Auto Companies Gunning For the Future

As the U.S. auto industry enters crises mode, begging Congress for a $25 billion cash infusion, CNN International reports that Japan’s big three auto companies — Toyota, Honda and Nissan — may be better positioned than their U.S. counterparts for the challenges of the future. This is because they employ different business and management styles.

U.S. manufacturers in Detroit have kept the same business models for the past 20 years (i.e. make ’em big and proud), favoring SUVs and other large size cars and trucks and focusing on shorter-term profitability. Meanwhile, in sharp contrast, Toyota and Honda have been investing in research and development, with an eye toward helping their companies grow. Going green has proven to be an asset. Fuel-efficient and hybrid vehicles like the Toyota Prius or Honda’s zero-emission car take into account the changing needs of a global market.

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Another reason Japan is not feeling the same economic crunch, according to the CNN article, is because they pay their non-union automakers a bit less and don’t necessarily offer the same level of benefits. There is a lot to be said for the American style, which provides workers with fairly good wages (starting at $14 per hour) as well as full pension and health care plans.

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Finding a way to reconcile the two styles may be difficult, and it’s one of the first problems President-elect Obama faces in his new administration: How to protect the livelihoods of middle class auto workers while acknowledging that the same old gas-guzzlers from Ford, GM and Chrysler aren’t cutting it anymore.

Sarah S.

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
japanizmo, 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
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December 16, 2008 at 1:14 pm

New Years Postcard Frenzy!

The holiday season is in full swing which means that 2009 is just around the corner. For most Americans, New Year Day is reserved for nursing that after-party hangover. For Japanese people it’s the day to wait at your mailbox.

They call it nenga-jo, New Year’s postcard greetings typically inscribed with messages like, “I wish you good health and happiness” or “I’m sure I will be indebted to you this year as well.” You send them out to most anyone you know, especially the people you wish to keep in contact with. When I received my inaugural batch, about 40 in all, I was humbled knowing how many friends I’d made. I also felt bad I left off so many off my own list.

nengajyor3

The entire process reminds me of my elementary school days when we’d pass out Valentine Day cards to classmates. Some kids splurged on cartoon-trademarked cards with Sweet Tarts. Some of the less fortunate resorted to making their own with scissors and a grocery bag. Some received more cards than others. Like Charlie Brown, some got hand-me-downs. The Japanese New Year card is the adult version of that same ol’ popularity contest.

The obsessed Japanese person will spend major bucks on them, buying printer machine or decorating the cards with colorful rubber stamps. Many people do away with the handicrafts and get them professionally done with glossy photos of their family or their prized parakeet. However way they do it, one of the most important things to do is handwrite a short personal message like, “How’s your mom?” or “See you at school!” That way it makes the person feel more special.

Though these days as people get a little more lazy and reliant on modern technology you’ll see more people simply texting or emailing their New Year’s message to friends. It might not feel as grand, but it still does the trick. First one to have their inbox flooded wins!

Himawari

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
japanizmo, 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
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December 12, 2008 at 3:34 pm 2 comments

Haramaki in a Winter Wonderland

When I lived in Chicago and New York, December meant freezing temperatures and bundling up in lots of layers. I wore hooded sweatshirts, thick coats, mittens, and even that ubiquitous ’80s staple, legwarmers.

In Japan, you have another option when the weather turns frigid: haramaki, and it’s totally tubular (last ’80s reference, I promise). Haramaki wraps the center of your body in a soft tube and keeps your belly warm, over or under your clothes. You can also wear it as part of your pajamas.

haramaki-model

The theory is that if you keep your middle cozy, you’ll prevent heat loss from your extremities, because they’ll no longer be competing for distribution of warmth. The extra comfort, circulation and support for the lower back is especially good for pregnant women, but haramaki were originally worn by Samurai as part of their armor, to protect their kidneys!

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In the last year or two, haramaki have cast off unflattering comparisons to “granny panties” and been transformed into a fashionable accessory available in a wide variety of shapes, colors and styles, with or without pockets. My favorite is the tartan with matching blanket, but I may have to settle for making one myself (see how here).

Sarah S.

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
japanizmo, 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
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December 9, 2008 at 1:09 pm 2 comments

The Key to Promoting your Business!

You’re a starving student with just enough pocket change to be deemed a chump. You live out of your friend’s walk-in closet and subsist on MSG-laced noodles in a cup (three for a dollar!). So when it comes to buying a college-ruled spiral notebook for biology class, which would you choose: a fancy $10 one with your school’s name in gold-foil lettering, or one that’s absolutely free?

Of course, everyone loves a freebie. It’s what makes the world go ’round. That’s the idea behind Eco-Notes, which comes to U.S. college campuses in January 2009. Pros: The paper pads use 100% recycled paper and soybean-based ink. Con: Each pad contains advertisements at the bottom of each page. Though in an age when digital billboards glare into your bedroom, do you really mind the sight of a print ad?

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Eco-Notes founder Rodrigo Namikawa got the idea after a visit to Japan. He was turned on to a company which offered free photocopies at the cost of seeing ads on the back of each page.

Japanese advertisers are light years ahead of the U.S. Every time I’m in Japan I’m bombarded with free tissue packs when walking down Tokyo’s crowd-infested streets. Each contains colorful inserts, mostly promoting naughty telephone hotlines. Just looking at the ads gives me the heebie-jeebies, but of course I take them anyway. Free tissue comes in handy in a country that doesn’t believe in paper towels. I’m pretty good about removing the ads before using them, but there was one dark and boring night when my friend took my tissue pack and called the toll-free number just for kicks. (Women call for free; men pay. Horrible, ain’t it?) Score one for the advertisers.

free-pocket-tissuer

Especially during the summer when throngs of young people gather for festivals, advertisers are in full force passing out goodies like bottle samples, fans (the kind you wave in your face), file folders, towels… you name it. The idea is to give people something they can use. Sure, products like these might cost a little more than hot-off-the-press flyers. But when it comes to a free notebook or a free flyer, you can bet only one will be going home with them.

Himawari

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
japanizmo, 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
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December 4, 2008 at 11:30 am

Year of the Bat

Heath Ledger’s disturbing and Oscar buzz-worthy performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight renewed interest in the Batman film franchise this year. Now there’s a new book called “Bat-Manga! The Secret History of Batman in Japan” that provides a glimpse into a year’s worth of comics that were previously only available in Japan in the 1960s.

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The strips have been translated into English by Anne Ishii and collected and edited by book designer Chip Kidd. Artist Jiro Kuwata based his images on the campy 1960s American TV series (Bam! Ka-Pow!), and his Bruce Wayne resembles actor Adam West.

Kuwata and writer Shonen King adjusted the tone, action and style of the images to appeal to Japanese manga fans, but it’s the western fans who will probably be the most thrilled to collect a new set of adventures. BoingBoing gives the book a stellar review.

Sarah S.

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
japanizmo, 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
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December 2, 2008 at 12:19 pm

Don Quijote: A Shopper’s Geeky Paradise

There’s one store I spend more time at than any other in Japan. It’s Don Quijote — a one-stop discount shop for all my geeky needs.

At the Roppongi branch, you have eight floors brimming with toys, electronics, anime goods and costumes of all types. The stock-boy packs the shelves so tightly, the store looks like it’ll burst open should a customer so much as sneeze down the aisle. I spend hours perusing through maid outfits on the top floor. I’ve yet to actually buy one, but should I ever quit my current job I plan on heading to Tokyo to learn the ways of serving tea and drawing hearts with ketchup.

On the lower floors you’ll find all sorts of odd costumes like Sailor Moon uniforms for men, hats shaped like poop, and anatomically-correct animal outfits. I commend anyone who can dress up as a raccoon with his family jewels hanging down like it’s nobody’s business.

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Other floors supply more common-use items like clothes and toiletries. The store is open 24 hours so at all hours of the day you’ll see people coming in to do some serious shopping. Though one minute they’re searching for ribbed undershirts, the next minute they’re ogling maids in the center aisle.

Don Quijote is a mecca for purchases falling in the “want but don’t necessarily need” category. It’s a wonderland of stuff. Just don’t allow yourself too much time in the store, otherwise you’ll never see the light of day.

Himawari

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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
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November 28, 2008 at 3:42 pm 1 comment

Time For a Cup of Zen (and Tea)

With the troubled economy, the bailout, the jokes about Depression II, the housing situation, and politics in general stressing everyone out, I wanted something to take my mind off current events. The Book of Tea, by Kakuzo Okakura, is great for slowing down, looking at the world a different way, and forgetting about your cares for an afternoon.

the-book-of-tea

Basically, Sado, or “the way of tea,” is a small, intimate gathering of friends to eat a small meal (usually a sweet cake), drink tea, and leave the business of life behind.

Originally published, in English, in 1906, The Book of Tea is a slim volume that explains what happens in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, and the significance of each action. For example, shortly after guests arrive, they pass through a garden and take time to admire the sounds, sights and fragrances. The change of pace and scenery helps them mentally break free of the outside world.

To enter the tea room, you have to crawl, because the doorway is short (about three feet tall). This maneuver serves the purpose of humility for all the guests, and equalizes everyone from the get-go.

The Book of Tea reveals how a tea ceremony can help you appreciate aesthetic ideals, from the expression of life, to the simplest arrangement of flowers, to “the beautiful foolishness of things.”

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Tea rooms are sparse and clean, with little ornamentation and no repetition; what decoration exists changes with the seasons and is deliberately unfinished, or asymmetrical, so that “the tea room is left for each guest in imagination to complete the total effect in relation to himself.”

True beauty is completed in the mind, changing the imperfect to the perfect.

Ahh, I feel better already…

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
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November 25, 2008 at 1:51 pm

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