Japan After Day 1 – I

Before we move on to day 2, let me make some random observations. There does not seem to be a concept like free left turn in Japan at the traffic signals. Also it seems like the left and forward side of the traffic opens simultaneously for traffic from opposite directions and then the right side separately (again simultaneously for traffic in opposite directions). Further I always found it difficult to locate rest-rooms in Japan. Not that they were not there. Just that there weren’t obvious signs about where they are. Is is something cultural?

Day 2 was tough to navigate with typhoon and hence continuous rains. We had started the day early and went through the empty markets as most of them open only at 10. We waited about 15 minutes for Kiddy Land to open, which is the most famous toy shop in Japan. My American colleagues were quite excited, I did not share the same excitement. and I grudged it even more later, because we were given very little time at the Buddhist temple, where lots of cheap souvenirs were available for low prices (including Kimonos) and I’d have liked to shop more there 😦 We visited Meiji Jingu shrine. This is dedicate to the emperor called Meiji and the empress called Ichijo Masako. Japanese temples have this practice of purifying yourself before entering the temple which is very similar to Indian practice. They wash their hands and rinse their mouth. In Indian temples you would do that and even wash your feet. But they do not seem to care about the purity of legs or taking off your shoes. The process of praying involves offering a coin, bowing and clapping twice. This is the only place, where I think coins of value less than 100 Yen is of any value. This shrine, besides its cultural importance, is particularly famous for its garden. Although heavy downpours are not exactly conducive while visiting a place like this. We also saw part of a marriage ceremony, where the priests marched up in a line and performed some rites on a covered platform. We could not wait to see the bride and bridegroom. We did see a picture of a traditional wedding, in which bride wears a headdress besides a Kimono. Apparently the headdress is to hide the horns that women grow when they are jealous!! And by wearing the headdress, the bride is supposed to promise that she will be patient in her married life. “Although”, our tour guide quickly noticed, “they never wear the headdress after the wedding these days.”

After that we visited a Buddhist temple (I need to see the schedule to recall the name). This was an excellent place to buy souvenirs from. Kimonos were available for as little as 1000 Yen (that would be about 400 INR). I quickly bought something from one of the shops, but did not have more time 😦 There was a fortune telling ritual there. You basically put in a coin and pick out a paper with your fortune in a fancy way (I could not quite figure out). I did not take it, but most people who did, figured out that they have a rather dark future! I was glad, I did not do it. In some cases it became darker due to the translation issues.

The dressing habits of the Japanese are completely western and has been so for quite sometime now, I guess, because I saw even elderly women in Pants and Skirts only. Kimono is almost a dead dress, except probably for being worn on weddings. But surprisingly, while the dresses of the tradition have been left behind, the language and culture has not been. To such an extent that most people, in the capital city, did not understand even keywords from English!! Although I had heard about it, the extent of language difficulty we faced, totally surprised me. Is it really possible in this age of globalization for people not to know English in the capital city of a country? But difficulties aside, I secretly felt happy about it. Its a question of whether the business should adjust to the culture, or whether the culture should adjust to business. The right option according to me is the former. And that seems to be happening in Japan. I was really happy to see some of our American colleagues, based in Japan, fluently speaking Japanese. Once again I feel guilty about not learning Kannada despite being in Bangalore for one year. I never needed to. English works fine!

So, how does it work? Despite couple of old-time examples like Dhirubhai Ambani, you can not think of a present day hi-tech entrepreneur/successful business-person in India, who is not fluent in English. How come the CEOs of companies in Japan seem to manage fine without even an ability to understand spoken English?

When I visited SONY and Panasonic showrooms, what I observed very quickly was that despite being well known global brands and having presence almost everywhere, there is just so much they develop for Japanese market specifically. Japanese market it being served well and even the start-ups look at Japanese market. Indian market is not sufficiently explored in the hi-tech world. We are still seeing adapted product coming here, rather than product developed for India (and then hopefully go out to the rest of the world adapted). And even in services, where we excel, rather than in products, how much is being done for Indian consumers? How many call centers recruit people not knowing English, but one of the local languages. We are serving the markets outside India (nothing wrong with it), but are not serving the Indian market enough.

Its a more nuanced situation. So, there is more to be said about business and technology in India vs. Japan. But later…

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About Jaya

Jaya Jha is an entrepreneur, a techie, a writer and a poet. She was born and brought up in various towns of Bihar and Jharkhand. A graduate of IIT Kanpur and IIM Lucknow, she realized early on that the corporate world was not her cup of tea. In 2008, she started Pothi.com, one of the first print-on-demand publishing platform in India. She currently lives in Bangalore and divides her time between writing and working on her company's latest product InstaScribe (http://instascribe.com) with a vision to make it the best e-book creation tool. Blog: https://jayajha.wordpress.com Twitter: @jayajha Facebook: http://facebook.com/MovingOnTheBook

6 thoughts on “Japan After Day 1 – I

  1. Hey I havnt been following much of ur blogs lately…but r u on some world tour ? Something like “Around the world in 80 days ” ??

  2. Pingback: Global Voices Online » India: In Japan

  3. thanks for your report on japan. it is always interesting to read how others see the country.. but i have to say, it is not true what you say about the kimono – it is not dead at all. just go to a shrine or a park on weekends: you will see many people, especially women, proudly wearing kimono or yukata (these are the lighter summer version and the cheap ones you saw for sale). at festivals you will rarely see someone wearing western clothes.
    anyway, have fun in japan!

  4. I’ve been in Bangalore for over 5 years now and still haven’t learnt Kannada. Talk about guilt! But now that I’ve decided to set up base here and not move to any other city, I’m definitely making a more conscious effort to learn the language.

    I guess I’ll be learning Japanese before visiting the country, now that I’ve read your blog entry about the language barriers there.

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