There’s a very old Japanese saying that goes like this; “If you want to understand what a Japanese wants to say, listen to their hearts and not their words.”
When I first came to live in Japan, I was told this by many of my close Japanese friends. I couldn’t understand it at all. I mean, as a westerner, and a male, it made no sense to me… It didn’t make any sense to me for the first 15 or 20 years of my living in Japan.
My reasoning went like this: How was I to understand what someone is thinking when their words tell me a different story? I am not Houdini or some sort of clairvoyant mind reader!
In fact, I remember many years ago, a very close friend of mine in Japan having much troubles because he always took what Japanese people said at face-value and considered them “liars” because they would often say one thing, but mean another. They would rarely “speak their hearts.” We had long discussions about this and he would often be angry and demand to me,
“If they think that, why don’t they just say so?!”
It is often said that Japanese people never say, “No!” Also they never say what they really mean. It’s true: Their true meaning is not in words spoken from their mouths, but not from their hearts.
My very close friend left Japan many years ago and never returned.
Now, after working in big companies as an executive or advisor to presidents and high ranking executives; after seeing grown Japanese men crying at meetings; after dismissing several dozen Japanese staff from their duties when I was a general manager; after two divorces, and finally one happy marriage (today nearly 20 years); this saying makes perfect sense to me:
“If you want to understand what a Japanese wants to say, listen to their hearts and not their words.”
Recently, I’ve had two dear friends visiting from overseas for work. I witnessed this saying in action yesterday twice within the span of a few hours.
The first example was when one of my friends (who doesn’t speak Japanese) asked a nice Japanese gentleman to make a short speech in English for a promotional video. The Japanese man said something like,
“Oh, yes. I can do that.”
But as soon as my foreign friend was out of earshot, the Japanese gentlemen leaned to me and said, “Mike! What should I do?”
Now, most people would think that the, “What should I do?” means, “Help me with my English.” Or, “How shall I say this?” But that’s not what he means. Those are his words, but by listening to his heart, I could tell what he was really saying was, “I do not have confidence in my English to make a speech. Isn’t there anything you can do for me?”
I looked him right in the eye and said, “I understand. How about we do just a little comment in English and the rest in Japanese?”
His eyes grew bright and he smiled and shook my hand with a sigh or great relief, “Oh yes. That would be best. Thank you.”
We held almost all the speech in Japanese. It went well. A success.
The second case was when we went to a different company to organize a project that had been ordered by the big boss. We met two sections chiefs and one of their marketing staff. We did the Japanese business card exchange ritual and sat down. The first thing out of the section chief’s mouth was,
“Thank you for coming. We were ordered by our boss to make a video and told we don’t have any time except today…”
Once again, any rationally thinking westerner would hear that and shake their heads in agreement.
But that isn’t what the guy’s heart was saying was, I knew exactly what his heart was saying, and it was this,
“Thank you for coming. We were ordered by our boss to make a video and told we don’t have any time except today. This is worrisome as we just found out about it. We have absolutely no plan on what we want and how to do it. Do we have to do it today?”
They had no idea what was going on but couldn’t defy the bosses orders… They were hinting to us that they wanted time to make a plan. It was plainly obvious to me. I said,
“Oh? Well, dear sirs, we are merely here to help you and it isn’t necessary at all to make this video today. We are here to show you what we can do and when you folks are ready, we’re here to help you. We can even attend your planning meetings, if you like.”
It was like a huge balloon filled with the hot air of tension deflated right their on the spot. Our there Japanese hosts suddenly allowed their backs to relax and they slightly sank back into their seats knowing the deadline Sword of Damocles wasn’t hanging over their head at that very moment.
I felt good that I could understand what these two cases really wanted to say when they spoke. It was very satisfying.
From understanding their hearts, I immediately build a bond of great trust and a sort of acceptance and intimate understanding that the Japanese have with each other.
It was wonderful that my two foreign friends could witness this first hand when they were here.
If all of us foreigners living and working in Japan remember this, it makes working and living with the Japanese all that much easier.
“If you want to understand what a Japanese wants to say, listen to their hearts and not their words.”
Global Warming and Increasing Co2 Dump Nearly 9 inches (22 cm) of Snow on Tokyo in Less Than 24 Hours!
Global Warming and Climate Change have become the critical issue of our times. The changes are coming quicker and quicker. The last 24 hours makes two weeks in a row that Tokyo has set records for snowfall in February. The government must increase our taxes so that they can fix the climate like they’ve fixed our economy.
TOKYO — The heaviest snow in two decades struck Tokyo and other areas across Japan on Saturday, leaving three dead and nearly 500 others injured in 29 prefectures, reports said. More than 740 flights were grounded as the weather agency issued a severe storm warning for the capital, while more than 40,000 households lost power. As much as 22 centimeters of snow was recorded Saturday afternoon in Tokyo, topping 20 centimeters for the first time since 1994, the meteorological agency and news reports said.
Catch that first line. Let me repeat it for you:
The heaviest snow in two decades struck Tokyo and other areas across Japan…
Let me repeat if for you in bold type letters:
The heaviest snow in two decades struck Tokyo and other areas across Japan…
Well, I’m not sure about all of Tokyo and most of Japan, but I am sure that this is the most snow I have ever witnessed in the Tokyo Yokohama area in 30 years and….
It’s the first time in 15 years of living here that there has been so much snow that I cannot open my front gate. This makes massive snow storms now two weeks running…
Well, OK, I did force the front gate open and took these photos for you. This is my front patio area.
THis is up the street. Don’t worry lady, they aren’t coming to pick up the trash today! Not in this heavy snow, they aren’t… This makes two Saturdays in a row for that too!
Maybe I should get my car out from under the snow…
… So that I can drive around and take photos for dear reader of the winter wonderland…
But, then again, maybe I won’t be taking the car out. Nobody else will either, even if they have snow tires… No one is going anywhere in this snow.
As everyone knows, and it goes without argument, consideration or debate that, Global Warming (now conveniently called “Climate Change”) causes the world to get warmer and colder.
Some will claim that 95% of the World’s Scientists All Agree that the world is getting warmer and it is the fault of man.
As a simpleton drunk, with extensive experience with snow and cold, I do have a problem with this. But who am I to argue with consensus? (I lived in Minnesota as a child and never remember it snowing heavily when it was warm. Funny that!)
Breakfast at the Rogers’ house. Raw lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, avocado, grapes, tangerines, lemon slice, tomatoes, walnuts, strawberries, grapefruit and (slightly boiled) broccoli along with homemade juice (not pictured) consisting of: cabbage, tomatoes, ginger root, bananas, broccoli, oranges, lemons. My son eats this everyday, every meal. Keep your and your child’s health in balance by eating like this always. No processed or fast foods! They’ll be happier, healthier and their brains won’t be fried by chemicals.
Japan has now definitively surpassed the USA as the world’s #1 music market.
I’ve written repeatedly about the music market in Japan. One of my favorites is here: Why Good UK and USA (Western) Independent and Alternative Artists Cannot Get Record or Publishing Deals in Japan.
I’ve also been doing my new morning show on InterFM called, “WTF?” (What the Friday?) Where we always try to play lots of new music. Many of the foreign artists we play tell me that their Japan sales have surpassed their US sales. I always tell them, “Because, in Japan, people still pay for music and CDs still sell here.” (Musicians! Come “Like” our FB page: https://www.facebook.com/WhattheFriday)
Now, I’ve found a wonderful article that backs me up.
Here’s a nice tidbit:
“Food, taxi rides, cinema tickets and even iTunes downloads are all way more expensive in Japan than in the USA. So a big part of the reason is that every download sold in Japan earns over twice the amount of money that it does in the USA. I will repeat this. To sell music is over twice as profitable in Japan as in most other countries specially the USA. That factor alone would almost completely explain the sameness in revenues of a country half the size.”
Read the full article here… https://indigoboom.com/4-reasons-why-big-in-japan-is-no-joke/
Happy New Year 2014! The Year of the “Hose”!
This joke might be hard to understand for foreigners who don’t speak Japanese or vice versa…. Next year is the year of the Horse… But “Horse” and “Hose” are written the same way in Katakana (the Japanese alphabet for foreign words – there’s 3 alphabets in Japan, but the way, but that’s another story….)
Horse in Japanese is “uma.” When a Japanese studies English, they learn that “uma,” in English, is pronounced: “ho-su.” Which, you can probably guess, is the same pronunciation – and the same word – as the garden watering device… Also, hence, the pose that looks like I might be “riding” the hose.
The joke really gets to be an “inside joke” when you realize that in the red circle at the top right, there is a mix of the Japanese alphabet “Hiragana” (the language for Japanese things) for the “ho” and in Katakana for the “su.” It’s a curve ball!
It’s a 13-year-old level joke, but I think it wouldn’t occur to most Japanese so some of them think it’s hilarious!
WelI, as we all know, a joke that must be explained isn’t that funny… I guess, you’d have to be here to appreciate it!
Anyway, have a safe and Happy New Year!
May all your dreams come true in 2014!
OK, there’s Japanglish, where the Japanese do their darndest to try to get it right….
And don’t but it works anyway….
Then there’s Japanglish, where the Japanese do their darndest to try to get it right….
But fail miserably… “I can act to bad girl”? What the heck does that mean?
Then there’s Japanglish, that isn’t even Japangrish, it’s smart marketing…
Sandrich? Get it? “A rich ice cream sandwich.” This was intentional as the Japanese usually have a problem with their “L’s” and “R’s” – they do not have a problem with their “W’s” and “R’s.”
“Sandrich”? Good idea!
There’s an article at Bloomberg today that verifies what I’ve been saying since December of 2012: Abenomics is failing and is having the exact opposite effect of what was intended.
From Bloomberg: Japan Inflation Accelerates to Fastest Since 2008 on Energy
Japan’s inflation accelerated to the fastest pace since 2008 in August on higher energy costs, underscoring pressure on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to drive wage increases as he seeks to end 15 years of deflation.
Consumer prices excluding fresh food increased 0.8 percent from a year earlier, the statistics bureau said today in Tokyo. The median forecast of 30 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was for a gain of 0.7 percent. Stripping out energy and perishables, prices fell 0.1 percent.
While, on the surface, and looking at just the core CPI, people are happy about Abenomics, but the cheerleaders are conspicuously silent; a quick peak under the surface shows why as there are massive problems building up.
Abenomics is supposed to devalue to currency to increase exports all the while wages increase are supposed to help the Japanese public spend more thereby turbo-charging the domestic market.
But it isn’t working out that way at all.
First off all, Japan’s Trade Deficit was massively in the red for the 14th straight month in a row and hit a historical deficit record at the same time.
For the eight month period, the trade deficit hit a record of ¥6.8 trillion, up 66% from the same period in 2012, and up 332% from 2011. During that period in 2010, Japan had a surplus of ¥4.2 trillion! Japan’s trade fiasco is on a steep downward slope. August was the worst August ever, July the worst July ever, June the worst June ever…. There’s no discernible turning point on the horizon.
And secondly, wages for workers (the people who were supposed to benefit from all this and start buying stuff) have gone down for the 14th consecutive period in a row (I guess 14 is the magic number for the failure of Abenomics!) Bloomberg again:
Salaries in July extended the longest slide since 2010, with regular wages excluding overtime and bonuses falling 0.4 percent from a year earlier, a 14th straight drop.
Not only are wages declining, while energy (and food) costs are rising, there’s a double whammy of a 40% Sales Tax just around the corner!
Gasoline prices rose this month to the highest since 2008, according to the industry ministry. The nation’s last operating nuclear reactor was halted for maintenance on Sept. 15, leaving Japan without atomic power for the first time since July 2012, and more dependent on imported fuel…
The yen’s 20 percent slide against the dollar in the year through August pushed up fuel costs. While the data point to early success for Abe, a sales-tax increase scheduled for April will add to the burden on households and risk dragging on the nation’s economic rebound. Abe is set to announce a decision on the levy on Oct. 1.
“Without pay increases, households’ purchasing power will weaken gradually,” said Taro Saito, director of economic research at NLI Research Institute in Tokyo. “Abe will have to keep up his campaign on companies for wage growth.”
In this insane Keynesian experiment that Abe is trying, wages are supposed to rise along with inflation. In Japan, the opposite is happening.
This, again, is simple mathematics, folks…. We are witnessing a slow-motion train wreck in Japan.
The good news is consumer confidence is also way down in Japan (for the third month in a row)… Which is usually a precursor to a change in government….
…Rising prices in the absence of higher incomes have dented consumer sentiment, which could undermine consumption…
…Consumer confidence fell in August for a third consecutive month, and sentiment among merchants declined for a fifth month.
The average consumer confidence drops for three months in a row, amongst all the Abenomics recent good news? (polite laughter and applause here, please!) And amongst merchants, it drops for 5 months in a row, and people say I’m negative? Yes, OK. Fair enough. I may be negative on Abenomics, but I work amongst the Japanese and hear what they say and talk about. I’m no more negative than they are.
I just report the facts. Just the facts, ma’am!
Like I said, the best thing here in the news is the drop in confidence part. Why? A drop in confidence amongst the Japanese has always lead to a change in government… But, alas, in Japan’s case, and judging from recent history, a change in government won’t help… It’s too late to fix the debt to GDP problem, energy costs are skyrocketing, the nuclear power plants aren’t coming online anytime soon (and even if they did, that’s not exactly good news, is it?) and the system is broken.
Any new government of Japan will be more of the same: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss… Japan’s problem isn’t this political party or that… Japan’s problem is the government.
There’s a storm coming, folks.
I don’t get it.
Everyone knows that the attention spans of people are getting shorter yet rock musicians (people who are appealing to those with the shortest attention spans), keep making songs that are getting longer.
According to the website: Attention Span Statistics data:
“The average attention span in 2012, 8 seconds. The average attention span in 2000, 12 seconds.”
Yet, people keep making pop and rock songs longer and longer! Ever since Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, which was six minutes long, pop and rock musicians keep making songs over four, even five minutes! Is this counter-intuitive? Or just plain dumb?
I think it’s dumb. Let me tell you why…
I program and select all the music for a very popular morning drive-time program in Tokyo. Our service area covers 35 million homes, so it’s huge. I know that many people like me (I’ve asked) have agreed that the “perfect pop/rock song” is 2.5 minutes long.
Yet musicians keep sending us their new singles and the songs are all over four minutes. I hate it!
It’s just plain, well, dumb. Why?
OK. It’s simple. Did you know that there are ten times more listeners at 7 am than there are at 7 pm (due to people driving in the morning)? Did you also know (at least in Japan’s case) that the average listener listens to FM radio for only twenty minutes at a time? That’s right.
Now, morning shows (the ones with, by far, the highest ratings) need a quick tempo and a fast pace. We don’t have time to screw around. We have to get lots of information, news, weather, sports, traffic, commercials and music shoved into the shortest time span possible. That means we play lots of short songs in the mornings (when, as I mentioned, the ratings are highest)… That means we (well, I won’t) play any songs at all that push the 3:15 mark. I greatly prefer short songs. (See my show webpage and song list here: http://www.interfm.co.jp/wtf/index.php?mode=fri&id=32 … Scroll down. You can see that nearly all songs before 8:30 am – peak drive time – are under 2:45!)
If you send me a 2:30 song, then I will greatly consider that for airplay during the peak times… But, if you send me a 5 minute song? Yeah, later on in the show… Or never. Long songs are difficult to use.
Of course, I’m talking about the fun shows that are on in the mornings (did I say the ratings = more listeners – were higher at that time? I did? Thanks.)
That means, in my case, I will play short, up-tempo songs like early Beatles, Stones, Ramones at peak times to get the listeners pumped-up and ready to go in the mornings. We don’t do easy listening…
It used to be that, long ago, songs were always under 3 minutes. What happened? I don’t know. But this “long song” business is foolish.
It’s simple; if you want your songs played when there are the most listeners, then make them short. If you can’t say it in 2.5 minutes, then you need to work on it.
Of course, there is a time and place for longer songs…. But generally not on the highly rated morning shows… I’m trying to wake people up in the morning and cram in as much as I can in the shortest space I can…
Knowing this, you wanna make long songs?
“Brevity is the soul of wit.” – Lord Polonius from Shakespeare’s Hamlet 1602
NOTE: Oh, and PS: If you are a new musician, then make sure you “Like” the FB pages of the radio programs you are (or want to) promote to. Our FB page is here: https://www.facebook.com/WhattheFriday