Just few notes about my “work environment” related notes

Before I go on with more of work environment notes in Japan. There are few things I’d like to make it clear.

First, I have not worked in Japan before, so a lot of articles do come from news sources, and other blogs. Those articles are screened through to see how credible they are, by comparing them with Japanese trends from news, personal contact, and also cross checked with many different corporate environment related sources.

Second, for couple of notes already, I have criticized Japanese work environment, mainly their work-life-inbalance. Just to be clear, I am not necessary criticizing overtime (although I do criticize unpaid overtimes for those paid hourly.)

After all, I work for video game industry, which involves overtimes, and sometimes overnighter. I want to make it really clear I am criticizing Japanese way, because of their harmful mentality, for example, they cannot leave when they are done with their work and their hours up, because they are expected that they ask their senior or a boss to see if there any other work to do, before you leave, and you are asked to stay to complete such tasks. If you don’t this, or if you refuse to stay, often, you are classified as defunct Japanese worker, because you are not working hard like everyone else.

Yes, I have to confess that I was asked to stay in this industry in the US, but that’s only because there were things relevant to my area of work, and it often was for crunch time. Andstill I was not prevented leave if I had to. But, if you have to stay late everyday, like it is becoming your norm, that’s just different story. And I usually have remedy if I had to stay late; there were no sweat me showing up quite late next day. A lot of Japanese business environment where you are expected to put in excessive overtime, you are still expected to show up at 9:00AM or when their work start next day. (could be same day, if they are working until 2AM)

You think I’m exaggerating? Let me tell you that more than 30,000 people commit suicide in Japan every year. When I was going to the job for internship, my instructor told me “leave within 5 minutes if you have finished and you say bye, as people will assume you are incapable of getting things done,” I guess if I do that in Japan, I’d be screwed.

Third, I’ve briefly touched on Japanese athletic mentality and about Senpai and Kōhai deal in Japanese sub-hierarchy. About athletic mentality, which somewhat related things mentioned above. It’s basically is excessive focus on how hard you work as opposed to how efficient you can get things done. For example, if you and your friend working in same kind of task. And say, you finished your work, because you figured out the way to do it faster, but your friend is still working on it, ended up working all night finishing it up. In the end, it will be your friend who will get better view. In these athletic mentality, they often assume you are trying to slack off by inventing new efficient way.

As for Senpai and Kōhai, frankly, I hate the concept. Perhaps, part of the reason I hate it is because I haven’t grown up in culture that practice heavily on the concept. But mainly, it is because, I consider people I work with colleague and not my senior of juniors. After all, as far as people of same corporate hierarchy, I feel each of them have unique and different talent, with different skills, and years at the company serves very little relevancy. There are few of my contacts trying to fit myself into this annoying scheme. I can tolerate them just because they are 4800 miles away from me, but if they are to be here permanently next to me, then that’d be the time for me to start looking for new place to work. I really don’t appreciate the way they try to step into my psychological personal space, just because they think I’m their Kohai, either. They aren’t necessary bad people, but I have disagreement there and I can’t get along with people showing such attitudes.

Some of my friends who worked in Japan may disagree with me, especially if you are not Japanese. Because if you are foreigner in Japan, they do not consider you “one of them” in terms expectation of how you do things. Frankly, I’m the kind of guy Japanese people hates the most; because I have very Japanese appearance, speaking Japanese, but my mentality has departed from it. This is certainly why I experience bit of awkwardness every time I go to Japan, too.

Management of a Company Retires Over Hostile Work Environment

Ok, I’m exaggerating here, but I found this hilarious.
NHK and other reports that Stuart Chambers, the president of Nihon Itagarasu (Nippon Steel Glass) who was transferred from its own subsidiary in England a year ago just resigned.
He says:

“I think many many Japanese people, particularly the classic salary man, if you like, puts the company first, and maybe the family second. I don’t say there is anything wrong with that, but in my case, I’m not able to do that, I have discovered.”

This is crazy. He pretty much said “Japanese working environment sucks, so I resign.”
I think it’s good chance for Japanese society to review their work environment; but I have feeling that not gonna happen…

Battle over satire song by Vocaloids

Multiple sources including Slashdot.jp reports that Crypton Future Media, the company who has produced voice synthesizing software, Hatsune Miku (初音ミク) and others requested Niko Niko Douga (ニコニコ動画) to take down parody song with satire, coinciding with arrest of Japanese actress Noriko Sakai (酒井法子). The song, in question is a parody of Noriko Sakai’s famous song Aoi Usagi (碧いうさぎ, Blue Rabbit), was named Shiroi Kusuri (白いクスリ, White Drug) with lyric replaced with satire about her arrest from use of illegal drugs.

According to Crypton Future Media, on their official blog, the reason they have requested this taken down is:

  • Product created by (Crypton Future Media) is being used to create the work that is potentially illegal activity civil and criminal, that constitutes to be defamation, and the work is being distributed over the internet.
  • The fact above is being publicized over major internet news websites, and is being known to people who do not know the products created by (Crypton Future Media).
  • The above may result in negative and inaccurate image about creative work using the voice generation technology including products created by (Crypton Future Media) to general public.

Thus (Crypton Future Media) requested Niwango on August 11th to remove video in question due to potential loss of sales and reputation.

In most of these taken down notice, story ends here.

However, as J-cast reports, Niko Niko Douga’s operator, Niwango overturned its early decision of complying take down, citing that request by Crypton Future Media does not have legal standing, thus putting back the video taken down earlier, however with the message to poster that the license holder of the software used to produce the work is requesting taken down.

Now, there are interesting questions come up.
First, does Crypton Future Media has legal standing to request for the work to be taken down? What if you used Les Paul to play satire song, can Gibson ask you to stop it?

Second, only binding contract between established regarding use of Vocaloid software is between Crypton Future Media and user, in the form of EULA. I think Niwango’s decision is heavily based on this fact. By people putting up their work on Niko Niko Douga, it is users who are violating EULA, and they are merely requesting to solve the problem between parties in contract. While the work may be violating copyright law, Crypton Future Media is not a copyright holder, thus is not authorized to issue take down notice from this reason.

Third, if Crypton Future Media claims rights to have “inappropriate work” removed, then potentially, Crypton Future Media itself may be liable in future arising from damages created by users of their product. Is Crypton Future Media ready to respond to such claim?

I don’t know if the particular work will be ultimately taken down or not, but it may be that both Niko Niko Douga and Crypton Future Media may have opened up a can of worms.

You may be screwed if you don’t write your resume by hand

According to the research by Business Media Makoto, Japanese HR personnel exercises rather criteria when they screen their candidate.

The hearing was conducted from 1416 hiring personnel in companies, between April 17th and May 1st.

Question were regarding resume, and respondent were expected to answer each of them in scale of “Strongly positive,” “Somewhat positive,” “Somewhat negative,” “Strongly negative,” “Doesn’t matter,” and there were people skipped a question as well.

So here’s some breakdown:

Good Penmanship

  • Strongly positive: 32.4%
  • Somewhat positive: 58.8%
  • Somewhat negative: 0.5%
  • Strongly negative: 0.0%
  • Doesn’t matter: 8.1%
  • No response: 0.2%

Neatness of Penmanship

  • Strongly positive: 13.6%
  • Somewhat positive: 61.9%
  • Somewhat negative: 0.5%
  • Strongly negative: 0.0%
  • Doesn’t matter: 23.7%
  • No response: 0.2%

Handwritten Resume

  • Strongly positive: 16.7%
  • Somewhat positive: 37.9%
  • Somewhat negative: 0.3%
  • Strongly negative: 0.0%
  • Doesn’t matter: 44.8%
  • No response: 0.3%

Prepared in Word or Excel

  • Strongly positive: 1.3%
  • Somewhat positive: 12.4%
  • Somewhat negative: 18.1%
  • Strongly negative: 5.0%
  • Doesn’t matter: 62.7%
  • No response: 0.6%

So, in Japan, if you don’t handwrite your resume, you will be screwed. If you don’t handwrite your resume, it may not be attractive to 54.6% of HR personnel, while it will appear attractive to puny 13.7% of them. Oh, but don’t forget it will be seen unattractive to 23.1% of them. Even if you are willing to handwrite your resume, but if your handwriting sucks, you’ll still slip off from 91.2% who feels good penmanship on your resume appear positive.
Of course, these won’t be only factors determine your fitness to the particular work place you applying for, but it sounds quite stupid to me that there are more people feeling negative about resume prepared by computer than people feeling positive about handwritten resume.

One note, though is Japanese resume format is not free form, they require specific format, which you can find some samples by Googling them.

You don’t think it is painful to write all that? Well, if you make mistake, be prepared to redo your resume from the beginning, as 78.5% of them feel use of those correction fluid negative.

The husband got into trouble when his wife found out that their daughter got her name from an adult game

Japanese Slashdot article explains that:

According to some Anonymous Coward, article from Ameba News, there is 2ch BBS thread where the story explains how the man got into trouble because of the fact that his wife found out their daughter was named after the character appear in Japanese 18-kin (appropriate for 18 and older) video game. She found out about this because there was a box of the said game place on the computer keyboard when he returned from the work. Name in question was “Kana” (加奈) and his wife thinks her daughter’s name “Kana” was named after her. (and apparently so, according to the poster of the article.) The article ends in question, how would you explain to your son, or daughter, if their name happened to be named after anime, manga, or novels? Shoud you be honest to them?

Japanese naming convention in recent year has been quite interesting. It is not very uncommon for people to name their children after many of modern media works, let alone, anime, manga, novel, and other works intended for general public. The name shown in the above case, is “Kana” which is relatively common name, so fortunately, it is nothing very unusual, and it is perhaps only matter of fact how specific they should get to in terms of where her name came from. Incidentally, another relatively common name, however is not usual contender of most common name in Japan is Sakura (さくら) and this name actually came to top five for couple of years when popular show Card Captor Sakura (カードキャプターさくら) was aired in Japan.

In recent years, increasingly a lot of crazy names are being registered in Japan, because their national registry system only registers kanjis and not how to read them. Some of them being ridiculous and bizarre. (For example, what do you think someone naming their children Pikachu or Hamtaro. They are real names registered in Japan, and there are more than one case of them each.)

So in my opinion, beside real truth to what her name came from, I’d like to praise this father of daughter for naming her, at least something not crazy.

Linux: Some words about it

I have been advocating Linux for both notebook and desktop system for some time, let me run down some factors that will affect when you want make a switch.
I have been using Linux exclusive from around 1994 to 1997, and after I some blank, I am now using Linux on couple of machines for several months now. So I will have some comparative analysis for those who are thinking about coming back as well.

Installation

Installation was somewhat pain around 1994, where installer were rudimentary, while newer distributions such as Redhat started introducing more user friendly installation. Today’s installers are mostly graphical (though, text only installation method is still there as an option). Another big thing about it is most of modern distributions offer liveCD feature. With this feature, you can boot Linux off from CD to try it out, without writing a bit on your hard drive, and many even allows you to install it right onto your hard drive, if you like it so it will be bootable from your hard drive. By partitioning your hard drive, it is possible to have both of those operating systems co-exist on one machine, where you will be prompted whether you want boot up Windows or Linux. Most Linux also has provision of writing to USB thumb drive, which allows you to boot up Linux by plugging in your USB thumb drive, while saving all data into it. It may be useful for temporarily borrowing your friend machine and for recovery purpose. This is big and practical advantage over Windows as simply license don’t allow this at all.
While most, if not all Linux can be downloaded fairly easily, nice people at Ubuntu can send you free CD if you request one. (This can be used for both installation and liveCD.) Or just ask friend who has installation disc. Anyone who I know that are interested installing Linux, just ask me and I will burn you one.

GUI

No, you don’t have to use CUI (Character User Interface) like command shell if you don’t really want to. Just like command prompt on Windows. Learning how to use command line, however learning how to use CUI certainly makes your life easier in some case. It’s just like Windows, if you don’t really touch command prompt, you can live that was, too.
Linux GUI has pretty much everything you will expect. But of course, there are some difference where you can find different options and such.

Softwares

Most of productivity tools and applications comes with distribution out of the box. For example, Ubuntu ships with OpenOffice.org for office suite, GIMP for graphic editor, and such. Usability out of the box, in fact is much higher than Windows.
However, some hard-to-find aspect of Linux would be games and some type of niche applications.
Installation and removal of applications are easy on modern Linux distributions as they come with package manager built in.

Security and Administration

Generally, when people talk about Linux security, they tend to believe it is more secure than Windows. It is in fact yes and no.

  • If your own account is compromised and the perpetrator does not have access to root (Linux equivalent of Administrator) account, damage can only extend to your own account.
  • Many distribution has designed so built-in firewall receive ports closed unless they are reactivated or necessary.
  • Linux has lower userbase than Windows and Mac, so it is less likely to be targeted.

Generally speaking, Linux do offer at least same level or higher security than Windows, when combined those factors above.
Administrating on Linux has different mentality than Windows.

  • On Windows, SYSTEM account (non-interactive account that Windows system maintains) assumes privileges higher than Administrator account. Which means there are certain things you try to do on your system but your SYSTEM account do not allow. On Linux, root has highest privilege. You can do real damage as root, if you don’t be careful. But at the end of day, nothing gets on your way if you try to do something on your system, to fix things. Flipside is, if you stay away from root account, you can’t really do real damage to the system.
  • On Windows, your files are locked, which means if something else is using your file, you cannot generally delete them. On Linux, you can delete file while it is being used unless application specifically requests file to be locking. (Inside Linux, applications still do have access to the file you have deleted until the application is terminated.) This often prevents “access denied” error when you try to delete files. (Which can be annoying if you really know what you are doing.)
  • Linux, especially due to its design coming from server operating system, minimizes necessity of rebooting. Only time you have to reboot your machine would be when some critical file on your system has been updated.

    Compatibility

    It used to be relatively hard to come by hardware compatible with Linux. But these days, most graphics card are supported on Linux by a manufacture. Drivers for most of hardware are available.
    Software wise, if you have to connect to Exchange server, Evolution E-mail application is available, and for 90% people, OpenOffice.org should have enough compatibility with Microsoft Office.

    Where to start?

    Convinced? Try Ubuntu. Trying is best way to start. If you are capable of burning ISO image to CD, you can download image file from Ubuntu and start trying. If not, order CD, or ask me.
    Further reading
    Wikipedia article on Linux
    Ubunchu the manga about Ubuntu

  • The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

    Just finished watching The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Toki o kakeru shôjo, 時をかける少女) a 2006 animated feature film. Since I have been writing on Facebook that I am watching this show, I’ve decided to give some remarks about it.
    Overall, I did enjoy the show.
    Main premise of the story is that the protagonist, Makoto Konno learns “time leap” or time travel resulting from certain incident, utilizing the ability for petty advantages in her daily life, while she learns that her action may have negative implication to people around her. Latter part of the story involves her trying to fix up consequences she has created by utilizing her ability to time travel.
    Story
    Relatively straightforward story.
    The story is sequel to 1983 film of same name, however do not have any dependencies other than protagonist of the film being aunt of the one in this title.
    The show illustrates relatively small area of social and spatial interaction; involving less than ten characters within small city, and does not have so much of depth.
    Graphic and Art
    “Flat” and bright. I think it pretty good though.
    I liked character designs, although it is nothing special.
    The way “trial and error” type of time leap (scenes without “traveling” sequence) reminded me of the movie Next.
    Voice
    Voice actors and actress of this show is mostly comprises ones from non-voice acting professions. Considering voice acting is new for most of these casts, I think they were appropriate, and sounded just fine. I have been feeling negative about many titles utilizing live action actors in a apparent greed of management; for added media coverage; while not considering their capacity of voice acting, which was often the case with Miyazaki’s work, for example. So I’m pleased this one worked way better than many titles with similar settings out there.
    Sound/Music
    Theme song was pretty good.
    Good they mastered in 5.1ch audio.