Got Gold or Silver?

Got gold or silver? The other day, I gave you more reasons to protect yourselves.

Yesterday, Marc Faber Gloom, Boom & Doom Report publisher chimed in:

“Nominally, gold has surpassed its record highs of the early 1980′s (and silver is well on it’s way). In real terms, adjusted for inflation, gold would have to hit roughly $2300 per ounce to have the same “value” as what it had in the 1980′s.”

Get that? “….gold would have to hit roughly $2300 per ounce”!?

Marc Faber “USA & Japan could default.”

I also wonder if you good folks living in Japan caught this one: World’s Largest Pension Fund Needs to Sell Japanese Bonds; Japan’s Demographic Time Bomb Officially Goes Off:

Deflation Irony

The irony in this madness is that all the Japanese people want is their money back. They are not looking for appreciation. They do not have absurd pension plan assumptions like the 8% expected returns we see in the US. They do not want stocks, or real estate. They just want cash, and they want it to be worth something.

Yet, the Japanese government was hell-bent for two decades attempting to generate inflation which would have weakened the value of those bonds.

Recently, those bond holdings have been rising with a strengthening yen. However, lingering debt from preposterous deflation fighting efforts of building bridges to nowhere must be paid back.
Horns of a Dilemma

Japan choices are to default on its debt, print money to fund interest on the debt, raise taxes effectively robbing savers of their money, or undertake huge spending cuts.

The dilemma stems from years of Keynesian and Monetarist stupidity.

Gold and silver are going to keep going up.

Gold in Japan?

Silver in Japan?

Google Rules on Search Engine Have Changed!

Writing a blog can be a very tiresome, worrisome, frustrating and exhausting experience… It can also be hugely rewarding. Recently, the Net has taken down governments with Bloggers, Tweeters and Facebooker’s taking the lead role.

Shouldn’t you start to stake your claim by starting a blog?

It might be the most rewarding thing you undertaken in years! It is for me.

XTC – King for a Day

Currently, I am spending my time coaching two wonderful people on the virtues of blogging and how it will help them and their business grow. Coaching is a lot harder than I thought it would be. I sometimes am asked to blog or teach blogging to people, but, with these two, it is the very first time I’ve ever said, “Yes!” I said “Yes!” to these folks because I believe they have some great insights and I know they have some experiences and expertise that no one else has.

My “students” are incredible people. They can add a world of knowledge and information to help us bloggers build, as Google describes it, “a healthy web-ecosystem.” I think I understand what Google means by this. They mean that they want various sites that have original content rather than sites that collate information from various blogs.

I mean, news sites are needed and designed to aggregate various news sources, but there seems to be an increase of blog aggregation sites that offer no new, original information but simply list up a bunch of articles from various blogs around the world and copy and paste those on their site.

If those blog’s purpose is to spread the word on a particular position concerning politics or social issues, then I understand that. If their purpose is to use other original content to gain hits on their websites so that they can get higher Google Search rankings so that they can sell more affiliate stuff when people click on links on their pages, well, I can’t fault someone for trying to make a living, but I can see how Google would want to help support the independent original thinkers.

Now, Google has gone one step further. They’ve made a major tweak to their algorithm so that these “content farms” get lower search result rankings.

Yahoo! reports:

Google tweaks search to punish ‘low-quality’ sites

Google says it has tweaked the formulas steering its Internet search engine to take the rubbish out of its results. The overhaul is designed to lower the rankings of what Google deems “low-quality” sites.

That could be a veiled reference to such sites as Demand Media’s, which critics call online “content farms” — that is, sites producing cheap, abundant, mostly useless content that ranks high in search results.

Sites that produce original content or information that Google considers valuable are supposed to rank higher under the new system.

The change announced late Thursday affects about 12 percent, or nearly one in every eight, search requests in the U.S. Google Inc.

Wow! This affects one in eight!? So, the point is, once again, original content is king on the Internet.

Sure, Mr. and Ms. Blogger, we are not “journalists” in the traditional sense of the word, but we never claimed to be. Nevertheless, our opinion matters more and more everyday.

People listen to what bloggers have to say! Take, for example, you see a full page color ad in the newspaper for a new steak-house. The steak-house spends $20,000 for that ad. The ad says the restaurant is great! Do you go to that restaurant? If it were me, I wouldn’t pay any attention to the ad at all. It wouldn’t motivate me to go there.

But! If a blogger I like says that the restaurant is good, I probably would go and try it once. Why? I know the blogger is telling me the truth. I read this blogger’s writing often. I know s/he didn’t receive a bunch of money to write that recommendation. That means I have a relationship with this blogger and know who s/he is. I trust this person.

Now, Google has saluted us with giving us more power on the web by rewarding us original content makers with this Search Engine tweak.

Thanks to Google Search Engine for recognizing us as the force to be reckoned with that we have become.

More concrete details on Google’s new search engine algorithm here.

PS: I’ve written recommendations for cheap eats in Tokyo. There’s cheap and good tasting sushi in Yoga; Raw Fish & drinks in Futagotamagawa; Delicious soba in Daimon; Wine & Dine in Omotesando; Fantastic Udon in Kamiyacho; Tokyo’s best coffee and meeting place in Hanzomon; Tokyo’s best hamburgers at Tsubame Grill; Out of this world Croatian food in Kyobashi at Dobro – Now, who you gonna trust? Me or some full page ad in the newspaper?

Think about it. Let’s start blogging! The world wants to know you!

Japanese Girl’s Dream Come True: Nose Lifter

You’d be surprised to know that most Japanese (well, all Asians in general) think they have a flat nose. I don’t know about that. I like their noses just they way they are, thank you.

Can you imagine if every Japanese girl ran around with a schnozzola like Jimmy Durante?

No thanks.

Well, anyway. Japanese girls think their noses are too flat. You’d think this was no big deal but I’ve met many girls who claim that because their nose is too flat, they cannot wear fashion brand designer sunglasses. Now, for a country full of women who think about designer goods constantly, THAT IS a problem!

I’m not making this up.

Just to show you how much of a preplexing drama the Japanese actually perceive this as being, a company has come out with a gadget that they claim can lift the bridge of your nose. Talk about snake-oil salesmen!

Geeky Gadget reports:

Do you dream of having a more beautiful, higher nose? But you shy away from going to a plastic surgeon? Then you might want to check out the so-called “Beauty Lift High Nose”, a gadget made by Japanese company Omni.

According to its maker, all you need to do is to stick the device on your nose for about 3 minutes per day and let its do its magic (Omni also says that it fits noses of various kinds). The thing is supposed to “raise” the bridge of your nose by vibrating and thus “stimulating” the nasal bone (it’s powered by a CR2032 battery).

The Beauty High Lift Nose is made in Japan, sized at 7×5×7.5cm and weighs 25.

If you want to try it out but live outside Japan, get the device over at the the Japan Trend Shop for $144.

Ladies, I linked to the shop that sells this device. I know the people who run that establishment and they are great, honest folks… But this product is a scam…

If you really do want a nose lift, then I think you need to see a qualified plastic surgeon.

I think your nose is cute enough as is.

11th Annual Hole-Digging Contest

Japan does it again! We have some great contests in this country. I wrote recently about the contest whereby guys thousands of guys, dressed only in a loincloth, gather together at a temple to try to grab their “sacred wood.”

Yeah. That’s one that you just don’t want to miss.

But I just found out about another contest in Narita that I missed! I had to slap myself in the forehead. It is the All-Japan Hole Digging contest. This contest has been going on for 11 years now and people gather from all over the country to join in the, er, “fun”!

Japanese boy digs it big time!

There are awards given for best hole, deepest hole, most creative digging, and best digging costume.

Entrants have 30 minutes to dig whatever they want and to try to grab the coveted, er, “Hole Award.”

There’s even rules on how big shovels can be and many contestants are kids and ladies groups.

It is contests like these that help make Japan a wonderful and peaceful place to live. It gives people a chance to get out and meet new friends and work together with the community.

Here is a video of the event:

I think I’m going to show up next year and earn one of those trophies! Sounds like lots of fun!

What the Japanese Think of Americans – Vol. 1

I just came back from the grocery store. As we were driving out of the parking lot, there was a huge truck backing out of the parking lot too.

Japanese truck and taxi drivers are the best drivers in the world. I’ve seen truck drivers driving down streets (sometimes backwards) where there wasn’t 5 cm  (about 2 inches) space on either side of their rear view side mirrors. I thought, “There’s no way they are going to make it down that street without hitting a wall or something!” Yet they did it.

Typical American female truck driver (writer’s image)

They were able to navigate the streets without hitting the sides or scratching their mirrors. I’ve seen Japanese truck drivers who could drive their 8 foot wide trucks down a 6 foot wide road. Of course I’m exaggerating, but I’ve seen some awesome driving in this country.

Hell, you should see my car. I never drive in tight spots, yet I have nicks and dings all over the place. My car bumper is a mess! (They are all my wife’s fault, of course!)

Anyway, as we left the grocery store parking lot, there was this huge truck backing out and navigating a few curves and turns then out into the street. I was thinking, once again, “What an awesome driver!” When I noticed that the driver of this huge truck was a girl who looked to be in her twenties!

I said to my wife, “Wow! Look at that! That truck driver is a young girl! She looks like she’s 25-years-old or there about.”

I was surprised that women, especially young ones, were driving trucks in Japan. That says something about the economy and the mind-set of young people today. It says a lot about the way Japan has changed.

Actually, this girl was petite and pretty, as truck drivers go, which really surprised me.

Typical Japanese female truck driver (writer’s image)

I then added, “That’s a big difference between Japan and the United States. In America, a lady might drive a truck, but she’d be huge and fat (muscular) tough as nails, smoke cigars, have tattoos and drink Jack Daniels.”

To which my wife replied, “In America, a woman doesn’t need to drive trucks to do that!”

And that’s what the Japanese think about Americans Vol. 1.

Groupon is a Loser in Japan – An Ex-Partner Speaks!

Groupon Japan is a loser. They aren’t going to make it here in this country. Don’t believe me. Read on….

I’ve been writing at length and often about Groupon Japan and their constant mistakes. (See herehereherehere and here). As my good friend James Allen (author of Online Income Blueprints) wrote; “It’s getting like shooting fish in a barrel… I smell an opportunity.” (I reviewed Online Income Blueprints here).

James is right. There is an opportunity. But, that window of opportunity in Japan seems to be closing quickly. Competitors to Groupon are out already. The two that are quickly staking their place in Japan are Pomparade (owned by Recruit – a stalwart and major influence in Japan) and Kaupon (privately owned by Kiramex) both well known in the Japanese market.

Groupon has committed the Cardinal sin that many companies from the west committed before in this country; they came to Japan and didn’t make the effort to understand the Japanese and this country well enough. Now they will pay the price for that mistake. I’ve written before in an article entitled, “How New Companies Can Succeed in Japan – and How They Fail.” It’s about  how, in spite of the fact that giant players from the west came to Japan, with great products and a successful track record in the west – such as Pepsi Cola, Universal Studios, E-Bay, Carrefours, etc. – they failed miserably because they didn’t take the time to learn the intricacies of Japan and how to do business here.

The companies that do well here, Disney, Coca-Cola etc. Did bother to understand the market and now they dominate. McDonald’s, in fact, even changed their name to fit in with Japanese pronunciation! McDonald’s in Japan is not McDonald’s. It is “Makudonarudo.” Go up to any Japanese and ask them where a McDonald’s is and they won’t have any idea what you are talking about.

But I digress…

Failure in Japan

Groupon, I predict is the next in a long line of failures in Japan. In fact, today I met with a friend who is the head editor of one of the biggest magazines in Japan and this editor said, “There’s no way for that company, Groupon… Their reputation is already shot. And, in Japan, reputation is everything. The women don’t trust it.”

This was the first time that someone who knows how the average Japanese woman feels telling me what I had already suspected; Groupon Japan has a terrible reputation with the women in Japan and it’s getting worse.

Here, today, is a message from a former Groupon partner client who has quit using Groupon and saw my recent article entitled, “More Problems From Groupon Japan – Again!” Let’s let them tell the story:

“I have a bar in Chiba and sold coupons through Groupon once in 2010. For about 17 coupons sold, there were about 10 redeemed (roughly 25 new customers), 2 of the groups came back once more, the rest just took advantage of a cheap meal. So much for creating “repeat customers…”

For a ¥3000 coupon they (customers) got ¥6000 of food and drink. Embarrassingly, (I know..!) my FL ratio is nearer to 2/3 than 1/3, so I lost money in the vain hope of gaining repeat customers…

I’m in Chiba city, but the customers came from all over the prefecture…

If you figure the “cost” of the coupon = loss of revenue (opportunity) ¥3000 + commission ¥1500 + FL (OK, let’s be nice) ¥2000 = ¥6500 for ¥6000 worth. I guess that’s a total loss.

Groupon approached me again to try a different menu strategy, yadi, yadi, yadi…

My reply was, “I could stand on the street in front of my bar and give out half price drink vouchers to passers-by (who actually live within stumbling distance!) for a predictably much better return. Thanks, but no thanks..”

I agree that it’s unsustainable. I’ve been approached my similar “flash marketing” sites, offering a better commission, etc, but at the end of the day it’s probably just coupon clippers who will take advantage of you.

Thanks for confirming what I paid to learn!”

Thanks to you for writing! Your input is invaluable and your experience might just save some others from losing money.

Well, dear readers, there you have it. From the mouth of someone who has actually done this with Groupon. Considering how much bad press Groupon gets (actually have you read any good press on Groupon?) I wonder how much longer they can do this.

Groupon, I predict, is the next in a long line of companies from the west that failed miserably in Japan. They won’t be the last.

Thanks to James B. Allen and his buddy in Chiba! You guys rock!

Groupon Strikes Out… Again!

Incredibly, Groupon is in the news for problems again in Japan. Is there any other business in the world that is in the news once a week for screwing things up like Groupon is? I don’t think so. This time, a client company claims that payments for the campaign from Groupon are too slow in coming and, if they keep up the deal with Groupon, they’ll go bankrupt. So they unilaterally cancelled it.

There were also issues with people creating fake Groupon coupons somehow and Groupon was slow to react to the problem once the shop reported it.

Some people have mentioned to me that they don’t think Groupon can survive through  2012… Maybe they are right. Groupon screwed up big time in Japan at New Year’s; then they messed up the apology; they totally blew it at the Super Bowl – which, in turn, created a huge blow back and “Boycott Groupon” movement on Facebook; they messed up Valentine’s Day and they handle their logo and branding like rank amateurs.

All of which have appeared in the Japanese media.

Now, incredibly, they are in the news again. This time with a twist as a Groupon client company is complaining about Groupon and has cancelled a campaign mid-way as they say that they cannot afford to do business with Groupon and that Groupon’s payment system and service is slow.

They say that, if this business deal continues with Groupon, they will go bankrupt, so they must cancel the deal.

Way to go Groupon.

I wrote that Groupon’s business model is not sustainable. Now, here is a client company going public with complaints about Groupon business practices in another collapsed deal with Groupon.

The story appears in today Sankei newspaper. The link is here:  The original article is only in Japanese, but I have made a quick summary translation for you here:

(Basically the story is about) a shop in Tokyo’s Kichijoji that sells “Tai-yaki” (Tai-yaki is a confection that is popular with children). The shop sold coupons through Groupon for the Tai-yaki. The regular price is ¥1,000. The Groupon price was ¥500. The shop sold 1,700 coupons in total. The coupons were valid until June 2011.


But on the 15th of the month (Feb. 2011) the shop announced on their own blog that they would discontinue the sale and cancel validation of Groupon coupons immediately.

On the 16th of the month, the shop again announced on their blog, that Groupon had promised the shop “many repeat customers” but Groupon hasn’t paid the shop the money, so the shop says that if these customers do come, they will go bankrupt.

Already Groupon sold coupons for 1,700 @ ¥500 each. Already 400 customers have used the coupons, yet Groupon has only paid the shop for 120 customers. The shop says that they cannot do business with Groupon and, if more customers come to use the coupons, they will go bankrupt as they are unable to pay for ingredients and overhead.

The shop says that unless Groupon pays the money, they cannot afford to pay for supplies and materials. So the campaign was cancelled immediately.

The shop also complained to Groupon that there were fake coupons circulating and said that Groupon was very slow to react so the shop was unable to control the situation.

Sankei Newspaper tried to contact Groupon Japan but was unable to get comment.

Groupon Japan is the company that was responsible for the New Year’s “Oseichi” food that sold deliveries of food that were completely different than what was advertised.

Well, that’s the story for you. I wanted to be the first person in the world to get this story out for you English speakers. When Groupon collects the money for all the tickets they sold, why don’t they pay immediately to the client?

Gee, I do remember hearing the lame old excuse of “the check is in the mail” but in 2011, I guess that would mean electronic mail so you have to wonder what’s taking so long?

Will you be doing business with Groupon as a client or customer? The lesson to be learned is, “Caveat Emptor” – Let the buyer beware! In Groupon’s case, I reckon that means “Let the buyer and client beware!”

Japanese story from Sankei Newspaper:








Thanks to Yuka Rogers for help with translation.

Moja is Japan’s Best New Band

OK. A short (but hopefully interesting) blog for your Sunday pleasure. It’s mainly about a Japanese rock band named Moja but it is also about getting out and marketing yourself in the real world to real people.

First up, let’s talk about the band, Moja.

Moja. Playing at SXSW 3/16/2011

Here is Japan’s best new rock band. Their name is Moja. They are a drum and bass duo with a guy named Haruhiko and a goddess on drums named Masumi. This duet is so hot that they’ve been invited to play at SXSW in March 2011. That’s huge!

What is SXSW? Wikipedia describes:

SXSW Music is one of the largest music festivals in the United States, with more than 2,000 performers playing in more than 90 venues around downtown Austin over four days, in March. Though it is an industry-based event, SXSW Music links locally with events such as the annual Austin Music Awards show and Texas Rock Fest. SXSW Music also offers free musical samples of featured artists at each festival.

When people ask, “Who do they sound like?” I can’t answer that question. It’s hard to describe Moja’s sound. They don’t sound like anyone else. It’s incredible that just two people, with just a drum and bass, can make such a massive wall of sound.

If you like loud rock music, then click on the video. If not, then don’t! This blog will continue below with an explanation of what this has to do with you and with marketing.

See Moja’s New video here:

Since this band is rising like a rocket, I knew that I had to take this chance to make their promotion video. Both Ken Nishikawa and I took two days (one was all night) in Feb. 2011 to shoot this video and then we edited it for about 10 hours on a Saturday night. It was a fun but extremely tiring process.

Making a video like this should cost at least ¥500,000 for the entire package. How much did Ken and I get paid to make this video? Nothing. Zero. We did it for free. It was a labor of love…

Actually we lost money as we bought food and drinks for ourselves during the shooting and editing days as well as train fare.

So, if we lose money doing this, why do it?

Because I’ve mentioned many times before, that to be successful on the Internet, you have to have great content and you have to give things away for free. When you give things away for free, you are addressing the wants and needs of the readers and people who come to your site – and not being self-centric by always thinking of your own wants and needs. When you give things away for free, people will come. Perhaps, after addressing these needs of your visitors, then they can enter into your sales cycle then become a money maker for you thereby addressing your needs.

You also have to be an expert in some field. I consider myself an expert in independent music. I’ve been in it for over 30 years.

I am starting an Internet business that is very much concerned with the music business. And since I have already been in the music business since 1978 and know that, in the music  business, credibility is hard to get, it is even harder to buy.

By supporting independent artists and the independent music scene and creating these sorts of high-quality music videos for those artists,  we make a statement; we are here and we are here to help you – not take advantage of you.

This gives me massive credibility – much more than a, say, mere promoter who wants to hold shows and make money. I am giving the artist something they really want, and can use for years and asking for nothing in return.

One of the problems with Internet people is that they have no experience in the real world. They have sat behind their computers for so long that they don’t know that face to face human interaction is still the trump card – especially in a business like the music business. Look at how the CEO of Groupon screws up his business by not being understanding of real people’s feelings and local customs.

He definitely needs to get out more into the real world.

Here is an ancient Chinese saying: “It is the wise business man who bows his head lowest for he shall understand his customers and become wealthy.” OK, well, it’s not so ancient and it’s not so Chinese; I just made it up. But it’s true.

Now, with a video like the above, I show people that I am here to help and be a part of the scene and I am real. This video is great promotion for the band but it is also great promotion for me too. We made this video last night. This morning I just did a Google search for “Moja Japanese band” and there the video is on the first page of results and, along with it, my name appears! Mission Accomplished!

If you are blogging or doing Social Media or other Internet services, is there anyway that you can become more connected with the real world by getting out and doing things with real people; thereby driving others to your web site and promoting your name?

Think about it.

Here’s another article on Moja

Moja on Myspace

Invest in Japan? Yes! Especially if You Live Here!

The situation in Japan as of today, Feb. 19, 2011 is very uncertain. Japan’s financial house is in serious disorder. Our debt is not sustainable. Rumors abound of the coming yen crash. The current prime minister of Japan has an approval rating of a mere 19.9% - a new low – and both the old-school political parties in Japan are teetering as they have been beaten in landslides in recent elections.

What’s an investor to do to protect his/her self and their family? Well, incredible as it may seem, my good friend Mish Shedlock tells me that there’s a great opportunity for those of us living in Japan to capitalize on this uncertainty.

Mish Shedlock

If the yen drops, and, in turn causes a huge rise in stock and precious metals prices, how can those of us living in Japan benefit?

In his blog of Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010, Mish lays out Ten Economic and Investment Themes for 2011. About Japan, Mish wrote:

On a relative but not absolute basis I like the US. On a currency adjusted basis I especially like Japan. Here is a hypothetical example: Should foreign equities drop 20% and the US dollar strengthen 10% the loss to US investors would be 30%. Should Foreign investors buy US equities and face a loss of 20% and a 10% rise in the dollar, they would see a 10% loss. US investors of course would see the full 20% loss. Japan looks attractive in nominal terms but strengthening of the dollar compared to the Yen could negate some if not all of that. Equities in general, with the possible exception of Japan do not look attractive.

In a later article, Mish wrote about an Interactive Map of Global PE and Price to Book Ratios:

Except for Japan with a price-to-book value near one, with most corporate debt wiped off corporate books, I see little “absolute value” elsewhere.

The problem with Japan is the Yen. To invest in Japan one needs to hedge that Yen exposure or a declining Yen could wipe out most equity gains.

Aha! I see. So I can take advantage of the yen’s problems because I am living in Japan!  I asked Mish to elaborate further and Mish was kind enough to add “Someone living in Japan with expenses in Yen and wages in Yen does not need to hedge Yen exposure as does someone outside Japan. A good currency hedge for someone in Japan, any country really, is gold.”

Mish mentioned that he is now in plays on Japanese equities, the Yen, and gold, adding “There are lots of opportunities in Japan and those opportunities should be easier to find and execute for someone living in Japan than someone living elsewhere.”

Now, do I ever feel better!

Thanks so very much to Mish Shedlock for the great insight. You can read much more at Mish’s Global Economic Analysis Blog.

Mike “in Tokyo” Rogers Quoted on Mish Shedlock

Mike as Mike “In Tokyo” Rogers was quoted greatly in Mish Shedlock’s newest article on his blog. Mish Shedlock is ranked as one of the “Top 10 most influential blogs in the world.”

Read the article here: