Archive for category Japan

Mar
14

Frustrations in Japan Part 3 – Business Meetings

Posted by on Tuesday, 14 March, 2006

Meeting Room

There was an article a few weeks ago over at 43 Folders on how to make your business meetings more productive. It was a good read, but I realized how different meeting culture is in Japan visavi the Western world. The tips presented would not have had the desired effect over here, and that is why I will give you some pointers on Japanese business meetings.

1. Instead of looking at a meeting as a forum for discussion of certain topics, look at the meeting as a lecture and presentation of results. There will be limited (if any) discussion during the meeting; most people except to be given a presentation by the meeting organizer that requires little active participation.

2. Don’t expect answers to any difficult (or easy for that matter) questions during the meeting. If you ask questions, you will be met with silence or perhaps answers that merely avoid the topic. Ask your questions before the meeting in private with the people involved; preferably communicate your questions to the relevant people a few days in advance so they can think through their answers and give it to you before the meeting.

3. In relation to (2), it is a good idea to always schedule invidiual pre-meetings before a big meeting – that way you will make sure you get to hear everyone’s opinion (because people rarely speak up in big meetings).

4. Don’t be impatient! If you are forced to ask questions during the meeting, and you are met with silence, this is a signal that the respondent needs time. In Japan, people let others take their time to think through the subject/question thoroughly. Do not try to put words in people’s mouths in order to quickly get an answer.

5. If your meeting is with external people, be sure to treat them with utter respect, especially if your meeting clients/customers. Remember the unwritten rules of seating; the visitors should sit as far away from the door as possible. Note the order they sit in, the most senior person will often sit in the middle, with rank going down as you move further out from the center of the table. Always be careful with any business cards you receive – do not shove them in your back pocket or use them as coasters etc., the business card is an extension of one’s person and thus requires the same respect as the person him/herself.

6. In Japan it is accepted to have cell phones turn on during a meeting – if you receive an important phone call, it is OK for you to excuse yourself and take the call.

7. People will sleep in meetings if they think they are not directly connected to the topics of discussion – if the people you are meeting are sleeping, ignore it; if your own people are sleeping, do not make a scene during the meeting, take it up with the person in question in private after the meeting.

Those were some quick pointers that will help you through Japanese meetings; there are many more things to think about, but that will do for now I think. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask me. Perhaps I will post a follow-up in a while too if I get enough new ideas.

Mar
09

On Slowly Becoming Japanese

Posted by on Thursday, 9 March, 2006

Azrael over at Outpost Nine (I’m a Japanese School Teacher) ponders over how he is slowly turning Japanese in that he has been gradually desensitized to the pecularities of Japanese society and no longer thinks anything of it. It’s a hilarous read, especially if you have been here a few years yourself. Check out Az’ I Think I’m Becoming Japanese, here are some outtakes:

— You know, Japan has four seasons. How about your country?

— Everything must be explained in thorough detail. Even if I already know it. Even if it’s something that has been the same since the mud dropped from the spear of the Gods and created the island nation of Japan…it still must be explained. Twice. Then, I must give my impressions about it.

— Monday is a public holiday? Woo-hoo! Two-day weekend!

Reading this editorial I realize that maybe I’m turning Japanese myself… You know, I actually DO enjoy some of those shows on TV were celebrities sit around and talk and eat food! I don’t know about the penis grabbing the the p*rn reading on trains though, Az, but that’s just me I guess… 😉

Mar
06

Softbank to buy Vodafone Japan?

Posted by on Monday, 6 March, 2006

This weekend saw some interesting developments in the Japanese cell phone market; apparently, Vodafone and Softbank are in talks regarding the possible sale of Vodafone’s Japanese operations to Softbank.

This is interesting on many levels, and although I really haven’t thought about it and made up my mind on what this will mean for everyone involved, these are my first thoughts about it:

– Softbank recently was given a new 3G license by the Japanese government to start up their own mobile phone service in Japan. If they now buy one of the original license holders, where does that leave the competitive situation? One of the reasons for giving out new licenses was to increase competion – the net effect of this deal is that we will only get one new major player in this market, not two as orignally planned. Will the government give out a new license to someone else?

– NTT DoCoMo and au (KDDI) should be scared by this news – they have been rather safe in the Japanese market for a while with Vodafone never putting up any serious competition, and personally I do not see eMobile (another new license-holder) being a big threat to the major players. Softbank was always the big threat to the other companies, but especially so for Vodafone who was the smallest in the market. If Softbank and Vodafone joins together, Softbank gets a quick start to its business and can move rapidly ahead with its presumed plans to revolutionize the cell phone market in Japan (at least that’s what everyone is hoping for/worrying about).

– I don’t want to be blunt, but I say this deal is also the beginning of the end to Vodafone (you read it here first, remember that). Whereas I see many positive comments about this in the news, I cannot see anything positive about this in the long run for Vodafone. Basically they are saying “we are not smart enough to be competitive in Japan, so we are quitting” – Japan is the most important cell phone market in the world, for crying out loud! It is a test bed for nearly all major technological innovations within the mobile phone market, and they are simply stepping out. Vodafone has lost its ability to grow organically, and where they find themselves in a bind, they leave (they sold their local company in Sweden too, a while ago). Mark my words, you will not see Vodafone on the cell phone market in a few years.

All in all, it is very interesting news – and I will follow it closely.

UPDATEIt seems that I was not the only one thinking in these terms – the other “new” license-receiver eAccess (eMobile) has apparently announced that they will submit a request to the government to withdraw the 1.7 GHz license from Softbank if they buy out Vodafone. Source: ItMedia (in Japanese)

Mar
04

Photos from Ikegami Baien

Posted by on Saturday, 4 March, 2006

This is taken from Ikegami Baien (Plum Tree Garden) which we visited today. It’s basically just a hill with a lot of plum trees, but it’s kind of nice!


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Feb
26

World of Warcraft must be designed by a Japanese!

Posted by on Sunday, 26 February, 2006

Here’s an interesting article debating whether playing World of Warcraft teaches you “wrong” things about life and therefore is not fun, even harmful! (Via Waxy)

Reading it, it ocurred to me, the designer of the WOW game system and rules must be Japanese! Look at these snips:

1. Investing a lot of time in something is worth more than actual skill. If you invest more time than someone else, you “deserve” rewards. People who invest less time “do not deserve” rewards.

Hmm… Where have I heard that philosophy before? Ah, yes, at almost every Japanese company. Invest enough time in the company, and you shall reap economic benefits, no matter your skills!

3. Group > Solo. You can forget self-reliance, because you won’t get far in World of Warcraft without a big guild. By design, playing alone (even if you are the best player in the world) will get you worse loot than if you always play in 5-man dungeons.

Now this is getting really scary – this is a description of the backbone of the Japanese societal structure. The group is the smallest building block of Japanese society – not the individual.

So I must draw the conclusion that the gaming rules and philosophy for advancing within the game has been set by a group of Japanese company employees.