Friday, October 29, 2010

Are Japanese women too patient?

Yesterday, it was reported in a TV show that a lot of middle-aged Japanese women try to overcome climacteric disorder only by being patient even though there are many medicines to ease their symptoms. The phrase "being patient" reminded me of two of the following stories. 

The first one is about my Japanese friend. Many years ago, she gave birth in Sydney. According to her, her delivery was expected to need a special technique, so the hospital asked her if other doctors and residents could observe her delivery. She accepted the offer. Because of this, her delivery started in a large operating room while being watched by many doctors. 

While she was struggling with an acute pain during her delivery, she tried to hold up as much as possible and didn't yell out. A lot of observers seemed to make her feel like she wanted to hold up better than usual. Despite her bearing the pain, a nurse beside her started slapping her cheek. Although she was surprised by it, she was struggling so hard to give birth that she couldn't ask why. After the delivery, it turned out that the nurse had assumed at the time that my friend had been unconscious since the nurse had never seen patients not yelling out during the delivery.

The next story is about mysterious Japanese women's behaviors. I'm sometimes asked by Western men why their Japanese girlfriends suddenly express outrage without clear reasons. They don't understand why at all and don't know how to deal with their girlfriends. The blasts sometimes lead to a break up.

As you may know, some Japanese women still don't say anything when they feel frustrated with what their boyfriends did.  They just try to let it to go away or accept it while being patient. Some try to imply that they don't want it instead of saying no verbally. Some hope that their boyfriends can notice what they are thinking before they say it. However, these approaches often make the frustration grow, and the women end up erupting in rage.

Today, more and more Japanese people clearly express themselves. It's generally said that they have become less patient. However, they still tend to be patient based on Japanese culture. I think that keeping it bottled up is good, but it's more important for Japanese people to release frustration and try to solve problems before they are stretched thin.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Is Japan on the edge of a cliff??

This year, two Japanese people won the Noble Prize in Chemistry. Immediately after the news was announced, it caught public attention and the two winners earned enthusiastic applause in Japan. However, a few days later, the happy news was overwhelmed by the announcement that Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize. The recent political conflict over an island between China and Japan made a lot of Japanese people focus on China, so his winning inevitably drew considerable public attention.

Anyway, when the two elderly chemists were asked for a comment on receiving the prize, both of them expressed concern about the current situation in Japan, saying that young people have become less interested in the persistent research which usually takes a long time to be appreciated. 

Recently, I happened to see a TV show which talked about small companies struggling to survive by sticking with made-in-Japan products. Some small factories are taking advantage of their highly sophisticated original techniques and have successfully developed an overseas market. Although they are doing well now, most of their skilled workmen who are supporting the techniques are old. These companies have difficulty passing their techniques to younger generations.

A tiny children's clothing manufacturer in Okayama/岡山 is enjoying good sales. Under the circumstance where almost all of the clothing manufacturers have relocated their production bases to China to cut down the labor cost, the company sticks with made-in-Japan clothing which can be competitive with made-in China ones. It has succeeded in cutting down labor costs while keeping high quality by taking advantage of elderly skilled housewives who used to sew clothing on sewing machines in factories until those were relocated to China. As far as I saw in the show, their skills were impressive. They proudly said in the show that they were confident in sewing.

These episodes show that skilled workmen who supported the high growth of the Japanese economy in the past are old and there are few Japanese people who can take over their skills. I understand that skills require change as the times and the situation of Japan change. However, I feel like Japan is losing something important.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Long-distance coaches with luxury, comfortable seats installed

As I mentioned in my previous posts, bus tours have become more popular in the past few years due to the recent recession. In addition, long-distance coaches have become more popular since more people are trying to pinch a penny. I remember that I was surprised to see how crowed the long-distance bus terminal in Tokyo Station was at midnight when I was passing through it a year ago.

In Japan, a lot of people travel between Tokyo and Osaka everyday. Shinkansen (bullet trains) and airlines have been engaging in a fierce competition for many years to gain more passengers. Recently, long-distance coaches seem to have joined the competition. According to the news, a few long-distance bus companies started offering new services, and then these services have successfully captured the hearts and minds of people, especially women.

Women tend to hesitate to take long-distance coaches by themselves because men sitting next to them sometimes bother them. Some women feel uncomfortable with sitting next to men even if the men are harmless. In order to attract more female passengers, female-only couches and those with seats installed three deep (no passengers have a seat next to them, please see the picture) has become popular in the past several years.

A few months ago, coaches with new type of seats installed appeared on the route between Tokyo and Osaka. Even though the fare is more expensive, the coaches have already gained the popularly. The coaches enable you to secure a private space and to enjoy movies and games on a small private screen (click here) like you can do that on flights. Other than that, following coaches have become more popular on major routes like between Tokyo and Osaka.
-Coaches for businessmen/women (click here)
-Coaches with conformable, luxury seats installed (click here)
-Overnight buses with luxury seats that enable passengers to have a good night's sleep (click here)

As for the competitive route between Tokyo and Osaka, for example, even the most expensive buses are cheaper than Shinkansens and airplanes. It's good for us to have more choices. However, I can't help but wonder if some companies will force their employees to travel by the luxury overnight buses to cut down costs.

In your country, do long-distance coaches with luxury seats exist ?

Monday, October 25, 2010

What do you trust ? What do you think about the result of the survey? I find it interesting.

Recently, I happened to find that Japanese mass media was being discussed on Twitter. The current anti-Japan demonstrations in China seemed to trigger the discussion. In this discussion, a well-known Chinese man who has been living in Japan for over twenty years pointed out that Japanese people tend to believe the news reports and the comments made by mass media without trying to make sure whether or not what mass media says is reliable and without trying to think about what mass media intends to do. I thought he was basically not wrong. However, his single careless, misleading Tweet fueled the discussion. He quoted a survey result to back up his statement, saying that the survey shows that Japan has the highest percentage of people who trust in mass media among the countries surveyed. He added that this Japan's percentage is higher than China's, and much higher than Britain's and America's. Unfortunately, he didn't attach the link to the data quoted.

His statement intrigued me, so I tried looking for the survey on the internet. Luckily, I was able to find it easily (click here). According to the site, some universities and research institutes from over ten countries worked closely and conducted the survey. Regarding each of the nine institutions/organizations/systems, around 1000 people over 18 in each of 18 countries were questioned whether or not they could trust it. Please see the bar graph in the link. Each figure in the graph is the sum of the percentage of "Yes-very reliable" and that of "lean Yes-a little reliable".

Although the survey was conducted about ten years ago and the site doesn't mention the details, I find the result interesting. I think that you can learn some tendencies from it. As for Japan, you can see that Japanese people don't trust the Japanese government and the Diet. Only given that the Japanese Prime Minister frequently changes in the past twenty years, the result is convincing. As the aforementioned Chinese man said, the survey shows that 70% of the Japanese people surveyed trust newspapers and magazines.

I can guess some reasons why Japanese people tend to take a positive attitude toward newspapers and magazines. However, I think that we, Japanese people, need to improve our ability to evaluate the information reported by mass media and read the situations behind it. Today, you can obtain abundant information, so the importance of this ability is growing.

*the 18 countries (The vertical axis of the bar graph, from top left to bottom right) :
-日本: Japan,
-韓国 : South Korea
-スウェーデン: Sweden
-カナダ: Canada
-米国: America
-フィリピン: Philippines
-中国: China
-インド: India,
-英国: The UK
-フランス: France
-ドイツ: Germany
-オランダ: the Netherlands
-イタリア: Italy
- ロシア: Russia
-ナイジェリア: Nigeria
-イラン: Iran.

*the 9 institutions/organizations/systems questioned (The horizontal axis of the bar graph, from left to right):
-新聞・雑誌: newspapers and magazines
-軍隊: the army of your country, as for Japan, the Self Defense Force
-警察: the police of your country
-国連: United Nations
-労働組合: Labor Unions of your country
-行政: the government of your country
-大企業: Large corporations of your country
-国会: the Diet/the Congress of your country
-宗教団体: religious organizations of your country

Friday, October 22, 2010

Beautiful young women working as temporary bus tour guides / 美バス

In Japan, when you attend bus tours, bus tour guides will explain many things both on the buses and on the sightseeing sites. When your bus is about to pass through something interesting, they will let you know about it, and explain what it is and the history of it. In addition, when your bus gets stuck in traffic, they will try to entertain you. They often offer to play games to make the irritating time enjoyable. I think that all of the bus tour guides are female. As a matter of fact, I've never heard of male bus tour guides. They are usually the employees of bus companies offering sightseeing tours. In my experience, their speeches and hospitality can often determine customers' satisfaction with tours.

Bus tours have been very popular in the past few years in part because many of them are very cost-effective and in part because people have been paying more attention to domestic trips due to the recent recession. In contrast, these bus companies have been suffering from a lack of bus tour guides for many years. They seem to have difficulty hiring young women as bus tour guides, although I've heard that the recent economic crisis has slightly improved the situation.

This June, a temp staff agency started offering a new service called 美バス/bi-bus (click here). The agency trains certain women a little and sends them to bus tour companies as temporary bus tour guides. These certain women have experience of working as models, flight attendants, actresses and so on. They are relatively good-looking and are used to attracting people's attention and offering hospitality. Some of them want to improve themselves through the experience of working as bus tour guides and take advantage of the experience to grab better chances in their main jobs. Some try working as bus tour guides to see which job is the most suitable for them since they feel that it's a time to step into the next stage.

According to the news, bus tour companies consider the temporary, younger bus tour guides to be big helpers. Regular bus tour guides who are 37 years old on average seem to welcome them. As for participants in the bus tours, men and children are especially happy with them. Generally, you don't know who will be your bus tour guide when you apply for the tour. However, due to the appearance of the relatively good-looking bus tour guides, special bus tours with them have appeared. Personally, I prefer bus tour guides who can deliver interesting and informative speeches.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cooking: there's always more to learn

A few days ago, an ordinary Japanese housewife with two small boys appeared in a TV show. Although I had never heard of her until I watched the show, it seems she is popular among Japanese women. In fact, both her blog(click here) and a recipe book in which her original recipes appear have recently gained popularity.

Her recipes can make ordinary housewives feel happy and fulfill their desire to prepare and enjoy meals while preventing waste and saving time and money. She explains how to make fine dishes with cheap ingredients and how to turn leftovers into other fine dishes that you wouldn't normally think of. In the aforementioned show, she demonstrated how to make some recipes using leftovers. What surprised me most was that she turned the traditional Japanese dish, pumpkin stewed in soy sauce, into sweet pumpkin pudding in no time at all. Some people on the show said that the pudding tasted very good and was just like pudding at an Italian restaurant, wondering why they didn't taste soy sauce.

Her amazing ideas remind me of my male friend who is a doctor. He loves experiments which everybody can do at home. He often does simple experiments with his children. Also, he always tries to find time to cook because he thinks of cooking as an experiment. He makes up new recipes using his background knowledge of chemistry. There's always more to learn when it comes to cooking.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Cool men! イケメン/ikemen イクメン/ikumen

Have you heard of the Japanese word, イケメン/ikemen? This word was coined a decade ago and used only among the youth. In the past few years, the word has become very popular to the point where elderly people who always have difficulty catching up with new words often use the word. イケメン/ikemen means good looking men. イケ/ike comes from the slang word, イケてる/iketeru (being cool). メン/men comes from 面/men (faces) and the English word, men.

Nowadays, I often hear another new word ,イクメン/ikumen, which was coined recently and is becoming popular. イク/iku comes from 育児/ikuji (child rearing). イクメン/ikumen means men who are willing to or are active in taking care of their children. According to the news, more and more husbands, especially young ones, want to have more time to take care of their small children and spend with their children since they are wondering about a life like older generations are leading. Specifically, younger men think that it's meaningless that like older traditional men, they always work long hours and don't have time to spend with their families. A few months ago, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare launched the イクメン/ikumen project to encourage men to take paternity leave since the declining birthrate is a serious social problem in Japan.

Today, nobody is surprised to see suited businessmen holding their babies on the way to their offices in order to take them to baby-care centers. In the past decade, the idea that both a husband and wife should be involved in taking care of their children has become common. More and more young husbands don't want their wives to give up their careers, want them to bear some of the financial burdens, and are willing to share housework. Some young men believe that the great involvement of child rearing will improve themselves. It's reported that a major securities company requires all of their workers to finish their duties and leave their offices by 7p.m. so that their workers can have more time to spend with their families. As a result, the company has succeeded in boosting employee working efficiency.

However, it's still a reality that many men who want to become イクメン/ikumen are forced to work long hours or hesitate to ask their companies to take paternity leave since they feel under a great deal of peer pressure not to do that even though they have a right to do.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Young Australian models trying to dress in unique Japanese Kawaii clothing

According to the news, the Japanese word, Kawaii/かわいい, has appeared in the latest edition of Oxford Dictionary of English, although I think that the English explanation of the word in the dictionary doesn't cover all of the meanings and nuances that are used in Japan. However, it does show that the Japanese word, Kawaii, has become very popular throughout the world.

A few days ago, I was watching TV, and the NHK TV program called Tokyo Kawaii TV/東京カワイイTV happened to come on. Four fresh, young Australian models who were selected in the popular Australian TV program, Australia's Next Top Model, appeared on the Japanese TV program as a part of the Australian TV program. They came to Japan to see how they could dress in unique and popular clothes that girls in Tokyo love yet can't be obtained in Australia. A producer of the Australian TV program said that she wanted to see how well they could do as fashion models for the unique Japanese fashion styles.

The Japanese TV program picked up four types of original Japanese Kawaii fashion styles: the high school uniform fashion style /制服ファッション, the Lolita fashion style / ロリータファッション, a fashion that girls in Shibuya love /渋谷ギャル系ファッション, and a new fashion style in Harajyuku/フェアリーファッション. Then, each of the four Australian models tried one of the four styles, although they all are far from being the kawaii type defined by many Japanese people, as they are beautiful and sexy. Four Japanese models from each of the four styles advised the Australasia models.

Contrary to my expectation, all of them looked good. The video of the TV program is in the link (click here).  I hope you can access it from outside Japan. The program is 30 minutes. If you don't have time, I think that just watching it from 3:00 to 25:30 is fine.

Other reference sites:

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The 25-year-old woman who is better than our government

Have you heard of the 25-year-old Japanese professional golf player competing on the LPGA tour, Ai Miyazato/宮里藍? When she was a high school student, she won a Japanese professional tournament as an amateur, which enabled her to become a professional player. After that, she won twelve tournaments during the 2004 and 2005 Japan LPGA seasons. In 2006, she moved to Los Angeles and started competing on the LPGA Tour. In the first year of LPGA, she did well, as many Japanese people expected. c However, in the second and third year, she was in a terrible slump, making people wonder if she would be able to get out of it. It wasn't until last year that she finally earned her first LPGA tour win. This season, she has already won five LPGA tournaments and is currently ranked No.1 in the Rolex Rankings.

A few days ago, in a Japanese news program, she was asked what she thought had made her get out of the slump. She listed a few reasons and said: "This season, even if she misses a shot, she can calmly accept the miss as a fact, quickly move on and think about what to do next".  Her words convinced me that she had become a strong player.
Actually, it's not easy to accept terrible things as facts. When you need to take responsibility for them, you tend to feel like you want to shun the responsibility, or you get stuck with remorse and questioning what to do next. When you don't need to take responsibility but are affected by terrible things, you tend to blame them on others, not thinking about what to do next in order to pull through.

I think that the recent political conflict between Japan and China shows this tendency. I was angry that they just blamed each other, without trying to understand the other. I was disappointed by both the Japanese government and the Chinese government. It seems to me that the Japanese government doesn't have strategies, and gets stuck with thinking about what to do, and the Chinese government pays more attention to saving face and unifying China.