Monday, June 29, 2009

The greatest show on earth!

I know that I am jumping ahead here a little bit since the official “getting married in Japan ” series really hasn’t gotten to this stage yet, but if you just see this as a brief interlude and teaser of things to come, I think we can all get along peacefully. For a wedding reception in Japan , it is customary to have entertainment, speeches and the like lined up for the guests, much as in most European countries and the US I would believe, so nothing particularly special about that.

When discussing the options with Ms. Sunshine (currently Mrs. Sunshine-Salaryman) I had a little wish list of things that I wanted to have as below:

  • A castrato albino pygmy choir in blackface singing “Jesus Christ Superstar”
  • A dance troupe of Manpanzees/chumans performing interpretive dance to the song

  • A family of fire breathing acrobatic midgets performing feats of strengths

  • A herd of squirrels trained to play musical instruments, performing evergreens dressed up as selected US presidents

After investigating this a bit more in detail and discussing with Ms. Sunshine, we settled with having one of her cousins sing a song to a karaoke soundtrack. You can’t have it all I guess…

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Making a "Katsu" - Cooking with Mr. Salaryman

So, now I've finally gotten around to put together the second installment in my much appreciated series revealing some of the secrets around Japanese cooking and how you can make it yourself. I'm sure that many of you have been eating a lot of imaginative "donburi" the recent time, but just to make sure that you have something new to eat, this time I thought I should let you in on the secret of making the "Katsu". Probably the most famous incarnation of this type of dish is the "tonkatsu" pork cutlet, but that's not what I will be teaching you here.

In fact, making a "katsu" just has to qualify by being something meat like that's breaded and then deep-fried. I've seen "hamburger steak-katsu" on many occasions and although I've never seen it, I wouldn't be surprised if I saw a deep fried breaded sausage-katsu somewhere as well. Perhaps the most horrible incarnation of this is the "spam-katsu".

And hey, when you've mastered making a katsu out of everything meaty in the fridge, why don't you just put it on top of a bowl of rice and make a katsu-donburi? Anything goes!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

You gotta fight...

Snapshots from earlier this week. Head office VIPs visiting Japan to discuss long term strategical initiatives.

Snapshot 1:
Sitting in the meeting room, looking at power point slides and discuss strenghts and weaknesses of potential aquisition targets and how well their offering would fit with our own portfolio. Going through manufacturing capabilities of these companies "I think their factory in Miyazaki produces the catheters while the Akita one produces the pre-filled syringes?" etc galore. Serious meeting.

Snapshot 2:
After a nice dinner at a rustic Izakaya we took them to to experience a little informal drinking and eating, taking the group to Karaoke. Me being "ordered" by a very decisive female guest to order a bunch of whiskey to get the action going.

An hour and a half later, the whole group is standing on the tables, neckties tied around their foreheads and screaming to "Fight for your right to Party" by the Beastie Boys.

Japan can make some strange things happen, but hey, it was all in good fun! Now I just have to try and exorcise the song out of my head, which is easier said than done...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Thank you for sharing

There are many things about business that annoys me, pointless use of business jargon is definitely up there in the top. Most of it you kinda get used to and someone saying “we need to think outside the box” and making a face like he/she just said something really intelligent worth consideration is just a minor annoyance most of the time.

But something that still really annoys me is the use of “sharing” from some people in central functions and how these people seem to use “sharing” every chance they get as a substitute for “receiving” or “giving”, or even worse, as a substitute for “reporting”. Let me give you some examples of how usage of “sharing” can annoy me.

Improper use of “sharing” – real life examples
Case 1.
Mr. Salaryman forwards an e-mail to someone and gets an e-mail back saying “thank you for sharing this information” instead of “thank you for the information” or “thank you for sending me this information”.

Case 2.
Mr. Salaryman receives an e-mail or call from someone asking for some information “can you share this information with marketing?” instead of “can you send this information to marketing” or even “send this info to marketing”.

But just so you won’t think that I’m just complaining, I think I’d probably give you an example of what I consider proper and relevant use of “share” with you as well.

Proper use of “sharing” – real life examples
Marting: (Outside a work setting) “Hey, Salaryman, do you wanna share this Kit Kat bar with me?
Mr. Salaryman: “Sure

Just thought I should share my thoughts on this subject with my readers.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Maybe I should polish my CV a little…

Again, I go to considerable lengths to not make any serious posts about looking for jobs here in Japan or any other job searching advice that might lead some poor souls astray (I know I couldn’t constrain myself earlier). But I again feel the need to deliver some amusing anecdotes that you can at some later point retell to amuse your friends and casual lovers with and claim as your own to become even more popular.

In interviews and CV writing, I suffer from severe modesty, something that is not necessarily a bad thing since both Swedish and Japanese people share a cultural trait of looking upon modesty as a virtue. That means that I do not exaggerate experiences or competencies, something that I’ve read one or two guides that suggest you should do a little. Now, to my amusing Japan related anecdotes regarding this.

Case 1, a fellow half-Japanese friend of mine with limited knowledge in Japanese decided to put “Japanese fluency” on his language abilities as he was looking for jobs in Sweden, believing that no one would ever check up on it and that he might cover for it with his limited ability in case someone asked. He gets his FIRST interview when he’s looking for jobs, the lady looks through his CV and shines up when she sees the “Japanese” and immediately asks “Wow, that’s so nice, I worked in Japan for several years before, my Japanese is a little rusty, but let’s do this in Japanese!”. My friend? He never got the job, the interview never really recovered after his bluff got called…

Case 2, in my previous consultant job, I was interviewing an eager rosy-cheeked wanna-bee associate and noticed that her CV stated that she could speak Danish. Reverse the situation above, I shine up and say “Danish? That’s so similar to Swedish, let’s talk Danish then!”. She stutters something about not really being able to really speak or understand much. In this case, I didn’t care that much since it was hardly a merit for the job in question in any case, but when I mentioned it to El Presidente he threw a fit about “people just try to cheat” and she never got an offer from us.

I guess the moral of the story is that the more unlikely a bluff is to get called, the more likely you are to get called on it due to freaky circumstances…

Monday, June 15, 2009

A war of cultures - taking the bath

Usually the Salaryman household lives in harmony and the conflicts that do arise get solved peacefully in pretty short order. Mrs. Sunshine-Salaryman accepts some of the cultural quirks of mine, such as wanting to eat crisp bread with almost any possible meal, she accepts that I sometimes pour soy sauce over the white rice and such minor quirks.

However, we have one major cultural battle that has resulted in a stalemate as of now... For the Japanese, the sacred evening bath time. As most of you probably know, taking a bath before going to bed is a very serious custom here in Japan where you wash yourself in the shower first before entering the bathtub clean, so as to leave it ready to use for the next member of the family (you enter it according to seniority and men before women, obviously here in Japan) leaving only one or two straws of hair and the odd skinflake in the bath before getting up. The bath is for soaking and relaxation, not to get clean.

Me on the other hand does not treat the bathtub with the same reverence, I'm all in for functionality. Most of the time I only take a shower and when I do take a bath, it's usually to heat up the body before going to bed in the cold winter months. I'm all for effeciency so I like to combine the activities of cleaning myself with relaxation and soaking, so I just bring all the stuff in the bath and when I get up, warm and clean (which is what I believe but what probably any Japanese reader would contest) I leave a puddle of gray water filled with hair and skinflakes behind. Mrs. Salaryman-Sunshine would probably as well soak her body in the sewers as putting her pristine body into that cesspool of dirt and human fragments. Pouring a new bath also puts an unnecessary strain on the water and heating bill and seems a little rough on mother nature as well.

We have solved it now that she takes the bath first and leaves a crystal clear bathtub full of water for me to fester in. I know that she instinctly is disgusted that I am actually cleaning myself IN the bath and not outside it and then lie down in the dirt I just scraped off, but she has given up trying to convince me to at least wash up a little before, probably living in denial now pretending to not know what is going on in our bathtub after she has left it...

In any case, now it's hot summer soon so the trend has shifted from baths to morning showers, there is very little cultural clashes in that at least. Peace reigns, for now...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Getting out of here but buying the ticket is taking most of the time...

Ok, Japan is a very convenient and consumer friendly country, as I believe I have talked about a bit earlier (I can't be bothered to search for a link now, but I'm sure it's in here somewhere), but sometimes it can get a bit too much. Some things which are really really simple back home in Sweden can become a real chore here in Japan and I think the thing that most clearly illustrates this is trying to buy an air-ticket at an agent here in Japan.

In comparison, doing this in Sweden is a maximum 10min affair where more than half the time is taken up by the clerks giving you an attitude for not doing it over the Internet instead and saving them the trouble of actually having to do a little work. But doing it here in Japan is an extremely prolonged affair taking the better part of a day where things are confirmed again and again until you're no longer sure on what you're confirming in the end. And the clerks usually break out in a cold sweat when you tell them that you're not a Japanese passport holder and then they need to confirm again and again the visa requirements of the country in question (which you probably already checked).

Then, the inevitable next issue is spelling and order of the name, here in Japan things are much more simpler with people having one family name and one first name, which obviously means that their whole system is geared towards that. Then throw me into the mix with two first names, one middle name and one family name. Even though I have successfully managed to get trips booked with this countless times it always becomes a big issue and makes for another round or two of confirmations.

In any case, it has been confirmed now and the honeymoon is booked!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Do the blind funk

Seen earlier today; a blind woman walking down the street using the stick to make sure the way in front of her is safe while wearing massive earphones connected to what looked like an iPod.

I mean, it’s really none of my business and if things work out for her that’s great, but with one of the major senses not available to you, does it really make sense to block out another one with music? But what do I know, maybe some people rely on their sense of smell in navigating their way around?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Peace and quiet

Finally some peace and quiet once again reigns over the Salaryman household, with the Martin family having packed up their things to take the morning flight back to Europe with my new little buddy Otto, the next time I see him he'll probably have a beard and tattoos all over the place since it might be a year or so until we next meet.

After I moved to Japan I very rarely see Martin, perhaps once a year or even less and usually for a limited time, but the strange thing is that it never feels like it's been long at all since I saw him and that no environment feels strange to see him in. It should logically feel a bit odd to see him as the father to a little baby and in the middle of Japan, but for some reason it feels completely natural. We did try to drunk call our common friend Mr. Political Advisor but he smartly avoided our efforts to disturb him during working hours back in Europe...

We did manage to squeeze in a little baby free time including a bunch of beers and Japanese booze at a local "Izakaya" followed by coming home and being a nuisance to our wives and playing The Simpsons game until we got stuck and gave up around 4am on Sunday morning. We did also manage to sneak in taking some "prikura" ("Print Club") photos in a arcade nearby. Good times, but now it's all calm and peaceful again.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

I am Salaryman of Japan. Resistance is futile

I have, as people who followed this blog probably already figured out, worked in Japan for almost ten years now and frequently acted as the liaison between the Japan organization, potential partners here in Japan and the head office. I have worked here so long that some people in the head office probably perceive me as more Japanese than Swedish most of the time, and some people seem to have this idea that all Japanese are connected to each other through some giant hive mind, communicating to each other through wordless means such as scents, sweat glands and pheromones.

Granted, most people realize that I'm not fully Japanese due me speaking English fluently and also not behaving like a purebred Japanese business person to them, but some of them still seem to believe that I am connected to this giant Japanese hive mind through my racial half-Japanese heritage.

A little while earlier I was participating in a meeting with a Japanese company and some people from the head office, the Japanese company was clearly not very interested in what we had to offer and showed this through stone faces and general disinterest. As we were sitting in this slightly uncomfortable meeting, one of the head office person tries to discreetly nudge me and whispers to me "what is he thinking?" referring to one of the stone faced past middle-aged salarymen across us. It was pretty obvious to everyone that they were not really interested and the only I things I could imagine him thinking were "I can't wait to get wasted with my buddies tonight", "How am I gonna find time to watch through all the porn I've downloaded last night?" or maybe "these guys just don't realize when to stop talking and go home".

Ok, there are some cultural wordless means of communication, but not to the point where we are all connected to this giant hive mind coordinating our plans for world domination and even if something like that exist I'm obviously not connected to those plans. The simple truth is that Japanese are as much individuals deep down as any Westerner and that misunderstandings between Japanese people happen at least as often as between Westerners, probably more in my experience...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Tokyo Haunting

Again, the peace of the Salaryman household has been broken, this time by old buddy Martin with his family, taking a pass by Japan before returning back to Sweden from a prolonged honeymoon in the Oceanic region. Also, this visit introduced us to the new member of their family, little dude "Otto" and I strongly believe that the name was chosen due to the ability to write the name backwards without causing any confusion.

Martin is, by the way, the guy who designed the logo for my site. Me and Martin go way back, as far back as I've known anyone outside my immediate family since we first met at the age of 5 and bullied another kid to tears together (ok, that wasn't very nice of us, but the kid was annoying and we were young and stupid). Then after going to elementary school together and going in slightly different directions at high school we always remained friends (if I divide my group of friends they can usually be categorized into "University friends", "Tokyo friends", "Consulting company friends" etc, but Martin kinda defies these categories). In fact, his old phone number is so firmly implanted into my DNA that I am sure that it will be the last phone number to remain in my demented brain at old age.

Not one to miss out on an opportunity, I am considering several options to trick him into utilizing those artistic skills for the benefit of this blog. The trickery will most likely need to involve food, cold beer and videogames. Meanwhile Mrs. Salaryman-Sunshine is partly fascinated and partly disgusted by our gibberish talking in Swedish and crude customs.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Hey! We got cable!

Up until now, I've actually never had cable TV installed in my place, but recently we made the effort and had J-Com come over and set the stuff up, (who J. Turningpin actually recommended in comment to an earlier post) and they didn't disappoint, the guy coming in to install and set up the cable, including the 500GB HDDVD (nice!) was very polite and set everything up for us and then walked us through how to us use the stuff and then promptly disappeared like a ghost in the night.

So now we have access to such amazing channels such as "Fishing Vision", "Samurai Drama Channel", "Only old crappy Japanese movies channel" and other such gems. I don't know how I'm supposed to get any sleep done anymore with so much fun to be had!

(The picture actually has nothing at all to do with the post and should be seen as a small tribute to frequent comment poster and fellow blogger (hey, check it out, he has his moments) "The Penguin")
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