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Facebook and Japan now

26 Jun

It’s been about 2 years since I wrote “Why Facebook is not that popular in Japan?“. But the situation has been changing since then, and I still receive comments to that post. So I think it’s high time I updated it with this post.

Twitter became popular first in Japan. (It’s easier to navigate and no need to use a real name.) It’s true it took a long time until Facebook became popular. But same as twitter, when some celebs or well-known figures start using it, TV or magazines start to feature it, and gradually people start using it. I must say the movie “The Social Network” is definitely a motivator or a trigger for the Japanese to try out Facebook. As is always the case with most of the foreign films in Japan, the movie was just released 15th Jan. 2011, while it was already sometime in 2010 in the U.S.

When I go to a party, I notice people are naturally talking about Facebook and exchanging their names to be added later for “friend”. It’s the change I can easily see today. Now when more and more people start using Facebook, people bring people. That’s how it’s getting popular.

But it’s possible the party is mixed with the locals and foreigners living in Tokyo. What if it was only Japanese? What if the party was not in Tokyo? I don’t know. Please look at the result that we can get from Google Insights for Search. You see the numbers of the term of Facebook searched in Japan are growing only recently. (What do the numbers on the graph mean?) Also, you see most of the searches are from Tokyo.

Facebook was available in Japan since 2008, but most of the Japanese naturally feel it’s scary to share a real name and face on internet because some stalkers could find someone to stalk from such information. (Sadly it’s not rare in Japan that women are killed by a stalker because they rejected him. Such incident is often reported by the media, and it’s actually very difficult to avoid the tragedy because the police cannot be a full-time body guard for the victim.) To protect ourselves, it’s natural for us, especially women, to use a nick name or avatar and a picture that does not show her face clearly, if it’s open for the public and anyone can take a look at it. Japan-born SNS such as mixi is more closed and thus it gives us a kind of protected feelings. Of course it never requires a real name for registration.

This is basically our culture. Hence I didn’t believe Facebook can be accepted by the majority of Japanese people no matter how popular it can be. No one wants to try something new in exchange for a risk of being involved in murder or any scary or negative experiences. User names and avatars are convenient tools for some bad-mannered people to be totally anonymous icon that can be really mean to others. Therefore, in Japan, to enter the conversation or online activity it’s safer to be in armor with fake name so one can blur his or her identity. This is the basic thought that majority of the Japanese naturally have consciously or not.

Why Japanese internet sphere has become so dangerous then?
In my opinion, it’s possible some bad-mannered people just try to get rid of their repressed feelings online that they could not have expressed in their real life. It’s our culture, we do not express our feelings very much in a social life and especially at work. Internet is a sweet lawless area to them where they can act and speak out things as they wished, which should not be allowed in a real life. In fact, I think you will be surprised how online message-board posts are active in Japan, while most of the Japanese hesitate to state their own opinion in their real life. People state their opinions very clearly, sometimes with very strong expressions and even includes personal attack, which must be possible with their identity hidden or blurred.

Online activity and real life: Some Japanese people do prefer these two worlds completely separated, so they can act 2 different characters in order to keep their mental balance.

On the other hand, when people find it safe enough to go by their real name on Facebook, I think Japanese facebook users will increase rapidly.

As for me, I still like to use my nickname as Kirin online. (For Facebook, Kirin Suzuki is my personal page and Tokyo Kawaii, etc. for the fan page of this blog.) After all I still like personal email exchanges a lot more than short chats or messages over social network.

Have you felt any difference in communication with Japanese Facebook users lately? Do you think we’ve become more active on Facebook? Or do you still find difficulties trying to get connected with your Japanese friends over Facebook?


The 3.11 Earthquake and Japan-residing foreigners

20 Jun

Here’s a video from Cool Japan showing how Japan-residing foreigners saw the 3.11 Earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima…

The player will show in this paragraph

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It’s good to hear that some foreigners were tranquil, not being frightened or freaked out no matter what the foreign media and their family from home told them. It’s surprising to hear how some foreign media reported misinformation carelessly. For example, it’s in every spring that people wear a face mask to protect themselves from pollen dust when they have a pollen allergy. Such a thing can be clear if the reporter had interviewed with the locals or the foreigners living in Japan for years. I’m scared how the media can mislead majority of people with unfounded information.

Here’s a link to “Japan Travel Updates After the 3.11 Earthquake” by Japan National Tourism Organization, if you are considering visiting Japan. Speaking of the life in Tokyo, unlike one time when foods and drinking water disappeared from supermarkets, it’s almost as normal as the time before 3.11, only except for the lack of electricity. If you think the entire Japan was devastated or contaminated by radiation, it’s not true. All the unaffected areas are almost as the same as before 3.11.

There are still about 88,000 people staying at the shelters in the affected areas, although gradually they are moving out to the temp house offered by our government. (They have to build so many temp houses fully furnished with basic furniture, air-con, fridge, lamp and etc.) Some people moved to other prefecture and some workers try to restore their business. There are still mass of rubble left in some affected areas, only 20% is cleared so far in spite of our hard work. But I recently hear that people try to gain electricity or some kind of energy by burning them there. Because it was such a big catastrophe, it’ll take several years until everything goes back to the state of before 3.11.

At a moment, due to Fukushima, Hamaoka and many other nuclear reactors being out of service, we are now living with around 40% of nuclear energy. Thus, we will have to keep saving electricity in this summer. Usually summer in Japan is as hot as 30-35C or sometimes around 40C and 60-70% humidity. In the city area, it’s basically very hard to stay comfortable without air-conditioned entire day even during night while we are sleeping. If you are planning to stay over here during this summer, I have to say you may not feel very comfortable at some public areas because everyone helps save electricity by setting a room temperature not too cool. I wish I could spend entire summer in Hokkaido where I need no air-con. ^ ^;;

As for the nuclear crisis in Fukushima, unfortunately our government and TEPCO (the company that is responsible for the nuclear reactors) are taking so much time to solve the problem. And still we see no clear idea when it’s over.

Japan radiation map. (Click to see more and the level of radiation that each alphabet in the map means.)

When we hear radiation, it just scares us. But when it comes to everyday’s thing, it’s becoming like a weather forecast. How strange it is…-_-;;

Japanese average income and low birthrate

28 May

This is a sort of true story post about Japanese culture or society that I sometimes write from Japanese perspective.
I happened to find this website to be totally surprised by the difference of income between men and women in Japan.
Average annual income (in JPY) in their 30s (I added English for you.)
Disclaimer…the sauce of information is here.

Average annual income (in JPY) in their 40s (I added English for you.)
Disclaimer…the source of information is here.

My surprise is how average income of female workers is going down as they get old! Of course age is not always the factor to decide how much they should earn. But I know why this happens. That’s because many women become a mother, many of whom has to give up her career in Japan. (It’s said 70% of Japanese women quit their job by the time they give birth to their first kid. This must be very high rate.)

You can see women’s income is decreasing as they become busy raising kids. Japan is a parent-unfriendly society, which is why most Japanese women always have to choose either way: to give up her carrier sorry, misspelling I mean “career” or to give up kids. Of course there are women who can get both, but such people are limited, as long as I look around people in the real life. In other words, most of the Japanese women around me belong to either of the group. A: those who give up their carrier “career” or B: those who give up having kids or even a husband!
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Is bullying evident in schools in Japan?

16 Dec

Continued from Apple’s question, after she watched the movie “Confessions”, in this post I’m sharing how bullying (it’s “ijime” in Japanese) in Japanese schools is evident. I have to say that bullying has been evident and sadly some victimed kids commit a suicide every year. It’s sad but the truth is that it’s often reported in the news in Japan that school kids commit a suicide because of bullying. It’s not only seen in the city area, it’s seen anywhere. The parents of the victim often accuse school teachers and board of education but most of the time they say they never knew there was a bullying.

Everytime I hear these news, I wonder if those parents had never noticed anything going wrong with their kid until the tragedy occurs. I totally understand they want to blame the teacher as supervisor and the students who actually bullied their kid, which is natural. At the same time though, couldn’t they have done anything before? Couldn’t they have paid enough attentioin to their kid, talked with him or her more frequently and noticed something from daily life? But it’s also true some bullied kids don’t want let their parents know that, because they think that would be a trouble to the parents. They would make every effort to conceal the bullying from their parents no matter how much the bullying anguishes them as to choose death in the end.

Not having a kid of my own, I may not understand the situations very well, but as Apple says most of kids today are an only child or distanced from cousines and similar age grouped kids from neighborhood. In addition to that, I think internet, cell phone or video games accelerate their loneliness even though these gadgets have helped make our life more convenient. Kids often play with video games even if they are with other kids. I have seen this very weird scenery several times that 4 or 5 kids gather and each of them plays his Nintendo DS or Sony PSP without having a word among those friends. Imagine how weird it is to see them all in silence, with each kid only cares about what’s happening inside his game.

They are still under 10 years old, which is the time they could learn and acquire sociality, how to interact properly with others, what is considered OK and what is not, and all the basic rules or common sense that we can learn from playing with other kids or animals. I’m really worried about these kids. They have a place to play and buddies to play with, but why video games after all? It’s not a surprise when these kids grow without understanding others’ feelings well and act weird enough to trigger bullying or to be the one who bullies someone.

Bullying in Japan has become more difficult to be found today. Unlike our life has become convenient with internet, kids use it for bullying. In Japan, not every kid has a computer but most of kids have a cell phone for a security reason and to have daily contact with their parents. (ie. to be picked up at a cram school in the evening) Japanese cell phones have many functions besides its basic functions of making calls and sending/receiving emails. Once it’s connected to internet, it’s possible many anonymous classmates, who we cannot specify, target one student and keep mental abuse by leaving some harsh comments on a forum of “ura-site” for instance, where other classmates and the victim may visit.

While I write this article, I found some websites that have threads from bullied school kids who are sending SOS comments. There are NPOs and many strategic actions and remedies have been taken but can you believe even a princess is bullied at her school in Japan?

Unfortunately it looks like the field of education in Japan is twisted. Nowadays not many people say that they want to be a school teacher any longer, because of bullying kids, bullied kids, monster parents, and many other problems from school. Parents work like a horse to earn enough money to make their kids enter private school from elementary school or jr. high school, because that is one of the ways to avoid contact with bad students. Kids have to study at a cram school since they are small to pass the entrance exam of the private school.

It’s a heavy topic to discuss, and I don’t intend to find a solution or settle the problem in this post, that’s impossible. But I just want to include such a true story post once in a while because this blog is not only something kawaii or interesting. It’s Tokyo Kawaii, etc. Sometimes ‘etcetera’ part can be very serious. But I just hope all those things from kawaii to real story mean something to our readers who are interested in Japan or Japanese culture.

The movie "Confessions" and thoughts

15 Dec

Apple watched a Japanese movie titled “Confessions” that is released Jun. 2010 in Japan and is on air now in Singapore. It’s directed by Tetsuya Nakashima, who is well-known from his great works such as “Kamikaze Girls” and “Memories of Matsuko”.

===Apple’s post starts from here===

I went to watch this movie yesterday.

What’s it about? Basically, it’s about a teacher’s revenge on her students who murdered her 4-year-old daughter.

Takako Matsu is Yoko Moriguchi, a middle school teacher. And she’s devastated after her daughter’s death. She serves her revenge cold and hard.

The reason why the title of the movie is Confessions is because the movie consists of ‘confessions’ from all parties involved. At the end of the whole movie, you get the complete truth of what really happened.

I just exchanged emails with Kirin about my thoughts after watching this movie, and we touched upon the topic of children/teenagers nowadays.

The movie is chilling to me because…
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Economic recession led uchi cafe boom and bento boom

28 Oct

*Disclaimer: the original photo is from Lawson’s Uchi Cafe.

Uchi means house. Uchi Cafe sounds like a cafe someone made inside his house to open for public, but in this case it’s not. Due to economic recession in Japan, many people try to save money. Those who enjoyed Starbucks before would prefer a cup of coffee from home now. Yes, Uchi Cafe here means to drink coffee at home, instead of cafe, to save some money everyday.

(Well…as for myself, as I work from home I have no other option but to prepare a coffee by myself. haha! ^ ^; When I go out once in a while, I’d love to go to a cafe, but mostly to have a rest. Unlike most of people who work at a cafe, to me I feel most concentrated and relaxed at home. I cannot work from a cafe. I like to work from my house.)

Anyhow, Bento boom is another typical phenomenon that reflects poor economy. There is a reason for huge sales area spared for bento boxes and Nabe goods at places like Tokyu Hands or LOFT that are sensitive against trends.

Espresso machine especially designed for household use as represented by Nespresso or expensive rice cooker that costs over 100,000yen (=over USD1100), or even Gopan, a bread making machine that allows us to bake bread from rice are good examples to illustrate how Japanese people tend to spend money for gadgets that help us to make tasty snack or meals from home rather than what we can get from eating out especially during recession. Home-cooked meals that may be combined with some nice sweets from Depachika or convenience stores will be satisfactory enough, even though we have to live within limited allowances.

There’s no reason home appliance industry should not notice this great opportunity. Nanocare by Panasonic for example is a such great innovation that it keeps moisturizing our facial skin while we are sleeping. It’s an esthetic treatment we can receive while we are sleeping every night.

Having some nice meals and coffee at home, dressed with luxury nighty while receiving nano steam created by a small esthetic machine sounds as good as to go out for dinner and spend much more money to have facial esthetic treatments. This is how Japanese women survive under bad economy. But of course, there are so many kawaii shops and nice restaurants and cafes in Tokyo, we cannot give them up completely. We’d love to eat out great food from around the world or to receive massages and esrthetic treatments as a little treat to ourselves. Women like to treat ourselves a lot. :p Majority of the customers are always women. There is even a word created for this trend. It’s “okomori shouhi” (おこもり消費) that could be translated as “stay-at-home consumption”? ^ ^; Although the main purpose is to save money, home-based life like this is not bad, when it’s mixed with some nice experiences from outside once in a while.

Bad economy is not only what Japan is suffering from. Do you see similar trend in your country? Please feel free to share your thoughts with us! 😀

MangaKissa, make use of them wisely!

20 Sep

Have you heard of Manga Kissa?

There are so many MangaKissa all around Tokyo! Besides being a comfortable place to read Manga and Magazines, it is also a great place to stay overnight if you miss the last train, do you know? Haha! I’ve always heard about it but never had the chance to go in and take a look for myself.

So when my friend and I found ourselves stuck at the last station, having taken the wrong last train, MangaKissa seemed like the best place to stay safely in through the night before the first train came! ^^

Here are the reasons:
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