Saturday, October 31, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
The first is “knackebrod”, the Swedish crisp bread. I know that it's pretty widely available now in the US at least, but it still is extremely unusual to find here in Japan . I know an international supermarket here in Tokyo that carries one type of it at pretty outrageous prices. I've mostly resorted to mail order from a supermarket back home (hey, any of my fellow Swedish ex-pat readers, check them out here, it’s an ICA store doing overseas sales! Wait?! Did I just become a Swedish ex-pat resource and can I take it back?!) and the first shipment managed to crush most of the bread, but for the last shipment they did put “fragile” stickers on it and it arrived unharmed. It is a bit annoying that shipment end up costing more than the content, but can't be helped until I learn to bake the bread myself!
The second one might be more surprising for non-Swedes, but Swedish coffee happens to be the best in the world. Normally I make sure that I have a respectable amount of coffee stocked up in the apartment so that I do not have to resort to drinking the local version. After a visit to the old country, it is not unusual that most of my luggage consists of Swedish coffee... However, due to a miscalculation in the management of the stock, I recently discovered that we had run out. With no visit to Sweden and no visitors expected, the situation does not have a quick fix and I have been drinking the Japanese version now for a few weeks. Japanese coffee is not outrageously bad, it's just that it pales in comparison with the Swedish coffee.
But “Sweden doesn’t grow coffee beans” you might whine in protest, and “yes, you are correct” is my answer. However, because Sweden drinks such huge amounts of coffee calculated per capita (look it up if you don’t believe me, it's us and the Finns!) and are paying big bucks for it, the quality of the beans shipped to Sweden is really good and the end product is superior. Ok, it’s not coffee for small girls and boys, it’s coffee for real men. Damn it, I need to order it, but they're slow and it takes a month or so I have to put up with the Japanese versions...
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
Branch Manager: (Confidently) Compared to last year, our sales for this month was up by roughly 13% and we visited approximately 10% more customer than for the same period last year. In addition, we managed to open up 3 new accounts in the Akita prefecture and get several promising leads in the vicinity. According to our own estimations of sales for the month, we managed to achieve our objectives and are set to have a very good month and sales up to the year end. In addition, I also initiated some organizational changes in terms of sales area for my reps that I strongly believe will improve the situation. That is all, thank you for listening (closing with confidence).
Sales Manager: (friendly and positive)Thank you it sounds like you are working hard, could you just please repeat the budget achievement rate since that's the figure I need most now.
Branch Sales Manager: (silence...)
Sales Manager: (slightly confused) Hello? Are you there?
Branch Sales Manager: (after a few seconds of additional silence… in a weak voice) Yes?
Sales Manager: (mildly annoyed) What about your budget achievement rate for the month, I need those figures now!?
Branch Sales Manager: (again a few seconds of silence) … … … (in a weak voice) budget achievement? Oh, yes (clearing throat), unfortunately we only managed to hit 85%...
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Now to my actual anecdote, with the above as a background I should mention that my impression of Korea and their drinking culture is that they drink at least twice as hard as the Japanese and that they don’t take a “no thank you” for an answer, probably something like Japan 20 years ago or so. However, my experience is limited so if anyone knows better please feel free to say so.
In any case, the anecdote concerns how, quite a few years and in another company, a member of the Swedish head office of that company was calling up the Korean country manager to check some things. He called on a Monday and knew that the day before, the company had organized an annual “family picnic” with the employees and their families. His image, with himself a family man of mild demeanour, was a family friendly event in a park, ending early with a lot of the focus on the children. From what I have been told, the conversation went something like this:
HQ Manager: Hi Mr. Park, how was the family picnic yesterday, did everyone have a good time?
Mr. Park: (Audibly hungover) Yes… it was COMPLETE coma, everyone was so wasted!
HQ Manager: (at loss for words, his image of a family friendly event in a park crumbling and being replaced by the image of a bunch of stupid drunk Koreans vomiting) Oh…
Mr. Park: (very satisfied) Yeah, it was great!
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Branding Lady: (Exhausted after some arguments) Well, Salaryman, I don’t really care that much, they can make the ads themselves if they want to
Salaryman: (Pretending to be a little authoritative) Yeah, but it should at least be approved and go through you since you need to be in charge and have oversight of all our communication
Branding Lady: Yes, I think so, and I want to make sure we don’t get too many paedophiles interested in our campaign too...
Salaryman: (A few seconds of confused silence) What…?
Then I remembered how the company the guy who wanted to design the ads, had done a series of pretty famous advertisements a few years back, which, for no clear or tangible reason (i.e. the product was neither 1. A paediatric product nor 2. A product suitable for use in children, nude or otherwise), had featured naked children and how me and the branding lady had laughed about those bizarre ads… She agreed to make sure she had the last word and control…
As a side-note I always was fascinated by that company and those series of nude children ads since there are so many gates that it must have passed with;
1. An agency suggesting nude children as key visuals
2. An employee thinking it's a great idea for the product even though it has no connection to children or nudity
3. Since the series has been running for several years; people deciding that it's a great campaign that should be continued...
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Well, in any case, watching the sports news in a regular news broadcast is usually pretty predictable since the news are focused on three sports in particular; baseball, golf and sumo wrestling (when it’s tournament time). But not only are these sports in focus, it is also predictable who the news will focus on in these sports...
Nowadays the sports usually start with some stuff about golf wunderkind Ryo Ishikawa (he seem to be playing roughly 1.3 tournaments/day all over the world and around 50% of the time is allocated to him usually) then followed up with some news about Ichiro’s latest achievements in the US baseball league (if the Yankees have finished, then usually they do a little Matsui, but Ichiro is the first choice!) and then, finally, if there’s a sumo tournament, they show a little of Mongolian born sumo wrestler Asashoryu’s recent antics (my favorite was when he won a match and gave the opponent a foot in the (sizeable) butt as he was falling out of the ring, something that’s not suitable for the noble sport of sumo). Maybe, if there’s a little time left a minute is dedicated to showing some goals from the UEFA cup, preferably if a Japanese player was involved but only from separate matches with no report on league status to give an overhead picture of the situation.
The pattern is very predictable but hopefully we will soon have some new scandal with Sumo wrestlers on the chronic/pot/weed/grass/ganja to shake things up a bit!
Monday, October 19, 2009
One of the greater ideas that has come out of the new government and the transport minister Maehara has been to invest in expanding the Haneda operations to become a Japan hub airport. This would carry with it quite a few benefits and let me just list up the main ones below:
1. The airport is clean and nice looking
2. The airport is accessible from central Tokyo
3. The airport has a good selection of restaurants and shops
4. The airport does not have any stupid image character
5. The airport is better in every way compared to Narita
The only thing I fear is that if these efforts to develop the airport will take place, that one of the first areas where money will be spent will be in developing an extremely stupid image character and point number 4 will not be valid...
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Recently the Salaryman household have been receiving some advertisements from Domino's Pizza here in Japan and how they, in collaboration with a magazine that covers local events for different regions in Tokyo, the "Walker" series, have created unique pizza variants that are suppossed to reflect the region's cuisine and the best they have to offer... Let's take a look shall we?
Next up is the "Super Delish! Hakata Chicken Pizza with Citron"
This pizza comes from the southern island of Kyushu and boasts chicken, green onion, mushroom and sour lime(ish) Yuzu pepper. Ok, this doesn't really sound to appetizing to me, but after the "Awesome Salmon!" it's probably my second choice...
...it gets worse with the "Oo lala! Nagoya-Cochin Chicken Pizza made with Red Miso"
Now is where it starts to get nasty... The basic ingredients in this "Pizza" is chicken, Red Miso Paste, Grilled Eggplant and egg mix as base... This is just plain nasty...
but last they promote the "Fafu-licious! Kobe-Nagata Gyuusuji Beef Pizza"
This one comes from the port city of Kobe in West Japan and is basically a lot of beef tendons, drenched in green onion and then for good measure they make it in a nice mayo base... I wouldn't treat my worst enemy to this one...
With all these things out in the open, salmon mayo pizza sounds like pure heaven! This is not only the dark side of Japanese cooking, this is the Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy of Japanese cooking...
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
However, before that big meeting with the big shots, we'll have a more practical teleconference early next week with the clinical experts in head office to make sure that they agree with our plan and their feedback is incorporated into our plan.
But, before that meeting, me and the local clinical team will have a meeting tomorrow to make sure that we have the same consistent message about what we need and how things should be done.
To be safe and make sure that they give me a consistent story, the clinical team had a meeting earlier today in their group, to make sure that they are prepared for the meeting with me.
I have prepared for the meeting with the local clinical team tomorrow by printing out an e-mail I received earlier I thought could be useful to consider in our discussions. Otherwise I have been checking up on the locations of the bobbleheads in Fallout 3, something that will come in useful after work.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Sunday, October 11, 2009
The topic at hand is the "Profile Video" and I believe that it is not a completely unique thing for Japan, similar videos can be found at western weddings as well from time to time. The purpose of the "Profile Video" is basically to introduce the bride and the groom to the guests, usually with a lot of pictures of them as kids and following them as they grow older with some more or less witty comments and catchy music.
Early on in the planning, Ms. Sunshine made it pretty clear that she wanted to have such a video and since I could find no immediate objections to the idea as such, I basically agreed to the concept. Then came the search and planning, some samples were ordered home from professional companies that could edit a video if they got pictures, text and some overall direction. However... the quotes we received were all around $1,000 USD which is a quite hefty sum considering that the samples we saw were less than overwhelmingly impressive.
So, I decided to take matters into my very own competent hands with the help of powerpoint, photoshop, windows movie maker and some funky tunes. Making the main part where the two of us are introduced with pictures and stuff was not the real problem, the problem I faced was in making a fun intro to the whole thing. Some of the samples had (badly) made spoofs of Star Wars, Mission Impossible and similar stuff, something that I thought was a bit amusing. Some friends were also pulled in in trying to help out, but with just a few weeks to the wedding I still had not reached a satisfactory introduction that would set the tone for the rest of the video and, to some extent, the reception as well since the video would be shown pretty early at the start.
After some considerable frustration the inspiration finally came to me and the intro you can see here got made, again, no stupid Youtube or other things, this video is exclusively available here at Salaryman's!:
The reactions? Well, the laughs were definitely heavier among the foreigners in the audience while the Japanese didn't really let loose until Kim Joing Il and Obama. However, Ed Gein was met with complete silence... People just need to get educated!
Friday, October 9, 2009
I dreamt that I was in Paris (scary already, huh?) with Mrs. Sunshine-Salaryman and we were looking at some goods from street vendors...
There we met a creepy looking young girl around 10 years old, who was selling horror DVDs for 50 yen a piece...
She invited us over to her place since she needed help with something and we were curious and felt sorry for her so we followed her home...
It was a barren apartment but in the corner of the room she had a 30x30x30cm something box colored with psychedelic colors...
Inside it was a large purple insect who spoke in a baritone voice, ordering the girl around to do some errands...
The insect seemed evil, so I did some research on it and found out that the insects legs(?) were made out of wood from the handle of an axe used to execute murderers...
I considered squashing it but decided against it since it would leave such a nasty mess (the only thing more disgusting than a large living bug is a squashed bug)...
Then I woke up just a few minutes before the alarm rang and when I retold this freaky dream to Mrs. Sunshine-Salaryman over breakfast her comment was “you know, maybe you shouldn’t play scary video games just before going to bed?”. Something to ponder indeed, but with the DLC out for Fallout 3 on the PS3 I don’t feel like I have much of an option…
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
However, now, typhoon no. 18 "Melor" is on it's way to hit the islands of Japan . This typhoon has been hyped up to be something out of the ordinary with winds blowing at 45m/s and also the first one in two years to really hit the Kanto area and the city of Tokyo right in the face. I must admit that I've become a little caught up in the hype and feel a slight excitement and tension, the big question is whether it will be possible to get to the company tomorrow morning or even worse, getting to the office but being unable to get back home to the warmth and safety of the wonderful Mrs. Sunshine-Salaryman and the big comy bed. If you don't hear from me in a while, I might very well have blown away!
Monday, October 5, 2009
The Boy seemed considerably less impressed with the maids than with the ensemble of dorks that had picked the same time to visit the café. Among the more amusing anecdotes he told me was that of the guy who showed one of the maids his four huge binders full of photographs of him with different maids (it should be added that most places charge at least $5 for a photo pose with the guest so this guy had invested considerable amounts into his collection), and that of the guy who wanted his maid to do a special pose for the photo like that of his favorite character in some obscure anime and getting alternatively pissed off at the maid when she failed to capture the pose “no, not like THAT, like THIS” and talking to himself when she again failed to get it right “heh, Azuka would never do THAT (chuckles at the absurdity of Azuka doing it like that)” and quite a few other interesting characters.
In any case, the discussion led us into a market sizing of the Japanese dork population and as I was applying a rationale taking into consideration the adult male population of Japan , % living in metropolitan areas and then applying a % to that around ~1% to get a potential dork population. I think the estimation we ended up with during this exercise was somewhere around 50,000 dorks nationwide in Japan . But as any good management consultant and/or market researcher will tell you, you also need to check for external sources to see if there is data supporting the estimate and remarkably we found this page (in Japanese). Since I assume that most readers of this blog cannot read Japanese, let me give you some highlights from the article.
The article presents some research findings from 2005 done on the “otaku” market and the different segments of Otaku that exist. Market research company Nomura Research Institute are described as “Otaku market analysis pioneers”, it should be added that, up until today, I had great respect for NRI since the research from them I have used in the past has been of very good quality.
They estimate the total Otaku population of Japan to be close to 2 MN people/dorks and the potential market, in terms of money they spend on their obsession to ~$4.5 BN USD. Frightening figures… However, there is some consolation in that this does not only take into account the classic "Akiba otaku" (Dork usually found in Akihabara focused on Manga, Anime and computer games) but a broad spectra of otaku, including fashion, cars, computer hardware etc.
And yeah, when you add up the manga, anime and gaming dorks, you end up with almost the exact figure that me and the Boy came up with during our soft market sizing exercise. What can I say? I’m a pro.
Friday, October 2, 2009
Getting Married in Japan Part 5 - I appreciate your gift so much that I want to give you a gift as thanks
Ok, so you get a card and $100 USD cash from that former boss of your father whom you met when you were a kid, nice you might think, but it doesn’t really end there. To thank the person for the gift, you need to thank him/her with a gift of your own. This time cash is no good; it should be a physical gift and the general guideline is that the list price of the gift should be in the vicinity of 50% of the cash you received in the first place. Here you have a minor opportunity to save some money in case you can find something at a discount, the gift usually is some form of plate, glass or similar thing.
So now you got the cash gift and you spent basically half of it on getting a thank you gift to send back to the person and he/she in turn will send you a thank you card thanking you for the gift. Depending on the nature of the new thank you card you might need to consider sending a thank you postcard back to the person and pray that it ends there.
Broken down, the flow looks something like this, 4 active steps:
$100 USD cash gift received - $50 USD spend to purchase and send a physical gift back – Thank you card for the thank you gift is received – Thank you postcard or e-mail is sent to thank the person for the thank you card – END
I personally feel that if the flow could be simplified into these two active steps:
$50 USD cash gift received – Thank you card sent – END
...everyone would be happier in the end and save us all a lot of trouble and time, however keeping things simple is not always how the Japanese like to keep it...