business

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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Calm down, Studio Ghibli isn’t being bought by media company Dwango

Fans of anime house Studio Ghibli have been on a bit of an emotional roller coaster for the past few weeks. First came the dizzying high that always accompanies a new Ghibli release, in this case director Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s When Marnie Was There. Then came the vague yet nevertheless alarming comments from long-time producer Toshio Suzuki, who reflected on the merits of Ghibli “dismantling,” “restructuring,” or “reconstructing” its anime production department.

This was followed almost immediately by reports that Japanese online media company Dwango was set to purchase and absorb Studio Ghibli into its corporate body. Those rumors have now been quashed, though, and by what seems to be a fairly reliable source: Dwango’s chairman himself.

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Columbia Records Japan changing name in support of national team’s game against Colombia

Things aren’t looking too good for Japan’s soccer team as it goes into its third and final game of group play at the World Cup. After a heartbreaking loss in its opener against Ivory Coast, and then a contest with Greece in which neither team’s shots could find the net, it’s do-or-die time for Japan, which is going to need quite a bit of help, and possibly luck, to advance to the Round of 16.

But all of the myriad tie-breakers Japan needs to go its way won’t mean anything if it can’t defeat group powerhouse Colombia, which currently has a 2-0 record. With all of Japan hoping for a victory over the South American nation, Team Japan is getting a little bit of extra moral support as the Japanese arm of Columbia Records is changing its name to help cheer on its local sports heroes.

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Champagne, macarons and Pikachu? Paris plays host to Europe’s first Pokémon Center

The Pokémon video games may have been created in Japan, but there is no lack of Pokémon fandom in the rest of the world from redesigning sports logos to pokéball engagement rings. And to showcase France’s Pokémon love, a pop-up Pokémon Center has opened up in Paris this month featuring original art, limited edition goods and even a special pokémon sent directly to your Nintendo 3DS.

Unlike Japan’s eight Pokémon Centers, which usually focus on the series’ merchandise, the highlight of this pop-up show is the Pokémon gallery where you can sip champagne, munch on Pikachu macarons and appreciate the amazing artwork, including some amateur fan art. Click below to take a peek inside the “Pokégallery” and find out which Pokémon is France’s favorite!

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Is this the Victoria’s Secret of China? Woman poses in lingerie at marketplace【Photos】

It is common to see store assistants or sales representatives of apparel brands dressed in clothing from their own brand when they are on duty. This not only allows the staff to experience the fit and feel of their own products, it gives customers a view on what the clothes look like on a real moving human instead of a stiff mannequin. Lingerie makers, however, can’t expect their store assistants to parade around in undergarments. Or can they?

A Chinese woman who runs a lingerie shop was spotted posing and strutting about in her undies like a real-life mannequin for her store! More pictures after the break!

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Nintendo tweets out ad for Sony’s PS Vita: jealous workers or inside job?

Despite having the full faith of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Nintendo has had some rough years recently with video game fans turning away from the company’s latest home console. So when Nintendo of Europe tweeted out a promo video for Sony’s handheld PS Vita last week, netizens wondered if this was just a mistake or part of a larger, more sinister plan for the video game industry.

Was the tweet promoting the PS Vita just a Freudian slip by a Nintendo employee or was it the result of some nefarious hacker’s work? Click below to read some fan theories about how this “Nintendon’t” made its way to the company’s official Twitter account!

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Bored with hotels? Abenomics bringing new lodging options for foreign tourists in Japan

With Japan’s population steadily decreasing, the country is finding itself with a bigger and bigger surplus of vacant houses—7.75 million of them, according to a 2008 survey. That makes more than 10% of all housing units in Japan unoccupied and that is set to increase to 30% by 2030.

But Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic reforms, lovingly dubbed “Abenomics,” hopes to turn this vacancy problem into a cash cow for property owners by changing hotel laws and loosening restrictions on renting out your home to tourists planning their ultimate Japanese vacation. And to jumpstart the initiative, a Japanese real estate giant has teamed up with a home rental website to match up homeowners to prospective overseas tourists who want to experience a more authentic Japan.

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Automatic tie tier ties ties for tie tying-impaired

Ties are serious business in Japan. Since all but the most informal businesses require all men to wear one during working hours (unless, of course, it’s “Cool Biz” time), it’s pretty much a necessity for every guy to own a few and if you know more than two or three ways to tie one, all the better.

But, surprisingly, it’s not uncommon for Japanese guys to have no clue whatsoever how to tie a tie. The stereotype goes that these mostly young sartorially-challenged individuals rely on their girlfriends or even dads and moms to knot their tie for them, and in a pinch they’ll just stash an already-knotted tie somewhere in their closet, tighten it on and dash out the door.

One such less-dexterous individual apparently took it upon himself to solve his problem by building an automatic tie tying machine, presumably so that he could finally stop relying on his dad for his wardrobe and move out of his parents’ basement:

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