Posts Tagged frustration


Japan’s Good, Bad, and Strange

Posted by on Friday, 2 June, 2006

I wanted to share with you three lists; one is the top things I love about Japan. The second contains the things I hate, and the last one is a list of things I just don’t understand about Japan!

5 Things I Love About Japan

Low crime makes you feel secure whenever and whereever you are
The food is simply marvellous. And the variety you can get is top notch.
– You are never bored in a city like Tokyo. Always something to do!
– Japanese people are extremely service-minded and courteous.
Public transportation is abundant, on time, and clean!

5 Things I Hate About Japan

Earthquakes – sooner or later there’s gonna be a big one.
– It’s expensive to live here, and apartments are generally rather small.
– Japanese people’s lack of flexibility can be frustrating.
Honne and Tatemae
– Japanese working hours tend to be ridiculously long.

5 Things I Simply Don’t Understand About Japan

Fried fish and rice for breakfast
– Why most houses & apartments only have frosted windows.
– The fascination of Pachinko.
– Japanese people’s patience to wait countless hours for anything.


Adventures in Tokyo rush hour

Posted by on Friday, 14 April, 2006

My fellow passengers
The last two mornings have been like a visit to commuter hell. Actually, yesterday was not that bad, but today’s train ride was every bit as fun as being dragged by wild horses and chased by an angry Irish mob (no offence to any Irish people) at the same time. When I came down to the platform all I could see was an endless sea of people. It was almost impossible to even reach the platform, because the lines reached up the stairs from the ticket gates. Apparently there had been some delays during the morning, and finally the trains started running again. People were cramming themselves into the stillstanding train like it was the train to everlasting happiness, but thankfully, finally people realized that there was another train coming in about three minutes so they stood back and waited. Let me tell you, there has to be a very very special reason for a Japanese person NOT to board a train in the morning rush hour. The minute or two gained from squeezing onto an earlier train rather than waiting for the next one is enough to make everyone try it. It’s ridiculous, because the train will be delayed because people are trying to squeeze onto the train. If people knew when to stop boarding, then the train would leave quicker. As it is now, people who start off cramming themselves onto a train to gain three minutes, end up gaining one minute at the most!

Anyway, back to this morning’s adventure. I had to let two trains pass without even considering boarding, because the whole platform and the oncoming train were full. When the third train came, I was hesitant to board even that one; but it was decided for me! I was pushed in by the sheer force of people trying to board the train from behind me! It was out of my control and I ended up stuck in an awkward sardine position in the middle of the train car. Let me tell you, if you are a latent claustrophobic, do not ever try to ride the trains or subways in Tokyo rush hour!

Well, after I had been pushed on to the train by my fellow passengers, the train took off at a veeeery slow pace. You see people were lining up so close to the edge of the platfrom that the train could not move nearly at top speed until all cars had passed the whole platform. Wonderful – it’s a vicious circle this extreme stress to get on the next train – the more people stress to get on, the more delays it causes, and the more people line up and the train gets more crowded, and delayed etc. Thankfully, I only have to ride this crowded train for two stops, then I can change trains to one that is (mostly) less crowded. But I have to get past one station first, and today I knew that was going to be quite a task as well. First the train slowed down to crawling speed again, and then stopped at the station. Then I almost fell out of the car as people further inside the train wanted to get out. The problem was that there was hardly any space on the platform for people in the train that were temporarily stepping out to let people pass, to stand on, because it was all taken up by people pressing to get on the train! The stop at this stop ended without serious incidents though, and the train took off again. Finally, after an agonizing 10 minutes in the train I reached my transit station and could leave the train line from hell behind me!

All in all, my trip to work this morning took about 30 minutes longer than usual, which in itself wouldn’t have been a problem if it weren’t for the fact that I was as comfortable as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.


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.


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… 😉


Frustrations in Japan Part 2 – Public Transportation

Posted by on Thursday, 26 January, 2006

Overcrowded train in Tokyo

Part two in my series about how to prepare (and in some cases, avoid) frustrating things in Japan is about public transportation – mainly trains and subways.

First things first: trains & subways (hereafter referred to simply as ‘trains’) in Japan are crowded, I mean really really crowded. This has to do with the fact that most people commute to work/school by train, and not by car. 2.5 million passengers travel on the JR lines in the Tokyo area every day! Add the private railways and subway lines too, and you get a sense of how much people are travelling around everyday!

So, rush hour here in Tokyo for instance (approximately 8 AM – 9 AM) is sort of “survival of the fittest”! Cars are filled over specified capacity, often to 150-220% during morning rush hour, depending on which line you take. Here is an illustraion of what the train congestion levels look like in practice. (The comments below the illustrations are in Japanese, but check out Mari’s translation.) I found some good information about which lines are the most/least crowded in the Tokyo Metropolitan area so I want to present those statistics to you. I put them at the bottom of this post as a sort of Appendix. (If you entered through the main page, you have to click “Read the rest of this entry” further down.)

This is how your train ride should be!

OK, so if you look at the statistics you can see which lines to avoid like the plague in the mornings. Unfortunately, the chances that you actually live along one of those train lines is pretty high – hence the high congestion rate! Here are then some small tips on how to make your train travelling a little bit more enjoyable:

* Avoid rush hour altogether! If you have the luxury of controlling exactly when to travel, you’d better try to go either before 8 AM, or close to, or after 9 AM – because the trains are much emptier then.

* Seek out alternate routes! Investigate the areas around your house and your place of work; are there alternate routes to take which will not slow you down too much? Sometimes it’s worth taking somewhat of a detour to work, if it takes you through less crowded train lines etc, and you only lose around 5 minutes travel time.

* Get on at the first station of the train line. Yes, this is a no-brainer but it can be hard to do anything about it, unless you want to move! If you get on at the first stop, you of course have high chances of getting a seat, which will definately make your travel experience more relaxed. If you live one stop from the final station, if you have time to spare, consider taking the train in the opposite direction back to the end station, and then remain onboard when it returns in the other direction.

* Know your destination and other popular destinations. You can time your travel better if you know exactly when the stations along your way peaks in passengers – then you can adjust your departure according to that. Further, knowing where the exits are from the platform at your destination (and crowded stations along the way) is good because if you can stay away from the train cars which stops closest to the stairs, chances are that the train car will be less crowded. Most people like to get on the cars that are closest to the stairs so they quickly can get out.

* If a train is delayed in rush hour, skip it! Chances are very high that the next train is NOT delayed and will arrive as quickly as one minute later (at least JR lines). Again, most people will try to get on the first train that arrives, so the delayed train will be loaded but the train coming after will be less crowded.

* Rush hour in the evenings is not as bad, because there is no fixed time where most people leave work. However, one time to avoid is around 8 o’clock on Friday evenings. It seems this is a very popular time to go home, so try to plan around it.

Read the rest of this entry »