Archive for August, 2007

The Fakery of Reality TV

Many people use TV to escape reality, but when they want to escape fiction they reach for a good reality show. From “Survivor” to MTV’s “Real World,” there’s something alluring about seeing candid reactions from people.

Japan has its share of reality TV. A few years ago, there was a program documenting the adventures of two young men who were supposedly duped into going to Hong Kong for no good reason. With only $100 in their pocket and little in the way of survival skills, they were told to hitchhike across the Eurasian continent. Toiling through odd jobs along the way, they managed to reach London in 180 days. The segment aired on a hit variety show called “Dempa Shonen” and was a favorite among Japanese audiences… that is until the hoax was revealed.

It’s called “yarase,” or scenes which are staged, and even though it’s pervasive on Japanese TV most viewers frown upon it. Certainly the fact that these two men were in remote areas of the world was real. They just had some assistance from an airplane here and there. So maybe they had a little more than $100, as well. (^_<)

In another variety show called “London Hearts,” there was a segment where men tested their girlfriend’s loyalty by having a streetwise Casanova hit on her. Cameramen would film incognito as the male suitor followed the girl asking her to dinner … and then asking her home. The boyfriend watched it all from a van parked nearby and if the girlfriend should agree to go home with the stranger the boyfriend would be the first to greet her at the door. It was the kind of show that had you cringing in anticipation of what would happen next. Though again, my sources reveal that this too was a case of “yarase.” Most of it was scripted and despite what aired on TV no hearts were actually broken.

As for the two men who traversed the far reaches of the world, once back in Japan, they released a music album and guest-starred in several TV shows. They even gave themselves a name, “Saruganseki,” literally translated as “monkey rock.” (Don’t ask.) But once their secret came out fans were sorely disappointed. It caused enough of a scandal that the show was soon cancelled and the two men faded away.

So much for 15 minutes of fame.

Himawari

—————————————————————————
Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. – Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
—————————————————————————

Advertisements

August 31, 2007 at 6:06 pm

Global Biz News: Japan is an Excellent Market for Life Insurance

New York Life Insurance, which formed in 1845 and is the largest mutual life insurance company in the United States, is very interested in building a presence in Japan. John Harrison, the head of New York Life Asia, recently told Reuters “the firm could begin operations at some point in the next few years in Japan, which has the world’s highest percentage of elderly people.”

insurance1.jpg

New York Life ranks #78 in the Fortune 500 List. They were the first life insurance company to pay cash dividends to policyholders, and today they serve many functions: paying off claims, funding retirement, and/or meeting nursing home costs.

As JpBiz reported here a few months ago, the world’s oldest man and woman are both Japanese. The average lifespan of a Japanese man is 79, and the average lifespan of a Japanese woman is 87.

This makes them an excellent market for life insurance, as they have many retirement years on their hands that need to be planned for.

Though New York Life had several offices in Europe in the late 1800s, the company pulled back from the international arena at the start of World War I. Their first branch in Asia didn’t open until 1988, when the company acquired an office in Hong Kong.

Since then, New York Life’s international presence has grown to include India, Taiwan, Thailand, Mexico, Argentina and South Korea.

Sarah S.

—————————————————————————
Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!

JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. – Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
—————————————————————————

August 28, 2007 at 6:04 pm

There’s Mayo in My Pizza!

What do you do with a tub of mayonnaise and a table of food? Slather it on everything you see, of course. At least, that’s what you do in Japan. The creamy-white condiment might be a concoction of Europe but the Japanese have made it an obsession, spreading it on dinner rolls, grilled shrimp, even pizza.

mayo1.jpg

Here in the U.S., mayonnaise goes no further than your sandwich. Most people realize just how caloric the mixture of vegetable oil and egg yolks can be and do without it. I’m one of those people always trying to cut calories. Too much of it makes my stomach churn. Call it a mayonnaise malaise. But when I moved to Japan I realized there wasn’t going to be any of that. After all, what can you really do if it’s already baked into the bread?

Take for example Japan’s famous corn and mayo bread. It’s a palm-size roll baked golden and indented on top so that the corn kernels sit comfortably. The mayonnaise acts as the adhesive to keep things together. Cutting it out is simply unimaginable. But we’re not talking bout Miracle Whip here. Ask anyone in Japan and they’ll tell you their mayo of choice is Kewpie, which comes in a clear plastic squeeze-bottle with a red cap. It’s far tastier than their American counterpart; nothing you’d ever want to give up.

A pop idol name Shingo Katori proclaimed his love for the sauce and you’ll see him promoting it in commercials, lovingly licking it up from a steamy corn-on-the cob, even savoring it directly from the source. It’s strange, I know. But if you’re a fan of the guy, eating mayonnaise from the bottle starts to look like a yummy idea.

And now there are reports of a restaurant near Tokyo dedicated to the spread. Imagine a dinner lineup like this: mayo mashed potatoes, scallop mayo soufflé, stir-fry shrimp with hot and sour mayo sauce, and mayo fondue. Wash it down with a chilled mayo-garita.

Has Japan gone too far with their obsession? Will obsession turn to obesity? Mayobe. Mayobe not. (^_^);

Himawari

—————————————————————————
Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!

JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. – Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
—————————————————————————

August 23, 2007 at 6:03 pm

Electronic Cash – Coming to a Store Near You

Many Japanese carry large amounts of cash in their bags or wallets, and it surprises foreign visitors to discover that stores and restaurants in Japan don’t take plastic. Traditionally a cash-based society, Japan has not been quick to embrace credit cards and ATM cards. They don’t need to; in Japan, street crime is quite low, and there is almost no fear of being robbed.

But since 2001, the Tokyo subway system and East Japan Railway Company have slowly been paving the way for higher acceptance of electronic-cash cards. E-cash cards are similar to what Americans think of as gift cards (like for Starbucks or Barnes & Noble), where you put a finite amount of money on the card and then use it for a specific product or on a specific brand. Once you’ve spent the balance, you either throw out the card or add more money; but you don’t receive a bill in the mail and you don’t pay minimums or carry over payments from month to month.

card2.gif

Pasmo e-cash cards, which work for 23 railways and 32 bus operations in Japan, use integrated circuit chips embedded in cell phones and smart cards. Running late for your train? You barely have to stop when you pay for your tickets – just hold your cell phone next to the electronic reader as you race by!

card3.gif

According to The Japan Times, the Pasmo cards sold out very quickly this spring, though more will become available this month. The newest, and most popular card right now is Seven & I Holdings Co.‘s “nanaco,” which was first issued in late April and can be used at thousands of 7-Eleven convenience stores. (“Nana” means “seven” in Japanese.)

7-Eleven was the first retailer to jump on the e-cash bandwagon, but Ito-Yokado grocery store will present their own e-card this fall, and restaurants like McDonalds are eager to join in, too.

The psychology involved in using E-cash cards is a bit different than using a credit card, however. Japan Times reports, “Experts say e-money will encourage consumers to increase shopping as consumers take e-money as money already spent, which makes it psychologically easier to purchase extra items.”

Shopaholics, beware!

Sarah S.

—————————————————————————
Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!

JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. – Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
—————————————————————————

August 21, 2007 at 6:01 pm 2 comments

Japanese Tie the Knot Abroad

If you’ve ever been to a Japanese wedding you’ll know that more money-exchange takes place than in a Colombian drug cartel. From the banquet hall and MC to three wardrobe changes for the bride, wedded bliss amounts to an average of $30,000. And then there’s money flowing in from guests, each who pay no less than $300 to attend. (And you thought Crate and Barrel cups were expensive!)

812211_brides_bouquet.jpg

So it made sense when I read online that more couples are cutting the money hassle and traveling abroad to exchange their vowels. Hawaii has always been a popular destination but Europe seems to be picking up speed. In fact, about 20,000 couples opted for a European ceremony in the past year.

Yes, just like Tom Cruise, you too can kiss the bride in an Italian castle, or tie the knot in an English stone church. Either way, it’d cost no more than $10,000, mainly because going overseas means cutting your guest list in half.

Another reason why couples go abroad is to experience an authentically religious ceremony. Americans take for granted the backdrop of a decorated altar and stained-glass window. Typical Japanese weddings skip the formal ceremony entirely and start with the festivities. After all, it’s not a Christian-based society. So for many Japanese, standing before a minister is a rare treat.
But if your dear Aunt Hanako (the who’s afraid to fly) insists you have the ceremony at home then you really can’t do anything about it. In which case, some couples simply bring the West to them by hiring a Caucasian minister. It sounds silly, but the presence of one really does make feel like you’re in a foreign country. It’s downright exotic. The last wedding I attended in Japan, the minister was a longtime Japan resident but purposely spoke Japanese with a heavy British accent. I snickered through the entire ceremony. Sure, it’s all done for show, but a fun show it is.

Himawari

—————————————————————————
Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!

JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. – Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
—————————————————————————

August 16, 2007 at 5:59 pm

Kampai! Japanese Beer for Kids!

When I visited Tokyo and Kyoto with my husband, we noticed a fascination with neatness, smallness, and cuteness. At a corner grocery store in Kyoto, Asahi beer came in size small: 5 ounces (135 ml).

What we didn’t know at the time is that there is also beer for kids!

beer.jpg

Don’t worry; this particular frosty beverage isn’t alcoholic. Apparently it tastes like fizzy apple juice. “Kidsbeer” was originally released in 2005 by the Tomomasu Company, and it quickly caught on. The advertising slogan? “Even kids cannot stand life unless they have a drink”(!). You can also buy Yoiko no Biiru, which means “Good Children’s Beer,” at toy stores.

Now at family gatherings, kids won’t feel left out when it’s time to raise a glass and say Kampai(“Cheers!”) With Yoiko no Biiru, they can join in with the rest of the group. Whether this will turn them into junior salarymen before their time — hopefully not — remains to be seen!

At first I thought children’s beer was a concept that would never fly in the U.S. Just like Christon Cafe, the Jesus-themed restaurant, it would offend too many people. But then I remembered that, once upon a time, candy cigarettes were pretty popular; and I certainly had my fair share of sparkling grape juice “champagne” at Thanksgiving when I was kid.

Maybe the two cultures aren’t so different, after all…

Sarah S.

—————————————————————————
Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!

JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. – Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
—————————————————————————

August 14, 2007 at 5:58 pm 1 comment

Summertime is Festival Season

Around this time of year I get a little homesick for Japan. Despite the hot weather, August is the season for cool festivals. Throughout the month, girls put up their hair and don their cutest flowery-print yukata (don’t mistake it for a kimono!).

1.jpg

A traditional yukata hangs just above the ankle, but these days you’ll find some girls hiking it up to mid-thigh like a miniskirt gone wild. Guys get away with a T-shirt and jeans, but the ones who wear the male version of the yukata, a jimbei, always get Brownie points from me. Of course, everyone has dyed brown hair. It wouldn’t be Japan if they didn’t.

Each town has its unique traditions. In Sendai City, located in northern Japan, their main shopping center artery is decorated with huge, multi-colored pompoms strung from the ceiling. Long crepe-paper streamers hang down from the big puff-balls, tickling shoppers’ noses as they stroll down the arcade. It’s a celebration called Tanabata when, according to legend, two star-crossed lovers are allowed to reunite on the seventh day of the seventh month. (That would be August 6 on the lunar calendar.)

 2.jpg

Down in the southern city of Tokushima, residents pay respect for their deceased loved ones during the Awa Dance Festival. Dressed in light summer robes, they pretend to stumble down the street, rhythmically waving their arms in the air like drunken acrobats. Yes, it might sound irreverent – who dances at funerals? – but instead of feeling sad for the dearly departed the festival represents a celebration of that person’s life.

But aside from dancing, festivals are about good eats. Just imagine an open area filled with rows and rows of food stalls, selling everything from strawberry snow cones to skewered squid; cotton candy to soy sauce-grilled corn. Festivals are great for stirring up the local economy, too. On any given festival day you’ll have more foot traffic than a Texas stampede. Some festivals have become so famous that some people fly from halfway ‘round the world to get there.

Now if you’ll excuse me for a moment. I’ll be catching the next flight to Tokyo. There’s a festival coming up this weekend and I wouldn’t want to miss it. (^_< )

Himawari

—————————————————————————
Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!

JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. – Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
—————————————————————————

August 9, 2007 at 5:56 pm

Older Posts


We have moved to japanizmo.wordpress.com

Recent Posts

Categories

August 2007
M T W T F S S
« Jul   Sep »
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Feeds