business

Why aren’t there more female entrepreneurs in Japan? Pull up a chair… [Women in Japan Series]

According to the Global Entrepreneur Development Index (GEDI) that measures favorable conditions for women entrepreneurs, the US and Australia are ranked first and second respectively, while Japan places fifteenth, just behind Peru. Yet Japan fulfills many of the requirements to create a successful female entrepreneurial environment such as education, skills and access to capital.

In addition, women in Japan can overcome obstacles such as low salaries, long work hours and scant child-rearing options by owning their own businesses and calling the shots. So, what’s holding Japanese women back? It turns out that a large part of it may be Japanese women themselves.

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Japanese business women who’ve beaten the system 【Women in Japan Series】

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “womenomics” scheme aims to get more women into the workforce in order to combat the shrinking and aging population and help spur the Japanese economy. While I believe women can save Japan, I don’t think it’ll be through womenomics. As any Japanese woman can tell you, it’s not as easy as it should be for females to work full-time in this country. In the Japanese business world, companies are loath to offer working conditions that males and females alike enjoy in other developed countries, such as reasonable work hours (40 hours a week with optional overtime), work sharing, flexitime and working from home. Whereas in the West the attitude is that as long as you get your work done on time, it doesn’t matter how you do it, in Japan emphasis is more on the hours put in at the office to show your loyalty to the company. Add to that additional cultural biases against gender, age, experience and returning to work after raising children, and you have a recipe for “eternal housewife.”

Clearly, the problem is deeper than merely hiring more women, or adding more day care centers, both actions Abe is pushing. But the good news is that there is a group of women who are beating the system, and who have been for some time now.

This week, as part of our Women in Japan Series, we introduce you to three female entrepreneurs who have successfully forged ahead in the business world by defining their own terms. They can support themselves financially, are able to live more freely, have time for their children and families, and work fewer hours than they’d have to in the corporate world. And the best thing about it? They’re regular women, just like you, me, or your partner. Drum roll please…

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Who’s still buying physical media in Japan? Top 20 singles lists for the year reveal the answer

With a large music market and some of the world’s highest prices for physical releases, Japan has been very slow in adapting to digital distribution. Rights holders are finally warming up to the idea, though, and it doesn’t look like it’s ruining the industry in Japan. What downloadable music does seem to be doing, though, is splitting the country’s pop music market into two distinct parts, as the lists of Japan’s top 20 single downloads and CD purchases for the year are almost completely different.

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Head of Japan’s most successful 100-yen chain calls himself “hopeless,” might need a hug

An important part of business leadership is being able to walk that fine line between optimism and realism. It’s important to recognize the organization’s flaws, but if employees see the boss panicking, they’re likely to follow suit. A capable leader needs a certain amount of swagger, with the ability to convince those under him that there’s a way for the company to turn all of its crises into opportunities.

Or, there’s the tactic adopted by the head of one of Japan’s largest chain of 100-yen stores, which is to wear that uneasiness on your fear-sweat-drenched sleeve, telling everyone associated with your business that they should brace for disaster.

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Apple opening first non-U.S. development center in Yokohama, Japan

To many visitors, both coming from elsewhere in Japan and abroad, Yokohama seems quaint and relaxed. Sure, it’s the second biggest city in the country, but Yokohama is best known for its bayside parks, giant Ferris wheel, and Chinatown (plus its occasional Pikachu outbreaks).

But Yokohama has also been the entry point to Japan for some of its largest cultural and technological influences. It was the site of Japan’s first gas lamps, photography studio, and even brewery as the country opened itself to outside visitors and innovations in the latter half of the 19th century. Viewed from that historical perspective, it’s fitting that technology giant Apple is setting up a new research and development center in Yokohama.

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Congratulations Nippon! Japan takes on the title of “Top Country Brand”

Every year a brand consultant agency called FutureBrand comes out with a report of the Country Brand Index (CBI). The “country brand” (think “Made in Japan”), is measured similarly to consumer or corporate brands (Nike, Toshiba, etc).

The index is a measure of the global perception of each country’s “brand,” not just for the quality and popularity of their export products and big name businesses, but also taking into account social aspects of the country. Having spent the last few years cozily in the top ten, Japan took the number one position in the 2014-2015 CBI report.

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Make your business memorable with a license plate phone number

There’s a lot to be seen and learned from your car seat while driving on the roads around Japan. While cat-patterned tail-lightsunique modes of communication and building your own Batman bike are some of the more obvious ways to get noticed, there are also more subtle yet equally effective ways to create an impact in traffic, and do a bit of advertising while you’re at it!

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Super generous Japanese megastore keeps boxes of change at register for you to use

I’ve never really understood the rationale behind the name of the Japanese discount megastore chain Don Quijote. Tweaked spelling aside, it’s clearly supposed to be a reference to the character from the 16th century Miguel de Cervantes novel, but what does a mentally imbalanced would-be knight errant have to do with rock bottom prices, chaotic store layouts with hand-drawn signs everywhere, and a corporate mascot who’s a penguin wearing a Santa cap?

Maybe it’s got something to do with the word “quixotic,” which describes a humorously strong commitment to lofty ideals and helpfulness. Actually, that would be a pretty apt description of one of the store’s most unique policies: keeping a box of change at the register for customers to grab coins out of and use when paying for their purchases.

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One IKEA item, two prices: Customers in Korea paying as much as 80 percent more than in the U.S.

It’s a weird quirk of the global economy that sometimes the exact same item can sell for very different prices depending on what country you’re in. For example, in the U.S. Levi’s jeans cost about half what they do in Japan.

As a result, I always wait until I’m taking a trip back to L.A. before I buy a pair of Levi’s. Unfortunately, that’s probably not an option for travelers who want to take back furniture from IKEA, which in Korea sometimes costs 80 percent more than it does in the U.S.

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For hire! Paying an agency to be your apologizers, families, best friends, and confessors!

Need a friend? Need someone to complain to? Need family? Service agencies for all your needs, seven days a week! If you’ve got money to spare and want to avoid some simple interactions, there are plenty of places that will attend to all your social needs.

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In wake of meat scandal, McDonald’s Japan losing not only customers, but employees, too

It’s been a pretty rough year for McDonald’s in Japan, in the same way that getting hit by a bus on your way to work would make for a rough morning. Following a widely reported scandal in which the chain had been supplied with expired chicken by a meat processing facility in China, McDonald’s has been trying everything it can think of to lure diners back, such as giving away Chicken McNuggets for free, replacing the meat with tofu, and trying to take our mind off the incident entirely by pulling our attention towards pork cutlets instead.

After all, a restaurant chain can’t survive without customers, right? There’s one other thing you need to run a business though: employees, and these days McDonald’s is finding itself losing those, too.

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Butter Crisis ’14: Supermarkets nationwide apologize for empty shelves, cakes threatened

For months now a crisis has been brewing in the dairy industries of Japan. However, like the gooey sweetness of a melting pat of butter penetrating the crevices of a piece of toast, the effects have only recently begun to seep into the general population. We’re still only in the early stages though and things are bound to get worse before they get better.

Some readers who live in Japan may have noticed that the cost of butter has been significantly higher in recent months. In other cases shelves have gone empty and purchases are limited to one per person.

Now the writing is smeared on the wall: Japan is running out of butter… and fast.

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Is it time for Japan to get over trying to connect your personality and blood type?

When I first moved to Japan in college, every weekend meant a party and a new group of people to meet, with a standard set of questions I got asked. The logic behind “What’s your name?” was obvious, and “Where are you from?” also makes sense when you’re one of the few non-Japanese people in the room. “Do you like Japanese girls?” was another common one, based on the widely held, if not always true, theory that foreign guys like Japanese women, and vice-versa.

Those three always came first, but it wasn’t long until someone would want to know my blood type. No, my school wasn’t filled with vampires or hemophiliacs, nor hemophiliac vampires (the most tragic undead demographic). People just wanted to get a sneak peak at my personality, which is thought to be strongly connected to what runs through your veins by many people in Japan.

One man who’s not a believer, though, is Professor Kengo Nawata from Kyushu University’s Social Psychology Department, whose recently concluded research shows no correlation between personality and blood type.

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Invoice puts Japanese company in running for greenest in Japan, at least as far as names go

Whereas a lot of last names in English come from professions, such as Smith, Hunter, and Baker, you don’t find a lot of work-related ones in Japan. Generally, Japanese family names have some sort of connection to the natural environment, such as Ogawa (“Small River”), Yamada (“Mountain Field”), or Takeoka (“Bamboo Hill”).

You could debate whether or not this is the result of a deep-rooted Japanese respect for nature, or simply that for centuries the feudal system forced the vast majority of the population into agriculture. Regardless of the reason, there’s no denying the linguistic phenomenon, as proven by the signatures on this invoice from what appears to be the most ecologically oriented company in Japan, at least in terms of names.

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Tokyo’s Haneda Airport becomes fourth airport in the world to be awarded coveted 5-Star rating

If you’ve ever visited Japan, chances are pretty high that you’ve been through Narita International Airport (and perhaps even been lucky enough to sample the perfect beer served there), no doubt thinking that you were flying to directly into Tokyo only to discover that you were still an hour train ride away from the city. The smaller Tokyo International Airport, commonly called Haneda, is, however, actually located within the city, but has until recently been considered Tokyo’s main domestic airport.

But all that’s about to change. As well as increasing the number of destinations it serves, Haneda has been improving its facilities and significantly upping its game in an effort to become more of an international hub. In fact, it was recently awarded the coveted 5-Star award from the ratings company Skytrax, making it the first airport in Japan and only the fourth in the world with that title.

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Benesse apologizes to customers by giving them 5 bucks, guilts them into donating the money back

Corporations are a lot like people in many ways, we often talk about them as if they act with a single mind and purpose, and they even have legal rights as an individual. Also, like many humans in the world, some corporations seem to lack certain social graces and may deal with other people in awkward ways.

One company who we might describe as “socially special” is education industry titan Benesse. After a major security breach earlier this year nearly 30 million people’s personal information was leaked and sold. To compensate the victims, Benesse is offering a whole 500 yen (US$4.60). That alone might be interpreted as a slap in the face by some people, but it gets worse.

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Young Chinese entrepreneur tries marketing menstrual pads to men, gets heavy cash flow

Great business people are often described as being so skilled in their field that they ‘could sell ice to an Inuit.” Li Yuanhao, a student of Southwest University in Chongqing, China may have put a new spin on the saying by successfully selling sanitary napkins exclusively to male freshmen students. If the first two days alone Li’s business pulled in 600 yuan in profits (US$108) and future sales projections are looking good.

So, how’d he do it? We assure you it has nothing to do with cross dressing this time.

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Pay Japan’s apology agencies to say “I’m sorry” when it’s just too hard to do it yourself

It’s a problem we all have to deal with at various points in our lives. We like to think we’re perfect and have it all figured out, but in reality no one is above making mistakes in their personal or professional lives. But it’s in these mistakes that through the humiliation of making amends to those we wronged we grow a little and become a better person as a result.

However, now thanks to a new line of business in Japan you don’t have to! Why go through all that painful guilt and general ickiness of facing up to the fact you’ve wronged someone when you can just pay someone else to do it for you? This way you can get back to the important things in life, like your golf swing or finally finishing that watercolor you were working on.

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Wearable futon: Excuse to keep workers in office all night, or smart disaster preparedness?

At my first job in Japan, there was no janitorial staff, so we all had to pitch in with cleaning the office. One day, I punched in, grabbed the vacuum, and started doing the floors. Everything was going fine until I got to the back room, where I opened the door to find my coworker lying flat on her back, fast asleep on the floor.

I’m not sure if she’d shown up incredibly early and tired herself out, or just never made it home the night before, but it turns out sleeping at the office in Japan isn’t quite as unusual as you’d think (or hope). Thankfully, if you do get stuck, at least you can be still be warm and cozy, thanks to this crazy wearable futon.

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Sparkles! Hearts!! Personal loans? Okinawan bank’s approach to advertising is a little different

With the greater acceptance among adults that animation has in Japan, it’s not unusual to see anime characters pop up in advertisements and other endorsements. Usually, though, there’s at least some sort of connection linking the message and the characters, though, either in tone, back story, or demographic appeal.

For instance, convenience stores get a lot of young customers who’d rather be spending their time watching anime than cooking, so a tie-up with Attack on Titan makes sense. Likewise, hanging in my local train station is a public safety poster from the Kanagawa Prefectural Police asking citizens to be on the lookout and report crimes, which also feature the giant law enforcement robot from Patlabor.

So the fact that two anime-style magical girls have been created for a series of TV ads isn’t so surprising. What is weird, though, is the product they’re pushing: bank loans.

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