Tag Archives: Japan Culture

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.

Fukubukuro 福袋

The Fukubukuro (福袋) is a Japanese New Year’s Day tradition used by many shops, where a bag full of goods is sold out starting early in the morning.
The bag contains items of a certain kind but the exact content is unknown. There are many different bags with different prices and products so, for the same price, you can get a high end camera or a crappy one.

Following the tradition, today I got two Fukubukuro from Yodobashi Kamera and from BicCamera. These are two of the mayor Electronic sellers in Tokyo (and also in part of Japan). I have to say that this time Yodobashi did it really well.

Just check the box and the design of the Box sold by Yodobashi and compare it with the simple paper bag sold by BicCamera

Yodobashi
This one contains toys for girls, I mean for kids ;-) it was @depepi one :)

BicCamera

Almost all Fukubukuro were sold out at Yodobashi

Presentation is important, design is important, price is important. It makes clients more confident and willing to buy.
This time Yodobashi won by all means for the organization and presentation of this funny tradition.