Jul 30, 2011

Mobile Devices Bring Work into a Private Life

I used to be a workaholic.

At that time I was literally working for twenty-four hours a day. Of course I was working at the office, at my home and even in my dreams. My wife said that I was talking with someone in a business meeting in my sleep.

The day before a business trip I often worked at the office all night long. In the early morning I went to the airport. On my way to the airport I was working with my mobile PC in a train. I took a shower and shaved in a lounge at the airport, and ate a croissant and drank coffee while looking at the display of my mobile PC. I took an airplane and when the airplane started flying level, I opened my mobile PC as soon as possible. When I had time for a business meeting with my clients, I got into a coffee shop to work.

I was completely addicted to my work and I think that I was crazy now. But I couldn't find myself crazy in those days.

After I've suffered from depression, I decided to divide my private life from working time. I changed my mobile PC for work into a desktop PC and stopped bringing a mobile PC. I worked only at my desk in my office, never at home. My company prohibits employees from working on their private PC, so I actually can't work at home without a mobile PC.

My desktop PC got older and too slow to work, so I would change my PC for work. My boss told that you would need to check e-mails out of our company and you should get a mobile PC. I've changed my policy and got a new mobile PC.

On Friday evenings I always can't finish my tasks to be done in the week, so in the end I bring my new mobile PC and work at home in the weekend. I returned back to where I started. To tell the truth I've brought my mobile PC to work this weekend.

I heard from the manager of salesforce.com, which provides cloud services to companies, that he had a blackberry mobile phone, and always checked e-mails and his company's cloud website, and instructed his subordinates to do the same. Since the central office and Japanese branch of saleforce.com have time difference, I think that he can't take a rest all day long.

Mobile devices bring work into a private life. If we don't intentionally resist it, we would be caught in these big waves.

Jul 27, 2011

A Woman Is Always Wise and A Man Is Always Stupid.

I've just finished reading the interview with Haruomi Hosono, a musician who I've introduce in my journal "Smells of Tokyo", "Bunbuku Chagama (分福茶釜)". (It would too long to explain the meaning of "Bunbuku Chagama" so, I'm sorry, but for today I've given up writing the explanation of it today. )

When I read his interviews, I often think that he expresses how I myself feel about things. I guess that one reason might be that he and I both come from a similar background that of the ordinary "salaryman's" family in uptown Tokyo.

The section of the book which has the most resonance for me is when he says,

When I make a woman angry, I'm no match for her. She has every reason to be angry. When I try to argue with her, I see where I've gone wrong and then loss my conviction."


YES! I agree more than 100%.

Sometimes women are angry at me. Whenever that happens, they always have a good reason to be and inevitably I'm in the wrong. But I never understand that I made a fatal mistake, until they become angry. And then I feel really disappointed with myself for having been so stupid.

I rarely get angry with women, but whenever I do get angry at women, I always make misunderstands and they are right. So I’m also really disappointed with myself for being so stupid.

I can't help wondering why it is that women are always wise and men are always stupid.

Jul 24, 2011

Japanese Manga Classics (3): Taiyo Matsumoto "Ping Pong"

My most favorite Manga is "Ping Pong" created by Taiyo Matsumoto. In order to write this journal, I read it again and I was impressed by it.

I've introduced Moto Hagio and Katsuhiro Otomo, and I'll write about Taiyo Matsumoto today. They are best at drawing in the Manga authors. They have their own style and strong influence over Manga graphics.

Moto Hagio draw beautiful graphics in the girls' Manga (少女マンガ Shojo Manga) style (in fact she made up the style of Shojo Manga). Otomo Katsuhiro brought the realism into Manga graphics. Taiyo Matsumoto's graphics are artistic and fantastic. It may be an exaggeration, but he brought the art into Manga graphics.

Otomo Katsuhiro wants to draw what we see precisely, but Taiyo Matsumoto wants to express the essence. In the scene of the game between Peko and Dragon of his work "Ping Pong", his graphics overwhelm me completely. He expressed speed, power, rivalry, togetherness, suffering and joy in the sport ping-pong only through graphics.

His graphics are so artistic and fantastic that sometimes his works are difficult to understand. I think that I should just enjoy his graphics without thinking the meanings of them. But "Ping Pong" is based on the format of boy's comics (少年マンガ), and it's easy to understand its story. I think that his graphics are so wonderful that his Manga don't need complex stories.

As I wrote in the previous journal, Moto Hagio's main works haven't been translated into English, and "Ping Pong" and other his works either. But if you can't understand Japanese, you can enjoy "Ping Pong" only in his graphics well.

Jul 22, 2011

Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!

I'm as busy as the white rabbit in the wonderland, so I can't write a new journal.

"Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!"

Jul 19, 2011

How to Develop a Good Project Team

"Nadeshiko Japan", the Japanese women's national football team, had quite tough games against Germany and the U.S. and beat them, and finally they won the FIFA Women's World Cup.

"Nadeshiko Japan" was a really good team. They were mentally and physically tough and every player didn't give up in a corner at all and always was trying to do her best to win the game.

They had the absolute leading striker and the leader of the team, Homare Sawa, but the other member of the team didn't depend on her completely and they were independent and collaborative at the same time. The head coach, Norio Sasaki wasn't authoritative but always smiling on the sideline of the field.

It's quite difficult to develop such a team in Japan (maybe anywhere all over the world). If a head coach tries to unify their team, they tend to be authoritative and the members of their team tend to loose their independence. On the other hand if the head coach emphasize the member's independence, their team tend to lack a sense of unity.

The Japanese men's national football team in 2002 FIFA World Cup was the former. The head coach, Philippe Troussier, was quite authoritative and killed the individuality of the member of his team. The Japanese national team in 2006 was the latter. The head coach, Zico, depended on the leading player, Hidetoshi Nakata, too much, and his team broke down and loose their will to win.

I'm assigned to PMO (Project Management Office) in my company. The mission of PMO is to support project managers in succeeding their projects. I'm now thinking about how to develop a good project team. "Nadeshiko Japan" is a really good example for me.

In order to create a good output, we should assign professionals to our project team. Professionals have their own opinions and belief, so it's natural that conflicts of opinions happen. Sometimes emotional oppositions happen, too. I think that arranging such conflicts and oppositions isn't important but developing a good project team with such conflicts and oppositions is important.

I think that the key factor of success is that all of the members of the project team share a common significant goal and they deeply believe in it. "Nadeshiko Japan" shared the goal of winning the World Cup and making women's football a major sport in Japan, and they believed in them, so they did never give up and strongly held together. Now many Japanese girls are applying membership to football teams. They realized their goal by themselves.

Jul 16, 2011

Japanese Manga Classics (2): Katsuhiro Otomo "Domu"

Today I'd like to introduce one of the greatest Manga author, Katsuhiro Otomo.

Manga graphics consist of characters and backgrounds. In ordinary Manga characters are described mainly, and backgrounds just give a sign of the situation of the characters. To emphasize the characters, the backgrounds describe simply as symbols. Manga graphics are different from "art paintings".

Katsuhiro Otomo reformed Manga graphics. He described characters and background as the same way. In his works we find the original landscape and composition, which we had never seen in previous Managa. In his most famous work "Akira" I was strongly impressed by the scene of the ruins of Neo Tokyo after World War III. His graphics are detailed and magnificent at the same time.

In the old style Manga characters were symbols, too. A cute character was described the way for the readers to be able to understand that the character was "cute". But Otomo describes a girl as the real girl, and the girl is so real that it doesn't look cute in the old style Manga context.

I don't like the Anime style Manga. In these Manga a "cute girl" has unnatural big eyes, breasts and hip, and slender waist. It isn't a real girl but a symbol of the "cute girl" like the figure of a "cute girl".

He has many followers, so I think that Japanese Manga history is divided into the pre Otomo era and the post Otomo era. But most his followers don't have the same skill as he has, and they can't draw Manga as well as him.

He got a worldwide popularity due to his work "Akira". It has influenced some Hollywood SF action movies, such as "Terminator 2: Judgment Day", "Matrix" and so on.

Of course I like "Akira" but I love the previous work "Domu (童夢)" more.

"Akira" is based on the format of boy's comics (少年マンガ). The leading character is a cool boy, and he has a rival. They are fighting against a big enemy. It's really fun to read a well-made boy's Managa, but I think that Otomo can create a more unique work.

"Domu" has wonderful graphics (same as the other Otomo's works) and a very original story. In a housing project there live an ordinary girl and an old man suffering from Alzheimer, who have supernatural powers. An old man is playing a trick without a sense of guilty, but it brings on a serious disaster due to his great power. She starts fighting against the old man to stop this disaster, because only she with a supernatural power can stop him.

Fortunately his main works was translated into English, so you can read his works. I hope that you'll enjoy the great experience of reading Otomo's works.

Jul 13, 2011

Japanese Manga Classics (1): Moto Hagio "The Silver Triangle"

I'd like to write about Japanese managa.

I think that people, who like manga, know much more about modern manga much better than me even if they are living overseas, so there are only few things about manga to be introduced by me. But since I've read manga for more than thirty years, I could introduce some manga classics.

I'll write about three of my favorite manga authors, Moto Hagio, Katsuhiro Otomo and Taiyo Matsumoto. Katsuhiro Otomo is well known overseas by his work "Akira", but do you know Moto Hagio and Taiyo Matsumoto? They are the most important manga authors in manga history.

Manga consists of several elements, such as graphics, stories, words, characters, onomatopoeia, gags and so on. There are outstanding works of manga with poor graphics, but I like the wonderful graphics of manga. These three draw beautiful and unique graphics (of course the stories and characters of their works are also amazing), and they deeply influenced and changed the graphics of managa.

Today I'd like to introduce Moto Hagio.

Moto Hagio is an author of girls' comics, "少女マンガ (Shojo Manga)" and belongs to "the Fabulous 24ers" (花の24年組), who are authors of girls' comics born in the year Showa twenty four, 1949, and created the foundation of the modern girls comics in the 1970s. The most famous authors from "the Fabulous 24ers" are Keiko Takemiya, Yumiko Oshima, Ryoko Yamagishi and so on.

Moto Hagio has created a wide varieties of works. She became a popular author due to her work "Poe no Ichizoku (The Poe Family)" whose story is about a boy vampire with eternal life living in Europe in the eighteenth century through to twentieth century. But I love her science fiction manga. She likes classics of SF, such as Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein, and she has adapted Ray Bradbury's short story "R is for Rocket" into manga format.

My most favorite work of hers is "The Silver Triangle (銀の三角)". At first this manga was published in a magazine specialized for SF fans, "SF Magazine", so it is a marvelous girls' comic and a real SF work at the same time. Its graphics are wonderful as usual and its story is complicated and interesting.

Some of her works were translated into English, but I'm really shocked at the fact that "The Silver Triangle" and "The Poe Family" haven't been translated yet. Some Manga, such as Taiyo Matsumoto's work, can be enjoyed without understanding Japanese. If you can understand Japanese it's worth reading "The Silver Triangle", but as I wrote, since its story is complicated, it's difficult to understand without understanding Japanese. I hope that they'll be translated into English well. The Japan Foundation should do that as soon as possible!

Her graphics in "the Silver Triangle"

Jul 10, 2011

"English Words" Made in Japan

There are "和製英語" (wasei eigo), which means "English words" made in Japan, in the Japanese language. It sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? Is "wasei eigo" English or Japanese?

There are English borrowed words from Japanese, such as tsunami, sushi, otaku and so on. But "wasei eigo" doesn't mean English borrowed words from Japanese but they are Japanese words. Most Japanese native speakers believe that they are borrowed words from English, but in fact they were made in Japan.

The subtitle of my weblog is "Journals by an ordinary Japanese "Salaryman" living in uptown Tokyo". "Salaryman" (サラリーマン sarariiman) is the typical "wasei eigo" word.

The word "Salaryman" can't be precisely translated into English. If I dare to translate it into English, it would be white-collar employee. But the word "Salaryman" has different connotations from white-collar employee.

The culture of Japanese companies deeply reflects the word "Salaryman". It has self-deprecating connotations. A "Salaryman" wears uncool dark business suits, takes a crowed train to his office for a long time sweating a lot, and go to a cheap pub complaining about a boss after work.

The word "Salaryman" also represents the gender segregation of Japanese companies. A "Salaryman" is a "man". A woman employee isn't called a "Saralyman" but an "OL", which is the abbreviation of "Office Lady". An "OL" assists "Saralyman" and can't promote herself to an executive.

Recently the culture of Japanese companies is changing and "Saralyman" and "OL" are getting exterminated. . I'm an endangered species, "Saralyman".

"Old soldiers never die. They just fate away." by Douglas MacArthur

Jul 8, 2011

"Slow Ballad" by Kiyoshiro Imawano

Kiyoshiro Imawano (http://goo.gl/eyxgL), who is one of the most respected rock singers in Japan, suffered from throat cancer in 2006, and in 2007 he came back to Budokan, where the Beatles used to have a live in Japan. Finally he's passed away from cancer in 2009

Some musicians in Japan call themselves "artists". I feel that this is really funny. Bob Dylan said, "I'm just a song and dance man." If I they are really proud of playing music, they would never say "I'm an artist", but just say "I'm just a musician." Kiyoshiro had never called himself an artist, either. He was just a "great" rock singer, not an artist.

"Slow Ballad" is one of the most favorite songs by Kiyoshiro. I'll introduce a link to a video of him singing this song and translate his lyrics into English.

I'll also put a link to a video UA's (http://goo.gl/9pe8s) version of "Slow Ballad" mourning his death.

Slow Ballad by Kiyoshiro Imawano

Slow Ballad by UA

Last night we slept in a car
holding hands with her
in the parking of the municipal ground
wrapping ourselves in a blanket.

I heard a slow ballad from the car radio.
There was night fog outside of the windows.
I had no bad hunch.
I heard talking in her sleep.
I'm sure I heard it.

I heard a slow ballad from the car radio.
There was night fog outside of the windows.
I had no bad hunch.
We had dreams,
very similar dreams.

Jul 6, 2011

Getting Addicted to the Magic of Mac

Basically I hadn't been particularly concerned about the brand of PC I used. It was enough for me just to be able to use a mailer, a browser, MS-Office and iTunes on PC.

I use a Lenovo desktop PC with Windows XP at my office, just because it's my company's standard PC. I don't especially like Lenovo PC, but I have no complaints about them either. It's just a tool for my work. That's all.

At home, I used to use a home-made PC, for no reason other than it was cheap. Then when I couldn't be bothered putting together another PC for myself, I bought Dell PC again, because it was cheap.

I wasn't particularly enamoured of these either, but nor did I didn't have any complaints about them, either. I was able to check e-mails, view websites and write and upload journals onto my weblog. That was more than enough.

But then the Dell PC started to break down frequently, so I decided to buy a new one. I went to a PC shop and looked around for a PC, but couldn't find the one that I wanted to buy. PCs made by Japanese made PCs were not so simple and had a lot of functions that I would never use. I didn't want to watch TV programs on PC and I didn't need a key to launch a mailer.

I walked around the shop, and I saw an iMac. I hadn't been interested in Macs before, but the iMac looked both cool and simple at that time. So I bought an iMac on impulse, and as a result I pleased with its simplicity.

iMac consists of one body, and I use Wifi, a wireless keyboard and a wireless mouse, so I don't get annoyed by cables anymore. I had no trouble changing over from Windows XP to Mac OS X and I've been able to use a mailer, a browser, MS-Office and iTunes smoothly.

After I began to use iMac, I found myself seduced by the Magic of Mac. The function and performance of an iMac isn't that different from a Windows' PC (at least for me). But I feel good using an iMac. I'm using an Apple Magic Mouse, and it's a great pleasure to stroke it.

In the morning I check e-mails and some websites on my iMac at home, and enjoy the feeling of the mouse. And then I touch the Lenovo's mouse at the office, it feels wrong somehow. Something about it is different from the Apple Magic Mouse. This is the magic of Mac.

Right now I'm using an ordinary cell phone but someday I'll buy a smart phone. I think that an Android smart phone is OK from a functional standpoint. But I'll probably buy an iPhone, because of my growing addiction to the Magic of Mac.

Jul 3, 2011

Is Japan Really a Democratic Country?

Is Japan really a democratic country? The answer is that "yes, it is formally."

We have a democratic constitution, and the Constitution of Japan stipulates that Japanese people elect the House of Representatives and they elect the prime minster. He appoints ministers, and they control their ministries. The will of Japanese people "should" be reflected in the government and its policies through election of the House of Representatives logically.

But in fact public opinion isn't always reflected in the government and its policies. Now Japanese people are seriously criticizing the nuclear policy of the Japanese government, because of the accident of the Fukushima nuclear power plants. But the nuclear policy hasn't been under civilian control, and I'm not sure that Japanese people will be able to control it.

The sub-government, which consists of some politicians, bureaucrats, electrical power companies, nuclear industries and specialists in nuclear power, has been controlling the nuclear policy in Japan, and Japanese people have almost no influence over it. A "Sub-government" is a group, usually consisting of politicians, bureaucrats and special interests, which controls public policy in a particular area in order to pursue their own interests. The "Military-industry complex" in the USA is a typical sub-government. The sub-government of the nuclear industry in Japan is called "the nuclear village".

In Japan there are not only "the nuclear village" but also many sub-governments controlling the policies in their areas, such as the agriculture sector, the construction industry, the postal service and the financial industry. These sub-governments came into being before and during World War II.

In Japan even the prime minister can't completely control these sub-governments, and of course Japanese people can't control them, either. When a sub-government is formed, its goals and policies are usually rational. But once it exsits, it begins to pursue its own special interests and maintaining itself becomes its primary goal. And then it can go against the public interests of the entire nation.

Before and during World War II Japan was a fascist country like German and Italy, but the system of Japanese fascism was quite different from German and Italy. The dictators, Hitler and Mussolini, were ruling their countries and they embodied the national wills. In German and Italy the dictators went entirely wrong way, so the countries went to ruin. On the other hand there was no dictator in Japan and no one unified the national will. The problem was that many sub-governments made chaotic actions by themselves.

The Meiji Constitution of Japan, which was reformed after World War II, stipulates that the Emperor represented the national will formally, but in fact he didn't have any real power. The Prime Minister didn't control the Japanese army, either. At that time, politicians, bureaucrats, Zaibatsu (which was conglomerates in Japanese) and the Japanese army made up many sub-governments and they each went their own way by themselves. Japanese army was independent in the Japanese government, and Japanese army itself was divided into many sects and they were almost chaos.

Germany started invading countries around itself by the will of Hitler, but Japan started invading China on the decision of the unit of the Japanese army stationed in China. The Japanese government tried to stop fighting against China, but they couldn't control the Japanese army and finally got drawn into a protracted war against China.

The war with China completely disrupted the relationship with the US. No Japanese people thought that Japan could win against America while fighting China at the same time, but Japan couldn't unify the will of Japanese nation and they made the Pearl Harbor attack without any expectation of winning the war. In the end US army bombed most Japanese large cities and two nuclear bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and then Japan surrendered United Nations.

After World War II, the US occupation forces dismantled the Japanese army and Zaibatsu and made up more democratic Constitution of Japan. Sub-governments, which had been based on Japanese army, broke up, but the ones, which had been made up by Japanese bureaucrats during World War II, have continued to exist.

And then Japan's economy recovered rapidly. The sub-governments brought special interests to particular industries and companies, but Japanese economy as a whole had been growing, so there were few people, who were frustrated with the injustice of distribution of wealth, because every Japanese people had been getting wealthier more or less.

Since Japanese army was deconstructed, Japan have depended its security completely on US army. Japanese people and government have never taken a decision about their security policy by themselves. During the Cold War, the common enemy of US and Japan was Soviet Union, and it was obvious that our goal was to counter the threat from Soviet Union.

From 1955 to 2000s Liberal Democratic Party had keep their power. LDP don't have their own ideology and goal, but it is an aggregation of representatives of sub-governments and coordinated their interests. There was no opposition party, which could take over from LDP, so we had no alternative to LDP. In fact Japanese people had no chance to control the government and policies through election of the House of Representatives logically.

In 1960s the anti-America student movement got higher, but they couldn't get a wide support from Japanese people. Finally they were beaten by the sub-governments, which wanted to keep their interests.

But in 1990s the bubble economy and Berlin wall was broken down and the period of economic growth and the Cold War ended. The harmful effects of the sub-governments have been getting clear for Japanese people. The sub-government has been criticized seriously, but they have been quite firm and haven't been broken up.

Especially bureaucrats were criticized, because they controlled the sub-government. Some politicians, including the members of LDP, insisted that they should get power from bureaucrats and control the government by themselves (in fact these politicians consisted the part of the sub-government and got interests from them). These politicians tried to make a new political party, which could manage the government and provided an alternative to Japanese people. This is the Democratic Party.

In 2009 the Democratic Party got the power from LDP. They promised major policy change, but they haven't been able to reform the government because of the obstruction of the sub-governments and the internal conflict of the Democratic Party.

Before World War II a two-party system had been formed, but Japanese people lost their trust of these parties, because of the corruption and dispute of them. Finally the two-party system collapsed. This regime change from LDP to the Democratic Party isn't successful now, but I hope that a two-party system will be established in the future.

Now the nuclear policy is criticized seriously, but the Democratic Party doesn't seem to try to deconstruct "the nuclear village". Prime minister Naoto Kan will change the nuclear policy, but Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Banri Kaieda is resisting changing it. Naoto Kan is isolated in the Democratic Party, so I'm not sure that he can deconstruct "the nuclear village".

How about Japanese people? Most Japanese people are against nuclear power, but anti-nuclear movement isn't active now. Why don't they and I fight against "the nuclear village"? In Japan only Okinawa people are seriously fighting against the Japanese government and US army. What are the other Japanese people doing?

If Japan is a democratic country, we should fight them in order to realize our own will. We, Japanese people, don't believe in the ideal of democracy, do we? I'm now deeply skeptical.

Jul 1, 2011

Why I Translated Haruki Murakami's Speech into English

I translated Haruki Murakami's speech for the Catalonia Prize into English.

Kevin, who has tried to support Japan in recovering from this disaster, read my translation, and revised it, and translated it into many other languages.

I got an e-mail message from him to requesting my comment about the reason why I translated this speech.

This is my reply.

Hello Kevin, I'm glad to read your mail.

I don't have enough time and ability to write a long comment, so I'll write a short comment. If it sounds unnatural, please correct it.

Why I Translated Haruki Murakami's Speech into English

I've been a fan of Haruki Murakami for 25 years and watching that he's been transforming a young author into a worldwide author.

Japan's been keeping excess of exports over imports of industrial goods, but we import a lot of foreign culture and export very little Japanese culture. So I'm glad that Haruki Murakami's works have been translated into many foreign languages and he's popular all over the world.

After the earthquake and the accident of the Fukushima nuclear plants, we, Japanese people, think about nuclear power deeply, but I think that it's hard for us to express our thought abroad.

I don't agree with everything in Haruki Murakami's speech, but his speech expressed Japanese people's thought. I hoped that foreign people would read his speech and I thought that they would pay attention to what Haruki Murakami said.

I'm really glad that many people have read his speech and know what Japanese people think of the earthquake and the accident.

Thank you very much, Kevin.