Jan
27

Booby-prize and Booby-maker in Japanese tournaments

Friday, January 27, 2006 Posted by

After competing in the annual SCCJ (Swedish Chamber of Commerce in Japan) bowling competition yesterday, the organizers gave a so-called “Booby Prize” to the team which finished last. This sparked a discussion among us, because some people claimed that the Booby Prize should be given to the person/team second from last and not last.

I did some research and found that the Booby Prize in the Western world indeed is a prize given to the player/team who finished last in a competition whereas in Japan, the Booby Prize is given to the one who finished second from last and the last place will receive a more dubious honor called Booby Maker (i.e. the one who, by finishing last, made the one before him/her win the Booby Prize). The reasoning for this is that anyone can finish last – it requires no effort at all, and whereas the Booby Prize is usually just a joke prize in the Western world, here in Japan it is usually a very nice prize – sometimes it is only surpassed by the 1st prize in value! Thus, to make it hard to receive the Booby Prize, the definition changed to be the one who finished second from last.

Hope that cleared things up for anyone! (I know it did for me!)

Jan
26

Frustrations in Japan Part 2 – Public Transportation

Thursday, January 26, 2006 Posted by

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 »

Jan
24

Starting to like my new job

Tuesday, January 24, 2006 Posted by

Well, after a month of not doing especially much at my new job, part OTJ, part everyone-is-too-busy-to-give-me-work, January has been a huge improvement. Slowly I have been handed over some of my main responsibilities, and slowly I have been getting into the new job and the new company.

It hit me today, wandering through the office, that I finally am starting to like it here. It’s always tough in the beginning at a new job, and you think “why did I come here?”, “I don’t know anything, how can I be of use?”, “boy, this company is different from my previous workplaces” etc. But recently, the place has been bustling with activity, a sort of activity I have never ever seen at any of my previous jobs. There are people having meetings, talking, running around, customers coming and going, consultants en masse brought in, and tons of people from corporate HQ. It just gives the air around here a certain feel of energy and excitement. It makes me want to work, even though some of the individual tasks I do are not that exciting, you get a feeling that you are part of something huge, something that is moving forward, quickly, and that so great.

Jan
21

New cell phones from au

Saturday, January 21, 2006 Posted by

Japanese cell phone operator au (KDDI) presented their “Spring Lineup” of new phones yesterday, and there are a few quite interesting models! The link goes to the au page presenting the seven new models – it’s in Japanese, but there’s some amazing Flash work done, and you can at least check out the pictures.

The phones released are:

W41SA from Sanyo, W41S from Sony-Ericsson, W41T from Toshiba, W41CA from Casio, W41K from Kyocera, W41H from Hitachi, and Neon. Neon is a quite interesting looking phone, designed by Naoto Fukasawa who is a designer from the Japanese design company PlusMinusZero.

New Sony Ericsson phone W41S

Being Swedish, I am of course interested in the newest S-E model, W41S, which looks darn nice, and has some good specs too. You can check the details of W41S here (in Japanese though). In short, it weighs 119g, has 250 hours standby, 240×320 TFT screen (24bit color), 40 MB memory (can be expanded via Memory Stick Duo to 2 GB), 1.3 Mpixel camera, stereo virtual surround speakers, support for mobile SUICA (use the cell phone to pay your train fare), can display non-mobile webpages, and has a wide range of functionality when it comes to downloading/transferring music back and forth between the phone and your pc.

Jan
20

Don’t break the Trademark Law in Iran!

Friday, January 20, 2006 Posted by

(I know Trademark Law is not Copyright Law, but it’s the closest tag I have….)

I just found this on our company’s brand portal and I thought it was hiliarious. It’s taken from a list of Asian countries detailing how their respective Trademark Laws work:

Iran

Law on Trade Marks, 1931

There are unfair competition provisions. The Islamic Penal Code provides for lashing and imprisonment.

Wow! Talk about a tough stance against trademark infringers!!!