“Japan… the people over there are completely different, right?”
When I talk about my work, this is often the first thing people ask me. I do not mind the question, as it often comes from a place of genuine interest. However, because the phrase often carries with it several assumptions, it makes for an interesting topic to kick start our first Ikiji.
Oftentimes, when classifying Japan as a nation, people who do not interact with the Japanese on a daily basis end up on one of two sides of the spectrum. Japan is either an infertile radioactive wasteland where people jump in front of trains every other minute, or the country is praised as a mystical and spiritual place where people have a higher understanding and appreciation of life, as witnessed in abstract concepts such as bushido (the way of the warrior).
These characterizations are about as accurate as saying that I, as a Dutchman, can be expected to go out every weekend smoking copious amounts of marijuana while waiting my turn in the red light district. Afterwards, I will make a brief stop at the hospital to euthanize grandma so I can attend my uncle’s gay wedding in the evening. While the above stereotypes are rooted in reality to an extent, they tend to be grossly exaggerated.
In order to understand Japan – and what it means to do business with the Japanese – it is important to realize that people are people. We all strive mostly for the same things, but have different ways of going about it. Japanese people laugh, cry, and behind a veil of respect often think the same things we do. Media outlets tend to cherry pick interesting examples of Japanese otherness and exceptionalism. Although it may be difficult to judge its authenticity, it is important to be critical of the message.
In our blog, Milan and I will discuss Japanese customs, news and everything else we think is worth our keystrokes. We will provide answers to tantalizing questions such as “Is Japan the ideal country?” (No), “Are the Japanese more civilized than us Western troglodytes?” (Probably not, but the common etiquette is defined rather strictly), “Will Japanese people still exist in 100 years?” (Magic 8-Ball says “likely”) and many others.
We hope you will find this blog entertaining and somewhat educational. If there is a subject you would like us to discuss, do not hesitate to leave a comment.