Resurrection of TokyoFinds


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:

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!


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


Asian Market 101

global market

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


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


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

Why I Still Believe in Japan


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.

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’.


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.


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:

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: Two example lists:ミシュラン東京-2012- and

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.