Wednesday, December 26, 2012

It could only happen in Japan

It could only happen in Japan 

Carole Goldsmith Copyright © 2012 - 2013

Absolute extremes abound in Japan wherever you look.

Dumplings for sale 

Long queues wait in line for the freshly made dumplings at an Osaka Department store. Only one very speedy sales assistant serves the masses while ten people are at the back preparing the dumplings. 

Two other sales assistants seem to be setting up boxes and the one speedy rather stressed sales assistant continues serving the queues. I wondered at the time why the sole sales assistant serving was not helped by the others.  She was working non-stop and quite flustered while the dumpling makers were preparing their dumplings in a relaxed manner.

The boutique cake shop queues

Customers line up for over an hour waiting for 5 PM to enter an exclusive Osaka cake shop that looks like a boutique jewellery shop inside. Some people drive up in their black limousine and they seem to have priority over those waiting in the queue.

The people in the queue tell me that they must wait until 5 PM. They continue to wait in the queue and do not complain that others are going in before them. 

 Buying a post card at the post office.

I had been trying to email someone and the email did not go through so I bought a plain post card at the post office, I asked the postal staff where I should write the address of the person I was writing to. She showed where the address should go, just under the postcode boxes and where the postcode numbers need to go. 

So I proceeded to write the address and my message underneath the address. Then I asked her if that was OK and both the post master and post mistress spent a lot of time inspecting my postcard.  Then she kept checking books and typing numbers in the computer. 

My 60-yen post card had caused quite a stir, because I really had not written on the post card how I was supposed to do with the address on one side and the text on the other side. I also wondered why she did not tell me that in the first place. 

Silly me, for years I have been writing the address and the  message on the one side of the post card, because of course it had a picture on the other side. No you definately do not do the wrong thing in Japanese post offices. So be warned, don't throw the postal staff into a nervous state because a silly Gauguin has written the post card the wrong way. 

So this is how it should be done -  if you use a Japan Post -post card to post a message, write the address on one side and the message on the back side and if you have a senders address put that somewhere on the side that you are writing your message. 

Needless to say, I rewrote the post card the correct way, as they gave me a new one to use - and I bet the postal staff were happy to see me leaving.  

Using the abacus or counting frame to check the computer 

I was in a country post office in Japan buying some stamps. The postal staff calculated the total cost on her computerised calculator. Then would you believe it, she checked the amount on her abacus or counting frame. Amazing eh! In this age of high tech, in a high tech country like Japan, an abacus is still used. 

 Bike Riders nearly knock you over on the pavement 

With no helmets on, as helmets must not be required by law in Japan (like they are in Australia), bike riders speed along the foot path like they have the right of way, rather than the pedestrians.

Passengers stand on the back of the bike, without a care in the world, this looks very dangerous to me.They ring their bell and expect us passengers to get out of the way. 

Don't pedestrians we have the right of way on the footpath. With rules everywhere in Japan there does not seem to be any rules for bike riders. Although I did see a sign in Fukuoka - no cycling on the footpath. 

Garbage not collected automatically

Here I was thinking that Japan was just so advanced in everything but maybe not so advanced in garbage (trash) collection. 

Near my hotel located in the Tennoji region in Osaka, the garbage truck arrived to collect the trash and a man ran along beside the truck and collected the plastic bags of rubbish and piled them into the garbage bin by hand. 

In my city in Glen Eira in Melbourne Australia, the garbage trucks arrive, our garbage is in green tall bin. The garbage trucks mechanically pick up the bins and pile the rubbish into the truck's receptacle. Being all done mechanically by the truck there are no occupational health and safety issues. Handling the garbage manually raises a whole lot of health and safety hazards. Japan is very advanced in workplace health and safety, but certainly not in the garbage collection I saw at Tennoji, Osaka. 

Ten men in line sweeping the streets in Osaka

Again I was in Tennoji and saw a procession of men, all in uniform armed with brooms and shovel, sweeping  the streets. Surely if the many up the front swept and collected the dirt, there would not be any dirt left of the other nine men. I wondered at the time and am still wondering - Why did they need ten men in procession to clean the street? 

The extremes in Japan continue to surprise me.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Japanese Business Culture - Differences with the West

Japanese Business Culture - Differences with the West 

Carole Goldsmith - Copyright © 2012 - 2013 All Rights Reserved 

One of the major differences between western companies and Asian companies is the individual versus the group culture.

In western countries like America and Australia, individual culture prevails. Western corporate individuals make decisions no matter what management level they are in the company. Individualism is rewarded as many companies will have awards for best employee, staff member who introduced the best environmental initiatives or some other great suggestion. There are some team decisions, but often individual managers may make decisions for the group.

In Asia, the group culture still exists very much and decisions are made in groups. Many companies in Asia originated from family companies like Matsushita and Sony in Japan.
Suggestion schemes are very popular in Japan and team decisions that help the company to succeed are rewarded but not to individuals, but to the team that made the decision.

Also workers in Japan are listened to more by Japanese managers as occurs in the West. Some western manager may think they know it all and do not listen to the suggestions made by their employees, when they should.

Business relationships in Asia are much more formal than those in the West. As an example in Asia (Japan, Korea and China) you will call your work colleagues or business associates,  Mr, Mrs or Miss and by their family name.

In America and Australia, you generally use their first name right from day one when you start the job or when you meet a business contact .

In Germany, however it is quite formal in the work place. When I worked in scientific research at Farbwerke Hoechst, a very large pharmaceutical company, my manager and
Work colleagues always called me Frau (Mrs) and my surname.

Shaking hands when you meet someone in business is common practice in Australia, USA, Germany and France. 

Trust and introductions – long term relationships are vital to doing business in Asia.
This is not so important in Australia and USA.

Business card exchange ritual 

Business card exchange is also very different between the west and the east. When Japanese people exchange business cards, it is a very important part of doing business.
At a meeting, from senior manager first, you exchange business cards one at a time with both hands with the person’s details upwards so you can read the card. Then the cards are placed in front of you in the order that they are sitting.  I really like this system as it gives you the chance to know the person’s title and their name, especially in my case when I am interviewing several people at the one time.

Western businesses doing business in Asia may not know about the Asian business card exchange ritual. I have seen western business people deal out their business card like a pack on cards to the people at the Japanese business meeting. Then when they receive the Japanese person’s business card, they may scribble some notes on the back of the card to remind them where they have met the person. Japanese in particular will regard this with shock as this system of business card exchange will not be acceptable to Japanese business.

If Asian business people are working in the USA or Asia, you will need to adjust to the Western way and not expect everything to be done the Asian way.

Seating with senior people in particular positions like in Japan and China is not as rigid in Australia and the USA. In Australian meetings, (and maybe in USA business meetings) people can sit anywhere in the room, except if they are the chairperson or secretary. Japan, and I think China and Korea have quite a rigid seating arrangement according to their level of seniority in the company.

Even job titles and the companies you work for are of vital importance in Japan and Korea and you generally need to be introduced by someone reputable, before you can do business.

 I recall when I was going to Korea and wanted to arrange interviews, for an environmental article I was writing, with one of Korea’s largest manufacturing companies. Firstly, I had to get a letter of introduction from my magazine’s editor, and then I had to go through the Sydney office of the Korean company for an introduction to the corporate affairs manager at the Seoul head office.

I have written several articles on Toyota Motor Corporation’s (TMC) (Japan) excellent environmental and human resources initiatives and over ten years have developed a great relationship with TMC. When I wanted to write articles on TMC’s Australian operations, TMC’s corporate affairs in Tokyo introduced me to the public relations staff at Toyota Australia.

On another occasion, I was writing for tax, law, business publisher CCH Australia and I wanted to write for their Asian operations. So the Australian editor introduced me to the CCH Singapore editor, who in turn suggested that I contact the CCH Japan editor. So I then wrote freelance for all three operations.

If I wanted to conduct an interview in an American or Australian company, I would just call them to arrange an interview. With larger companies, I would probably go directly through their corporate affairs department.

Although introductions are helpful in Australia and USA, they are not as important as in Asia, where who you know prevails and will help you to get a foot in the door.

Of course with Linked In now operating different global groups, it will be very advantageous to you to have a professional profile on Linked In. This will always help with introductions to people in the east or west.

There are also many small business entrepreneurs in the west, particularly in Australia and the USA.

If you are a Japanese small business owner in Korea, you should call yourself president and not director as this title not regarded as a high level position in Korea.

Asian people are sometimes introverted, humble and a little shy, whereas Americans are sometimes loud and very open in their conversations. They are also very instant, responding within 24 hours.  You can cold call American many times and they will think you are very persistent  In Australia they would think you are a nuisance and a spammer and probably hang up in your ear.  

Many American companies are very philanthropic and donate money to community groups and charities. They also have very big research and development departments as do Japanese companies. As Australia is a much less populated country, only around six percent of companies are large, the remainder are small to medium businesses.  Hence research and development expenditure is probably much lower in Australia than in Japan and USA.

More - Cultural differences – Westerners should learn the symbols for male and female.
I recall staying somewhere in Tokyo when I first went to Japan and they had community baths. I went there one day and it was a female bathroom. The next day I went to the same bathroom and a group of Singapore men came in when I was getting undressed.
They showed me the character on the door for male and I have never forgotten the male and female characters to this day.

Japanese sniff constantly and this is very annoying to westerners, who blow their nose in public and put their dirty tissue in their pocket- this being very annoying to Japanese.

I was in a Japanese language class in Australia and the assistant Japanese teacher was constantly doing deep sniffs and it was making me sick. So eventually I had to tell him that we do not do that in Australia. Deep sniffing and spitting on the street, as I saw in China and Japan is a really quite disgusting for us westerners. 

For Japanese going to work in Australia, do not sniff, or spit in the street, this is a no no. politely excuse yourself and spit in the toilet, if you need to do that, or privately into your tissue and dispose of it in the nearest bin.

Many westerners, including me, find that lack of smoking control in the workplace, restaurants, clubs and pubs in Japan very difficult to cope with.

In Australia, all workplaces, restaurants, pubs and clubs are tobacco smoke free. I get asthma around cigarette smoke, so if I am attending a business meeting in a restaurant in Japan and people are smoking, I cannot stay. Japan is lagging greatly behind Australia, Korea and other parts of the world in smoking control in indoor venues. Staff working in Japanese restaurants, pubs, clubs and even other workplaces is constantly exposed to cigarette smoke.  Western business people are used to smoke free meeting places in workplaces and restaurants. When they come to Japan they are exposed to second hand smoke and find this very difficult.

So for Japanese going to work in Australia, we are mainly a smoke free nation, so it is probably time to give up.

Also you probably will finish work at 5 PM or 6 PM and not being encouraged to work the long hours you do in Japan.  Work life balance is quite important in Australia.

Punctuality is not as rigid in Australia as in Japan and Korea. People may arrive at a meeting five or ten minutes late, unlike Japan where everyone arrives five minutes early.

Corporate Australia and corporate America are similar; the CEO’s earn ridiculously high multimillion dollar salaries. Company directors are mainly males and they also receive high incomes. Shareholders are quite vocal and at times question decisions made by the board.

In comparison, to my knowledge, the financial returns of Japanese company presidents / CEO’s is only about triple what their employees earn, or that may be changing now. Shareholders of Japanese companies are generally a lot quieter than their western counterpart.

Australia is a multi cultural society and all different types of nationalities are employed in Australian workplaces. Equal employment laws are in place that are supposed to protect people of different culture and nationalities. However racism does exist in Australia against different nationalities and even against Australian indigenous people whose ancestors have lived in Australia for millions of years.  Japan also may have its own racism against some western nations.

In Australia, we use British English and not USA English. There are differences and sometimes it becomes very confusing. Like the time I was in Virginia in the USA and I was talking to a young man about the Town Clerk (the head person of a City council in Australia at the time) and he thought I was talking about the town clock.(the pronunciation was the same for both.

If Japanese people come to work in Australia, you may not understand the Australian accent and it may help if you buy an Australian dictionary. Some Australian’s speak with a drawl, slow and unclear,, while others will have polished British English, that you will find easy to understand. 

One of my greatest memories in Japan was when I was lecturing on workplace health and fitness at the sports and fitness faculty of Tokyo University. It was in the early days when I spoke only a little Japanese. I gave the lecture in English and German as there were some German students there. As I spoke my lecture was translated into Japanese for the local students to understand.

This also reminded me of the absolute enthusiasm that they have in the USA for new ideas and concepts. I was invited to speak at Virginia State University on workplace health and fitness in Europe. Then I was invited by about five other American universities to speak on the same topic, so enthusiastic were the Americans.

Very useful site for business etiquette in different countries

International Garden Expo 2013 Suncheon, Korea

More news from Jenny at Korean Tourism. She sent it to me a while back and just getting time to post it. Korea is so close to Japan, you might as well see both coun tries. 

International Garden Expo 2013 runs April to October in Suncheon, Korea

Korea’s ecological capital, Suncheon is set to  host an International Garden Expo – ‘Garden of the Earth’ from 20 April to 20 October, 2013. Suncheon Bay, an area already regarded as one of the world’s top five coastal wetlands is gearing up to host the Expo for the six month period next year.
Over the past 150 years, International Garden Expos have been recognised throughout Europe, United States and Japan.  They have been developed mainly as a means of urban restoration and environmental planning and protection for the future.
With Suncheon city hosting the Expo in 2013 the city hopes to further boost the already existing value of the Suncheon Bay area, one of the world most famous coastal wetlands.
Suncheon Bay is located on the southern coast of the Korean peninsula and is well known for its wetlands where 230 million migratory birds arrive annually.
The 152 hectare garden area will comprise several zones including The Scenery of the World, the Breathing Greens Zone, Nature and Fairytales and the Hope of Wetlands Zone.
The Scenery of the World Zone will have a Tree Zone, a Water Bird Zone, Flower Road Zone.  The Breathing Greens Zone is all about forests & traditional gardens.  Nature and Fairytales will include Dutch and American gardens while the Hope of Wetlands Zone covers the Suncheon Bay Ecological Park.
Suncheon city is located on the south coast approximately 2.5 hours by KTX fast train from the capital city of Seoul.  From Busan, Korea’s seaport and second largest city it takes two hours by bus. 
Nearby Suncheon there are many interesting sights and cultural activities to enjoy to  learn much more about the history and culture of Korea.  Visitors can enjoy the beauty of the Boseong Green Tea fields and experience a traditional Korean tea ceremony or pay a visit to one of Korea’s most beautiful temples Songgwangsa, one of the most important Zen Buddhist monasteries in the country.  Also nearby visitors can enjoy the Nakan-Eupsong Folk Village which displays village life as it was under the Joseon Dynasty in Korea. It has wonderful preserved castle walls, thatched cottages, inns and a market place.
For further information on the International Garden Expo 2013 Suncheon, Korea visit the official website:  and click on the English pages.  Here you can learn more about the six month event and also discover all the surrounding sights and activities to enjoy.
Dated:  5 December, 2012
Further information:  Jennifer Doherty, PR/Marketing Manager, KTO Sydney office
Contact:  Email:   Phone:  02)9252-4147/8

Friday, December 21, 2012

Check out Japan's Industry tours - many are free but you must book

Learn about Japan's products and culture from the world's third biggest economy. 

By Carole Goldsmith Copyright © 2012 - 2013 All Rights Reserved 

If you are a techno head like me and want to know about how Japan's products are made, then Japan industrial tours will be an important part of your trip to Japan.

The good news is that many of these industrial tours are free to attend, although most require you to make a booking in advance. In that way, you will also know what time to turn up for the tour.  .
Some of the most exciting times I have had in Japan is while visiting industrial tours. I have spent hours on a guided tours and then examined everything there was to see in the company's museum after the tour.

Funny things that have happened to me on a Japan industrial tours
There have been funny things that happened to me while going on an industrial tour in Japan.
At one manufacturing site where I was on tour,  I asked the guide if their robots ever made mistakes. She said to me with a smile - "No robots never make mistakes". At that very minute, one of the robots had a chair in its gigantic arms and instead of placing the chair where it should, the chair was flung across the manufacturing area and landed on the floor.

JNTO has a great list of Japan's industries across Japan, that you can visit,some with English speaking guides and some without.
see   This list covers automobile manufacturing, electronics, sweets, breweries and distillery, cosmetics, newspaper publishing, stock exchange, broadcasting, ceramics, banking, fish market, traditional industries.

There many more industry tours or industry museums that are not listed on that PDF. When you visit a city ask the local tourist office if the city has any industry tours and climb aboard - or ring / email for a booking.

One of my favorites which is not on the list is the Toyota Automobile Museum in Nagoya. . It provides a fascinating insight into the history of Japan's largest company, Toyota. Starting out as a weaving company, you can see the weaving machines and the transition of the company to a global leader in automobile manufacturing.

Another favourite of mine is the Panasonic Corporate center showroom in Osaka
I spent a whole afternoon there in 2012, checking out all the latest Panasonic products, watching DVDs on the company's movie cinemas and testing out the fantastic sound system.  You can touch electrical products and see how they work. This techno addict had a very interesting day, trying it all out and being assisted by the ever helpful Panasonic ladies. There was even an environmental quiz and you get a prize at the end.

 kidsweb Economy and Industry - where children can learn about this topic with quizzes and lots of fun interesting things to do.