Japanese Startups

I happened to run into the conversation about Japanese startups on Hacker News and on the BBC. A few stream of thought notes.

  • While it is great to see South Korea has come a long way, it has hardly “overtaken” Japan. If anything, the work environment is /worse/, especially when it comes to supervisors, work environment, family environment, etc…
  • I didn’t have to deal with hyper-critical fellow employees, but maybe it is a people skills problem.  We all know brilliant people who have difficulty expressing themselves appropriately..
  • Not very convinced by the foreigner opinion.
  • I dislike Sony for many reasons. However, they seem to be much better than Toshiba and the other mobile providers. The new Experia Z seems pretty cool.
  • Why is it that Japanese people featured in these kinds of articles seem to couch their criticism in broad language (in English), yet the same sorts of people give very nuanced and detailed critiques in Japanese? I am not accusing them of being two-faced, but I wonder if there are culturo-linguistic barriers? I do notice there are things I freely say in Japanese that I would never say in English and vice-versa, maybe the lack of an emotional resonance? (I do think some English-language criticisms of Japan are hampered by broad generalizations)
  • The lack of trust of younger Japanese is really poisonous and I have felt it before. This bullshit about the “Yutori Sedai” makes for good jokes, but it seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Tokyo Electric and how monopolies distort morality

In my bag, I have a bill from Tokyo Electric. It’s relatively cheap, only 6000 yen. Relatively cheap because last year I spent about 12,000 yen or more on it. Until March, I always paid on-time and without complaint. Yes, electricity costs more in Japan, but it is a country without natural resources and Toden has to supply power to a heavily populated area. Then why am I having problems this time?

Do you really have to ask? Among other things:

60 Page application for reparations to already-impoverished Fukushima residents
Regulatory Capture
Radiation information hidden from the J-Govt

Due to Tokyo Electric’s monopoly, I cannot repudiate this behavior, even though it runs contrary to everything I believe in. After all, how am I supposed to boycott electricity?

If you really think about it, a Tokyoite is in a situation where relatively incompetent and opaque company officials are rapidly creating opportunities for new black swan-type events every day. How morally responsible am I for these every time I use electricity? Would it really make any difference if I switched to low power, more energy-efficient devices?

I’m about to give money to a corrupt organization with a powerful media lobby and has some pretty strong pull with law makers and law enforcement. It is actively opposing my interests (if nothing else, my interests in having a law-abiding society that has some elements of a meritocracy).

Somehow this is the “right thing”.

50 yen dollar? Ouch.

I’ve been staring at a sign in the train that declares it the era of “50 yen to the dollar”. Exaggeration for sure but wow anyway. Has it really been so long since I got here? (120 yen to the dollar). I used to ask to be paid in USD; I’d consider it a huge detriment if it were to happen now. Thanks Presidents Bush and Obama – my parents no longer think I’m an idiot for coming here.

The yen appreciating further is certainly a terrifying prospect to companies that already effectively pay less than minimum wage to their hakken employees in high value industries (IT, Automobiles, etc…). There are no obvious places for one to cut costs there; one could only raise prices (or lower quality). When Japan Inc. does decides to significantly raise prices for exports, how much of a premium could she demand on the basis of her name alone? Particularly when Korea is snipping at her tail? (The joke in Japan used to go that South Korea was “Close but far”, but that era is long over)

I keep hearing the gov’t threaten to intervene, but how? The Swiss may be able to credible threaten to print money to buy dollars, but the Japanese gov’t can’t inflate its way out of its hole; after all, what are they going to say to seniors who can’t afford their groceries anymore? Besides, it’s not as if the Chinese have that many other alternative locations to park their earnings.

I can afford to be a little offhanded about the whole thing because my clients earn yen but report their earnings in dollars; I shudder to think about what is happening to those in the contrary position. (Then again, considering how much exporters have been coddled in this country, I can’t really feel too much pity for them).

Party Time

I invited sone friends and have been getting ready.

I make no excuses for being boring.



What I don’t get about Tokyo.

Your need food, shelter and clothing.
You need money to get your needs.
Young people come to Tokyo for more money.
They cost 2-3x normal in Tokyo, hence you wind up working more.

I don’t get how this works. You’d think people would want to get out, but it doesn’t seem to happen. I do understand that SOME people enjoy their work, but my experience is that most people are tolerating their work.

I do know some people who live in dorms for about 40k yen; you can probably make it happen when you are single, but I can’t see you making a lifestyle out of it.