Japanese Citizenship and How I Feel It Unnecessary

Few hours ago, I wrote in twitter, the following in Japanese.

I heard about the story that someone’s collecting petition that would recognize dual-citizenship status to people who have naturalized to other country, but I personally feel that’s necessary. Sense of disconnect and awkwardness perhaps showing that I am no longer Japanese. I get enough experience by just visiting there.

Most recent visit was actually quite eye-opening to me. Not that I was being deliberately harassed by people actually people were quite nice. But I just couldn’t help notice quite a bit of identity crisis there. In a sense, I’m foreigner in Japanese shell.
There is something called “kuuki” (空気) which literally translates to the word “air”, but talks about different fact of Japanese sociological norm. Kuuki is not a rule set in a stone, and it is highly volatile in nature, yet dominates all the participants in the society at any given time. In Japanese society, you are required to be able to “read” this “Kuuki” to determine appropriate action of your own. It is often compared with the context of groupthink in sociology.
The concept of Kuuki is not unique to Japanese; perhaps this exists in many other cultures, even in Western world. While a lot of cultures, especially Western ones expect these social norms more openly; albeit with certain ambiguity, Japanese culture tend to be not verbal about it and puts heavy emphasis on non-verbal set of rules that only can be derived by thinking how other people in the party think. Member of party who cannot derive such rules experience severe ostracism from other member of society. (They are often referred as “KY” which means “Kuuki Yomenai” (Cannot Read the Kuuki)) Inevitably, Kuuki needs to be concert with the concept of the way of how Japanese think.
Big problem of me, is that having lived in the States for more than 15 years now, which comprised of most of my childhood after elementary school, I just don’t have this “kuuki” implemented in my mind set. When I am Japan, I tend to be very frustrated, as I would be expected to act as if I’m Japanese, because they can’t tell if I’m from other country or not. And the fact I recognize existence of “Kuuki” yet I am unable to live up to their expectation creates very awkward moments. (In addition to it, even if I’d know how to live up to this expectation, there is additional struggle as my mindset may not be comfortable to “act like Japanese” in some cases.) This would have been much easier if I don’t appear like Japanese, as in that case, I wouldn’t be subject to such expectation.
So to me, I don’t think dual-citizenship is so important. I wouldn’t possibly live in Japan anymore. There is nothing I can expect from Japanese government. I have no regret of having US citizenship.
However, Japan is nice country to visit. If you haven’t visited Japan, you should.
Just my random thought.

Using Microsoft Excel as Word Processor? You Bet!

Few weeks ago, Japanese Slashdot.org put up an article, titled Americans Surprised in Craze, Japanese Using Excel for Graph Paper. Idea is that a lot of Japanese use Microsoft Excel for doing work seems to be more suitable with word processors, such as Microsoft Word. (I personally like OpenOffice.org, but that’s not the point here…)
Indeed, I have seen a lot of people writing anything from concept proposal, to design documents (or specifications) on Excel. Luckily, I haven’t had to edit or maintain any of them.
Somehow, Japanese developed obsession to lines on paper — there are many electronic document they are creating consisting of boxes, which you’d see on IRS forms, just they are everywhere in Japanese documents. (In fact, earlier versions of Japanese Microsoft Word had its own special function to make it — now it should be there universally. OpenOffice.org is slow to adopt some advanced aspects of those features, because this is quite localized requests.)
This maybe due to the fact that Japanese language consists of character in constant size, with no kerning. A lot of Japanese people seem to use spreadsheet applications, for ease of being able to start paragraphs anywhere on the paper.
I haven’t seen anything personally, but apparently, there are people out there who would paste bitmap image on Excel, and send it off to others. (I’ll go nuts if I see that happening!)
I’m strong opponent of using Excel (or any spreadsheet application) for making document. There are some valid reasons to it.

  1. Spreadsheet application can’t define hierarchical structure of the document. Which means the resulting document will not have structured heading, contents, or sub-headings.
  2. Cross referencing is nearly impossible. Mostly, coming from the fact above. If there are no structure, it cannot be defined. If you think you can define it as a position of a cell, read on.
  3. It is nearly impossible to retain structural information without extensive repair, should the document needs to be updated. Any primitive aspect of the document, including line break needs to be adjusted manually. (you could put the contents on one big cell to solve this problem by having line wrap take care of this, but doing this defeats whole purpose of the spreadsheet supporters trying to achieve using spreadsheet to do word processing.)
  4. Printing is nightmare. If you try to print it, especially across different paper sizes, or even different printing environment (fonts, etc.) this will be nightmare.

So what do I recommend? Do it on word processing applications! Well, it is practiced mostly in Japan, so I guess saying this in English wouldn’t help much. Though, there are now a lot of Japanese website that showing strong opposition of using Excel for this purpose, it seems like this is strong trend, and I feel sorry for opponents living in Japan…

Getting Angry on the Phone

If you know me enough, you don’t see me get upset so much, well, at least on the way I’d get aggressive. Well, but I guess everything has exception…
I won’t tell who it was at least for now; bottom line is that it’s not someone on my friend list here, but was not a stranger.
It’s just so amazing how people manages to annoy me telling me what to do without even knowing what’s going on. So just a second or so after he completed his sentence, I felt rush of blood going up to my brain, and next thing I notice was that I was pretty much 60% yelling at other person on the phone. It was only 60% because dominant side of myself was still holding “angry myself” back, sort of speak. I do occasionally get angry on the phone, say at tech support representative, but one that I experienced today was just outrageous.
It occured to me, that I guess those people who don’t know when to stop, those people in Japan who are known to “kireru” (キレる) don’t have dominant part of him/herself.
I only hope that this person I was talking over phone won’t make silly statements to me again, because I wouldn’t be 60% next time.

Social Network Analytics of Japan

Google Insights for Search reveals rather interesting fact about social network system’s in Japan.

Overall, Japanese social network scene is dominated by mixi, and Google Insights filtered to Japan do show that trend as well. (In world wide trend, mixi is nothing.)

Filtering the result to year to date 2009, it starting to reveal rather interesting fact.
The overall trend shows that mixi’s gradually losing its popularity, while Facebook is increasing, in Tokyo, Facebook already has surpassed mixi early June, and YTD average shows Facebook is already as strong as mixi. (and if this trend continues, by next month, Facebook will become most popular social network system in Tokyo.)

Tokyo’s shift in trend is unique, as even Okinawa, showing strong MySpace support than rest of Japan, although, mixi is still dominating the popularity there. (I speculate presence of US military base for high support of MySpace in Okinawa.) Okinawa’s overall trend has been following somewhat close to rest of Japan, but perhaps with Facebook and MySpace competing for shares.

Regional comparison for Facebook in major cities in Japan shows that overall popularity volume in Tokyo is much higher than rest of places. (and likewise, comparison with MySpace shows significance of MySpace in Okinawa.

So, it seems like, in Japan, many people are starting to migrate to something other than mixi, perhaps for the fact mixi’s more focus on mobile phone market (and especially, if they use carrier menu to access to mixi from their mobile phone, it won’t show up in Google Insights) as well as more push to Facebook from different sectors (for example, DSi support of photo upload to Facebook.) Somehow, this trend is showing in Tokyo drastically than in different places. This may be mean that there are more international relationship dynamic happening in Tokyo, requires more global communication. (mixi do not allow sign-up without Japanese mobile numbers now)

Online Marketing in Japan?

When I was helping out figuring out what would be the best way to marketing the video game product online in Japan, I was disappointed I could hardly find any options.

I’m talking about something other than those banner ads, but what I’m talking about is thing like Facebook page system. For example, there’s big Japanese SNS mixi, but problem of their system is that their “community” system is nothing more than “group” feature of Facebook (which means, there is no expectation that the community is “official.”)

What people use in Japan to do these marketing? Is it because those are happening all in their mobile realm, that I can’t see them, because I can’t access to them? Or they don’t simply exist? Or perhaps, only way to get on any online media in Japan is to utilize some sort of agencies?

I’d appreciate if anyone with information enlighten me!

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.