Archive for category Japan


Ueno and Asakusa Photos

Posted by on Monday, 9 January, 2006

Some photos from when I took my mother to the Ueno and Asakusa areas of Tokyo.


Kyoto Photos

Posted by on Sunday, 8 January, 2006

This was taken on my trip to Kyoto in March 2005 with Hikaru and my mother.


Japanese Business Manner

Posted by on Thursday, 29 December, 2005

Recently I attended a seminar which explained Japanese business manner. It was fun in a sort of strange way, because it was definately not aimed at foreigners, but rather Japanese freshmen into business life, i.e. fresh college graduates who join a company for the first time. I will show you an official “Appearance Check List” for traditional Japanese companies; these lists are actually used to teach newcomers how to dress and keep their appearance “professional”. It’s pretty hilarious! (I have corrected the English in someplaces where it was too weird, otherwise it’s the untouched original document)

Teaching freshmen how to behave

Appearance Check List (Males)

  • Your hair is in a moderate length
  • Your bed hair has been fixed
  • Your hair style is appropriate for a business man
  • Your hair is in a natural color
  • The smell of your hair liquid is not too strong
  • Your beard is completely shaven
  • Your teeth are clean, and you do not have bad breath
  • Your collar and sleeves are clean
  • The sleeves are buttoned up, not rolled up
  • Your shirt is in a moderate color
  • Your shirt is ironed
  • Your tie is straight, the knot is tightened
  • No spots or wrinkles on your tie
  • Your tie is in a moderate length
  • You care about dandruff on your shoulders
  • There are no spots on your jacket
  • Your jacket is buttoned up when you stand up
  • The pocket of your jacket is not too full
  • Your trousers are pressed
  • Your belt does not look damaged
  • Your belt is in a moderate color and form
  • Your nails are in a moderate length
  • You are wearing socks in a proper way
  • The color and pattern of your socks are not too showy (sport socks are not preferred)
  • Your shoes are polished
  • Your shoes have full heels and are kept in a proper shape
  • Your shoes are in a moderate color and form
  • Your watch is appropriate for a business person

Appearance Check List (Females)

  • Your hair is kept clean
  • Your hair does not bother you while working
  • Your bangs are above your eyes
  • Your hair is in a natural color
  • Your makeup gives a clean and healthy impression
  • Your makeup is kept in a good condition all day long
  • Your lip color and perfume are not too strong
  • You are wearing clothes properly
  • There are no stains, spots, or wrinkles on your clothes
  • Your clothes are ironed
  • No dandruff or hair is sticking to your shoulders
  • Your sleeves are buttoned up, not rolled up
  • Your nails are in a moderate length
  • YOur nail polish is in a moderate color and is not coming off
  • You are wearing either stockings or socks
  • Stockings/socks should be in a moderate color and comply with regulations
  • There is no run in your stockings
  • You have extra stockings at hand
  • Your shoes are polished
  • Your shoes have full heels and are kept in a proper shape
  • Your shoes are in a moderate color and form
  • You are wearing simple and elegant accessories
  • Your watch is appropriate for a business person

Wow! That was quite a list! One thing to reflect over is why the list for women is shorter than the one for men! My theory is that women in general know how to take care of themselves better on average than men! My girlfriend says that the reason is that if the rules are too strict for women, they will quit! I don’t know which is correct! But above all, whatever you do, DON’T KEEP TOO MUCH STUFF IN YOUR JACKET POCKET, for God’s sake!!


Shameless plug

Posted by on Saturday, 17 December, 2005

Well I just got to toot my own horn and let you know that one of my photos has been selected for use on How Stuff Works on the topic of “Geishas”. (My photo is on the second page of the Geisha-chapter) It’s one of my photos from my trip to Kyoto earlier this year. I’m actually pretty happy about how the photo turned out, it was just pure luck that I got that great photo opportunity!

By the way, I removed all my photo galleries from my static homepage with the intention of adding galleries to my blog….has not happened yet, has it. Bear with me, I will have them up and running in a few days I hope.


Random thoughts on the working environment in Japan

Posted by on Thursday, 15 December, 2005

Well first of all, this post will probably be a bit unstructured because I have been thinking about this for a long time, and it sort of spans over a wide range of issues regarding working, culture, and traditions in Japan. Bear with me, there might be a point hidden somewhere!

You all know how the Japanese working environment is, I guess. In short, Japanese seem to *live* for work. They work 12 hours a day and often engage in work-related activities even after that before coming home exhausted. Lathe, Rinse, Repeat. Well, when I say “live for work” I do not mean in the Western sense of the word, i.e. in general Japanese do not seem to love their work, or have a great spiritual or inspirational leader to follow, or feel a great sense of shared vision to fulfill or so. No, when I say the Japanese live for work, they do simply that. They work and since they have no time for anything else, work becomes life; life = work.

Simply exhausted

Where does this extreme work perseverence and company loyalty come from? I think some of it is deeply rooted in the Japanese culture of honoring your elders and leaders. However, I think mainly it stems from a much earlier time, the Post WWII period when Japan made a huge shared effort to rebuild the country back to its former glory days. It seemed that everyone was willing to draw their straw to the stack so to speak. All men gave from their spare time and put in hours after hours at the factory or office, without asking for much in return. The women stayed home and took care of the household and children, since the men where never home. This immense collective effort helped bring Japan back on its feet and eventually made it to an industrial and financial behemoth which kept moving full steam ahead well into the 1980s and 1990s. So this incredible pressure to work a lot comes from the pressure to rebuild Japan. However, somewhere along the way I think both a) it wasn’t needed anymore, and b) people got tired of constantly working. Somehow this coupled with some outer factors led to the big bubble and later recession in Japan.

Anyway, moving quickly ahead to present day Japan, nothing much has changed! People are still collectively putting in a massive amount of work hours for the good of the company, out of respect for the bosses, just out of habit…. Now, this I would like to connect to another problem and a topic which has gotten some attention recently, namely the fact that there are still so few women in the workplace here in Japan. Sure, some is a relic from the post-war days when the women did their share of community effort by taking care of the household, but I think some of it also is the fact that women to a lesser extent accepts being forced to sacrifice their spare time for work to the extent that their male counterparts are. Of course there are exceptions to this, but in general I think women here in Japan value their social life and free time more than the men, and will rather quit their jobs than take it anymore. Why do the drastic thing and quit? Why not demand lesser work hours etc? Well, it’s hard when the system is so deeply rooted in everyone’s minds. But some people do it. A lot of women are temporary or part time workers and can choose more freely how long they work. Some people say it’s a negative sign that so many Japanese women are working as temps and part timers and not as regular employees – but I think that in many cases, it’s a conscious choice so that they can move freely in sort of a separate work environment, where the work loads and expectancies are lower, and probably, quality of life and happiness are higher.