Saturday, October 31, 2009

The objects in the mirror might be more bizarre than they appear

Seen today on a Japanese product specification sheet (in Japanese mind you, so this is not one of those funky "language mishaps" things, translated here for your amusement):

If there is a performance difference between the performance as stated her in the specification sheet and the performance of the actual product, the actual product performance takes precedence over what is claimed in this specification.

If this disclaimer is actually legal, imagine to what use it could be put! I need to take this up during one of our meetings at work and see how we can start implementing this disclaimer on all our products!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fantastic Facts: Swedish coffee is great!

As an expat Swede, I can actually live without most things from back home, there are some things that I like and buy if I get the chance, but very few things that I have trouble to live without. Two things actually.

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

Sometimes it's the little things

Sometimes it's the little things that can get me really annoyed at work... I received an e-mail from a colleague in the head office which was basically a forward of another e-mail from another person (no document or anything, just text) and the text in the e-mail was "Please take a look at the self-explanatory e-mail below discussing prioritization of ventilators for the coming year" and the e-mail below contained an explanation about prioritization of ventilators.

I just felt the urge to write back in capital letters to the person I received the e-mail:
"NO!!! YOU MAILED ME AN EXPLANATION I HAD TO READ THROUGH, THAT'S NOT HOW YOU USE "SELF-EXPLANATORY"", THAT SHOULD BE USED FOR IMAGES, GRAPHS, TABLES AND OTHER SUCH THINGS THAT MIGHT NEED AN EXPLANATION BUT DON'T BECAUSE YOU UNDERSTAND WHEN YOU SEE IT, BUT IT'S NOT MEANT TO USE FOR WRITTEN EXPLANATION BECAUSE IT'S OBVIOUS THAT'S IT'S EXPLANATORY AND MAYBE IF YOU HAD THOUGHT OF IT FOR A FEW SECONDS BEFORE SENDING THE E-MAIL WE COULD HAVE AVOIDED THIS WHOLE MESS!".

Sigh, I guess sometimes it's just the little things that count and yeah, a few breaths later the information was helpful and I wrote back a simple "thanks for the info".

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I think you called the *wrong* guy

A while earlier I talked about my manners when talking with tele-marketers and how they have a habit of making me slightly unpleasant to deal with after a certain point (post here). Well, there is some people that can make me much more unpleasant to deal with than over zealous telemarketers and that is people who straight up are trying to lie to you over the phone in order to get information they are not entitled to.

Earlier today as I was happily slaving away at my desk, doing my salaryman things I got a call transferred to me from another department being told that it was someone from my company's site in Göteborg, Sweden and that the name of the person was Knut (a very Swedish sounding name) and since I know a person by that name in the site who I sometimes need to talk to, I answered the phone in Swedish. After a few "hello?" in Swedish I realized that something might be wrong and switched to English and quickly got a reply. The conversation went something like this:

Sneaky Lying Bastard: (in a very non-Swedish slightly Indian accent) Hello, my name is Knut Svensson from Göteborg (both the name and city horribly mispronounced), I am currently at the Singapore airport and have lost my comp.... (interrupted by me)
Salaryman: No, you're not Knut!
S.L.B.: Well, I...
Salaryman: I know Knut and you're not him (a blatant lie from my side, but I knew he was lying to begin with)
S.L.B.: (surprisingly confidently) Yes, Knut is my manager
Salaryman: (aggressively) just a few seconds ago you introduced yourself as Knut Svensson!
S.L.B.: (assholish) maybe you have a hearing error because I'm not, he's my manager.
Salaryman: (still aggressive) fine, whatever, what's your name?!
S.L.B.: (quick recovery) Alan Steward... (again interrupted by me)
Salaryman: Yeah? Where's your office located?!
S.L.B.: (slightly shaken) well, now I'm at the airp.... (rudely interrupted)
Salaryman: No! I asked you where your office is located, where is your office located?!
S.L.B.: (meekly) Sweden...
Salaryman: (deceptively calm) uhu, ok, so you're Swedish?
S.L.B.: (confidently with no idea that he's walking right into the trap) Yes
Salaryman: So then you can speak Swedish?
S.L.B.: (unaware that the trap is snapping shut) ...yes...
Salaryman: (maliciously) Oh that's great, then we can speak Swedish instead, easier for both of us (switching to Swedish) jag tror minsann att du ljuger för mig?
S.L.B.: (Click)

I seriously do hate these people, they find out a name in the organization and present themselves as that person and do a shtick about having lost the computer and need contact information to the whole company to be able to call the people they need to call and they want it mailed to some gmail, hotmail or something. Basically they're straight up lying to you and what they're doing is borderline identity theft and I just wished we could trace them and have them put out of business...

Monday, October 26, 2009

It's not what you say, it's how you say it, or is it?

A sales related meeting earlier where a review of the sales of the month was done with each of my company's branch offices in Japan through the beloved teleconference system. My favorite was the Sendai branch manager, responsible for the Tohoku region (basically northern Japan up to the Hokkaido island), his report went something like this:

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%...


Obviously these 85% were quite below the branch average, but I have to give it to him, he almost got away with it, if only he could have kept up the confidence level...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Love defined - the moments that stay in your heart

After a request from Karen quite a while earlier on more "mushy" stuff, since full male frontal nudity for some reason wasn't considered "romantic enough" according to her standards, I thought I should make another try.

In a relationship, I think there are a number of moments that won't be forgotten and serves to define the love and the relationship. Each of these moments have some significance in that it changed the relationship and brought you closer to your partner (wow, look at that, saved myself the trouble of writing out "boyfriend/husband" or "girlfriend/wife"!). I believe that there are a few "checkpoints" that most people share, even if how they play out are completely different; I'm thinking of stuff like the first kiss, first time you make love, the proposal, the wedding and things like that. But then, I think that each couple have their own private moments defining the love and I thought I should share one of those with you here.

Me and Ms. Sunshine had been dating for a few months and she stayed in my lair most of the weekends and I used to walk her to the station on Sundays as she was going back to her place for the upcoming week. During this particular occasion we discovered an used book fair going on in the vicinity of the station and we decided to take a look out of curiosity, we also found a vendor with a respectable selection of cheap English literature.
As I was looking through the books, this book caught my eye: "Eat Thy Neighbor - A History of Cannibalism". Had it been a few weeks earlier, I would probably feigned a disinterest and gone back afterwards to buy it after I had taken her to the station, but I decided to go for it and reveal some of my more unconvential interests. I held up the book (with the charming cover you can see at the top of the post...) and cheeringly exclaimed, "I'm gonna get this one!" and was met with a concerened frown (It was unclear whether the concern was for my mental health or her own physical health...) and the question "are you really gonna buy *that*?". "Well, yeah, it seems a bit funny I thought..." I replied back, quickly realizing that Ms. Sunshine probably didn't see the same funniness in the cover as me... But after a second or so she shrugged her shoulders, took my hand again and said, "well, you can read whatever you want, but I'm not gonna read it".

That was one of those defining moments for me she showed that she could accept my sometimes slightly peculiar interests...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Corporate insanity, and this time I really mean it!

One of the better things about the humble company which employs my services is that the culture around working hours is not ridicilous. Usually the office starts to clear out from around six and after seven it's usually pretty empty in the office. However, there are a few departments and specific individuals who are knows for putting in extreme amounts of overtime, specificially Ms. Keitai in the logistics department and Capt. Awkward in the Quality Assurance department. Cpt. Awkward in specific thrives on overtime and even if he doesn't really need to he still works until the last train or later, he is known for having slept under his desk almost as routine for a while and as far as I know it's still nothing unusual. Ms. Keitai's overtime hours are more driven by necessity and not by an inclination to work until midnight most days of the weeks and quite often on Saturdays as well.

With that background laid out, post 8pm the office is usually populated by the two individuals above while everyone else has moved on to bigger and better things outside the office. Up until recently this has been peaceful, both are basically pretty nice people and even though they hardly are friends they get along fine and have some form of depraved solidarity with each other during the late hours.

However, recently Ms. Keitai brought up to me how things have taken a turn for the worse, with Cpt. Awkward constantly under quite a deal of stress and pressure from varying places, it seems like he has started to slip and the mask is cracking now during the after hours. Ms. Keitai mentioned how things could be calm and peaceful at around 10pm, with both of them working on their stuff silently, when all of a sudden Cpt. Awkward lets out a very loud haunted moaning "uhhhhhuuuuuhhhhh!!!" and then starts to shake violently in his seat for a few seconds, followed by him sitting completely motionless for a minute or so before resuming work. When asked if he's ok it's apparently met with a short "I'm fine".

I've been joking about "corporate insanity" before, but I have a feeling that this is the real deal...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Complete Coma!

I just remembered a pretty great anecdote that I best share with all my readers. I have not yet really dissected the drinking culture here in Japan , but rest assured that this is a topic that is lingering in my mind and will be dealt with when and if a stroke of inspiration hits me. In any case, I think it is fair to say that Japan has a pretty strong culture of drinking in social settings, mostly among the men. It can be a bit rough to handle if you are in a junior position and do not want to get drunk, but mostly nowadays sticking to oolong tea is respected and the worst you get is a few pointy comments about being a bore.

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

Hey! Why don't we chose nude kids as key visuals for this product?!

I am currently leading a shorter project that, among other things, involves creation of a series of advertisements for an upcoming campaign. Normally, the lady in charge of branding and marketing communications would be the one developing the ads, but she has been met with some resistance from one of the team members who, for reasons I haven’t really figured out, wants to make the ads himself. This amusing conversation occurred a little earlier:

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

Hey, what about the sports?!

As I sometimes watch the news on the local Japanese tv, it's inevitable that I also happen to watch some sports news. If you have been following this blog I think the obvious lack of posts mentioning sports make it pretty clear that I am no huge sports fan. I do follow the major events, and with a former very serious tennis player in Mrs. Sunshine-Salaryman it is hard to completely avoid sports, but active watching from my side is more limited to big soccer games and huge events such as the Olympics (the ice-hockey world cup is one event I would actually want to watch, but I’ve yet found any channel that shows it…).

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

You had me at “Haneda will become a hub airport”

Ok, I admit that I have been a bit skeptical and perhaps a bit unfair to prime minister Hatoyama and the DPJ as they assumed reign of Japan from the good 'ol LDP and Taro Aso . However, to my surprise the new government seem to be exercising something that almost seem like common sense in quite a few areas. It is pretty spooky to see how they are pulling the brakes on unnecessary expenses initiated by the previous regime…

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

If this is your pizza, how does your burgers look?

Once upon a time, when I just had started this little blog and the number of readers were somewhere around 2-3 pageloads per week out of which I was at least half, I did a post on how Japanese treat pizza and how it can sometimes manifests itself in slightly odd variants. But seriously, how naive I was back then... The pizzas I've just seen make salmon mayo look like nothing.

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?

"Awesome Salmon! Hokkaido Autumn Salmon Pizza"

So, we start up north with their Hokkaido Pizza which they describe as above, and to be honest, it's probably the one in the bunch that is least offensive with clams, broccoli, salmon, corn and with a base of white sauce...

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

Careful planning is the key to success!

Wednesday next week we have a very important teleconference with management to discuss a large upcoming marketing study for a certain product and hope to have the approval to go ahead.

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.


Always be prepared!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Japanese rice is sticky

As a shorter interlude between all the heavy posts dealing with weddings, work, Japanese culture and all that stuff that is so challenging to comprehend, I thought I should break things up with a lighter post for a change.

My little niece has been eating regular food now for a few months, but has very strong likes and dislikes, where most things she hasn't eaten before ends up in the "dislikes" considering the short time she has been eating food. However, she really likes rice and during her visit her earlier she consequently was fed a lot of rice since it's something she likes and is readily available. However, Japanese rice is sticky, something that can give a little kid quite a challenge if they're not used to it and have not yet mastered the noble art of eating with a spoon. Just thought this picture is kinda cute as she ponders how to deal with the sticky rice, note that this is pretty early in the meal and more food has ended up attached to her than in her stomach, therefore the serious look...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Getting Married in Japan Part 6 - The "Profile Video"

In all honesty, this next installment in this immensely popular series of posts does not deal with something that is a necessity for a wedding in Japan, but it still is something that is very likely to be discussed at some point.

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!:

video

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 had a dream...

This morning I had a dream just before waking up…
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

Typhoon season, the hyped up big one

Autumn in Japan is typhoon season and I have experienced many typhoons during my ten years in Japan and generally they're a bit hyped up in foreign media. Sure, it's a bit windy and it rains quite a bit making it unpleasant to go outside, also trains keep getting delayed or canceled which is of course a problem in Tokyo. That's not to say that there aren't serious incidents, but usually it is a small number of people who have been extremely unlucky and getting the car crushed by a feeling tree or those who haven't realized that getting out on the ocean in a small boat during a typhoon is not the best way to spend your time. For the general population, a typhoon is a bit inconvenient, but not really dangerous as long as you use common sense and stay indoors during the worst time.

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

2 Million Dorks spending $4.5 BN USD on 377,873 sqkm of land?

To follow up the “Otaku” and Akiba theme since a few posts back, I believe that I have some new insight into this that you might be interested in knowing. The other day I had a discussion with the Boy about the Japanese dork phenomena, triggered by his description of visiting a maid café since a visiting friend of his so desperately wanted to experience this, now pretty famous, Japanese speciality.

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

As you probably have read in my previous post in this educational series of posts, there’s a lot of money circulating around in the system in conjunction with a wedding in Japan regardless of the type of ceremony, reception or such. It can happen that a friend of the family hears about the wedding and even though they are not close enough to be included in the official invitation, they still feel like they want to give some gift and congratulatory message. This is usually a smaller sum of cash (this can vary wildly, but around $100 USD is pretty normal I would think).

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...

Related Posts with Thumbnails