Friday, November 19, 2010

South Korean companies drawing more attention in Japan

In Japan, a lot of companies have been struggling for many years to build new business models in order to get out of the prolonged recession. In contrast, South Korean companies, especially well-known corporations, have been recently doing well. Some of them believe that now is the time to enter the Japanese market, and they started entering competitive battles for market share in Japan. Under these circumstances, TV news programs often report on South Korean companies, suggesting that there are things that Japanese companies can learn from them. It's also been reported that the Korean economy is improving.

Every time I hear of South Korean companies going strong, I remember complaints that many South Korean classmates would always make when I was studying Mandarin in Guangzhou, China a few years ago. They would say that it was difficult even for graduates from prestigious universities to find a stable, good job in South Korea, where it's well-known that your academic background can determine so large part of your future and life that a lot of children are engaging in a fierce battle to get in prestigious universities. Because of this, many of my Korean classmates were willing to find a job in China. They seemed to believe that they could have a better life in China. They would also say that it was very common for young people to study abroad since they were required to master at least two foreign languages to get a good job in Korea.

According to the news, both the South Korean government and companies are making great efforts to provide comfortable working environments to non-Koreans to attract qualified people worldwide to Korea. Korean companies appear to enhance their competitiveness in the global market by luring qualified people worldwide to Korea, and Koreans who are willing to or are forced to live abroad support Korean companies outside Korea.

Anyway, I hope that ordinary Korean people like my classmates are enjoying the fact that the Korean economy is getting stronger.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The popular coined word 終活/shuukatsu reflecting the Japanese society

In the Japanese language, job hunting is referred to as 就職活動/shuushoku-katsudo. However, from a certain point of time, the abbreviated form of the phrase 就活/ shuukatsu became more popular. These days, 就活/shuukatsu is being used more frequently than 就職活動/shuushoku-katsudo in society. In the past few years, the coined word 婚活/konkatsu has become very popular to the point where the word often appears in conversation among elderly people who always have a hard time catching up with new words. 婚/kon indicates 結婚/kekkon(marriages in English) and 活/katsu indicates 活動/katsudou(activities or acts etc in English). So, 婚活/konkatsu means doing something to find a marriage partner. I think that the great popularity of the word 就活/shukatsu partly helped the word 婚活/konkatsu become popular since these two sound similar. Currently, another coined word 終活/shuukatsu is becoming popular. Since both 就活 and 終活 are pronounced as shuukatsu, when I first heard of 終活/shuukatsu in a TV news show, I assumed that the show was going to talk about job hunting (就活/shuukatu) until I saw the word.

終活/shuukatsu means thinking about how to lead your late life and how to prepare for the end of your life. As you know, Japanese people live long. The aging population is increasing rapidly. The baby-boomer generation is already in their 60s. Many of the people are struggling with taking care of their parents and in-laws or have struggled with that. They often hear of family troubles after their parents and in-laws have passed away, such as family conflicts over inheritance. Under these circumstances, many people over 60 are willing to think about and decide how to lead their late lives and prepare for the end of their lives when they still have judgement so that their families will be able to avoid nasty battles. According to the news, many books and magazines related to 終活/shuukatsu have been recently published. Some of them are enjoying good sales. Specifically, the magazine, 遺言書キット/Will kit, and the notebook, Ending notebook, are engaging hearts and minds in many age groups. The former illustrates how to make a legitimate will by yourself, and the latter gives an opportunity to think about late life.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A battlefield photographer attracting considerable attention

In Japan, Yoichi Watanabe/渡部陽一, a unique 37-year-old man, has gained popularity in the past year. He is a photographer specializing in battlefields worldwide, and a camera operator as well. He always expresses his strong desire to report realities of battlefields unknown in Japan. He seems to pay attention to the lives of ordinary people, especially children, suffering from wars. Recently, he's often appeared in TV shows due to the surge in popularity. I don't know what determined him to appear in TV shows. However, given that he always says that he doesn't know what is happening to him, he didn't seem to expect that he would become popular.

His way of speaking in TV shows is very original. He speaks slowly and calmly while keeping his rhythm in any situation. He always looks calm even when he's embarrassed, excited and nervous. In contrast to these calmness, his stories about battlefields are so serious and powerful that the audience is inevitably captivated by the stories. It shows us that stories based on experience are always convincing.

Today, you can get any information you need on the Internet. You might sometimes assume that you know about a lot of things. Various kinds of free videos on the internet tend to make you feel as if you saw things that you have never experienced. Needless to say, I don't deny these roles of the internet. As a matter of fact, the internet enriches many people's lives. However, it's more important for you to go see for yourself. I feel like the photographer reminds many people of this importance.

Most recently, he has been frequently asked to come to schools and talk about what he saw in battlefields. I hope that school kids will become interested in his stories, and it'll inspire them to see what is happening worldwide.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Popular women gatherings called 女子会/ joshi-kai

About two years ago, the phrase 女子会/joshi-kai started being frequently used in Japanese society. 女子/joshi means women or girls and 会/Kai means meeting, gathering and so on, so 女子会 means women gather to enjoy meals, drinking and talking mainly in restaurants. Men are not allowed to join them. These days, a lot of restaurants offer special menus for 女子会. I do not know exactly why the phrase has become that popular nor do I know when it began being used. However, I guess that restaurants struggling to survive coined the phrase, or perhaps started exploiting it to give women more opportunities to go out for a meal. This might be because there was a palatable change in society; more and more women were willing to enjoy drinking; in contrast, men had less interest in drinking. Women had become more active; on the other hand, men had become less active. Speaking of inactive men, at the time, the coined phrase 草食系男子/sousyoku-kei-danshi (please click here) started being frequently used to describe the characteristics of young Japanese men.

When I first heard of 女子会, it sounded bad to me, making me think of housewives who really like gathering and gossiping about people they know. I assumed that 女子会 was definitely going to become a sort of compulsory gathering, no matter how people actually intended to use the phrase. Can you guess why?

I've realized that some women force their friends etc to join gatherings organized by them. Their friends often feel that they are under a great deal of silent pressure to join them. The polite answer "I'm afraid I can't" sometimes leads to a sort of bullying. You might realize sooner or later that others complain about you whenever you don't join the gatherings. Because of that, if you are frequently asked to go to a women gathering due to the great popularity of 女子会, some of them will be frustrating.

According to a TV show that was on a few days ago, some young women are fed up with 女子会. Some consider the gatherings to be sort of official meetings, not expecting themselves to be able to enjoy talking with other participants. Some don't like 女子会 largely because they can't express themselves especially when they disagree with somebody, feeling like they are always required to stay in line with her.

I'm wondering why women's gatherings are more likely to become awkward meetings.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

2010 top 10 hit products in Japan.

At this time of every year, a popular magazine, Nikkei Trendy /日経トレンディ, announces the top 30 hit products of the year which have gained considerable attention and popularity in Japan throughout the year. The magazine decides which products are hit products based on sales, novelty and influence. The results are widely reported in the news every year. People often make it a topic of conversation when looking back on the year. Here are the top 10 hit products of 2010 which were just announced yesterday.

1. A new type of chili oil / 食べるラー油
In Japan, chili oil is used as a seasoning. Many people only use it for a few common Chinese dishes. This new product enables you to use it for many other dishes. Because of a production bottleneck due to the surge in popularity, it was very hard to buy it for a while.

2. 3D movies

3. Smart phones

4. Premium roll cake 
LAWSON, a major convenience store in Japan, developed the cake and have been selling it since then. In Japan, a large number of people often stop by convenience stores such as Seven-Eleven even when they don't intend to buy anything. So, convenience stores are important and effective distribution channels.

5. iPad

6. Pocket doltz
Actually, I didn't know about the product until now. According to the information in the link below, it's a pocket-sized sound wave vibration toothbrush. As the homepage shows, the toothbrush is compact enough to carry around. It looks like it's part of a makeup kit. In Japan, people, especially businesswomen, are so sensitive to having bad breath that they often brush their teeth. I guess that this is in part because this product has gained popularity.

7. LED bulbs at lower prices

8. A convenient cooking tool for grilling fish in the microwave / チンしてこんがり魚焼きパック
It's very hard to explain it. Please see the YouTube video below. In Japan, a grill space along with special tools for fish is usually installed on kitchen stoves. However, some people feel that cleaning up the tools after grilling fish is bothersome, which discourages them from grilling fish. I think this product meets their needs.

9. Staplers without staples / ハリナックス
Personally, I love them. Please see the video in the link below. At the office, getting rid of staples from documents before shredding them is really bothersome.

10. A new instant miso soup named 1杯でしじみ70個分のちから
In Japan, various kinds of instant miso soups are being sold. However, food companies had a very hard time developing a popular hit instant miso soup until this product was launched. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

It's been 44 years since the Beatles landed at Haneda Airport.

Ten days ago, a new international terminal finally opened at Haneda (Tokyo International) Airport near downtown Tokyo. A little bit past midnight on the 31st of October, a JAL flight bound for San Fransisco and an ANA flight bound for Los Angeles took off from the airport. Although the airport served as a gateway to foreign countries until the Narita Tokyo International Airport took over this role 32 years ago, it had served as a domestic airport for many years until a day ago. Three hundred and seventy flights per week between Haneda Tokyo and 17 other cities in 11 countries will be offered.

Narita Airport is located in Chiba next to Tokyo. It takes over an hour to get there from downtown Tokyo by express train which requires you to pay an extra fare. The airport opened under the circumstance where the Japan's government had been having a very hard time buying the land from farmers and securing enough land and massive protests kept going. Since the airport opened, there have been many complaints from both passengers and airline companies. To make matters worse, the government's inability to draw a blueprint for a nationwide airport development has allowed the Incheon Airport in Seoul to play an important role as the hub airport of East Asia. Even Japanese people living in areas other than major cities tend to take connecting flights there.

Although Haneda Airport started offering international services, each of the two airports is going to have its own role. I hope that their roles will be decided based on a clear strategy.

In 1966, the Beatles first visited Japan. The film and pictures of the Beatles getting off of a JAL airplane at Haneda Airport are often used as a symbol of the rapid growth era.