Tag Archives: Japan Culture

A really crazy job interview in Japan

This is an old post that I deleted by accident when I transferred my blog from zuco.org to blog.zuco.co Many people asked me about this post, it seems that many of them linked it in their sites getting a broken link. Sorry for that! I decided to put it back and update it a little bit. Also the redirection is fixed so old links will point to the right place. Here we go:

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Learning photography in a unique place

Lonely Girl
I was always interested in photography, but it was in Tokyo where I really got myself into it. Tokyo is a special city and Japan, in general, is an amazing country. Not the amazingness that you can expect from a merely touristic point of view. Japan is special in so many ways: culture, architecture, language, food, design… The list can run endlessly.

I matured my photography mainly in Tokyo, using the environment, the streets, the night. I did this so many times per week during so many years. I trained my mind to dig into the landscape in front of me and find those particular details that inspired me to take a picture and tell a story.

After spending a couple of months in Europe I realized that I’m not trained, I’m quite lost. My brain searches using a pattern that doesn’t work in EU. Why? Well, the only conclusion I came out with is that I matured my skills and experience in photography in an environment that is unique. I didn’t start photography traveling, working on assignments or for money. I just started doing it as a hobby and it became a passion.

Why Japan is so special for photography:

  1. Security!! This is the most unique characteristic. It’s safe to go everywhere, at any time. It doesn’t matter if the streets are dark, empty or crowded. People don’t bother you, everybody ignores everybody in the streets. Even if you are surrounded by people, you can feel perfectly alone.
    Security let me total freedom carrying the equipment I wanted. I could go beyond what I really needed. It is very important to learn what you really need and what you really use. I moved from carrying a huge bag to just a couple of selected lenses. I didn’t have to hide my equipment, I didn’t have to cover the camera maker or serial number to avoid calling attention. I didn’t have to choose a bag that is hard to be stolen. I could choose a bag thinking in my convenience first.
  2. You can find 24h convenience stores or drink selling machines in every corner, which makes it so easy to eat or take a refreshment in a photowalk. I didn’t have to bring any food or bottle with me
  3. It’s so easy to buy any kind of photo gear ever made on earth. Second hand shops are amazing and electronic department stores let you play with every new camera. It’s possible to experiment with almost everything!
  4. Architecture in Tokyo is so disruptive at every corner. You can find a huge modern building followed by an old wooden one. There is no architecture order which I find fascinating, specially for an European point of view. We are so used to “normalization”, that the architecture landscape in Europe looks the same at every corner. There is no freedom to build whatever the heck you want, everything has to “conform” with that cylon-like-“perfect”-architectural design that, sooner or later, becomes tremendously boring. I find architecture in Tokyo amazing, like many other mayor cities in Japan, and it shows the difference between Japanese gardens and European ones. In Europe we have beautiful gardens but they are obviously fake. I mean, everyone can understand that the garden didn’t grow in that way naturally. Everything is perfectly shaped, ordered and geometrical. Japanese gardens, on the other hand, express their beauty while keeping a natural design. The line between artificial and natural is so blur. The same happens with architecture. Even if many Japanese friends of mine say that Tokyo is an ugly city, I find it fascinating because the concrete jungle evolves as a living being, with disruptions, discrepancies, and lack of order and geometry, typical of natural environments.
  5. I can find a lot of old things which are not ancient ones. There are ancient constructions that survived the pass of time, but they are few and located in specific areas. Cities renew themselves very quickly, so you won’t find a stone building from the XIV century still in use. Anyway, in Europe you can not really travel in time. You can realize that an ancient building is from another era, but just that building, not the whole atmosphere around. In Japan people wait until something really breaks before trashing it out. So it’s very easy to find places frozen in the 50’s or 70’s. That contrast gives a lot of opportunities to get interesting photographs. You can literally travel in time. Some restaurants or some areas in old train stations, didn’t change during the last 30 or 40 years while others are just ahead in the future.
  6. The night in Tokyo is magic. The lights, colors, specially after the rain, are awesome. The lights reflected in the streets, or those that appear through those transparent umbrellas, or the taxis, or the small ambulant shops selling ramen… or the infinite other fantastic places that inspire you out to take a picture, those are Tokyo’s magic.
  7. Districts in Tokyo change so much in terms of atmosphere, people, ages, style. It’s totally different walking in Shimokitazawa or in Shinjuku, Shibuya or Shinbashi. Each zone has its own different urban culture.

These are the main reasons I think enjoying photography in Japan is so different and unique respect other countries. Security and a strong civic sense are the main ones by the way.

Tokyo Timescape

Beautiful time-lapse video of Tokyo. I specially like the different approach from other timelapses that I saw until now. The mirror effect, the different cameras used and the non conventional view points. It’s really amazing, ++++

Enjoy it!

Tokyo Timescape from Remo Camerota on Vimeo.

Created for the Tommy Hilfiger store gallery wall 2012. Shot on Nikon D700, Canon 5DMII, GoPro HD Hero 1 and 2, Ricoh Digital GRIII.
Created by Remo Camerota, Edited by Hisako Emura, Music By The Rapid Ear Movement (Remo Camerota)

Check more on Remo’s vimeo and whitewallstudios.net

Why the FlyJin phenomenon

The term flyjin has been created in the twitter world of foreigners and expats living in Japan.
It’s a kind of a derivative joke from the word “gaijin” which in some context is a pejorative term of the formal “gaikokujin” meaning “foreigner”. Basically “flyjin” means, the man/woman that flies away.

This term was born due to the huge number of foreigners leaving Japan and flying away after the great Tohoku Earthquake/Tsunami/Nuclear Crisis

Everyone has his/her own reasons to take that decision, specially people with kids fearing a possible nuclear contamination or strong aftershocks. Anyway, all this “flyjin phenomenon” has been also criticized, mainly by some Japanese individuals and companies. For some people, this behavior was considered as a betrayal to Japan by many foreigners.

I didn’t leave the country, I didn’t get in panic so I’m not a flyjin, but I want to explain the reasons that justified the behavior of so many people. It’s perfectly understandable and human considering the information and the reality of foreigners in Japan.

Many Japanese don’t know how was this crisis from a foreigner perspective. So, if you are a Japanese reader or not, this is what a “gaikokujin” experienced:

  1. Earthquakes are not a common thing! Japan is maybe the most ready and better informed country in the world about earthquakes. Japanese learn since primary school how to protect themselves, what an earthquake is, and what it could feel like. It’s something you learn since you are a kid. I’m not saying that Japanese are used to earthquakes, but they have a better understanding of them. This is not the same for other countries. Even countries which historically suffered earthquakes, are not ready as Japan is. So the normal and natural reaction is fear, doubt and for some people, panic.
  2. Many embassies called directly to their nationals saying “would you like to come back? we have a free-ticket flight for you!”. Some embassies even told to their nationals: “You should consider to leave the country!”. So what is the common reaction, when you live in a foreign country and your embassy calls you telling that you should leave and that they have free-flights for you? It’s quite normal and human, specially for people with kids, to leave! Personally I don’t believe in any government or embassy or media, but the common behavior is to believe in your own government.
  3. Foreign media over reacted and manipulated the information, providing sensationalistic news of what was going on here. Families living abroad, started to believe what media said and called their relatives in Japan saying to please leave, go away, radiations will kill you! That’s also natural and human. People tend to believe in TV and they don’t think. That’s a problem of Media Literacy, and it happens everywhere.
    Of course we cannot deny that the situation was critical, thousands of people died due to the tsunami and the danger and fear of the evolution of the nuclear crisis, which kept everyone of us, Japanese and foreigners, in constant tension. But that’s not a justification for the manipulation and sensationalism made by many foreign media.

As an example of what foreign media said about this crisis, here you have some images of Spanish newspapers. This kind of news were almost a clone of all other newspapers around Europe. So just imagine, if you are in a foreign country and you see your own newspapers saying this, and your family read this, what are you going to do?

Translating from the left:

“Japan a country of phantoms…”, “Exodus in Tokyo”, “Nuclear Leak in Japan”

“Fukushima is out of control”, “Leak without control”

“Nuclear Panic”, “Japan looses control and UE says: Nuclear Apocalypse”, “Apocalypse Now?”

This is the reality from the (gaikokujin) foreigner perspective. Embassies recommending to evacuate and alerting of an imminent nuclear disaster or destructive aftershocks. News going crazy spreading out the panic and running in sensationalism. Families begging to come back home. Under those circumstances, it’s normal and human to take the decision to leave and protect your own family.

Why I didn’t become a flyjin? Well, basically I don’t believe in any government. Neither the Japanese, neither Europeans, Americans or whatever other country. I didn’t believe the media in this crisis. I just tried to apply common sense, reading as many different sources as possible, reading articles from physics and scientists. Remember what is going on now in the reactor is science, it’s physics and those laws cannot be changed by politicians, journalists or any ecologist group.

Sources: The pictures of the Spanish newspapers are from “los ojos de ella“.

Coming back to a normal life

Tohoku Earthquake It was about 3 weeks of silence due to the great Tohoku earthquake. I have a lot to say and little time for blogging so let’s start. However, what you will find here are not breaking news, but thoughts and conclusions from the point of view of a foreigner living in Tokyo.

It was 14:46, I was working in my office at Tameikesanno st., just the next building close to the American Embassy. As you can imagine it just started shaking, then stronger and stronger… and then really badly!
It’s hard to explain what was in my mind at that moment. The first thing I thought was “Is this the great Kanto earthquake?” Fortunately or unfortunately it wasn’t.

I was thinking about my girlfriend, friends and everybody else around. Where are them? I faced the possibility that in that very moment they could die. In such situation, I wasn’t able to understand if that was a really big quake of just a bigger one. I had never felt something similar, so for me, and everybody else in the office, it was just insanely big! The building I’m working in is new, well built, strong but… what about other ones? One thought came to my mind just straight away: “If you get out the building now or 5 or 10 minutes later, nothing is going to change. If something really bad happened to somebody you care, it has already happened and you cannot do anything now to stop it!” So I waited until the first quake ended, then took my stuff, checked with my coworkers and run away from the building, looking for a taxi to reach home and see how she was (my gf) !! I couldn’t contact using the mobile network but fortunately data network was almost OK. Twitter was the main source of information and the faster way to contact with her and friends. I could see from the taxi people in the streets with their helmets, people looking up to the buildings to see if some of them were damaged.

Then the second quake came, when I was still in the taxi. The driver turned the radio on just before the second quake came and at a certain moment the radio sent out an alert for the next coming quake. The driver stopped the car, and we waited for a few seconds. That moment into the taxi was like being in a boat… The taxi driver was pretty old and he told me he had never experienced such a big quake before in his whole life. The traffic was jammed and it would take a really long time to reach home if I kept inside the car. So I just paid the driver and came back home by walk. Fortunately I was quite close already so it took me about 1.5hours to reach home. Other people didn’t have the same luck. Many of them spent 6 to 8 hours or more to reach home and some other people had to spend the night at stations or in their offices until the next day. Trains collapsed and the entire transportation infrastructure was almost frozen.

Finally I reached home, everything was quite fine. A lot of stuff around, some stuff broken but she was OK and also friends were OK. At Tokyo we were really lucky, infrastructures resisted pretty well and not a single one building had collapsed.

For the next days we stayed at home feeling an aftershock after another. It was like a never ending dance of the earth. The feeling at some point, experienced by many other people as well, was like being dizzy, like being in a boat! Always worrying about the next quake, worrying about the next alert, worrying about almost everything. Those were a really paranoid days I won’t forget.

Here you can see a map showing the sequence of quakes in Japan since March 11th 2011. http://www.japanquakemap.com/

This was basically my story. It was the first time I felt an earthquake of such magnitude and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. Unfortunately for people in the north of Japan, affected by the tsunami, things weren’t so smooth. Thousands of fatalities and missing lives, families destroyed, broken, no food and water during the first days. The psychological impact that such a cataclysm will have in their minds will last for decades.

They need help. Japanese National Guard, Japan Red Cross, US military forces and many other organizations and volunteers are doing a great job but help is always needed and not just right now but during years. Money and support will help those people during a short period of time. They not only need to feed their stomachs right now but they need to rebuild their lives. That takes time and, especially, that takes constant economic support.

So please don’t forget victims after few months.

More information about the earthquake in the wikipedia.

Here you have some links for donations and help.
Japanese Red Cross information here.
The Peace Boat information here.
Save the Children information here.

What Linkedin should do to be Japanese

Linkedin is trying to enter into the Japanese market. Sources: Asiajin, TechCrunch (Japanese)

It’s not only about translating the site. It’s all about understanding cultural differences. Here some points I think they should consider to be fully accepted among Japanese.

  1. Give the option to use a predefined avatar. Don’t force people to use their photograph. Japanese take a lot of care of privacy and specially women don’t like to show their real picture on a public site. Linkedin is more a business, professional focused social network so, nobody would feel serious uploading the picture of a cat or dog, something really common in Japanese social networking. So giving the option to use some predefined funny avatars that could be chosen from a list or even letting the user to build one himself/herself. These would be really accepted among the Japanese public.
  2. Don’t do literal translations. Translating a social network site into Japanese means to design the site for Japanese. A translation of the interface is not enough. This means that menus have to be modified, some options dropped and some other added.
  3. Personal data should be completely configurable. For example, options like “I don’t want to show my profile to people from the following company” should exist and many more. Some people when leave their work don’t want to keep any relationship or contact with previous companies.
  4. Roles should be adapted, not only translated. Many roles inside the company change and are different compared to the equivalent in US or Europe.
  5. Also what kind of company, 株式会社 (public company, corporation, KK), 合同会社 (limited company), etc. Here a list. The concept may differ, and company types differ as well. It’s very important to understand this point and provide users the option to pick up the descriptions they feel comfortable with.
  6. Understand how Japanese use social networking. Checking other successful sites is a must. Instead of trying to change their behavior and make them use SNS as Americans or Europeans do, it’s a better approach to adapt and have an appearance Japanese like.
  7. Do alliances with many of the popular companies dedicated for job hunting and career opportunities like Pasona, Adeco, Human Resocia and so forth.

These are just few things to take care when creating a Japanese version of a social media site. For example, let’s see how facebook struggled while twitter grew as bamboo. One of the main reasons is because twitter didn’t force people to use their real names, neither their real pictures and also it didn’t force people to share so much personal information. Privacy is a real serious issue in Japan.
Of course Linkedin is not the kind of site to upload as an avatar the picture of a cat took with the mobile phone. Linkedin is for more “serious” talking, anyway dealing with the real face of somebody is not a requirement in Japanese SNS arena.

The most important advice Likedin should follow is: “Listen, listen and listen! First see how others do in Japan, understand the culture, understand how people interact, try to understand what people need and they still don’t find in other platforms. Listen to consultants having a long experience here and don’t try to quickly to convince a mature society as the Japanese to change their habits”

If Linkedin does its homework and walks the right way, it may have a really great success in Japan offering one thing that many other Japanese social network platforms still don’t properly offer: Internationalization.