Population & Geography
Japan has a population of 127,253,075. It has the tenth largest population in the world. The majority of the population are 25-54 year olds and 65 years and over. (CIA, 2013)
The majority of the population is gathered in Tokyo. What you’ll see in the video is a typical subway commuter’s morning in Tokyo. This isn’t even rush hour, it’s much worse then. So you can see where all the people went. I’ve noticed that a lot of people take public transport as opposed to driving themselves. As you can see from the video, there are subway staff pushing people so that they fit in the train. It does feel like that foreign idiom “packed like sardines”.
Pictured above is a normal day in Shibuya. Shibuya is one of the 23 wards in Tokyo. This is even when it’s raining, when the amount of people has diminished a lot. So, if you live in the United States, think of it like New York in the amount of people and crowdedness. (Wikipedia, 2013)
In Japan, people stand an arm’s length from one another or 2 ½-3 ft. If it’s with a stranger, then the distance is farther. In public places like the subway, a market, etc. personal space can be limited and pushing up against one another is quite common. If you will take a look at the world map, Japan is one of the smaller countries. There’s not a lot of landmass to begin with. Although I say that, Japan has a total area of 377,915 square km. It is ranked 62 in land area out of 252 countries, which means that it’s approximately moderate. (CIA, 2013)
Hygiene & Tradition
Description of Photo Above: “Japanese Shinto practitioners perform misogi,the rite of water purification, at the Kanda Myojin shrine in Tokyo founded 1,270 years ago. Misogi is celebrated annually at the Daikoku Festival, which involves gathering in a special tub outside the shrine and splashing water as an act of spiritual cleansing.”
Cleanliness is perhaps more important to the Japanese than with any other culture. The Japanese word (kirei) can be used for “clean” and “beautiful”. Purification is an important element of all Shinto rituals. When Japanese pray for something important they wash their bodies and dress in a white kimono. Sumo wrestlers throw salt to purify the ring and Japanese taxi drivers wear white gloves to indicate the immaculate state of their taxi. When schoolboys want to hurl out the worst insult they can think of, they call someone a “bacteria.” In Buddhism cleanliness is associated with morality. In Shintoism it is associated with purity. (Facts and Details, 2013)
A multibillion dollar industry has grown up to address concerns by Japanese about germs. Among the more than 600 antibacterial and germ fighting products on the market are antiseptic-dispensing pens, bacteria-resistant bicycle handgrips, disease-fighting bathroom ceramics, anti-bacterial calculators, and germ-combating socks and slippers. The antibacterial products are so popular that entire aisles in some stores are devoted to them and even then the stores can’t keep up with the demand for some products. Many of the buyers of antibacterial products are office ladies and schoolgirls who say they can’t stand the thought of using anything handled by sleazy middle-aged men. One young woman told Los Angeles Times that middle-aged salarymen “stink of tobacco and liquor and I don’t know what else. …At night, they drink and their faces get red and they breath on you. It’s awful.” Some Japanese girls are compulsive handwashers, wiping their hands with anti-bacterial tissues every time they touch an escalator handrail or an elevator button. One female college student told the Los Angeles Times she never touched the straps in subways because “dirty people” put “their fingers in their mouths or wipe their noses with their hand and then they touch something. I wish they would make those subway straps antibacterial.” (Facts and Details, 2013)
For clean freaks, department stores have installed touchless toilets, which people can operate with touching the controls. There are toilet lids that automatically open or close when a person is sensed nearby. There is also a function in which a small fountain of water will squirt out to clean your behind. There are also deodorization features which can mask fragrances. The most advanced contain ozone which is chemically capable of neutralizing many odors.
In particular, the “Intelligence Toilet” system (pictured above) created by Japan’s largest toilet company Toto can measure sugar levels in urine, blood pressure, body fat, and weight. The built-in urine analyzer, which collects five cubic centimeters of urine before analyzing sugar levels. The device cleans itself automatically after the one-minute long test.
Users then move to the blood pressure monitor, within arm’s reach of the toilet, then weigh themselves on a set of scales in front of the basin and measure their body mass index (BMI) after washing their hands.
Once results are taken, they are transferred to a home network, and analyzed on a computer spreadsheet.
Advice about diet and exercise is then dispensed, without any human intervention.
Daiwa’s chairman came up with the idea after having medical care nine years ago and the company has already sold 100 of the machines.
“When our chairman was hospitalized, he saw many people coming in to have tests and returning home with lots of medicine. It made him want to build a house where you can have health checks,” Daiwa House spokesman Miki Chino told AFP.
Toto has dominated the toilet-making business in Japan since the late 1970s when Western-style toilets started to become more popular than traditional squat toilets.
Toto spokeswoman Kumi Goto told AFP that the success of the company’s toilet business came from Japanese people’s constant craving for cleanliness.
“People here also have a trait of fine-tuning everything,” she says.
Researchers at Vienna’s Technical University last month announced plans to produce a “toilet with brains” — a high-tech commode designed to help multiple sclerosis patients and other disabled or elderly people.
(Facts and Details, 2013)
Time: Climate & Geography
Japan is surrounded by sea. Warm and cold currents flow through the seas around it, creating an environment that supports a variety of fish species.
Most of Japan is in the Northern Temperate Zone of the earth and has a humid monsoon climate, with southeasterly winds blowing from the Pacific Ocean during the summer and northwesterly winds blowing from the Eurasian continent in the winter.
(Kids Web Japan, 2013)
The country has four well-defined seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Two of the most beautiful sights in Japan are the cherry blossoms in spring and the vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows of the autumn leaves. Japanese people enjoy these signs of the changing seasons and track their progress with weather reports, which feature maps showing where the spring blossoms and autumn leaves are at their best. The far north and south of Japan have very different climates. In March, for example, you can go sunbathing in the south (e.g. Okinawa) and skiing in the north (e.g. Hokkaido). Okinawa has beautiful clear waters to go scuba diving in. For all your Okinawa travel plans, please go to this website.
Pictured above is a map of the Furano Ski Area in Furano, Hokkaido. As you can see there are many paths to ski or snowboard on, as well as other activities! Even if you can’t do either of the two, there are still various other activities to do. If you’re interested, please go to this website and make your accommodations.
Japan is prone to earthquakes.
The Science Behind it: Just below the surface of the earth lie huge sheets of rock called tectonic plates that are about 70 kilometers thick. These plates move a few centimeters (an inch or two) every year, producing distortions with the surface. When the distortions get large enough, forces try to correct them, causing the plates to move suddenly. Earthquakes are the results of the shaking that occurs then. Earthquakes are most frequent where two or more plates meet. The reason Japan has so many earthquakes is that a number of these plates converge below the country’s surface.
(Pictured above is the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011 in Miyagi prefecture.)
The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake of January 1995 and the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011 took a heavy toll of human lives and property. To lighten the damage earthquakes inflict in the future, scientists are studying ways to predict the occurrence of quakes more accurately and to construct buildings that are more resistant to quakes.
In Times of Earthquakes You Should:
Many local governments have adopted disaster-prevention measures. Shizuoka Prefecture, which faces the Pacific Ocean and is thought to be a candidate for a large quake in the near future, has adopted an earthquake-prevention plan that outlines the steps that should be taken in case a major earthquake strikes, including the regulation of traffic, closing of banks and department stores, and evacuation of residents.
The Tokyo metropolitan government conducts periodic checks on the safety of buildings in designated “danger zones.” At schools and workplaces, evacuation drills are held several times a year. Some families keep a knapsack handy containing items that are essential in case of an emergency, such as drinking water and dried foods.
Please take a look at the Shizuoka ‘Earthquake Disaster Prevention Guidebook’ for details on that. Please go to the web address below to read Shizuoka’s ‘Earthquake Disaster Prevention Guidebook’ .
Social Relations, Tradition, Industrialization (Business Culture) – Useful Business Tips for doing business with the Japanese. To foreign businessmen and businesswomen, this is for you.
As shown in the image above, this is how you should present yourself when doing business. If you’re doing business in Japan, you should have a calling card—meishi—to present during introductions. Hold the card on outstretched palms and make a slight bow. A card will be presented to you in the same way.
For you to understand the following, please first read these definitions provided by Iowa State University on Polychronic and Monochronic time orientation. Or if you’d rather skip the wall of text, take a look at the simplified chart above.
Monochronic individuals are those who prefer to complete one task at a time. For them, task-oriented time is distinguished from socio-emotional time. In other words, there is a time to play and a time to work. These individuals value punctuality, completing tasks, and keeping to schedules. They view time as if it were linear, that is, one event happening at a time. Examples of monochronic cultures include the U.S., Israel, Germany, and Switzerland.
Polychronic individuals, on the other hand, are more flexible about time schedules; they have no problem integrating task-oriented activities with socio-emotional ones. For them, maintaining relationships and socializing are more important than accomplishing tasks. These individuals usually see time in a more holistic manner; in other words, many events may happen at once. Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa are places where the polychronic orientation prevails.
(Iowa State University, 2011)
Understanding the Japanese Way of Doing Business –
Pictured above is a business dinner with Japanese business officials. In Japan, the function of the business lunch and dinner is to create the proper atmosphere and get acquainted. Relaxing with business clients after work is crucial to building the close rapport that is absolutely necessary if one is to do business in Japan. Evenings are reserved for socializing the business partners and clients.
- Punctuality: Japanese place a great deal of emphasis on adhering to schedules and deadlines. They value and expect punctuality. The bus, train, and plane schedules are almost always on time and it is the norm to show up to a social function at the scheduled time. (Cultural Crossing, 2013)
However, here’s something that should be noted. Schedule times can be compromised to suit someone of significant standing. It depends on the position of the one who the schedule must be changed for.
The Logic Behind It:
In polychronic systems, appointments mean very little and may be shifted around even at the last minute to accommodate someone more important in an individual’s hierarchy of family, friends, or associates. Polychronic people also have many close friends and good clients with whom they spend a great deal of time. The close links to clients or customers creates a reciprocal feeling of obligation and a mutual desire to be helpful. There are other factors, of course, such as the fact that in Japan one of the principal reasons to get together around a table with good food and in congenial surroundings is to strengthen the bonds of friendship and to get to know people.
(International Forum, 2013)
- The Importance of Reaching Consensus: To my American readers, I’m sorry to single you guys out but you have had a large amount of encounters with Japanese in the business world, so you were the easiest example to use. Please note that other similar Monochronic cultures such as some European cultures mentioned above could also use this example to suit them.
Americans complain that the Japanese take forever to reach decisions. Japanese complain that Americans do not respect their process of reaching consensus, which requires much more time than decision-making in America. In both the United States and Germany, schedules are sacred; in France scheduling frequently cannot be initiated until meetings are held with concerned members of the organization to permit essential discussions. Input from everyone is solicited and eventually a consensus is reached. Once consensus is reached, Japanese expect immediate action.
(International Forum, 2013)
I found that there were many similarities between the French and Japanese culture because they’re both Polychronic cultures. An example would be this business between the French salesman and the American manager. This is similar to how a Japanese salesman would act.
Because of the emphasis on personal relationships, it frequently takes years to develop customers in France, and, in family-owned firms, relationships with customers may span generations. The American manager, not understanding this, ordered the salesman to develop new customers within three months. The salesman knew this was impossible and had to resign, asserting his legal right to take with him all the loyal customers he had developed over the years.
In Japanese meetings, the information flow is high, and one is expected to read other people’s thoughts, intuit the state of their business, and even garner indirectly what government regulations are in the offing. A tight, fixed agenda can be an encumbrance, even an insult to one’s intelligence. Most, if not all, of those present have a pretty good idea of what will be discussed beforehand. The purpose of the meeting is to create a consensus. Adherence to a rigid agenda and the achievement of consensus represent opposite goals and do not mix.
(International Forum, 2013)
Media (Images & Videos)