Friday, July 20, 2018

The Black Suits of Japan's Hot Summers

Japanese streets on the weekdays can be extremely colorless.  Salarymen in their millions walk about in almost identical black suits, quickly rushing toward their office buildings and clients.  But the black suits, for all their ubiquity, is not exactly designed for the hot summers that engulf the island country.  As humidity soars and temperatures rise above 40 degrees Celsius in some parts, keeping to the business norm, fashion-wise, can become tortuous.  Salarymen constantly wiping off their sweats can attest to the difficulty.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Dying Islands of Tokyo Needs to Revive Themselves through Better Self-Promotion

When one thinks of Tokyo, dense, crowded streets full of neon lights and skyscrapers probably come to mind.  And for the central parts of the metropolis, that image is more or less true.  But people, even those who are born and bred in the city, tend to forget that Tokyo actually extends hundreds of kilometers to the south, to the Izu and Ogasawara island chains where sparsely populated and little-visited islands can be found.  Life on these islands cannot be any more different from downtown Tokyo and perhaps anywhere on "mainland" Japan.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Can Japanese Corporate Norms be Reformed to Increase Productivity?

Right next to the apartment where my girlfriend lives is a construction site where a new partment building is built from scratch.  Aside from the half-a-dozen construction workers who are putting together the building itself, there are another half-a-dozen workers who are doing nothing but manning the different roads leading into the construction site.  Holding LED-lighted guiding sticks, they direct the trucks transporting materials to the site, and apologize to each pedestrian who happen to walk by the construction.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Can a Social Critique Also be Genuinely Entertaining?

It is tough to talk about a social problem faced by a social minority, especially in a country like Japan where social minorities are often assumed to be absent or nonexistent.  Many people simply do not want to face the uncomfortable fact that there are minorities among them who missed out of the country's general sense of prosperity and order.  Instead, they struggle for both society's acceptance and just make ends meet in the direst of material conditions.  A recent Japanese film Shoplifters, in such sense, is truly an uncomfortable one to watch for many Japanese people.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Witnessing Inter-Korean Exchange at Vladivostok Airport

One of the little-known idiosyncrasies of the Russian Far East is the presence of a relatively large North Korean population.  The region's low population translates to a chronic shortage of laborers needed for low-paid construction and menial work Russians are reluctant to take up.  In European Russia, Central Asian migrants fill the role, out here the North Koreans play the same role.  Despite ongoing sanctions that dramatically reduced their numbers, North Korean laborers are still preferred by Russian firms for their manageability, diligence, and lack of negative cultural (read: Muslim) influence.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Sense of Self-reliance that Makes the Russian

In the Kitay-Gorod (literally "China Town" in Russian) Mall in the northeast suburbs of Vladivostok, there are several shops selling nothing but parts for home improvements.  From bolts and nails to wallpapers and plastic railings the shop has everything a person would need to make the interior of a house more homey.  The only necessity is for the buyers of the parts to put in the efforts to put those parts in place.  That is easier said than done.  Customers are assumed to be professionals, and none of the parts come with instructions on how to properly use them.