Resurrection of TokyoFinds

BIG NEWS

I laid TokyoFinds to rest at the beginning of the year.

Thanks to Leah and Angie at Tumblr, IT HAS BEEN BROUGHT BACK TO LIFE!!

REJOICE. Visit Finds here: tokyofinds.com

Sidenotes: as much space as I take up on the internet, TokyoFinds is the only place I post under a paid domain LOL
For those wondering what Finds is:

Instead of polluting my Instagram, Facebook and Twitter with all things Tokyo and Japan, I decided to deposit them here. Enjoy.

Big shout-out to Leah!!!!!!!’n Thank you, thank you thank you!

2014.

From Dec. 26th to January 4th, I traveled Japan solo. I chose to chronicle my trip on Hi — publishing platform — instead of Tweeting, Instagramming, Facebooking and even on my own blog.

People have been asking why, this essay beautifully captures why:

Africa burns my eyes and sets my nerves on edge.

Even if you aren’t interested in Hi, the essay is a must read, for anyone looking to be whisked away to a land far away with…words.

Read Craig‘s essay here.

A photo from one of the many of the small Japanese villages I visited.
You can read my entire trip here: “Epic Trip 2013

Shirakawago

Asian Market 101

global market

1. Asia, is the global leader in online growth.

ChartOfTheDay_1088_Percentage_of_global_page_views_from_mobile_devices_n

2. Asia, is the global leader for mobile market share

2013-06-27-asia-revenue

3. Asia, is a lucrative market for mobile revenues.

This is no secret — that’s why so many people take interest in Asia and one of the reasons I moved to Tokyo.

However, Asia includes the following four countries: China, India, Japan and South Korea. Those four countries account for 66% of Asia’s population, 60% of Asia’s mobile connections and over 70% of regional mobile income. Four markets, four countries with four very different ecosystems.

China = population of 1.4 billion people, GDP of 8.2 trillion USD
India = population of 1.2 billion people, GDP of 1.84 trillion USD
South Korea = population of 50M people, GDP of 1.13 trillion USD
Japan = population of 127.6M people, GDP of 5.96 trillion USD

Then, there are the smaller countries with high GDPs and/or high population like: Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, etc., etc.

To put that into perspective, the US has a population of 314M people (double Japan) with a GDP of 15.68 trillion USD. Compared to the big four Asian countries (Japan, South Korea, India and China), the US has been ahead of the race as far as development, access and economic distribution. This development gap the US has is significantly wider with India and China than the gap the US has with Japan and South Korea, but the US is still ahead of these four countries.

As much as I commend South Korea and Japan’s economies and their astounding growths, India and China’s rapid growth is clearly a focal point if you’re paying attention to the Asian market. Indeed, Asia is a lucrative market with bright economic futures and much wealth ahead.

However, the most important takeaway and my fourth point, is the Asian market is far from a market, one market, single market. People (including myself in the past), casually say Asia — almost as though China, Japan and South Korea are like what Texas, NY and California are to the US.

So for those intrigued by the Asian market, please remember Asia is a massive market that is close to impossible to penetrate, unless one understands what they are dealing with. There is massive opportunity here. It’s fun and lucrative, with plenty of room for disruption in each of the respective ecosystems in very different ways.

But in order to get anything done and move any of these economies forward, these points are so important — trust me, I live in ‘Asia’ ;)

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

There’s optimism. Then there is coddling. #Japan

Saw on Twitter that Sony has slashed their profit forecast by 40%, after poor Q2 results 1

Google News in English, search results are of course all about the profit cuts.
See? (points below)
Sony US

The news in Japanese? Is a crock of shit.

Sony Japan

This is at 6:02 +GMT (Japan time) — two hours after they announced lowering forecast.

Top headline from Oct 14, 2013 reads “Sony accelerating to 3rd global smartphone brand” followed by a bunch of bullshit about their eReader.

This is TWO hours after they announced Q2 losses.

The Japanese media failing to deliver information — good, bad or indifferent — is a bit…bizarre.

I’m going to keep checking, to see if or when the Japanese outlets will report. Maybe it’s cultural differences but I just don’t get this rose colored glasses mentality, where sugar coating hard facts are accepted (cough-Nintendo-cough)

I’m so afraid that coddling will be the ultimate downfall of this country; no matter how resilient the Japanese are.

DISCLAIMER: please excuse the Windows — my work computer is a X1 Carbon on Win7 T_T

UPDATE 11/01/13

Finally, about 12 hours later, there are three news sources that covered Sony’s losses. Bloomberg Japan, CNET Japan and one Japanese publication, IT Media. Sony, is one of Japan’s icons. Their continuous downfall should be a massive wake-up call to Japan.

I believe in optimism but I also believe in knowing the full truth, assessing the situation realistically, finding a solution and working towards the solution.

Directly communicating harsh realities, isn’t the ‘Japanese way’ but this sugar coating, is very troublesome. I hope this country wakes up soon, accept hard facts and figuring ways to move forth.

Or maybe, the Japanese way is to stay in its protective, isolated bubble.

Japan: This is why you can’t speak English

One of the greatest benefits of riding in packed trains during peak commute hours, is how I can peek on people’s mobile phones to see what apps they are using, what they are browsing. Look at people’s books to see what they are reading. Basically, learning by observing.

I want to say I’m looking at the brighter side of being a sardine in jam packed trains every morning and evening, but I’m gonna keep it real — I’m very curious about Japanese people’s consumption behaviors.

Today, I had the great (dis) pleasure of peeking on someone’s English study guide and was shocked to the shit. I mean, WTF is this???

photo 1

This looks more like an econ text book than an English textbook. Look all those Japanese hieroglyphics, breaking down English grammar!!

So I zoomed into the photo, expecting some complicated business colloquialism.
Turns out, those long-ass explanations were for one simple phrase: “An exciting game.”

What the fuck???

I don’t know about you, but there is no way I’d be able to form and speak basic English sentences, with all that extra noise in the way. I’d be terrified I wouldn’t remember all the learnings and apply them.

Jeez.

Why I Still Believe in Japan

Screenshot_10_6_13_8_14_PM

Thanks to Serkan Toto (who is by far, one of the most brilliant people I have ever met), I attended JapanNight, a start-up competition and boy, am I glad I did.

The winner was a wearable technology company called Ring and the promo video, had the entire room buzzing:

They are on their second prototype and Ring’s purpose is to complement wearable tech vs competing with monster companies like Google and Samsung — that approach is why I became a believer.

Ring, to me, epitomizes Japanese ethos: taking great things that exist and making them better. In Ring’s case, it’s taking wearable tech: Google Glass, Pebble, Samsung watch, etc. and made it stylish, minimalistic and more compact.

The other products really didn’t do much for me (some hipster app, a few niche gaming apps, a Japanese solution for Survey Monkey, some learning platform, etc.) but the websites and presentations were really well done. As we enter into the age of user experience and design, I’m excited to see how the Japanese will deliver our creativity to the world and where I fit into the equation.

I got to Japan at the perfect time, as I believe the next few years will showcase exactly why I chose to live in Tokyo — one of the best cities on the planet.

If you’re interested, Japan Night’s finalists are on their Google+ stream here.

Japan: this is why we are so behind #tech

This perfectly epitomizes what is wrong with Japanese tech.

So I received a snail mail invite to supposedly one of the largest tech events:  Japan IT Week Expo.
There are exhibitions and key-notes on: cloud computing, big data, security, web + mobile marketing and something about the 3rd annual Smartphone and Mobile Expo.

First of all, what is the difference between a smartphone and a mobile?
Or does ‘mobile’ mean tablet?? What is this… web and mobile marketing they speak of??? Why are they separate???? It’s 2013 — have you heard of responsive design? GET ON THAT.

Then please take a look at the brochure, jam packed with text.
This looks like a conference for bankers.

photo 1

And can we talk about one of the keynote speakers?
Does that man down there look like he can teach anyone anything about mobile tech and trends??

photo 2

To top it off, they showed some photos from last year’s exhibition:

photo 3

I mean seriously.

No wonder monster corporations like Sony, Panasonic,  Nintendo and et al., can’t get their shit together. The people on top are old farts who learn about ‘the web’ from other staunchy old farts at venues like these.

God. Sometimes, I’m so embarrassed for this country.

Goes to show how much opportunity for disruption there is.
Reason no bajillion I’m in Tokyo :)

Female Japanese Entrepreneur on Other Japanese Female Entrepreneurs

“When I worked for a securities firm, I was pushed way beyond my capacity because as a woman I was assigned back-office tasks — even making tea! — and at the same time working in a front-end role equally as hard as men,” Tanizaki says, adding that Japan’s Mad Men days of a decade ago are fading fast, in Tokyo at least. “It was more for political issues, not sexist reasons, I quit,” she says.

Tanizaki agrees with Otsuka, arguing that additional support for women entrepreneurs is good, but says that the individual business grants, at around $20,000, are inadequate for tech startups. “Developers and web engineers are expensive in Japan. The grants could be useful for very small ventures such as cafes, not so much for tech entrepreneurs.”

Private venture capitalists, she says, are a better bet for funding and open to women entrepreneurs. However, Tanizaki warns, women in Japan could be their own worst enemy. There are equal opportunities in Japan, she explains, “but in my experience, women don’t want to take risks, they don’t want, on the whole, to take responsibility, they are less ambitious, less willing to sacrifice. Basically, most Japanese women lack courage.”

Pointing out the shame that, even in the startup world, she scarcely meets female executives, Tanizaki wonders how far women in Japan are willing to stick their necks out. “I’m afraid I agree with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg that women don’t want to sit at the table. It’s as simple as that.”

— Shuku Tanizaki, founder (? maybe? Doesn’t say) of project management services to the financial services industry, the other a social lending venture company called AQUSH ExchangeCorporation.

HMMMMMMMM. I have thoughts but will stay mum until I’ve spent a little more time in Japan.

Cell Phone Carriers in Japan are Weird

On Sept. 10th, Apple announced the iPhone 5s and 5c (yay). I’ve been waiting since I arrived to Tokyo in June to sign-up for a Japanese mobile because of the iPhone.

Japan has three major carriers: NTT DoCoMo, KDDI / au and Softbank.
KDDI and Softbank have carried the iPhone and the only major carrier that was holding out was DoCoMo — which according to everyone I’ve asked around me, has the most superior network.

In the US, I think DoCoMo would be Verizon. KDDI is AT&T and Softbank is Tmobile or Sprint.
I found market share charts over on a Mobile in Japan blog (thanks, Paul) and took screen shots of the pie charts.

This is what the market share was like in 2006:

Screenshot_9_14_13_7_37_PM

Then, in August 2013:

Screenshot_9_14_13_7_38_PM

As it’s pointed out, a lot has changed and following this trajectory, DoCoMo had no choice but to carry the new iPhones or their market share would keep decreasing.

Whatever — that’s fine. I’m not really interested in Japanese mobile economics.
I mean, if you ask me, all three carriers have major sub numbers, considering the population in Japan.

What really annoys me, is that everything in Japan is backwards. For example, in the US, carriers give new subscribers incentives such as special pricing or handset discounts…makes new customers feel welcome. In Japan, mobile carriers reward returning subscribers.

In particular DoCoMo is a bit bizarre as they are only allowing returning VIP customers to reserve the 5c online. New customers or non-VIP customers are treated like second class citizens and I guess we have to wait in line or something. Fine, whatever. I’m planning to get the 5s which can’t be reserved so it doesn’t matter too much.

Then when they announced their pricing plan*, it made me not want to choose DoCoMo, even if apparently they have the most superior network.

New customers have to pay a monthly fee of 6,030 yen (apprx $60 USD) plus voice, while returning customers only have to pay a monthly fee of 4,200 yen (apprx $43 USD) plus voice.

That’s almost a $20 difference. WTF.
Oh well, I guess I’ll wait until the 20th to see which carrier offers the best price plan to decide which company to go with.

*source (in Japanese)

[EDIT] Update: the news article I got the pricing from, updated the post and apparently this is only student pricing. I feel a lot better now!

Working in Japan

I’m heading into my third month working in a Japanese corporation. Adjusting has been a fun ride — to say the least.

My org’s CEO is someone I admire. He respects Japanese traditions while incorporating non-traditional ways into the company’s DNA. He has five fundamental principles of success we follow. *you can read further here if interested

I love how he says there are only two kinds of people in the world. Best Effort people, who are satisfied with the status quo; Get Things Done people who are committed to reaching their goals. With enough determination and effort, we can achieve anything.

I believe these principles are necessary in a traditional Japanese corporation, where historically, the Japanese are trained to do one thing really well. It’s about thinking outside of the box. Becoming a self-starter but he expects our hypothesis to be executable and not just ideas.

Mikitani-san (our CEO), is a very important person in moving Japan forward, and I am honored to be a part of his company.

That said, Rakuten Inc. (Japan’s Amazon equivalent) still very much has traditional Japanese corporate traits. Most leave me astounded — like the attention to details, precision, level of discipline, and the effort people put in to constantly and consistently output. I’ve never been in an environment like this and frankly, it’s pretty refreshing.

My one gripe, though, is because we have such high expectations from management, the Japanese are constantly ON IT. People don’t talk to each other. People rarely leave their seats and there are even people who feel uneasy getting up to use the restroom. I mean, what kind of  work environment is that?

I’ve also asked and listened to feedback from my Japanese colleagues and non-Japanese colleagues alike. It’s a bit…peculiar how everyone knows the same sneaky tricks to always look ‘busy’.

Examples:

1. people type on their keyboards really loudly — almost pounding — to make it look like they are doing very important work. When I peek on their monitors, these ‘busy’ people are chatting on Messenger (we’re on a Windows environment yuck) on Facebook or Yammer LOL

2. people are rarely on their phones during worktime. At least in the open. People take their phones with them into the restrooms, and hide in the stalls to chat or text. It’s a huge problem when people like me, need to really use the restroom but people don’t come out for 10+ minutes. I mean. Come ON. Hide in the hallway or staircase or something, anything, just quit using phones in the stalls!

3. napping — this is really strange to me, but people actually nap in bathroom stalls. I’ve heard snoring, as have a lot of other people (I’ve asked around). I mean. Seriously?

4. work hours. It’s no secret people work around 12+ hours a day. Overtime is expected, conversely, normal. People who go home early are judged and talked about behind their backs as a person “who isn’t working hard”. What kind of twisted logic is that? I’m sorry — well not really — but I’m not one to sit in front of my computer for hours on end just to ‘look like I care’, while I use sneaky tricks to get through a 14 hour day. A huge part of working ‘smart’ is prioritizing task lists, effective time management and work life balance.

…and on and on. There is a huge list of survival tips for Japanese work environments people always talk about behind closed doors, but never say out loud. But I have to wonder: if we are outputting the same results in 8 hours or 14 hours — why even bother staying so late?

I guess regardless of where you are around the globe, there are and will always be things that seem peculiar. I just hope for sanity sake, people start thinking about changing their ways because more often times than not, people are so stressed they get trashed after work, drunk bashing colleagues and management. Not cool.

Japan!

The One Piece of Advice You Should Know but No One will Tell You About Tokyo

At least once a week, I get an email: “I’m coming to Japan for the first time, do you have any recommendations?” I tell everyone the same thing, so I decided to post on my blogs (I can also just point people here in the future #lazy).

Hope this helps!

Dear friend,

Think of Tokyo like NYC… times 10. There are so many things to do, places to eat, areas to shop, must-sees, it will take about five lifetimes to see all of Tokyo. For sight-seeing recommendations, just Google “things to do in Tokyo”, compare-contrast lists and find destinations that are right for you. Pick an objective (ex: I want to shop. I want to eat. I want to see landmarks. I want to see art exhibitions. I want to wander with no plan but want a list of a few must-sees. I want to do it all!) and build your trip centered around what you really want to do. TimeOut Tokyo is a wonderful resource — it’s also in English :) Ex: for coffee shops, I love this list and another one (in Japanese — just Google the bigger, bold font on the left hand side above the photo, as it is the name of the coffee shop with ‘Tokyo’ in English, so you’ll get English results). For art shows / events, there is always something going on, so looking up what’s happening a few days before you are planning to go, is the way to do it. Of course TimeOut but this is also another good resource:  http://enjp.blouinartinfo.com/events

For places to eat, Foursquare is a great resource. I follow a bunch of Foursquare lists to discover new restaurants. I kid you not, I can dine out every day for the rest of my life and still not even cover 1/4 of the restaurants in Tokyo — restaurants here are never-ending and all delicious. Foursquare lists are accessible on your computer here: https://foursquare.com/lists. Two example lists: https://foursquare.com/casioisac/list/michelin-guide-tokyo-ミシュラン東京-2012- and https://foursquare.com/khimming/list/tokyo-fine-restaurants

Japan — especially Tokyo — is many things. Magical, wonderful, whimsical, amazing, beautiful, etc., etc. The one thing it is not, is an English speaking country. Sounds mean, but it’s the truth.

So I came up with a 10 second rule: if you stop and ask a Japanese person for directions, and the Japanese person cannot get a few English words out within the first 10 seconds, just thank them and walk away.

If you are feeling really adventurous, keep this phrase handy: “Eigo wakarimasuka” (Do you speak / understand English?). That phrase prepares Japanese people to receive and respond in English. Even if the person says “yes English ok”, the 10 second rule still applies. 10 seconds, no English = don’t walk — RUN.

It may sound rude, but no one will outright tell you that one can waste a lot of time trying to communicate. And please, don’t feel bad. Japanese people will not be offended if you move on to someone else. Conversely, they will be happy you relieved them of their duty to help a person in need.

Trust me on this — I’m Japanese ;)

[UPDATE] Wi-Fi / SIM situation
Ugh, how can I forget to include this? Public Wi-Fi, what a nightmare!
As advanced of a country Japan is and as connected as we all are, public Wi-Fi is an absolute disaster. I came in April, expecting to be able to connect to something right off the bat, but every so-called public Wi-Fi requires creating an account, what the hell. I don’t really care about registering, but what I do care about, is how I was unable to register because I had no Internet. Because I have no Internet access, I can’t sign-up for an account but without an account, I can’t get Internet — total chicken-egg problem. It was so annoying. Also, registering for accounts is usually in all Japanese so unless you are Japanese. Or read Japanese. You are basically assed-out.

I recommend everyone to rent a SIM at the airport (Narita or Haneda, I’m assuming). Softbank has rental SIM booths there and the rates are super reasonable. The rental service is available only to visitors, so it’s super inconvenient to rent a SIM once you are in a city. There’s actually only one office in all of Tokyo, in some random office building that you won’t be able to find or access (because of security)…unless you are Japanese.

懐かしシリーズ:ふらっと

バンクーバーで生まれ、6歳まで住んでいた。
幼稚園で私が唯一のアジア人だった程、
当時は東洋人が少なかった。

親が純日本人の為、知り合いや友達は駐在員。
幼稚園に通うまで、私は白人(外人?)との交流がほとんどなかったが
充実した幼稚園生活を送っていた。

未だに覚えている。 Continue reading

Countdown to Christmas: Edible Japanese-y Gifts ($$$$)

Okay. I never play up my Japanese roots. I would be lying if I said I was sorry for I am not. I am too EFin impatient to explain anything that has to do with my culture to those unfamiliar. But it’s Christmas, holidays, whatever the PC (not hardware) term is, and I am in the spirit of giving. So for any and all that may be interested in giving something Japanese-y, I hope this will help. Be forewarned if you’re on a budget I would recommend closing this window. Hey – it’s not my fault my people’s stuff is pricey.

Minamoto Kitchoan

和菓子 (wagashi) is what we call them and they are a gourmet delicacy. The site has variations of confectionaries, but my recommendation is 練り切り(nerikiri), pictured right. From the ingredients, preparation, presentation, packaging, to the details, time, care, and attention that goes into these suckers, the pricing is a steal. Each tiny circle or square symbolizes something. Please don’t ask what they symbolize, since I have no clue. All I know is that everything is seasonal. From the patterns, colors, shapes, and sizes, there are rules to what can be made when. Since it is winter, there are wintery (?) shapes. How do they taste? Think smooth and velvety texture to the bite, and once it hits your mouth, a thin veil of sweetness floats through your mouth. Best served with authentic Japanese Green Tea 緑茶 (ryoku-cha) Seriously, these are my absolutely favorites. They were my mom’s favorites, and that is why they are first. Biased? HELL YES. It’s MY list afterall. Image via elaurant33’s flickr Minamoto Kitchoan’s site here.

Continue reading

The Stupidest Gadget for Stupid People

sensor-fresh-qInternet? Meet the Sensor Fresh Q. It checks the safety of meat or poultry, only for 90bucks!

Um, are you kidding me?

Use something called your five flippin’ senses. If the meat is not red or pink and has a greenish tint, there’s clearly something wrong. Though as a cheap Asian, I use the unspoiled meat around the discolored portions. Sounds gross, but hello? I’m not eating it raw. When cooked, all the bacteria goes away. If bacterium(?) is left behind, I’ll get the runs. Boo hoo… crap, I digress. Where was I? Oh, spoiled meat and commons sense. Bottomline: if the meat smells and looks funny, well, surprise! It may be rotten.

Shoot, you don’t even need five senses… two at the most. I should get paid $89.95 plus shipping and handling each time I make a “THIS IS SPOILED” diagnosis.

 

bonus:
Japanese culture tidbit #1:
This may gross some of you out, but as you may or may not know, in the Japanese culture, we are accustomed to ‘raw’ foods. Fish (sushi), meats (tataki -seared beef / fish, raw on the inside, shabu-shabu -Japanese fondue I guess?), egg (I crack a raw egg over rice and eat it, I don’t care… I also dip sukiyaki in raw egg, I prefer my eggs hanjyuku, which means half way cooked), even poultry (in NYC, there’s a place called Torys in Mid-town East that serves “Tori Sashi” which is basically raw chicken sashimi. I’ve had it plenty a times and I’m still alive and kicking. The poultry is organic and free range. Plus I trust my people)

Salmonella, E. Coli, lis-whatever, and all those other potential ‘diseases’ out there don’t scare me. At all.  IMO, Americans are WAY too paranoid.

Japanese Self Heating Bento – My People Have Done It Again.

  • Who: My people (the Japanese)
  • When: No idea
  • Where: Um, Japan…?
  • What: Bento (packed lunch) that heats itself, holy wow.
  • Why: Beats pick-up, take-out, delivery, and instant noodles!

Ok — so I couldn’t decipher the directions by reading the box, so I Googled. I found a decent review site and this is what I picked up. That box works like this.  See that little string? (I even marked it since awesome like that… ha!) When pulled, it bursts a heating pack, that warms up the rice bowl. Once the little box of goodness starts steaming, simply wait five minutes to heat, and voi la! Insta hot lunch. Wow.

The only downside to these suckers is, it’s not available nation wide. Just like how in the US, we have regional foods, Japan does, too. This particular one, is only available in the Sendai area (apprx. 9ish hours from Tokyo). And here’s the kicker. It can only be purchased at train stations.

If you’re not familiar with Japan, our country’s main means of transportation is railway. (like Amtrak but a bajillion katrillion times cleaner, more comfortable, high tech, and way pricier) Anyway, part of traveling includes enjoying regional foods, and trainstation bentos are HUGE. It sounds bizarre but these bentos are good and I too, look forward to trying the various train station bentos — or “eki ben” as we say in Japanese. :) And this is what it looks like cooked? prepared? finished?

(click to enlarge). The Sendai eki-ben is apprx. USD$11.00ish and it’s a beef tongue bowl over rice… if you’ve never had beef tongue, stop cringing! It sounds disgusting but not. It’s flavorful, tender, amazing, and a delicacy outside of Japan, too. The company that makes these insta hot meals is Kobayashi and they make eki-ben nationwide. Check out their site here — warning: NSFHP (Not Safe For Hungry People).

Man, these are the times I really miss Japan.

via link