I went to Kamakura last week with my Waseda host mother and my kouhai from both Wesleyan and Waseda, Naixi. I didn’t go crazy with photos, but a few came out pretty well.
More than a year after the tsunami and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster that accompanied it, a Japanese parliamentary report has concluded that the catastrophic meltdown was “man made.” The ten-member investigatory commission contended that the incident could have been prevented if not for certain Japanese cultural characteristics. In a recent Financial Times article, Japan expert and Columbia professor Gerald Curtis called that conclusion “the ultimate cop-out,” going on to claim that politics, not culture, were to blame.
I’m inclined to agree with him, but in certain instances — like insider trading — Japanese culture is a fantastic enabler for bad behavior.
Today I went to the Hama Rikyu Gardens with a friend, Sakiyo. The Gardens are a park located in Shiodome, Tokyo, in the middle of the city. There’s water, flowers, trees, a 300-year-old Japanese pine, and a teahouse in the center of a pond. Good stuff.
Apple is the publicly-traded company with the highest market capitalization in the world as of 2012, and certainly one of the most idolized. With revenue and total assets each in excess of $100 billion for the 2011 fiscal year, it’s safe to say that things are going reasonably well for the folks at Cupertino. However, the tech manufacturer has come under fire over the past few months by a wave of inquiries into labor practices as well as general ethical performance. In January, a NY Times exposé piece on human rights issues within Apple’s Chinese factories put the company under considerable scrutiny; on June 23rd, the Times tried again, this time focusing on Apple’s US retail compensation system. Based on the writer’s findings, Apple might want to take a closer look at how things are done at Japan’s premier retailer.
Uniqlo, a subsidiary of Fast Retailing Co., Ltd., is one of the fastest-growing apparel retailers in the world. Having started its own line in 1997 to compete with American giants like Gap, Uniqlo is currently aiming to become the world’s number one brand by 2020. Doing so will mean employing aggressive growth strategies and simultaneous expansion into multiple foreign markets. In terms of total revenue, Uniqlo will have to compete with H&M and Zara for shares of emerging markets. Still, the outlook is good, and the upper management remains optimistic with their sales projections. Uniqlo’s revenue per store has led the industry for the past two years.
Both Apple and Uniqlo are somewhat peculiar. Uniqlo is a self-proclaimed “technology company” competing within the fashion industry, and Apple is perhaps the tech firm that prioritizes style the most. Both companies have developed new approaches to retailing that set them apart; their respective products have become commonplace while retaining their desirability. Their corporate cultures, however, are decidedly different. There are a few areas where Apple could improve by studying Uniqlo.
I went to Kagoshima, way down south. There’s no need for a lengthy post, so I’ll just post some pictures with explanations.
In terms of diversity hiring, Japan is now just a bit better than America of the 1860s, when the song ‘No Irish Need Apply’ was first published. Last week, an article appeared in the New York Times that outlined the phenomenon I’ve been experiencing first hand as a foreigner in the Japanese job market. Japanese firms are reluctant to hire foreigners and are even turning away Japanese students who have studied abroad. Hm.
It seems that in the Japanese private sector, being a ‘go-getter’ will get you nowhere. The young people interviewed for the article were penalized for crossing their arms, laughing, and [respectfully] offering ideas. Such behavior surely cannot be tolerated; next thing you know, they’ll be using the restroom during working hours. Preposterous!