Monday, March 31, 2008


One of the more useful abbreviations that has grown popular here in Japan in the last year or so is "K.Y." which stands for "Kuuki ga Yomenai" and directly translated it means "can't read the air" and basically refers to people who cannot read other people and as a result of that act insensitively towards other people. Something which is pretty important here in Japan since a lot of the communication requires you to read between the lines. I'm not completely certain about the background of this new fashion word, but if I'm not mistaken it came out of Japanese high school students and got picked up by the media and is now in pretty common usage and most people in Japan are familiar with the meaning now (including doctors age 60+ that we've talked to in work before). But if anyone happens to know better, please feel free to correct me!

Let me give you an example here and please feel free to act out the scenario with a friend, lover or long lost relative:

Scenario 1 - KY Person

KY Person: Wow, yeah, it'll be so great when we go to that super cool theme bar Alcatraz this Saturday!
Person A: Yeah (frowning and looking a bit at unease), about that... I'm not sure that...
KY Person: Hell yeah! I'm going to have that sausage that looks like a penis and all those cool drinks!!!
Person A: (Loud sigh) yeah, ok, I'll see you there then...
KY Person: (Excited) Yeah, it'll be so great!

...and to give you a counter to that, let's see the same scenario with a person that has the ability to "read the air":

Person B: Wow, yeah, it'll be so great when we go to that super cool theme bar Alcatraz this Saturday!
Person A: Yeah (frowning and looking a bit at unease), about that... I'm not sure that...
Person B: Oh? Would you rather prefer to go to a more normal place?
Person A: Yeah, actually that would be better I think!
Person B: Ok, sure that works too!

Oh, and yeah, in case you are wondering, I've been to that Alcatraz place and it's the greatest place ever, the penis sausage is highly recommended! They have a "show time" and everything!

I finally did it!

Ok, that really wasn't that hard work at all, but at least now I've finally managed to expand the links to the people who're nice enough to link me! Sorry for not doing it quicker!

Friday, March 28, 2008 is this going to be a discussion about the war?

With my adventures from the world of consulting now over, there are still some fond memories and interesting stories that I never really had time/energy to put down here, but now I have both the time and the energy so I thought I should share this with you.

This particular incident was during the "Potatoe Chips" project that I talked about earlier as long time readers of the blog might remember. A long standing joke inside the company was that when interviewees all of a sudden started to talk about WWII things were not going particularly well and most people in the company (at least the americans) always had had a couple of interviewees that wanted to talk about the war instead of the subject at hand for which we were paying them money.

The following scenario occured at a meeting with the President of the Japan office, a man in his 60's who quickly got the internal nickname "Blubber", and his biz development manager (both Japanese) with El Presidente, Luke and me participating (two americans and me). The Japanese office was clearly unhappy with the attitude of the US head office:

Blubber: Yeah and now they want us to do this? It's impossible!
El Presidente: Well, we hope to be able to work together with you to make sure we get an accurate picture of the situation so you can convince the head office.
Blubber: I don't know what they want us to do? We lost the war, ok? They won!
Us: (confused silence)
Blubber: They won the war, that's fine, that's history, but why do they keep treating us like this?!

The discussion had problems getting back on track after this outburst...

A few weeks later a preliminary presentation was held, coordinated by a foreign office of our company in which the Japan part was included together with similar research done in several other countries in which the Partner presenting clearly did not have an understanding of the Japan situation and managed to misunderstand and give wrong and misleading information. The day after I get a call from the Biz dev. manager who apparently had made up his mind that we in the Tokyo office at least were decent people and the following conversation took place:

BD Manager: Did you hear about the meeting yesterday, they completely misunderstood Japan! Why didn't you present the Japan part?
Salaryman: Well, this was part of the global study and was handled by the senior people in the office coordinating the research.
BD Manager: I think he deliberately misunderstood the Japan situation! That guy, what was his name?
Salaryman: His name is something-something I think.
BD Manager: Yeah, well I don't know what his problem is and why he hates Japan so much? Maybe his grandfather was killed by Japanese soldiers in WWII and he hates us or something?!
Salaryman: (Momentarily speechless) Eh... I'm sure he didn't do this deliberately, I'll make sure they get it right the next time...

The paranoia of those guys were pretty funny and there are quite a few more good stories that came out of that project which I might share at some later point.

Catherines Cathedral, where did you go?

Ok, you people interested in my work adventures or stories about life in Japan might as well skip reading this post, this time I thought I should bring up one of the great music groups that no one but me cares about and only I seem to miss.

This post is about the great Swedish goth group called "Catherines Cathedral" who released three cds back in the '90s, the music was so goth that it's hard to be more goth that those, just calling a cd "flowerdust" and having songs called "Morpheus of the endless" or "Noxious Pandemonium" gives a rating of 11 on the gotho-meter. The singer called himself M. Valley and tried to emulate both Andrew Eldritch of Sisters of Mercy and Carl McCoy of Fields of the Nephilim at the same time, and they had a drummachine that they in true goth fashion called "Colonel Phobia". This is about as goth as it'll ever be.

That said, I actually really liked this group, sure they were corny and the image was too goth for their own good, but they did make some top notch catchy goth songs. I remember back in the day going to the hottest EBM music club in Stockholm with my friends of the time and going to the goth dance floor requesting the song "Sensurround" together with my friend Jorgen which usually quickly resulted in an empty dance floor except for me and him. Then the owner of the club, which we thought seemed like a really nice guy, got arrested for murder, but that's another story.

The sad thing is that I seem to be the only person in the world that actually liked this group, I even bought their side project "Silent Echo" which was almost as goth as the main band... But after their last CD "Equilibrium" they just dissapeared and possibly are missed just by me...

Look at the pendlum...

As I've mentioned sometime earlier, yours truly has in the latest year developed an annoying little phobia that has proven very hard to shake off. When I met with a psychatrist I got a couple of interesting questions such as "do you hear voices when no one is there?" and "do you sometimes see things that are not real?" and after answering negatively to both of those I got the response, "well, since you're not mentally ill there's not much I can do, you should try therapy".

Ok, fair enough I thought, and tried that at considerable expense but with little result, and nice as the therapist was, it didn't really help much and at the last meeting she said that she didn't know what to do and left me off with a weak "I'm sorry I couldn't help".

Then the always lovely Ms. Sunshine suggested hypnotherapy since she had a friend that got very good results out of that in stopping smoking. So today I went to my first session and it was an interesting experience indeed. I'm still not convinced that she really got me into the state of hypnosis, sure it felt relaxing but not particularly different. There were some interesting things that I still don't really understand the reasons for, such as "say buggaboo", but maybe that's things she just throw in for her own entertainment. To her credit, she did use a pendlum, something that I always felt that any self respecting hypnotist should use.
Not really sure that it helped much either, but I guess I'll wait and see!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I want a Vii!

I own both a Wii and a Playstation 3 and I must admit that the PS3 most often gets used for playing, but I got a soft spot for the Wii and when you have friends over it's unbeatable. The Wii has a certain charm of its own and as a farewell gift from the great consulting company I also got a copy of the Smash Bros game which I actually am enjoying playing now, even alone due to the extremely corny "story mode". As I've also mentioned earlier, I was the Mario Party champion in the office.

A while back I came across another gaming console that seems a bit interesting, the Chinese manufactured Vii, for the features I recommend watching the video which probably will be entertaining even if you don't understand Japanese. My favorite part is when they interview the Chinese "Vii" representative and he talks about how only they and Nintendo has access to the motion control device (that guy seems to forget that Sony also utilizes it in the PS3 controller, but whatever I guess...).

My favorite game I'd like to play is the exciting "Fry Egg" which seems to be an egg frying simulator, just what the world needed!

I can just imagine the poor Chinese kid who desperately wanted a Wii in present and his well meaning dad comes across the "Vii" and buys that instead...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The high cost of living... and moving...

Ok, I am perfectly aware that I have been badmouthing the HR departments of larger corporations earlier, I am not willing to take all of it back, but to some extent I probably should give them a break since the HR department of my new company has proved to be very helpful.

You see, when you move here in Japan, there are a number of costs connected to the whole moving process which include a "thank you fee" which usually is about 1-2 months of rent and this is not refundable, furthermore you also need to put in a deposit in case of damages etc. which usually is around 2 months of rent, finally you also need to put in 2 months of rent in advance. All in all, you can easily end up with having to pay 6 months of rent up front before you move in, granted, as long as you don't wreck the place you are bound to get some of the deposit back at the end of it and the advance rent is not wasted money either, but it's a pretty tough pill to swallow just for a move.

Now, the thing is that I'm not actually moving, since I'm happy where I live, in the ghetto of Ikebukuro as explained in a post way back before. However, in order to rent an apartment here in Tokyo you usually need a "guarantor" person who legally becomes responsible for whatever happens in case you dissappear after wrecking the place and not paying the rent. This has to be someone employed and usually it is family that takes on this part.

However, as a foreigner here in Japan with no family around that can be used as guarantors I have been relying on the companies that has employed me to hire the apartment in my name to go around all that trouble, theoretically this works well, but now when I change jobs for the 2nd time within 2 years the problem that comes up is that the apartment contract needs to be redone and the building company has taken this as an opportunity to hit me with all the fees all over again...

So including the initial payment when I moved in, this will be the third time I pay the "thank you" fees, deposit and everything else. Realizing that this is not ideal in case I once again change jobs in the next couple of years, assuming that I still want to stay in the same place, so this time I tried to have the apartment done on me personally instead of the company and putting the company up as guarantor, which could be changed if/when I change jobs again without. The building management company initially resisted this since they felt that a corporate contract would be safer but after having my new company's HR person playing hardball asking and arguing with them why this couldn't be arranged as a personal contract with the company, a solid company with plenty of cash in the coffers, couldn't be accepted as guarantor instead of a person, the building management company finally relented and the company will be on me personally making things in the future easier for me.

I've lived in Japan now for over seven years, and in all that time I have almost never felt the target of any form of discrimination, but this is one of those cases when it definately would have helped to be completely Japanese... I can also reveal (I promised to gradually lift my veil of secrecy) that I am half-Japanese and has a partially Japanese name, that together with a fluency in the Japanese language has certainly helped in avoiding discrimination I would guess.

Anyway, to sum it up, it's nice to get back into a company with a real functioning HR department that knows what it's doing!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Doing the research!

I would also like to take the opportunity to share with you all one of the pro-bono consulting cases that I personally have done. The research method was basically a combination of quantitative and qualitative research through in-depth interviews with experts in the field.

The results were pretty clear, Futurama is the greatest comic cartoon ever made.


As you know, I will move back from the high powered world of consulting back to a more traditional salaryman job with all the trappings that that entails:
* Suit and neckties on a daily basis
* Frequent arguments with age 50+ japanese salesmen
* Gray desk and gray chair
* Regretting that I don't smoke since all the important opinions only come out in the smoking room
* Frequent in-company drinking sessions (nomikai)
* Long winded "manager's meetings" where the same stuff is discussed time and time again

...but that's ok and I actually missed all that stuff in some perverse fashion. As you can understand, this change will also have some impact on the general content and direction of this blog. To begin with, I no longer have to worry about client confidentiality so some of the veil of secrecy I have made around here can be lifted gradually.

At the moment, I am now on in-between job vacation and will mostly concentrate on taking it easy and getting all the stuff done that I never got around to do due to being busy and tired of work. I also look forward to being a bit bored from time to time, something that I rarely have the chance to be when working and I also think that I can promise far more frequent updates of this blog in the coming weeks. The picture captures the general atmosphere perfectly!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I shit you not!

In Japan, prostitution is illegal, but that doesn't stop it really and there are places that are pretty open with it here in the sex industry in Japan and I personally pass through one of those areas every day to and from work. The offering ranges from pretty innocent "hostess bars" which basically consists of women talking to you while you drink without any explicit sexual services to full fledged prostitution and basically anything you can think of in between those two.

Captain Britain recently entertained me by telling me of a club that he had seen a sign for up in northern city Sapporo's red light district. The place in question was called "The Shitty Box" and on the sign he saw was a picture of a salaryman (just like me) lying down on his back with a box like contraption covering his head (you'll get the general idea from the picture) and a girl in a school girl uniform squatting just above the box. I'll leave it to your imagination to figure out what the purpose of this is.

Now, since I am of a curious nature this raises a number of questions in my head:

Firstly, the girls who work there probably only has ammunition stored up for one or two big events during one day. So the question is if the women working there are just attached to the club and just plainly eat a lot and maybe some laxative or if the club relies on a number of women that only does this once or twice a day and then goes to work at some other more normal club?

Secondly, who runs this club? Is this a person that himself is into this interesting fetishism or is it simply a shrewd businessman who saw an opening in the market for a niche club catering to these tastes?

Thirdly, how much do they pay the cleaning staff?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I'm outta here

As some people might already have heard or figured out, I'm the person quitting that the previous post referred to. I'm leaving the high powered world of consulting and the madness behind to return back to a more standard Salaryman job here in Tokyo. The current insanity is bound to be replaced by a somewhat different type of insanity, I'm sure, but I can deal with that.

So for this blog it will mean a slight change in content in that the work insights into high powered consulting will be change to the life in a more corporate environment, but rest assured that madness will follow me as I move.

So, farewell pointless IM convoys, long lunch breaks, crazy/stupid clients and welcome back to suits, neckties and dailys shaves!

Oh, and yeah, the Justice Leaguer that quit in that magazine was Hawkman, he and Hawkwoman returned to Thanagar in that issue, in case you got curious.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Well, this is miserable, isn't it?

Mr. Salaryman is sitting in a hotel room in west Japan, trying to vomit down 8 hours of grueling boring meeting, where the strongest effort was to hold down the urge to punch Ms. A in the face as she stuttered on her translations which she could have done without problems if she just wasn't so damn nervous, down in a word-file. Sitting with a Caramel Oreo cookie McFlurry (yeah, I know it costs 30 yen more than the normal one, but I decided to spoil myself today) to my left, CNN going in the background droning on about some Spitzer sex scandal for the tenth time in one hour only to be interrupted by occassional bursts about Clinton and Obama, computer at my front.

Sudden Insight of Clarity:
Wow, this is miserable!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Well, I think this one illustrates the latest development...

Well, I was going to write a long and exceedingly funny post about the latest development in my life and in the great little company I am lucky enough to be a part of, but then I found this picture that so clearly illustrates the current situation.

The details will come later on, meanwhile the picture captures the gist of it!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

I know I know I know!!!

I should link all the nice people who has started to link me, I will! I promise, just give me a little time!

Monday, March 3, 2008

It died alone, broke and will be missed by noone

If you follow this blog you probably have understood that I work within the consulting industry. One of the key areas in which we operate is to help companies understand the market and devise the optimal strategy to enter the market enabling the maximum potential for their business. This is what we do and many companies are ready to pay up the big bucks for us to do this for them.

So far so good, however, about a year ago our own little company branched out into a new field. A separate company was created to break into this new lucrative business area, ripe for the plucking as some people seemed to believe. Mr. Chin was hand-picked to lead this new endeavor and Captain Britain was also thrown aboard this great new venture which was going to create further success to our little company and make us larger and more profitable. The opening of this new business was celebrated with champagne and festivities, the phrase "great opportunities" was used a great number of times. Most of us people in the core company remained pretty skeptical towards the whole endeavor but since it really didn't concern us directly we didn't care that much and didn't get caught up in the enthusiasm.

What made me most shocked is that we spend so much time convincing companies to understand the market and have a strategy based on evidence before they enter the market, but our company, who lives on strategic consulting, didn't do any kind of research at all, we just threw ourselves into this completely new area where we had no real experience, and the experience that Mr. Chin was supposed to bring to the table quickly turned out to be less than it had been made out to be...

Last Friday, without any announcements or anything, the company died a natural death, without ever really getting any clients or generating any revenue to speak of at all, it died lonely, broke and will be missed by noone.
If you allow me to end this eulogy with a poem:
Lonely Funeral
An unforgiving memory conspicuously brought
back to existence
The beginning of the end has only begun
You can douse the corpse in cough syrup,
but your timing’s a little off
You seem to have murdered your own heart
I hope it had a lonely funeral

I regret to inform you but the eulogy’s been
Did you ever plan to notice that your clock had fallen behind?
The possible remedy missed its chance
Time waits for nothing, gone in a glance
It appears you have murdered your own heart
I’m sure it had a lonely funeral

Manny Negron

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Anatomy of a Corporation - Pt. 1 The HR Department

As yours truly is now entertaining the thought of moving back to a larger corporate environment and away from the high powered world of consulting I will take this opportunity to elaborate a bit on the different functions and departments that can be found in larger corporations. In case someone doesn't know, I spent several years in such a corporate entity before moving into consultancy so allow me to think back. A little retrospect if you will.

Anatomy of a Corporation - Pt. 1 The HR Department
This is a department I have a complicated relationship with, it can very much be defined as a love-hate relationship from my side.

So, to begin with, what's good about the department? Well, the people is usually among the nicest, most considerate people you can find inside a company, the ratio of women is usually also pretty high which, in my opinion, is a very good thing. They actually seem to care about people to some degree and are usually pleasant to talk to.

That said... The problem with the Human Resources department is also pretty straightforward; they have no idea what they are doing. Usually they know next to nothing about the actual business and what is going on, their knowledge is purely theoretical at best and they usually follow some HR guidelines which are usually done by the HR department and has very little to do with the reality of the company as a whole. Given adequate instructions on the kind of person we would be looking for they could sometimes, come up with decent candidates, but more often than not it was quicker and better if we did it ourselves through an agent.

So in summary, it's a great department in that it has plenty of nice considerate people, but unfortunately they rarely know what's up and what's down, but hey, most of the time noone does anyway.
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