When Japanese firms and government market the concept of "Cool Japan" abroad, a few formulas come in mind. For them, to get foreigners to "like" Japan and its culture, it simply cannot beat a demonstration of what are traditional combined with the country's modern quirks. The likes of martial arts, kimono, and tea ceremonies can expose foreigners to the historical depths, while singing idol groups, cartoon characters, and technological demonstrations can show how the country can combine its traditional values and mold it in a modern sense.
Friday, October 20, 2017
Friday, October 13, 2017
at 9:04 PM
In his recent world travels, the author has gotten used to the idea of having to ask for bags when he goes shopping. In the US, for instance, plastic bags are no longer free, so shoppers are expected to either do without them, bring their own reusable ones, or pay a fairly expensive price for one. In more politically aggressive places like Rwanda, the very idea of using plastic bags have become obsolete as plastic bags themselves are completely banned from the country. To those not used to having to carry around their own bags, it is a bit of nuisance, to say the least.
Sunday, October 8, 2017
at 7:35 AM
If there is anywhere that proves the world-leading level of automation Japan achieved, it would be the country's public restrooms. To prevent the spread of bacteria, more often than not, the use of levers and buttons have completely been made obsolete. To flush the toilets, to let water out of spigots, to turn on the machines that blow-dry hands after washing, and even sometimes for turning on lights, sensors do the job. A swipe of the hands in the right places, without any physical touch, allow accesses of these services. Clear signs show first-timers where to put their hands.
Sunday, October 1, 2017
at 9:52 PM
Roppongi, one of metropolitan Tokyo's most cosmopolitan neighborhoods, host an all-night arts event every year. Museums open through the night, performance artists strut their stuff, and temporary exhibitions pop up all over the plazas and the streets. Thousands upon thousands crowd into the buildings and alleys, gathering for concerts, little musicals, and displays in otherwise inaccessible hours. They bring their down jackets to the unusual chilliness of 4am, huddling to witness relatively unknown artists trying to get their five minutes of fame one after the other, battling their sleepiness and fatigue.
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
at 4:27 AM
If there is anything that visually identifies a Japanese adult, and especially a female adult, it is the sense of fashion. People in Japan's major cities are absolutely meticulous about how they dress in public, even in the most casual of situations. Countless magazines advise both males and females on proper coordination of shirts, coats, and pants, while various TV programs show how to properly apply makeup and introduce shops that help those with subpar sense of fashion. Even those who do not care too much about visual presentation inevitably have to conform to the fashion sense just to feel socially acceptable.
Friday, September 22, 2017
at 8:32 PM
Tokyo is a fine city for meeting new people. Dozens of organizations ranging from students doing it on their free time to fully professional outfits run social events that bring together complete strangers from all walks of life to help them expand their often limited number of friends and acquaintances. Generally, what makes these events so fun is that people go in with an open mind and very little expectations, making them extremely conducive to conversations with literally anyone. In a Japanese society where social status and looks can be paramount, such situations, to say the least, can be quite rare to find.
Tuesday, September 19, 2017
at 1:55 AM
As mentioned in the previous post, Tokyo is full of social events that help foreigners meet Japanese people and simultaneously allow many Japanese people to learn about foreign cultures and meet foreigners. Many Japanese people take advantage of these events to get an idea of how English speakers speak and think, so that they can improve their language and international communications skills for the purpose of work and just personal interest.
Sunday, September 10, 2017
at 12:54 AM
Thus goes perhaps one of the most common statements among foreigners met in Japan. And curiously enough, statements of such kind are uttered during some of the most popular meetups where hundreds of Japanese and non-Japanese from all walks of life mingle, specially designed for finding friends among complete strangers. While being in an environment where people aggressive meet people for the explicit purpose of befriending them, foreigners lament that it is hard to make friends. Clearly, the reason is not because they have little opportunities to meet other people.
Saturday, September 9, 2017
at 12:56 AM
When working in Tokyo, taking the train to work (or anywhere, for that matter) is part of daily life. And since people are so reliant on trains to go anywhere, it is especially irritating when they are delayed or canceled for unforeseen reasons. Japanese train services are famously punctual by design, but even then, there are times where good service and design does not equate lack of issues. The most frequent of these issues is 人身事故 (accidents involving bodily harm), an euphemism for people jumping into train tracks to commit suicide and delaying services in the process.
Monday, September 4, 2017
at 5:50 PM
The articles are everywhere. In local and foreign news outlets, the dedicated lives of anti-poaching patrols in some of the world's most wildlife-abundant areas wage constant wars against poachers, who commit murders for a quick buck. By showing the aftermath of wildlife slaughters on widely circulated posters and visual reports, both public and private sources make the anti-poaching patrols out to be heroes saving the planet from shortsighted human actions, driven by unparalleled ignorance, uncontrolled want, and the massive profits to be made in the black market.
Saturday, September 2, 2017
at 9:07 PM
If there is any issue that defines Japan, it is its demographic one. Among the youths, ever-fewer people choose to get married and have kids, while increasing longevity ensures that a bulging elderly population steadily increases the average age of the entire population. The presence of "herbivore" men (and women), defined by their almost complete lack of interest in romantic relationships, aggravates the problem into something that is not easily corrected by simple incentives for bigger families. The mentality of the population has dramatically shifted to one that questions the very virtue of family life.
Sunday, August 13, 2017
at 10:17 AM
We all have those moments. Sometimes we show up in a social gathering with supposedly close friends to talk about major events in their lives, yet as the conversations go on, one just finds oneself drifting away, aloof, staring into the space. It is not that the conversations are boring. In fact, they might be humorous, full of exciting details, drawing interest of everyone else involved in the conversations. But even as everyone else laughs and ask follow-up questions, one cannot do much beyond weakly laugh along without understanding the context, just to be polite.
Monday, July 31, 2017
at 10:28 AM
In my nearly one month of travels across South America, there was one thing that was commonly done in every country and city that I set foot in. That is, the bars and restaurants repeatedly played this summer's (or in South America, this winter's) smash hit, Despacito. While the Spanish-language reggaeton dance number is just as popular in the US and many other countries around the world, in South America, the craze is at a whole new level, with the song played as part of the pop music hit list so frequently that it is impossible to not go anywhere that plays music without hearing it at least once (if not more).
Sunday, July 30, 2017
at 10:58 AM
In the past years, reality shows have become a staple of Chinese television. In particular, owing to the popularity of karaoke and pop music, American Idol-style programs that seek to discover untapped musical talents in the general populace have become extremely popular and widespread. Different TV stations and independent media websites have invested and competed to host the biggest, most professional, and most lavishly set "talent search," drawing some of the biggest popstars of Chinese musical industry today to help discover some of the best raw talent hidden in plain sight.
Tuesday, July 4, 2017
at 11:38 AM
With increase in global connectivity and the importance of international trade, a new kind of trade pattern is emerging. Small traders, towing no more than a couple of suitcases each, cross international borders in search of merchandise they can potentially sell back home. They purchase the merchandise in (rather small) bulk in foreign markets, throw them into their suitcases. Once back at home, they throw open their suitcases and sell the contents at a margin. The profits on the foreign merchandise finance their next trips, which hopefully would involve more scale and more valuable products over time.
Monday, July 3, 2017
at 9:34 AM
Now as it had ever been, there are many advertisements of get-rich-quick schemes, on TV, on shady websites, and as inline ads for social media. Along with the texts claiming Mr. xxx had made $yyy in the course of just few years, many of these unbelievable figures also add in that the new wealth allowed Mr. xxx to retire in his 30s or 40s. Without saying so explicitly, the ads assume that logically, what someone who earned a massive quantity would do is to immediately retire, so that s/he does not have to slave for some heartless employer or work hard for him/herself anymore.
Saturday, July 1, 2017
at 2:45 PM
Recently, there has been talks of a new way of dealing with growing problems of air pollution caused by emissions of carbon-based pollutants into the atmosphere. The idea is to install large numbers of large air purifying devices that filter large quantity of air in the surrounding area, removing the carbons in the air that the devices then proceed to pump back into the atmosphere. Optimists speak of such devices benefiting not only as a scalable mechanisms to rid air of toxic elements, but also as a way to manufacture man-made diamonds with the captured carbons.
Thursday, June 29, 2017
at 11:05 AM
In a recent podcast for the Odd Podcast, Vanderbilt University anthropologist Prof. Arthur Demarest discussed the signs of a civilization on the verge collapse. Prof. Demarest postulates a unique point of view, arguing that a civilization is at its very vulnerable at its supposed zenith, when its political, economic, and cultural achievements are at their highest, and the territorial extent at the greatest. Instead of the civilization showing gradual decline with reduced wealth and territory over centuries, civilizations are much more likely to collapse decades after achieving the zenith.
Sunday, June 18, 2017
at 12:44 PM
In the previous blog post, I discussed the potential correlation between economic development and presence of nationalism at a state (rather than tribal) level. But of course, to incentivize economic development requires a whole host of different factors, the presence of many at the same time in equal importance, rather than any particular dominant one, allow for an economy to take off. I have no illusion that nationalism is the most important factor, and for many poor countries where nationalism is a fact of life, its presence is not even the obstacle holding back development.
Sunday, June 11, 2017
at 11:15 AM
Surfing the Internet around the world is often an exercise in homogeneity. With the exception of China and a few other countries restricting Internet access to certain sites, every country in the world popularizes the same website and Internet services. Facebook is used by people around the world in dozens of different languages to connect with friends, while Google and Wikipedia are nearly unanimous as the first sources of knowledge. On the mobile phone, the likes of Uber and Tinder have provided people in all countries with similar services, despite different on-the-ground conditions.