of the hill.

Yes, indeed it was so, back when that above statement was true (iPhone, Blackberry & Xperia), but as you can see from Japanese mobile phone traffic data presented by Trend Research last week: already when Sony-Ericsson’s Xperia was launched by Docomo in the Spring, the iPhone’s dominance started to crumble. The text is all in Japanese I’m afraid, but I’ll give you a breakdown of what the graphs represent:

The first graph shows total Pageviews by operator (regardless of device) – Pink is NTT Docomo, yellow is au, and blue is Softbank. Docomo is the overall leader with au and Softbank fighting for second place.

The second graph shows pageviews by devices classified as smartphones. It’s interesting to note the data in April, June-July, and September of this year in particular. Q: What happened in April, that made Docomo gain that much on Softbank? A: Xperia launched. Q: What happened in June/July? A: iPhone 4 launched. Q: What about October? A: First Android phone from au (by Sharp) and Samsung Galaxy (by Docomo) were launched.

Now, the interesting part is looking at Softbank in this case. They have been losing quite a lot of their initial market share in this high end space. The iPhone has also been their only Smartphone and simply been an “Apple Distributor” for a long time, to put it bluntly. Looking at the latest product roadmap from Softbank gives a completely different, much more interesting, picture:

Softbank Smartphone Lineup (This is of course a dynamic page, so the text I write here describes the situation as of today, November 15)

Note that the iPhone is not even mentioned on the “Softbank Smartphone” lineup page. (It still has a very prominent position above all other phone types on the main product page, of course.) They now have six models (some are not launched yet, though) and all are Android! There are two Sharps, one HTC, one Dell (!) and then two which I haven’t identified the manufacturer of yet (mind you, I haven’t put so much effort into it).

au as a comparison also have six models out of which all except one is Android (last one in Windows).

Docomo have 11 models (including the Galaxy Tab from Samsung) where all but three are Android (I could be wrong here, their web page is not that clear).

All in all, what is my point? Well, it’s going to be an interesting Smartphone market here in Japan going forward – much more than I expected, as there is no one single dominant player right now. Although the elephant in the room is now Google, with an ever gaining share of the Smartphones’ OS here. Looking forward to follow how the market develops!

Apr
19

Tokyo iPhone Tilt-Shift Photos

Posted by on Monday, 19 April, 2010

Tilt-Shift Cherry Blossoms
The guy who writes the blog Tokyotimes published some interesting Tilt-Shift photos on his site the other day. You might remember from a past post that I love those kind of shots.

Worth noting in this case though, is that they are all taken (and post-processed) with an iPhone! Mighty impressive work if you ask me.

Here are the link to his photostream: Tokyotimes posterous

Apr
18

Sitting at the window ledge – the madogiwa-zoku

Posted by on Sunday, 18 April, 2010

Sitting by the window
Generally speaking, getting fired from a Japanese company is virtually impossible. Although, I do want to stress that due to the recent worldwide economic downturn, even Japanese companies have changed a bit in that sense. I do believe though, that when we see an upturn again and the Japanese economy gets better, most companies will fall back to their traditional post-war economic boom ways of working again…

Anyway, back to my original point – due to many factors, people don’t tend to get fired from Japanese companies, instead they get pushed aside and placed at “the window ledge” (madogiwa – 窓際) – the term for these workers are “window ledge tribe” (madogiwazoku – 窓際族). What is means in reality is that they get placed somewhere in the company where they don’t get in the way, don’t get any work to do, but still receive salary. They are completely frozen out of the community and by their peers, leading to either a) they leave the company voluntarily, or b) they stick it out until the bitter end (i.e. retirement, as there is no, absolutely no, way back into the warm company family). There is of course a c) as well – although it’s very drastic and I would hope that it’s decreased recently, and that is the suicide option. Being placed by the window ledge can mean so great shame to a person that he/she feels that taking his/her own life is the only option.

Now an important note about being placed by the window ledge – in most cases it’s less about being an unskilled person and more about being problematic and “not fitting in.” Common reasons for being relegated to the “tribe” are:

  • Having upset some important person at work
  • Being disliked by coworkers
  • Cannot work well together with co-workers
  • and of course, last but not least

  • Being a hopeless fool who can’t do any work

Of course, apart from the above signs of not fitting in and thereby being moved to the side – historically it was perhaps not such a dramatic affair. Due to the traditional, post-war corporate style of giving everyone life-time employment as well as pay & titles based on seniority, it was a rather natural next step for people around middle management who did not seem fit for top management, but had “paid their dues” and could not be fired, but kept their nice title and paycheck and was sort of “pre-retired” to the window ledge.

After the economic bubble of post-war Japan burst in the late 80’s, it obviously became more difficult for companies to retain “madogiwa-zoku.” Three different approaches have emerged since then which are preferred by companies in a bit of an economic squeeze, and they are: (1) re-education or similar activities to increase productivity of unproductive workers, (2) outplacement to subsidiaries or other companies, and (3) foreign-style pre-retirement packages. I will go out on a limb here and say that option (3) is a very recent addition to Japanese companies management of unneeded staff, and probably still is almost unheard of. Even in international companies acting in Japan, “coaching out” unproductive staff by giving them a package is seen as something inherently strange and all other options will evaluated until taking that option.

Photo by rambingrovers

Jan
04

2008 – The Year of the O-Warai

Posted by on Sunday, 4 January, 2009

Audrey

We’re in the middle of a huge O-Warai (大笑い i.e. “Big Laugh”, meaning comedy usually in stand-up/skit form) boom which has continued basically since sometime in 2007 when the likes of Kojima Oshio (Oppapi) and Harisenbon. It seems that what Japanese people like to do the most is to laugh; because there seems to be no end to this boom. At the end of last summer at least I thought that the quality of comedy in Japan was stalling; there were no great new acts coming on to the scene, and the people who had broken onto the comedy scene earlier that year seemed to go nowhere… I felt that the boom was over; but then something happened and we saw some extremely great acts shoot up onto the scene: Audrey (see picture above), Naname 45 (Tsugi wa Kanda desu!), Wagaya (Iwaseneeyo!), Hibiki (Senpaaaaai!), Mono-ii (Chigauka?), King of Comedy (Daifanmitaina!), Joyman (Here we go, here we go!) etc. etc.

Basically there is one TV show that feeds the comedy scene with good acts, and that is Bakusho Red Carpet which currently shows here on Wednesday evenings. The concept is simple, bring on fresh comedy acts to do short stand-up/skit comedy. Basically each act has about 1-3 minutes to perform their act, so it needs to be explosively funny. Then they are ranked by a jury of celebrities on a scale from “Small Laugh”, “Medium Laugh”, “Big Laugh” and “Perfect Score Big Laugh”. Each night, one jury member chooses the top performer who gets a small award. Somehow, this TV show gets all the good new acts, and as the popularity of the show has skyrocketed, comedy veterans now also often feature on the show intermingled with the recurring fresh young acts.

Red Carpet is about 1000 times better than the closest rival show in the same genre, Enta no Kamisama which has a simple concept, comedy acts perform in front of a studio audience. Somehow they manage to only find the most boring and ridiculous acts, although on some shows, sprinkled in between the losers are some of the great acts that got their break on Red Carpet.

There is one more hugely brilliant comedy show, and that is “The Iromonea” which is a competion-style comedy show, where comedians fight their way through five levels, each featuring a different style of comedy they must perform, and if they get the audience to laugh (3 out of 5 randomly selected audience members must laugh on level 1-4, and all 5 must laugh on the last level) they move on to the next level, can can ultimately win 1 million Yen if they clear the fifth stage. This show used to be a sort of boy’s club for the already comedic elite, with seasoned veterans only participating, but with the success of new comedy acts recently, they have introduced a sort of qualification round part of the show, where new comedy acts go through similar trials and have to get a jury of celebrities to laugh on three consecutive tries to be able to qualify for the “real” part of the show and compete for the money. This show is also pure brilliance! It’s awesome to see people squirm during the last few seconds of their performance when they are desperately trying to get that sorry son of a bitch in the audience to laugh who seems to think nothing they pull out of their comedic repertoire is funny!

Anyway, to sum up, I used to think Japanese comedy was pretty lame. I guess it had something to do with not understanding fast-talking Manzai-acts (I still don’t catch all the puns), but there was also too many un-interesting comedy acts which had ridiculous shtick like Ed Harumi (I can’t stand her), Daita Hikaru, Moody Katsuyama, DJ Tiger Lee etc. whose acts basically consists of bad rhymes, boring jokes and some kind of funny sound or saying that they repeat until it just gets nauseating.

However, since last year, I’ve become a huge fan and it seems like this boom will continue for yet some time. I guess nothing gets you through an economic recession like a good laugh!