Category Archives: World

Obama's Faulty Plan for Jobs

Whenever elections draw near, I find myself contemplating the legitimacy of all of the candidates; Democrat or Republican, Liberal or Conservative. As sad as it may be, it feels as though no politicians can be fully trusted anymore.

The people who we solely rely on to protect our freedoms can barely be honest with us? Shameful, in my opinion. Continue reading

Entire Town For Sale

When my cousin and I were younger we used to say one day we were going to own a town. We would make it look like a fairy tale castle, have actors dress up and just basically live life like a scene out of a movie. Back then I did not know that people could actually buy a town but for $799,000 you can. Continue reading

Vietnam mail order brides

South Korean Men and Mail Order Brides

One of the benefits of being a consultant is the exposure to many different industries.  To be honest, I get lead feet if I’m forced to stay exclusive to an industry too long.  Nothing is more exciting the jumping down the rabbit hole of a new type of business.  This was eve true when we brought on a client in the mail order bride space. Continue reading

Borders bankruptcy

Borders Books Collapses

Borders Books has created a plan to ask the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to liquidate their remaining 399 stores, as if the economy could use anymore businesses going under. Overall the company hasn’t had the greatest public view, and would probably be better off liquidating their remaining stores anyways. Continue reading

Victoria Beckham and her new Land Rover Range Rover Evoque

Victoria Beckham Gets Technical

As a women in a man’s world, it’s a refreshing change to see a woman’s point of view on design contribute to the auto industry. Victoria Beckham has recently gone from fashion designers to auto designer.  Introducing Land Rover’s Range Rover Evoque. Continue reading

The Differences in American and Japanese Culture and Entertainment

Not only in the company setting but also when entertaining business associates after hours, Japanese take a very different approach from Americans. I first became aware of this issue when I witnessed firsthand how each culture’s failure to understand the other’s cultural practices regarding entertainment can hurt or even break a business relationship:

I had told my Japanese boyfriend, Cyg, that my friend Patrick, another exchange student from the University of California, was very skillful at making websites, and Cyg decided he wanted to recruit him for the Internet business he had just started. He proposed that he, I, and Patrick meet for dinner so that the two of them could get to know each other and talk it over. The venue? A fancy, pricey restaurant in Omotesando. I wasn’t too comfortable with the price, and I warned Cyg that Patrick probably wouldn’t be either. “Why don’t we meet at Ootoya instead?” I suggested, mentioning the name of my favorite casual and reasonably priced Japanese restaurant, to which Cyg scoffed and replied disdainfully that Ootoya was no place for a business meeting. I couldn’t for the life of me imagine why not–you could sit down, eat dinner and have a conversation at almost any restaurant, and therefore there was no way an American college student would agree to pay for such an extravagant dinner just for a preliminary business meeting, but Cyg kept insisting that the setting was of great importance when trying to cultivate a professional relationship. As a result, just as I had predicted, Patrick refused to go to the dinner and lost the job offer, Cyg lost a potentially valuable human resource for his company, and both of them were extremely angry and resentful toward each other for being “uncooperative” and “unreasonable” (and I, of course, was stuck in the middle).

In order to avoid messy situations and misunderstandings like these, it is of the utmost importance that both Japanese and Americans make an effort to understand one another’s cultural differences when planning business get-togethers. For this reason I have chosen the topic of entertainment practices in Japanese business culture, and I will go on to explain in detail the differences between Japanese and American styles of business entertainment in the hopes that readers, whether they be American, Japanese, or of another culture, will be better able to understand the thoughts and cultural ideas behind another country’s seemingly alien customs.

Popular types of Japanese corporate entertainment

Dinner parties

As in the situation above, expensive dinner parties at upscale restaurants, nomiyas and izakayas are commonly held after a long day at work for a Japanese company. These dinner outings may take place at not one, but two or even three different restaurants or nomiyas in one night, often continuing until the last train leaves or even later, requiring everyone to take a taxi home. I have had experience with such dinner parties or “compa” as a member of several clubs and circles at Hitotsubashi; we would go to an izakaya to eat and drink, spend about 3000円 each (and these are the cheap-end izakayas!), then go to another izakaya for 二次会 (second party) to have some more drinks and spend another 1500 or so, and then the people who weren’t yet drunk out of their minds or broke would go to karaoke or another izakaya for 三次会 (third party) to drink and spend some more.

Alcohol is key for business social events. As Diana Rowland puts it, “intoxication is the time, or state, in which a Japanese man can express himself rather freely and with impunity-an opportunity to show his true nature without fear of repercussion” (125-26). In addition to being personally liberating, this creates more of a bond of trust between businessmen because it allows them to see each other’s true feelings and personalities. In fact, if you don’t drink at one of these business dinner parties, “that’s a strike against you” (Japan Guide); your hosts will wonder why you refuse to drink, and you may even be suspected of having something to hide (Rowland 126).


Karaoke, which began at a bar in Kobe in 1970 and has since spread and gained popularity all over the world (Dog & Pony), is probably one of the cheapest and most popular forms of entertainment in Japan-especially when compared to American karaoke places which run about $30 per hour, in Japan you can sing karaoke for much more reasonable prices, averaging around $1.50 per hour during the day and around $6 per hour at night. However, when Japanese businesspeople go out for karaoke, it is a given that they will go at the most expensive time and order plenty of overpriced alcoholic drinks.

Japanese people tend to be on the shy side and don’t normally feel comfortable showing off in front of others, but karaoke is a socially acceptable way to “fulfill the latent desire or urge to gain credit as an individual without jeopardizing the need to be accepted by the whole group” (Dog & Pony). In this way it serves a similar function as drinking for Japanese businessmen.


Another popular venue for socializing are clubs where businessmen can sit and enjoy some of the most expensive drinks in Japan with glamorous women or “hostesses”. These nightclubs can cost as much as $500-1500 per person for just one night, and about 90% of the clubs’ income can be attributed to business-related gatherings (Venture). Often the nightclub is the scene of the 二次会 or 三次会, and on the rare occasion the businessmen’s wives were invited along to dinner, they should excuse themselves and leave after the end of the first party (Rowland 127).

Special events and gift-giving

Japanese businesspeople are also required to give costly gifts to their colleagues and subordinates for things like weddings, funerals, and holidays, as well as a mid-year gift on July 15 and a New Year’s gift on January 1. Gift giving is a $92 billion industry in Japan (Rowland 139) and at the top of the business gift list are prestigious brand name items, fine liquor and gourmet foods (Executive).

In the case of a wedding or funeral, guests generally give gifts in the form of money, taking care to wrap it in a paper envelope because unwrapped money is considered “coarse” (Rowland 145). claims that the usual value of these monetary wedding gifts ranges from $30 to $200, but my boyfriend was recently asked to pay $300 to attend a colleague’s wedding (I, of course, was miffed at being too poor to accompany him), and I’ve heard cases of company managers giving as much as $500 to congratulate a subordinate on his or her marriage. To an American this practice of giving money may seem in poor taste, but the idea is that the money will help the newlyweds to pay for the extravagant wedding ceremony and reception. The happy couple or family of the deceased in turn is obligated to give a return gift of half the value of the gift received (Rowland 140); Cyg came home from that wedding armed with fancy favors which included little individually packaged cakes, flowers, and a catalog of furniture, home appliances and gourmet foods from which we were allowed to choose one item.

Other situations that require gift-giving are if you have traveled somewhere (you must bring back omiyage for all of your coworkers and bosses), if someone in the company is sick, or to congratulate someone (Rowland 143-44). Even lucky golfers must send gifts to the people who witnessed their performance; insurance companies have begun offering “hole-in-one golf insurance” to cover the costly gifts and parties a golfer who has played well must provide (Rowland 140).

How do business entertainment practices differ in America?

In America, where family time is more important and people are more hesitant to spend large amounts of money on a single night of going out, businesspeople (save the very rich) are less likely to choose upscale, pricey entertainment. When my father and his coworkers get together (and this happens very rarely; usually my father is home for dinner by 6 pm) they generally go to a casual-dining restaurant where the most they will spend on dinner and a beer or two is maybe $20 (about 2000円). Entertaining in the home is also common and a great way to save money; such parties usually take the form of a potluck, in which each guest prepares a different dish and brings it to share with everyone. However, in Japan home entertaining is not often feasible because houses are so small (Rowland 129), and it is “a rare honour” to be invited to a colleague’s house for a party (Executive Planet).

Why does expensive entertainment continue to be the norm in Japanese corporate society?

It is true that business-related entertainment spending in Japan has been decreasing slightly in recent years; in 2002 Japanese corporations spent an estimated 3.74 trillion yen on entertainment, 4.4% down from the previous year, and statistics have shown a slow but steady decline (Japan Weekly Monitor), but from a Western point of view the amount of spending on entertainment in Japan still seems outrageous. There are also other problems caused by the importance of business entertainment in addition to the heavy spending; Kaori Shoji acknowledges that not only Westerners but many Japanese as well “profess to hate the ‘tsukiai’ that are part and parcel of any office life and say they would much rather go home early and cultivate friendships outside the kaisha”. If this is indeed true, why do Japanese businesspeople continue to put up with this custom?

The Japanese way of thinking is that “legitimate business entertainment reinforces legitimate business relationships” (Venture). Unlike in America, where more focus is placed on a simple business transaction and instant profitability for both parties, Japanese place more importance on the “human aspects of business”, on making an honest effort to develop long-lasting personal relationships with both the people of their own company and those of the companies they are cooperating with. Creating a foundation of friendship and trust by being a team player is the key to successfully doing business in Japan (Rowland 129); while if you refuse to join the group, you will be “perceived as selfish-something akin to reading a book in a corner at a party” (Rowland 168). Foreign companies who do not know the social protocol in Japan often earn the reputation of “here today, gone tomorrow” for their tendency not to place such importance on business relationships (Rowland 162).

Joy Hendry argues for the expensive social business customs as a demonstration of power; they are “concerned with the extent with which an individual, or a group he belongs to or represents, is able to impress and influence another individual or group” and in this way “‘the world’ may take advantage of specific individuals and groups in the pursuit of apparently corporate goals” (155). Communicaid agrees with this point, adding that the concept of “face” which “forms the basis of an individual’s reputation and social status” contributes to the need for a businessperson to show off by proving he or she can afford extravagant social events.

Another reason for the need for expensive and extravagant entertainment may be the stress brought on by working such long hours every day, an obligation less common in America. Because everyone in the company has “suffered” all day together, it is only natural to want to go out, relax and commiserate with that same group of people. Also, a friend of mine once admitted that since her family situation at home is less than pleasant, she looks forward to “escaping to her job”, and the longer she gets to spend with her coworkers and not with her family, the better.

An additional reason, perhaps becoming less valid in recent years but still worth noting, is that some businessmen are given a certain amount of tax-deductible money each month to fund these nights of socializing, considered important for corporate relationship-building by the government, and they are encouraged to spend the full amount they are given or risk being allotted less the next month (Rowland 189). Previously 100% of business entertainment expenses were tax-deductible, but in 2004 this decreased to slightly over 80% (Venture). Compared to the American policy which designates 50% of business-related entertainment expenses as tax-deductible (UCA), however, the Japanese figure is still large.

Whatever the reason, though, it is essential that Westerners aspiring to do business with Japanese people make an effort to educate themselves and be understanding of the different cultural practices they might encounter, and that Japanese people hoping to make a business deal with Westerners also do their part in being understanding that Westerners may not be accustomed to spending so much on fun nights with coworkers, but it doesn’t mean that they aren’t serious about doing business together. Being sensitive to and respecting cultural differences is key not only in a corporate setting, but in all walks of life for people of different cultures to get along.

Works Cited

“Corporate spending on entertainment down 4.4% in year through January.” Japan Weekly Monitor, Dec. 2003. Accessed 23 July 2005.  <;

“Doing Business in Japan.” Accessed 7 July 2005. <>

“Frequently Asked Tax Questions.” United Citizens of America. Accessed 23 July 2005. <;

Hendry, Joy. Wrapping Culture: Politeness, Presentation and Power in Japan and Other Societies. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995.

“History of Karaoke.” Dog and Pony Sound. Accessed 7 July 2005. <>

“Japanese Business Culture.” Communicaid. Accessed 23 July 2005. <;

“Japanese Business Culture, Etiquette-Prosperous Entertaining.” Executive Planet. Accessed 22 July 2005. <>

”Japanese business expense and entertainment doing business in Japan.” Accessed 7 July 2005. <;

Rowland, D. Japanese Business Etiquette. New York: Warner Books, 1993.

Shoji, Kaori. “Enduring Life in the Japanese Company.” The Japan Times Online, 17 February 2004. Accessed 22 July 2005. <>

“Weddings Today.” Accessed 23 July 2005. <;

Japanese vs. American Courtship or Marriage

Every summer since I was a teenager, my mother has been working part-time as an English teacher in small classes of Japanese exchange students in America.  One of the assignments she always gives them is to write a diary in English, giving them a different topic to write on every day — for example “What surprised you most about American life?”  Invariably, one of the first things most of these students come up with is “I was surprised that my American parents seem so happy together.” “My host parents are so friendly with each other.” “My host parents are madly in love.”

As an assistant teacher I was sometimes given the assignment of checking these student diaries.  It always made me laugh to read such notes.  But it also made me wonder: why would the love or friendship of their host parents stand out so much to these Japanese students, enough to make them acknowledge it as one of the things that surprised them most about America?  Does that mean their own parents’ relationships maybe aren’t so friendly or happy?  Or is it just a matter of different cultural attitudes and goals with regard to relationships?  Reflecting upon these questions, I made the decision to research and compare Japanese and American/Western courtship and marriage relationships.  I have gathered and compiled various data and information from books, the Internet, and from first-hand sources such as interviews with friends and acquaintances or my own personal experiences.

It is a well-known characteristic of Japanese culture that people do not openly display their feelings or emotions toward others; the infamous tatemae that will make any Westerner who has experience with the Japanese culture cringe is proof enough of that.  Tatemae, literally meaning “front”, is defined by Diana Rowland as a “protective front, a kind of public mask that fills social, corporate and political expectations”; honne is “the truth that you feel inside” (49).  Japanese must constantly keep an eye on their behavior when in the presence of others, being careful not to let too much of their true feelings show except with those with whom they are truly comfortable.

Therefore, the tendency of most Japanese couples not to show affection toward one another openly in public or social situations should, of course, come as no real surprise to anyone familiar with Japanese society.  It’s only the fault of the culturally imposed need to hide one’s feelings in public, and doesn’t necessarily indicate whether or not a couple is happy.  What did surprise me, however, was that at home the situation isn’t much different.

I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to stay with several host families since I have been in Japan.  In my experience living with these Japanese families, what struck me was that not only did the husband and wife refrain from hugging, kissing, or saying “I love you” as most American married couples wouldn’t think twice about doing, but often they even went so far as to sleep in separate rooms.

The first host family I stayed with when I first came to Japan last summer seemed happy enough.  Every night I would have dinner at the dining room table with the mother, the father, and the daughter.  The two parents always chatted and acted friendly with each other at times like this, yet they slept in separate bedrooms.

In another family that hosted me in Okayama, the husband and wife also slept in separate rooms—and worse yet, the walls of the husband’s room were decorated with giant posters of scantily clad women!

Another man I interviewed, the head of the Hong Kong branch of a Japanese company, has spent two years living apart from his family (still in Japan) because of his job.  When I asked him if he was lonely living in a different country from his family, he said that on the contrary he was enjoying his single life.  “I come home once every six months, eat dinner, have a drink, and say goodbye,” he said with a shrug.

Sadly, these couples are far from being the exception to the rule in Japan.  USA Today tells the story of Junko Sakai, a 30-something year old woman whose boyfriend requested separate hotel rooms on their “romantic getaway” (Wiseman).  A 31-year-old man who has not had sex with his wife in two years describes his relationship with his wife as “sort of room-mates rather than a married couple”; another woman has been married to her husband for 15 years and they are still childless because they have not had sex once (Guardian).  In fact, in a survey among 28 countries, Japan ranked dead last in frequency of sex: the average Japanese has sex only 36 times a year, as opposed to Americans, ranking first at 124 times a year (Wiseman).  This trend, if it continues, will be potentially harmful to Japanese society as fewer and fewer children are being born to perpetuate the population—as a result of both the declining marriage rate and the infrequency of sex, the average family in Japan has only 1.32 children, not even enough to compensate for deaths.  This means that not enough working people will be around to support present generations when they are old and unable to work (Wiseman).

But why, an American like myself might wonder after hearing such surprising stories, do Japanese couples get married if they don’t seem to be happy together?  And if they aren’t happy, what explains the comparably low divorce rate (only 30% of Japanese marriages end in divorce, as opposed to roughly 50% of American marriages, according to Associated Press)?

It is a common annoyance of anyone studying a foreign language when he or she comes across a word or phrase that simply does not translate directly into his or her own language.  When translating from Japanese to English, the usual culprits are words like “懐かしい” and “切ない”.  But there seems to be a cultural connection behind such words: most words and phrases in this category describe feelings, and the feelings felt by people of one culture may be different from those felt by people of another culture.  One phrase I would like to point out for the sake of this paper is the Japanese phrase “しょうがない”, meaning something like “it can’t be helped”.  To me, however, and to others who speak both English and Japanese, this English translation is insufficient to convey the full meaning of the Japanese phrase.  In fact, it is not a phrase Americans would often have the need to say, and not one I often uttered myself before I learned to speak Japanese, though I say it rather frequently now as almost every Japanese I know does.  Since I came to Japan last summer I cannot deny the natural fact that I have been influenced by Japanese culture and ways of thinking, and it became even more apparent when my mother, Japanese by blood but born and raised in Hawaii, came to visit me last month.  Every time I said that something was “しょうがない”, she would chastise me, saying “Of course it can be helped!  You’re just being lazy, saying that and not looking for a way to do something about it!”

As soon as I was old enough to show an interest in boys, my mother began to drill it into my mind that Japanese men were undesirable as husbands.  “They are too self-centered, they all think they’re the emperor, and they won’t show you any respect—why do you think I married a haole (Hawaiian for Caucasian)?” she would say.  I always took her warnings with a grain of salt; what did she know about all Japanese men?  She had never even been to Japan, and I refused to generalize and make assumptions about a whole nation’s people (and besides, Japanese guys were cute).  Unfortunately, when I came to Japan and met actual Japanese men, I was crushed to find that her accusations were right on the mark more often than not.

There are several possible reasons why Japanese men might not be seen as the ideal husband from an American perspective.  First, they are often too obsessed with their jobs to have time or energy for a relationship with their wives.  “The men love their companies; they live for work,” observes Kim Myong-gan, the owner of the legalized male prostitution clinic in Tokyo (Guardian).  Diana Rowland comments on Japanese businessmen’s social obligation to spend lots of time drinking and partying together after work, asserting that a Japanese company “seems like a social club as well as a business enterprise” (159).  Considering this, as well as the fact that many of these “business outings” involve nightclubs where underdressed hostesses are paid to serve drinks to the men and flirt with them, it is easy to understand that Japanese businessmen might not have much time or even desire left for relationships with their wives or girlfriends.

Secondly, from the day they are born Japanese boys are so doted on by their mothers that when they grow into Japanese men, the need for this motherly affection and constant attention doesn’t change.  Consequently, when they get married and move out, they begin to see their wives as their “new mothers,” and therefore do not think so much in terms of sexual attraction.  In fact, a line used by some Japanese men when proposing marriage is “I want you to cook miso soup for me for the rest of my life” (Wiseman).  Not exactly romantic to the American ear.  63-year-old housewife Yasuko Seino complains that “When my husband was late for work, I even had to put his socks on for him” (Sakurai).  Explaining the need for his male prostitution clinic’s services, Kim Myong-gan puts it bluntly: “Men tend to see their wives as substitute mothers, not as women with emotional and sexual needs” (Guardian).

But is it really only the men’s fault?  Women also play a part by being submissive and letting them get away with it.  When I went with the wife of the family in Okayama into the husband’s room to watch TV, I noticed that she paid absolutely no attention to the Playboy posters gawking at us from the walls.  Did she know he kept these?  Didn’t they bother her? I asked.  Yes, they did, she admitted, but there was nothing she could do about it.  Just a しょうがない situation, and she was satisfied to leave it at that.

The low divorce rate in Japan (though on the rise in recent years as Japanese society is becoming increasingly more Westernized) may be explained in part by the fact that this ability (or should I say preference?) to “cope” or put up with unpleasant situations or personal hardships is traditionally viewed as an admirable quality not only by Japanese society but by many other Asian societies as well.  Associated Press acknowledges 我慢—“gritting it out”—as one of Japan’s most cherished values and a probable reason why many women, even when dissatisfied with their marriage, hesitate to get a divorce.

As for why couples choose to get married in the first place, in many cases it is due to the traditional roles of men and women in Japanese society.  It seems a woman needs a man to provide for her so that she doesn’t have to go to work, and a man needs a woman to look after him when his mother is too old to do so.  This may also explain the comparatively low divorce rate in Japan; if a housewife is unhappy in her marriage, she may be reluctant to seek divorce because her husband, though perhaps inattentive, does serve as her only source of financial stability; whereas in America if a woman isn’t happy with her situation, she has her own skills, her own job, and the freedom to get out without being rendered helpless.  Unfortunately, a single mother in Japan has fewer career choices than she would in America, and even working more than one job earns only 2.12 million yen per year—a mere 36% of what the average Japanese family makes (Wiseman).

But is the lack of outward affection and sexuality so prevalent in Japanese marriages really an indication of an overall unhealthy relationship?  Is the presence or absence of romance and sexuality the only marker of whether or not a relationship can be considered “happy”, or are such things simply characteristics of the ideal marriage as defined by a Western mind?  Ruth Benedict suggests that unlike in America, in Japan the relationship between a husband and wife is separate from erotic pleasure because the first is a public social obligation and the second is merely one’s private business.  Likewise, while “being in love” is the usual reason for an American man and woman to get married, the Japanese do not tend to picture love and marriage as one and the same (184).  Kim Myong-gan insists that his customers “love their husbands and aren’t looking for a divorce”; it is just that they come to his clinic looking to fulfill the needs that their husbands cannot and that they (the women) do not expect them to (Guardian).

When asked what the happiest part of marriage is for them, most people I interviewed responded things like “being able to say whatever we want to say to each other,” “being part of a family,” and “being able to live a normal life.”  One woman felt that the best part about being married is how well a husband and wife understand one another, sometimes without even having to speak.  Especially after a couple has been together for many years, the husband may say simply “あれ取って” (get me that!) and the wife, without even having to inquire as to what “that” is, will automatically understand what he is talking about and get it for him.  It might be hard for most Westerners to believe such a thing as evidence of a happy relationship, but I could understand after considering it a bit.  From her explanation, it seems that the happiest part of a marital relationship from the Japanese point of view is the husband and wife’s ability and willingness to take care of each other; the husband by providing for his wife financially and the wife by attending to him when he is tired and allowing him to feel as relaxed and at ease as possible after a long, hard day at work.

My boyfriend of eight months is Japanese with, for the most part, the mind of an American.  He speaks perfect English and prefers it to speaking Japanese, he’s individualistic and ambitious to the point that his Japanese coworkers resent him, and he’s certainly not afraid to tell me “I love you”, hold hands or kiss me in public.  But when he wakes up in the morning, he suddenly reverts back to his Japanese side: the first thing he says is “Get me my socks!”  And even if it’s before seven in the morning, and even though he could get them just fine by himself, I always get up and get them for him.  And it’s not that I would ever want to give up the romantic aspects of our relationship, but I must admit that it also makes me happy to be able to take care of the one I love, and it makes me feel closer to him to do so.  My American friends would laugh if I told them that, but maybe it’s just the Japanese in me.

Works Cited

Benedict, Ruth. The Chrysanthemum and the Sword. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1946.

“Japan’s virgin wives turn to sex volunteers.” Guardian Unlimited: Special Reports, 4 Apr 2005. Accessed 6 July 2005. <,7369,1451704,00.html>

“The Modest but Proud Japanese.” Accessed 23 Jan 2003. <>

Sakurai, Joji. “Divorce Rate for Japan’s Elderly Couples is Growing.” Associated Press, 19 March 2000. Accessed 31 July 2005. <;

Rowland, Diana. Japanese Business Etiquette. New York: Warner Books, 1993.

“Wedding Customs.” UptownCity. Accessed 7 July 2005. <>