No working mother in picture books for children?

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Pick of the week from Japan, 31 July – 4 August

3 Aug. No working mother in picture books for children? Barriers blocking telling stories of various families

I am a journalist of 35 years old with a daughter of two years old. My wife who also has a full time job alerted me recently that little picture books tell stories of a family where both parents work. 

The number of double income household has surpassed the number of single income one since decades. This fact however is not reflected in children’s picture books in Japan.

The journalist in the article interviewed authors and publishers of children’s books and found a still conservative attitude of the publishers. One publisher said, “We can’t go into detail of a model of a family as one family model will make people with other types of family feel “it’s not for me”.

Is it the only reason?

Why publishers are so much afraid of including working mothers in children’s books, despite the fact that population of mothers who are housewives are less than those who have a job?

I see here a strong Japanese attitude of being afraid of the change. Any change will create unexpected consequences in expected and unexpected ways. This is what the Japanese almost automatically try to avoid.

It’s not data that convinces the Japanese, but the perception. Thus publishers stick to an outdated model of a family as it is safer than taking consequences of a change.

Such an attitude support stability of the Japanese society. This however is a double-edge sward. For the same reason, Japan is keeping a half of its population in a stereo-typed image.

  • The news items referred here are picked up from “Asahi Digital”, and translated by Europe-Japan Dynamics. The cited titles or articles are not an official translation by the Asahi Newspaper

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The green is wet in Japan

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Pick of the week from Japan, 10 – 14 July

13 Jul. Dragon flying down from the sky — the art in the rice field in Amakusa, Kumamoto

With rice of different colors, the rice field art makes in full bloom you in Yamaura district of Matsushimamachi Kyoragi, Kamiamakusa-shi, Kumamoto. The work is created by local high school students who planted five kinds of rice, including the ancient rice, in June. One may enjoy it until the middle of October.

The Japanese green is wet — every time I look down the Narita area from the window of an airplane when approaching to the Narita International Airport, I see the difference in the green color of rice field, woods and orchards between the impression of the green between Japan and Europe. The European green is dry.

The Japanese traditionally planted the young shoot of rice by hand. This still is the practice for most of the farmers.

Hence the art like the one in the photo is possible.

Rice growing is very labour intensive. It requires villagers to get together and work together to maintain infrastructure needed for rice growing. Water supply system, cultivating the land in early spring, to name just a few.

An american business man I met said that he had been frustrated by “the group culture” by the Japanese when he has been stationed there. He wanted to talk to a person but Japanese always responded him as a role player in a group to which he/she belongs to.

I think he should have modified his communication to be appropriate in a group culture, forgetting the American way. The American green is dry, as compared to Japanese.

A group culture sometimes produces such a beautiful scene by planting the rice by hand according to a carefully organised plan.

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  • The news items referred here are picked up from “Asahi Digital”, and translated by Europe-Japan Dynamics. The cited titles or articles are not an official translation by the Asahi Newspaper.

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Typhoons, earthquakes and Japanese culture

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Pick of the week from Japan, 3 – 7 July

4 Jul. The t typhoon 3 landed near Nagasaki-shi, 115 people gone to refuge, danger of landslide

7 Jul. Heavy rain continues in Kyushu region, death toll reached 8, continued caution called for

Since the Typhoon 3 went ashore near Nagasaki-shi, Kyushu region on 4 July, very heavy rain still continues in the order of 200 to 300 mm per day. Eight people died, 26 were lost, and 570 villagers are isolated because of the road disaster as of 7 July. Local municipalities directed evacuation to about 49,000 residents.

I am so sorry for people who lost lives, houses and had to leave home.

Japan is full of natural disasters throughout its history; typhoons, earthquakes, volcano explosions and tsunamis to name only a few. The Japanese lived with such horrible natural power, which is far beyond human control. People just had to live with it.

Typhoons and small earthquakes were not unusual in everyday life since my childhood. I have taken them for granted.

It was a discovery for me to know that there are regions where the earth never quakes, no typhoons comes and mountains do not explode all the sudden. This region is Europe. I know there are volcanos and earthquake happens in some parts of Europe, but these are in far smaller scales and frequencies than those in Japan.

What are consequences of the climate on people’s way of thinking, values or culture?

Though I don’t want to think that human mind is shaped by the climate of the place people live, I must admit that one should not neglect substantial influence of the climate on culture. Natural disasters may influence people’s way of thinking.

The Western people who live in Japan and well integrated in its society are often frustrated by the Japanese because they are patient too much. In the Westerners’ eyes, the Japanese appear to prefer to do nothing and wait for storm to go away, rather than fighting against it.

In my eyes, on the contrary, the Western people do not hesitate to take actions to remove causes of their problems, or even fight against them. People do not hesitate to ask questions when they don’t understand something, and negotiate with the neighbors to cut trees in the neighbor’s garden if they block the view of the lake from their window. Such attitude has pros and cons. I don’t judge such attitude. I’m merely talk about a simplified observation of the Western reactions to problems.

It is wrong to explain cultural differences by simple reasons such as the climate. I however think it reasonable to take into account in thinking of reasons of the differences what the climate teaches to human beings in different regions of the world. This teaching continues for centuries, generations after generations. No wonder the Japanese do not try to control or fight against the super power of the nature as they know earthquakes, typhoons and tsunamis go beyond the human power.

It is not surprising to see a trace of the habit of ” just living with it” (or being patient) in the day to day habit of the Japanese.

  • The news items referred here are picked up from “Asahi Digital”, and translated by Europe-Japan Dynamics. The cited titles or articles are not an official translation by the Asahi Newspaper.

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My “Taken for granted” is not the same as yours — Cross-Cultural Understanding with Japan

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The workshop of “Cross-Cultural Understanding with Japan” was very resourceful, participated by a good-mixture of European and Japanese people.

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Yoshiko Kurisaki is moderating discussion

Here are a summary of highlights for those who couldn’t come and those who wish to know clues underlying the Japanese business:

  • Culture is like an iceberg. Eighty percent of the iceberg is under the sea and we don’t see it. So called “typical” Japanese culture, such as sushi, high-tech instruments, kimono, bowing, are all the tip of iceberg supported by the rituals, geography, history, values, etc. hidden under the water.
  • Major factors from which Japan is made  — Geographic location and its historical consequences, climate, rice-growing culture and the peace that lasted for 700 years.
  • The Japanese trap — Unconscious bias by the Western managers visiting Japan
  • A significant difference in the meaning of silence and space between Europe and Japan. It was proven that thirty-seconds’ silence is too long and uncomfortable for the Europeans, while nothing in particular for the Japanese.
  • Uchi- Soto“, the way the Japanese position you as a European business partner.
  • Relationship, not individuals, counts

It is worth noting that discussion by participants enriched the workshop, as well as eye-opening exercises.

Listening and observing others without judgement by one’s values is a good start for understanding of other cultures. In doing so it is natural that you may get upset or find someone strange. Such moment is a wonderful opportunity for you to know your own values. Think “Against what criteria am I upset? “

Working across cultures is not always easy but rewarding. Cultural diversity enables 1 + 1 be more than 3, 4 and more, and ultimately leads to the innovation.

Last but not the least, many thanks must go to the Swiss-Japanese Chamber of Commerce (SJCC) which invited us for the workshop and Sunstar SA for the nice seminar room and warm reception!

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Veronica De la Fuente

 

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Discussion by participants was a vital part of the workshop

 

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Open Workshop for Cross-Cultural Understanding with Japan, Etoy, VD, 20 April

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【Unusual opportunity to know what’s inside a Japanese head】
I am delivering “Workshop for Cross-Cultural Understanding with Japan”, an open workshop of Swiss-Japanese Chamber of Commerce (SJCC).

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Are these your problems?

  • “The Japanese decision-making process is so mysterious!”
  • “I don’t know if I’m interacting well with my Japanese colleagues.”
  • “Why do the Japanese always do things in their own way?”
  • “How can I say ‘No’ to my Japanese customers without offending them?”
  • “Japanese customers don’t complain when they are not satisfied with our service, but they just never come back to us.”

If you say “Yes!” to one of the problems above, this workshop is for you. The workshop will enable you to learn about the internal drivers of your Japanese business partners and colleagues.

Topics discussed —

  • Why is culture in business so important?
  • The trap of “cultural bias”
  • Major factors underlying Japanese business culture
  • Five clues to increase productivity in working with the Japanese
  • Your personal action plan

For more detail and registration

  • Date: Thursday, 20 April
    • 18:00 Workshop
    • 20:00 Aperitif and Networking
  • Venue: Sunstar Suisse SA, Route de Pallax 11, 1163 Etoy, VD
  • Fee
    • SJCC Members   CHF 100.-
    • Non-SJCC   CHF 150.-
    • Special Offer: “Come with three, pay for two” — If two people participate from the same organisation, the third person will be free.

For more detail and registration

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Fresh & Hot from Japan, 6 to 13 January 2017

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Happy New Year!

I wish all your dream come true in 2017.

Please enjoy fresh & hot news from Japan with comments by Europe-Japan Dynamics.

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6 Jan . Mr. Tramp criticized Toyota for its plan to build a new factory in Mexico, “Should build it in the US!”

The President Elect Mr. Trump criticized Toyota by his tweet for the company’s plan to build a new factory in Mexico, saying, “You should build it in the US, or otherwise pay a high import tax”.  Having attacked US automobile major, Ford and other companies to stop building relocating factories outside the US, he shot an arrow of criticism to a Japanese company for the first time after the US presidential election.

Comment: Government intervention in economic activities must be done with much care, as economic activities always run before the governments actions in the history.

11 Jan. The new imperial era name to start from 1 Jan. 2019, assuming the abdication on the previous day

The government started examining ways to allow the Crown Prince to succeed to the throne to the new Emperor on January 1, 2019, and to commence the new imperial era name on the same day, following abdication of His Majesty the Emperor. It was judged that the change of an era on the New Year’s Day was desirable to minimize consequences on life of the public.  If things go advance in line with the present plan, the present His Majesty will step down from the throne on December 31, 2018, and the Heisei will close a curtain on the 30th year.

Comments: It should not be forgotten to discuss and establish a set of general rules for the emperor to step down from the throne. Otherwise, one might face the same issues for the next emperor, when the life time of the population is becoming longer and longer.

12 Jan. The Nikkei Average to close with 229 Yen lower, upset by an expression of dissatisfaction by Mr. Trump

Stock price of the Tokyo stock market decreased after an interval of two days due to a mass selling caused by disappointment after a press conference of the President elect, Mr. Trump.

Comments: Would the stock exchange markets continue reaction sensitively to Mr. Trump for the coming four years?

13 Jan. Detection of drowsy driving, health check of cows, etc., an increasing number of wearable terminals are being released to the markets

Toyobo, a textile major, and Union Tool, a vendor of  medical equipment, announced that they had developed the underwear that alerted a driver when it detected that he/she was falling asleep and that the companies planned to put it on sale before the end of this year. The underwear is intended to prevent an accident by having drivers of bus or taxi wear.  An increasing number of clothes-shaped wearable terminals are being developed as they may be worn more naturally than glasses type terminals.

Comments: We’ll be wearing wearable devices in as it is literally meant.

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  • All the news items are picked up from “Asahi Digital”, and summarized and translated by Europe-Japan Dynamics. The articles are not an official translation by the Asahi Newspaper.

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Japanese business culture for international students

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I delivered a class on Japanese business culture to a group of international students studying marketing in a course lead by Professor Masahito Toriyama at Graduate School of Management, Ritsumeikan University.

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In the class, I introduced a method of case exercise based in a real issue. This was a trouble between a Japanese client and an Indian information technology system developer.

Though the Japanese business culture was not a major theme of the students, they did good discussion on the questions associated with the case and reached excellent solutions; such as “I’ll put myself in the Japanese customer’s shoes”, “I’ll make it a habit to talk to my subordinates much more frequently so that our communication will go well.”, etc.

The students deepened their own thoughts through discussion. What a wonderful ability they have!

The real business is full of questions without one correct answer. This even is the case when people having different cultures work together, i.e. the international business. I found that the case exercise was useful to develop a mind-set to look into these questions and find creative solutions that will allow 1 + 1 = 3, 4, 5 … This is the power of discussion, or collective thinking. This attitude is essential for us to benefit from society where a large variety of people live and work together, or diversity in society.

Please find here for your information a power point file used in the class.

Note: The case used here is cited from “Case exercises for business communication, collection os the cases” by Kondoh,Kim et al. (Koko Publishing, 2013).

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