All posts by Bone

E-Commerce in Japan – English sites offer quality Japanese products

English Language E-Commerce in Japan - a growing trend
E-Commerce in Japan is a growing trend - and becoming accessible in English too
At the end of each year, there is always plenty of news about the Christmas shopping rush, and how and what people are buying. We just saw, that for Christmas 2009, the focus seemed to be firmly on online retail for Christmas shopping, a trend that seems to encroach more and more on the more traditional approach. The Wall Street Journal reported on December 15th 2009 that despite shop sales being flat compared to last year, online sales in the US had grown 4% in only the 6 weeks since the beginning of November. Also, online sales in the US totalled $913 million on December 15th alone, a record for a single day. So why is this happening, what does it mean, and what’s going on in Japan in online retail?

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The Implosion of Japan’s Super Nova

Bleak skies ahead for Nova
Nova Sagi? Bleak skies ahead for Japan’s Nova Usagi

Japan’s largest English Language conversation school, Nova is the second largest employer of foreigners in Japan (the first being the Japanese government, bless them) employing over 4,500 teachers nationwide. The company name NOVA, originates from the English word for a star that suddenly becomes thousands of times brighter and then gradually fades to its original intensity (or to nothing in this case!). It has however, been made into a now familiar acronym by its eikaiwa (英会話) senseis, who proclaim to be heavily overworked, and given little or next to NO VAcation.

Last Friday (26th October 2007), Nova filed for court protection from creditors, and also temporarily closed all of its 1000+ English conversation schools. It is hard to imagine any other event which could cause as Continue reading

Why The Long Face Abe-san?

Shinzo AbeIt has been almost two weeks since Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe suddenly resigned from office. A press conference was called suddenly, and everyone left the room more confused than when they went in. Abe was silent for over a week, and has only just come out earlier this week, saying effectively that his timing to step down was rubbish, and he for the first time apologised deeply to the nation. In the week after he quit, Abe admitted to hospital for extreme stress and fatigue. But what were the real reasons for his sudden and irresponsible departure, and what happened over his last couple of weeks? Continue reading

Kyoto University Emissions Tax

Kyoto University Law Department 1933Kyoto is famous in Japan for many things, in the past for classic temples like Kinkakuji and Kiyomizu-dera and for being the capital of Japan from 794 until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. It is well-known more recently for things such as the Kyoto Protocol and Kyoto University. This week, Kyoto University became the first University in Japan to introduce a so-called “University Environment Tax”, sort of an emissions tax to attempt to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases within the University. Continue reading

Japan High Court Rules Against Saucy Gaijins

Bulldog4
The famous “Bulldog” brand of Japanese
Tonkatsu Sauce

Facing a potential takeover by the foreign investment firm Steel Partners, Japanese tonkatsu sauce maker Bull-Dog was saved last week in a disturbing effort by the Japanese courts to prevent foreign money and ownership permeating into an important aspect of the Japanese cultural dinner table.

Steel Partners has made investments in over 30 companies in Japan over the past couple of years, with a number in the “washoku” industry, including the holy grail of the Japanese sauce portfolio, Kikkoman soy sauce. Since Steel Partners announced they owned over 5% back in 2005, the stock price has increased over 50%. But enough is enough, apparently. Continue reading

Summertime Blues for Civil Servants

SalarymanOne of the things I have always loved about Japan were the warm summer evenings. Sitting on the bank of the Kamogawa in Kyoto at 10pm, at 30 degrees in short and t-shirt, sipping on a cold Heartland, and deciding who was going to wade into the middle of the river to do sumo against the other blokes was one of my favourite pastimes. That was when I was a student, and unfortunately those days have gone.

One thing I often wondered about however, has not changed – why doesn’t Japan have daylight saving time (DST), or “summer time”? Continue reading

Beatles in Tokyo – Abbey Road vs. Cavern Club

Beatles in Tokyo - Abbey Road vs. Cavern ClubBeatles music fans in Tokyo are spoiled for choice, with not just one, but two Beatles covers bars, both based in Roppongi. These are theme live houses, with Japanese Beatles look-a-like bands playing covers all night long. Abbey Road and the Cavern Club are located only a few hundred meters from each other, and are both packed to the eyeballs every night.

But according to “Docchi no Beatles-Bar Stippy” which is the better choice for a night out? Continue reading

Actress Maiko Kawakami Roasted Over Sheep-Dog Incident

LambYet another “Only in Japan” story, but we just had to delve deeper into this one! According to many of the foreign press outlets this week, hundreds, possibly thousands of Japanese women have been conned into buying baby lambs, which they thought were in fact poodles. Coming from a background where an annual highlight is Christmas lamb, this story tested my limits. Continue reading

The Yakuza vs the Right-Wing Nationalists

Japanese Nationalistic Hinomaru flag used in wartime is the uyoku symbolIn recent weeks, Stippy has been receiving much attention and many comments and questions based around our Tokyo Yakuza Wars and Prison in Japan articles. One of the questions we received was what is the difference between the Yakuza and the Right-Wing Nationalist groups? Are they different parts of the same organization, or are they in fact completely different?

For the average foreigner living in Japan, both the Yakuza and the Right-Wing Nationalists have very stereotypical images, and are easy to pick out from a crowd. The Yakuza are big, bulldog types Continue reading

“Hagetaka” – Great New NHK TV Drama Series

ハゲタカ - New Japanese TV Series
“Hagetaka” – New Japanese TV Drama Series

The current recovery in the Japanese economy has been a long time coming. For over a decade, Japan was watched from overseas, with foreign money waiting for the recovery, which had to come sometime. That time is now, and the takeover of Japanese companies by foreign firms and foreign funds form many of the daily headlines. As do the measures by the Japanese companies to resist the same. Continue reading