Paparacci & harassment in Tokyo metro

What a surprise! I was trying to take a picture inside the metro car of Tokyo to show how pack it was. The silent inside the metro cars is astonishing so I thought that plugging in my earphones the camera would not make a noise. How wrong I was, the camera sound out-loud as usual turning almost every look in the car towards me. You can imagine how shy I felt… And so I tried to cover this noise, I looked through the settings but I could not find any option to shut this sound down. And apparently you cannot do it unless you jailbreak your phone. I was curious about this and started to discuss with some friends why this could not be done. Surprisingly this was not only for the iphone but in principle for any cell phone model sold in Japan. Why would this be I thought… Well, I am not sure how familiar is the average person with the hentai porn and other facts about sexuality in Japan. Japanese people tend to be very formal and preserve normality in appearance and keep their sexual fantasies for themselves and for the intimacy; Look up the japanese concepts of “honne” and “tatemae”. These train of though and behaviour generates lot of social pressure and it is not easy for some japanese to get women, actually in combination with other factors inherent to the Japanese culture and lifestyle  poses a sociological problem which translates into the lowest sex ratios among all countries.

The fantasy of grooming or harassing women in buses or metro cars is widespread in japanese porn. I certainly do not know whether there is an specific reason why this trend started but the truth is that many harassments occur in Tokyo metro. That is why at rush hour there are a number of  cars usually painted in pink where only women are allowed as a measure to prevent the harassments. In a whole year I never saw any detention but I heard of some from friends and colleagues.

Apparently the cancelation of photo sound in cellphones is banned for the reason that some people used to take pictures under the skirts of women and so by avoiding its cancelation they could not proceed without being noticed. I was shocked about this and I thought of other reasons such as protecting places like museums or other areas where pictures are not allowed, I thought whether this would be the same for other countries, but as soon as I checked with my brother in Spain that he could easily mute the photo sound setting the vibration mode of his iphone I understood that it could be a more than acceptable reason.

Interesting and weird, is not it?

Well it is not, is Japan ;)

Japanese
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Business time

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Current Market Opportunities

- Consumer goods

- Fashion products and distribution

- Machinery parts and components

- New materials

- Fine chemicals

- Pharmaceuticals

- Niche markets for new technologies like water treatment (desalination, purification, etc.)

- Parts and components

- Renewable energy equipment

Business Culture

1. Timing

In general basis closing a deal with Japan happens slow. Sometimes it requires attending fairs and/or visiting clients several times before getting any successful agreement. Keep track on your clients, be attentive and persistant in put effort on building a long-term business relationship which will bring you about other benefits: Exporters remark that japanese clients are among their favourite since in most of the cases they will respect the contract and pay you on time. The commercial relationship will probably extent in the long-run since japanese business culture lies on the bases of loyalty and compromise. A closed deal in Japan may bring to your business an steady and secure flow of income for a long time.

2. Punctuality

Yes, you should be punctual but just as you should do in any other market, this depends on what kind of image you want to project to your clients. From my social experience there, in general terms Japanese are not as punctual as many may expect, but most probably they will be on time when it comes to business matters. Being present the standard 5 to 10 minutes prior to the meeting will be enough.

3. Communication

It is not to be missed to read at least basic information about a countries’ habits prior to conduct business activities or having business encounters, nevertheless we should not forget that the other part may do the same as well. In the case of Japan it all will depend on the industry you are entering. Generally speaking Japanese do not excel at communicating in English but in many occasions dealing in English will be possible. Of course this all will depend on the size of the company, the industry you are entering and some other factors. For that matter it is recommended to count with translation/interpretation services but not in all cases will be this needed.

Note: You will be probably surprise to hear that Japanese do not excel at speaking English. It can be assumed that being Japan such an advance and wealth economy it would not be rare that they are proficient in other languages but nothing further from reality. Japan is in a sense a closed and protective land and culture. Along the 80′s and the 90′s there were a wider openness and interest of youngsters for other countries and for studying abroad but nowadays according to some surveys among university students the interest has diminished. According to a recent survey conducted at the university of Tokyo, the percentage of students interested in taking exchange programs is worryingly low. Somehow they find anything they need within the country. (Politeness, cleanness and customer service in Japan is probably the best in the world and usually overpass oneself’s expectations. As soon as you leave the island you can experience the huge gap in service quality and other plains of human behaviour. To certain extent it´s comprehensive that they don´t want to dispense with these cultural unique characteristics).

4. Business cards

Bring always your business card with you written in English and Japanese if possible. The correct way of presenting it is holding it from the wide ends of the card with both thumbs and showing your name to the recipient while bowing slightly. When receiving the card, take it with both hands, do not fold it, show interest for what is written on the card, make some comment about it and save the card gently. This will be appreciated it by Japanese since shows an interest from your side to participate in their customs but just as much appreciated will be in other  markets that you try to follow their specific business habits. Be relax and keep in mind that you are not a Japanese person.

5. Closing a deal

It is a usual practise and part of the business culture to deal business issues while eating and drinking. Most probable at a certain point either your client or provider will invite you to a dinner. The regular japanese restaurant is called “izakaya” it is a traditional place where you can eat almost anything from fish to meat, pasta, vegetables, etc. Nevertheless do not be surprise if they take you to an Italian or other western style restaurant, they are  trying to be polite and respectful and may not expect you to want to try raw fish. Make this sure in advance if you want to try so.

Drinking alcohol is a wide spread practise and it will be ok to do so. Alcohol in Japan is a way of getting rid of that layer of politeness and strict conduct that all japanese follow as a mixed heritage from confucianism and local traditional culture for preserving a collective social harmony. When drunk, japanese would enter in a social state that can be defined as “honne” in Japanese where they would be more sincere and expressive about their feelings, concerns and real opinions. Most of the time and specially within the company Japanese procure what they call “tatemae” which is like a cape of social standard behaviour that preserves respect, tradition and hierarchy among peers.

Recommendations

- Be more than patient.

- Do not lose track of your clients. Do not abandon your business relationship with your clients even though your business is going well with them. It is appreciated to keep visiting from time to time as a sign of closeness, confidence and respect.

- Do not always follow what is written about Japanese traditional business culture. Japanese companies and businesses are well spread all around the world, they count with money, expertise, technology, know-how and even though they may seem week and polite, during a business deal they will be tough and still at negotiating prices. What I intend to clarify is that they also may adapt to other´s business habits so do not be afraid of behaving as what may be considered as standard practises in international business.

Socializing & Other useful information

- At the restaurant

Do not tip: It is not a common practise. If you do so they will think you are mistaken and will bring you back the money or it may be taken as disrespectful. Generally speaking Japanese consider they are paid for their job and there should not be an extra.

Cross your fingers making an X to ask for the bill. You can also say “Sumimasen, Okaike kudasai”.

- Most ATM´s do not accept foreign cards. You will have to look for Citibank or Seven Eleven (this won´t work with certain cards either).

- Tokyo and Japan in general are probably the safest place on earth when it comes to crime, not to mention the risk or earthquakes. This responds mainly to cultural reasons more than an effective police.

Note: Behave, Japanese policemen may be tough and they can detain you up to around 40 days without charges. They can also fine you pretty high if you do not carry your ID documents with you.

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Honda Asimo

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A couple of weeks ago I got the opportunity to visit the Honda headquarters in Tokyo. There on the ground floor Honda exhibits a show room with different car models. In addition to that they offer twice a day a brief show with its amazing robot Asimo, the first humanoid robot that could walk upstairs like a human has got some improvements now after a decade. I read there were another Asimo in odaiba’s museum of modern technologies so Talking to one of the sales representatives I found out that there are about 20 different models located around the world (we got one in Europe). I am not quite sure of the one I saw but besides dancing could also run which was quite impressive…I uploaded a picture but will show the video soon, hope honda does not bother.

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Taxi driver

Did I mention that the metro of Tokyo is expensive? Well taxis were not going to be less. Yesterday I took my first taxi in here. We payed around 6500Â¥ ~ 65€. The starting tariff was 7€ which reminded me of Finland. I could not hold it so I try to sate my curiosity through the help of my Japanese friend Shima, therefore I started to ask questions to our driver. It turned out that the old man was in the business for 16 years. There are private companies and self employees. This man worked for a private company doing shifts of 20 hours under his choice to get 4 days off. He was making 2500€ a month which is a decent salary but perhaps a little bit tight for the cost of living of Tokyo. Given the massive size of this metropolis I got curious about how did taxi drivers deal with the street’s confusion before they could use a GPS. Apparently they were just using maps. The problem with addresses in Tokyo and perhaps in the rest of japan is that there are not really names for the streets except from the main avenues. The system in here is based on wards. For instance Tokyo metropolis consists of 23 wards which are governed independently. It´s really easy to get lost and even Japanese people has problems to find their way too. The use of Google maps and other global positioning systems on the cell phone are very extended. It´s interesting because when you get indications for an address on the internet you don´t get the usual itinerary visualized on a map but pictures of stores and other visual reference points around your destination…you get this sort of indications from Google maps as well.

Addresses in Tokyo are composed of 3 numbers: “…the blocks are numbered and, at the lowest level, the building has a number. Finally comes the room or apartment number.The buildings within a block are either numbered in the order that they were built, so they jump all around, or numbered in clockwise order around the block. In this clockwise numbering there is sometimes skipping of several numbers for later assignment, where future construction between existing buildings is possible”.

If you want more information about how the Japanese address system work I dropped this link that helped me to make it clear.

http://www.sljfaq.org/afaq/addresses.html

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Tokyo metro

20120202-205912.jpgThis is not even close to the usual crowd you can get at a Tokyo car when traveling in the metro. When is really crowded you do not need to hold on anything because is so packed that there is not space for moving. Nevertheless when the train seo service performs rare balancing everybody moves like a Mexican wave. I can tell that is not a very pleasant feeling although is compensated by the silence that allows you to concentrate on your things. Fortunately I do not need to take the metro at the very rush hours but still the cars are crowded at any time, no matter morning or evening… It is astonishing the amount of people you can cross in this city.. The metro is efficient and more than punctual i would say, but is not as fast as expected and you still have to wait longer than I thought. In that regard i was far more impressed by Moscow’s metro where you could get a car each 15 seconds. Moreover it is quite expensive and despite there are some commuter cards you can get, those are also expensive. One of them allows you to travel between 2 specific stations and any stop between those monthly. Out of this range even within the line you will be charged extra money. I also found a monthly pass to travel as much as you want but just on those lines run by the Metro of Tokyo for around 16800 yen – 168 euros. There are different companies ruling the lines and that makes the service competitive and efficient but still expensive ;)

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Make yourself at home

After my first encounter with a WordPress blog www.sweeds.org, where I compiled some of my experiences in Sweden while being a Master´s student, I decided to continue with the tradition. Therefore I set up this new space that intends to share with the reader my experiences in Nippon lands.

I am Spanish and I will be living in Tokyo at least for the following year 2012. More than boring you with data I will try to point out those facts that impresses me the most through the eyes of my camera since like the saying reads “a picture is worth a 1000 words”. I invite you to join me and get lost in the immensity of Tokyo’s streets and the vast richness of the Japanese culture. Please, come in and delight your senses…

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