Nemawashi – 根回し

Nemawashi is a very important concept you need to know if you want to understand how Japanese companies work. The way decisions are made, the way changes in the system are introduced in Japanese companies follow the Nemawashi process. In the old times Nemawashi 根回し was a word used by farmers when they had to transplant a tree: 根->root, 回->round; the literal meaning would be “to go around the roots, that means to dig around the roots of the tree we want to transplant. Let’s see the meaning of Nemawashi – 根回し used nowadays.

Let’s suppose a Sony employee has a great idea, he decides that it could be cool to eliminate the Sony Timer from a certain new device. The procedure in a European/American company would be to just make the proposal in front of everybody when having a meeting with the bosses. In Japan is more complicated, you can’t be so direct, because you could destroy the harmony. Before making the formal proposal you have to make sure that everyone agrees, this process where you ask for everyones opinion is called nemawashi (You could translated as “prior consultation”). I sounds stupid, but the advantages are multiple: if your nemawashi succeeds then your proposal will be accepted for sure, if there is some people who don’t like your proposal you can improve it adding/modifying stuff until everyone is happy, if your idea is “bad” it will be destroyed before the big bosses know; the nemasashi process implicitly deletes proposals that don’t have many success possibilities.

The Sony employee would consult all his department people, once he is sure his proposal is ok with everyone he will talk with the department boss/es . His boss would proceed one more time to do nemawashi, but at a different level, this time he would all the bosses from the same division, once all the bosses agree… If nemawashi succeeds it would continue until the big guys know about it (If it’s a big decision, or to the convenient level if it’s not so important). As I said before, you can see with this example that if nemawashi fails, the idea won’t flow to the top of the pyramid, but if everyone agrees it will continue moving and improving the original idea.

Once the process of nemawashi is completed, the department where everything started has the permission to make a formal proposal, and then start implementing the new idea/process/product/business. Nemawashi helps to keep the group harmony and kills discrepancies, both very important for Japanese people. Everyone have to agree.

But what the hell, this is slow! very very slow! Japanese companies are famous because they do things slow and patiently. It’s very difficult for them to make decisions, they usually make very little changes and everyone have to agree, many times even for insignificant things. For example, if I would want to change the font size from Technorati.jp‘s top page (Where I’m working right now) and I suggest it in a casual way they would look at me with a suspicious face and ask me “Who decided that change?”. I would answer joking/laughing “I decided”, and they would look at me laughing and thinking “What the hell is this foreigner guy telling us, he has no idea how nemawashi works”. I learned to do some nemawashi, asking everyone, then talk with my boss who would talk with the bosses above him… and if everything was ok the we would start thinking about changing our top page. All the process lasts some weeks, and even months, the good part is that we have usually scheduled everything almost six months in advance. If you don’t want to die before you finish a project in a Japanese company, the trick is to start nemawashi as soon as possible, that means you start showing your cards some months before you need to start playing.

Thanks to nemawashi, Japanese companies don’t usually commit mistakes, they always improve step by step, always going forward and makinb their processes near to perfect (This process of continuous improving is called “Kaizen”). For example, one company that has applied nemawashi and kaizen effectively during the last 50 years is Toyota, in 2006 they earned five times more money than the sum of all their 8 worldwide nearest competitors.

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Sony timer

El “Sony timer” is a Japanese urban legend. The urban legend states that all Sony products are equipped with an internal device called “Sony Timer”, this device controls how long your gadgets is gonna work without breaking. Sony prepares the “Sony timer” so it will be activated just after the warranty expires. This way, you will buy a new, and “better” Sony product. There are people who even thinks that the Sony timer can be remote controlled so the Sony people can deactivate your new Walkman whenever they want. Playstations don’t have “Sony timer” because they need to sell games.

This urban legend surged in Japan just after the 90s ended, a decade where Sony launched lots of imperfect products, that failed, that broke and so on. People got fed up and the legend if you search with google there are more than half a million results. Sony has a very bad reputation in Japan, and it seems this bad reputation is spreading all around the world.


I’m sure the people who “invented” the Sony timer urban legend were very proud when Sony powered laptops started to explode :). Picture from Softpedia


A joke from the manga “Azumanga Daioh” inspired by the Sony Timer. Right says: “Believe in Sony!”, Left says: “Don’t believe in Sony…” . Picture from Gen Kanai

More reading at Dannychoo’s article about the Sony timer.

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6 months writing in English

It’s been six months since I started translating posts from my Spanish blog into English. Good things are: I improved my English and started to know the English blog community in Japan, that means meeting new people and making new friends. Bad things: it is very boring to translate something you have already written.

This English version had 255.209 pageviews in six months, not bad, but ridiculous compared with the Spanish version that has now more than 11 millions pvs. I translated 133 posts, the most commented post is this one, you guys made 498 comments, that’s more than two comments per day. The visitors who made more comments were: Sheerblade, Jamaipanese and Brad.

Thanks a lot to all the people who made comments or participated in this blog’s conversation from their own blogs.

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Yurikamome

Yurikamome line is one of my favorite railways in Japan. Is one of the main connections between Tokyo and Odaiba island. Is not really a train, neither a monorail… it works somehow using wheels and traveling on top of an elevated concrete structure. It doesn’t need a driver, everything is controlled by computers. Not having a driver means that you can sit down in the first wagon and enjoy incredible views as if you were controlling the train. I really enjoy Yurikamome line, I feel like I’m in Gotham or New Port


Views from the first wagon.

If you want to give it a try, go to Shinbashi station using Yamanote line and then change to Yurikamome line until Odaiba.

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Tokyo pyramid

This weekend I watched a Discovery Channel(from youtube) documentary about a huge pyramid that could be built in Tokyo. The pyramid would have the same volume as 55 Gizeh pyramids, and 750.000 people could live inside the structure. It’s an idea from Shimizu corporation that could solve some of the overpopulation we are suffering at Tokyo. It’s an utopia, but still I enjoy imagining the future.

In the first video you can see images from nowadays Tokyo and the place where the pyramid could be placed. Just next next to Odaiba.

In the second part they explain is more in detail some problems that occur when building pyramidal shaped buildings and how those problems could be solved using nanotubes.

Next video shows how robots could play a central role when building such a huge structure. It also introduces as in auto-constructing technologies, buildings that build themselves.

Fourth part finishes explaining self-constructing buildings and continues with transport systems inside the pyramid.They show real images from Yurikamome line, a train that is working without a human driver since some years ago in Tokyo.

While watching the last part we learn how the energy problem could be solved and how the pyramid would be safe against earthquakes and tsunamis.

CaRPe DieM sent me the videos, thx!

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Water bar

Last weekend I saw for the first time in my life a water bar, a place where the only thing you can order is water! Here are some pictures:

water ogo agua baragua omotesandohills omotesando oxigenwater oxigen

You can choose two types of water, the “red” one and the “blue” one. The Matrix?

water ogo agua baragua omotesandohills omotesando oxigenwater oxigen

water ogo agua baragua omotesandohills omotesando oxigenwater oxigen

water ogo agua baragua omotesandohills omotesando oxigenwater oxigen

water ogo agua baragua omotesandohills omotesando oxigenwater oxigen

It seems to be a company called Ogolife. Their business model is based on selling “water with lots of oxygen”. WTF! As they explain in their website, the water they offer us has 200mg of oxigen for each liter, 35 times more than normal water. They are trying to sell it as “good” for your health, but I don’t really understand why water with lots of oxigen is better than normal water. It seems stuff with oxygen is trendy nowadays, will we have vegetables with extra oxygen? oxygenated meat? oxygenated wine?

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Tokyo size compared with Madrid and Barcelona

I usually try to explain how big Greater Tokyo area is to people who has never been here, but is not easy. It’s so huge that is difficult to imagine. You can travel by train from Kanagawa to Chiba crossing Tokyo’s downtown seeing only buildings/houses during more than two hours, kind of claustrophobic sometimes.

But the best way to compare sizes is to use Google maps. Next you can see a map matching more or less Tokyo’s area (Tokyo/Yokohama/Chiba/Saitama), Madrid’s area (From Alcobendas to Getafe), and Barcelona’s area. The two biggest cities in Spain compared with the biggest in Japan.


Map made by Locura Japón as a present for Kirainet.com

Pretty impressive right? 5 million people are living in Madrid’s area, 2 million in Barcelona’s area and around 35 million in Tokyo’s area. When I go outside of Tokyo everything seems little and easy to me, for example I remember thinking that Hong Kong is a little city when I went there for holidays. Another example: Manhattan has the same size as Tokyo’s Setagaya-ku district.

Japanese cities are generally very wide because people likes to live in houses, not buildings. In Spain and other European countries everyone lives in buildings, so cities seem little. In the US there is a mix between the house and the building model, but they have lots of space. In Kanto’s area (The area where Tokyo is) there is no space left, you can see houses and buildings from the sea until the mountains, every single space is used. I’ve even seen 10 square meter rice fields at Tokyo’s north area, they use every single square meter for whatever they can.

Fortunately here in Japan, we have the best railway system in the world.

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Maya Koizumi – 小泉麻耶

Maya Koizumi
Maya Koizumi posing for me ^^. Original resolution version.

Yes!, I took that picture ^^. Dannychoo(The Darth Vader guy) invited me to go with him to an Idol DVD release event. I had no idea where I was going, well… yes I did know I could take Japanese idol pictures like the ones I’m used to see at Danny’s Japanese Idol section, I was expecting to be able to take something like this.

It was my first time, it was a really weird/interesting/otaku/freak experience. Can you imagine a room filled with 100 Japanese guys (in their forties) with huge cameras and with a wide smile taking pictures to a 18 years old girl dressed with a bikini in the center of Tokyo? That’s it! I felt like… well, no comment.

Maya Koizumi
Original resolution version

In order to be able to take pictures you had to buy the lastest DVD from Maya Koizumi (小泉麻耶). A 18 years old gravure model, her blood type is A and is not yet very famous but seems to have potential (88cm 😉 ). If you want to know more about her, or become his fan she has a blog.

maya koizumi mayakoizumi japaneseidol idol sexy kawai girl japanesegirl kirainet beautiful cute
These are all Maya Koizumi DVDs. It’s her last DVD recorded in Guam island.

We bought the DVD, and got a random number that would determine our position in the room. I got number 24, not bad. But Danny got number 10, he had better views than me. Once we enter the room and sit down in our places we can’t take pictures, we just listen to Maya Koizumi talking about what food she likes, what is she going to do this summer, which mobile phone does she have and so on. After 30 mins of blahblahblah she changes her dress and comes back in bikini. Then is when we can start taking pictures… but wait! there are some rules, we are in Japan where everything is controlled by rules, rules and more rules. The rules are: groups of 10 people and each group has 60 seconds to take photos. The pictures you can see in this entry are the best ones I managed to take in 60 seconds. Danny Choo had 60 more seconds, check Danny’s perspective, and how Maya Koizumi looks like taken with a digital reflex camera.

Here are some more pictures I took.

maya koizumi mayakoizumi japaneseidol idol sexy kawai girl japanesegirl kirainet beautiful cute

maya koizumi mayakoizumi japaneseidol idol sexy kawai girl japanesegirl kirainet beautiful cute

maya koizumi mayakoizumi japaneseidol idol sexy kawai girl japanesegirl kirainet beautiful cute

maya koizumi mayakoizumi japaneseidol idol sexy kawai girl japanesegirl kirainet beautiful cute

After our glorious 60 seconds we got a handshake with her and a signed DVD cover. This is my signed DVD:

maya koizumi mayakoizumi japaneseidol idol sexy kawai girl japanesegirl kirainet beautiful cute

If you liked her you can continue watching this video I found at Otakuvids:

Related links:

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