As I wrote in a previous post, foreign cultures often retain their original name, like lee-daa-shippu in Japanese. Some Japanese words, besides honcho (originally hancho), are used in English and in some other languages. One of the example is kaizen. It originally means (and in Japan we only mean) “improvement” in general. But in the manufacturing industry, it means activities to improve manufacturing processes. It sounds like “improvement” to me, and I have wondered why it is called kaizen. I have not done any research on it, but now I have got a hypothesis through my current non-design, non-creative job, which is interpretation at a plant.

When designers and engineers design consumer products, they strive to improve the products to meet and exceed users’ expectations, which include both functionality and usability. On the other hand, as I observed and wrote in an old post, engineers and technicians in a plant are “users” of the facilities in the plant, but those machines are typically not user friendly; once they are designed, they remain as they are originally designed as long as they function as expected. As I mentioned above, I have not done any research in kaizen, and now I only guess. Having said that, I guess, if engineers see factory workers as “users”, they strive to improve facilities, which is so unusual that people want to name it differently from other activities, and named it kaizen. This is only a guess, and probably not true, but makes sense to me. For technology-oriented, non-creative engineers, this must be a paradigm shift which is difficult to accept, but it should happen to make “user” friendly work environment for factory workers. But I know changing customs is not easy especially for conservative people. They need to be more creative to make changes.

By the way, do you know why hyperlinks are blue by default? According to this internet article, “Why is facebook blue?“, it is because of a very early web browser: Mosaic, which was designed for academic use. The background color of Mosaic was gray, and blue was the only color available at that time to make hyperlinks outstanding and still readable. Today, of course, this is not always the case; hyperlink color can be changed easily by adding a few lines in CSS. When creative people design a web site and make it user friendly, changing customs is not a big deal. (By the way, this is only a trivial topic in the internet article, and it includes more interesting tips on colors on web sites.)

I’ve been away from creative job for a long time. Working with conservative, non-creative people often depresses me, but it is also good to observe how they behave, or how they stick to their old customs. It gives me ideas of how we, creative people should make changes.

May 28, 2013Permalink

Different perspectives

I went to Niagara Falls on day 1 of this long weekend. It was my fourth time to visit there: twice in winter, and twice in summer. Whenever I visit there, I feel the same, and find something new.

Niagara Falls, different perspectives

For different reasons, I have never had enough time to stay there as much as I want. For the first and second times, I used bus and my schedule depended on the bus schedule. For the third and this time, I drove and was free from bus schedule, but rushed by someone else. Last time, I was rushed by a workaholic as I wrote in a previous post. This time, I was rushed by a person who visited Niagara Falls for the second time. I don’t know why he did not enjoy it, but perhaps, unlike me, he did not find anything new. For me, it’s not all about a huge amount of water falling in an amazing way; I feel the air, scenery of the season, people of the time, and anything around me. I’ve never had enough time to feel everything. But I understand that people have different perspectives.

What do I always feel the same? The photo above is probably one of the typical views of Niagara Falls. It is, of course, fantastically great. No doubt. Having said that, I prefer the view in the photo below. It may not be as awesomely impressive as the one above. I should mention that neither of the photos here are good enough at all to show how tremendously amazing the falls are. One of the reasons is the quality of my photos, which is rather a minor reason. In fact, it’s not all about the view; it’s a combination of the view, sound, mist (like storm), and atmosphere. I love the view below partially because it is the closest view of Horseshoe Falls. Furthermore, from there, I can see the enormous vastness of the upper stream, a thick layer of water sliding over a long sharp edge of rocks, and the transition between the static flow of huge amount of water and the dynamic, beautifully stunning water falls. To make a very long story short, it’s the power of Nature.

Niagara Falls, different perspectives, what I always feel

As different people have different perspectives, everyone has different perspectives at different times depending on what they have, what they value, and what they suffer from. I want to retain this sensibility no matter what happens to me.

May 20, 2013Permalink

This is what I am aiming at, but…

As I wrote more than a few months ago, being a rolling stone is tough. I like trying new things, but what I want now is a “normal” life where I need to do one thing. But, against my will, this online article, Steve Jobs, Nate Silver, and Pablo Picasso: Why the Most Creative People are Generalists, encourages me. To make a long story short, according to this article, having many experiences makes you more creative. As I wrote in my LinkedIn profile, I call myself “interdisciplinary person”; I have three degrees, have education and work experience in multiple fields in four countries. I see one thing from different perspectives. However, apparently, this does not help me get a creative job.

Now I have a temporary full-time job which will end soon, and have been looking for a new job. But I have not got any good news yet. I often wonder; was my decision right or wrong? I believed, and sill kind of believe but not really sure, that having many experiences would make me more creative and adaptable. But it only works if it leads me to a creative job which I can live on.

For now, let’s assume it is still too early to make a conclusion, and keep looking for a job, whether it is creative or not.

May 17, 2013Permalink

Culture, spirit, and humanity

Some parents are often blamed for their misleading. For example, when their child does something annoying to other people in public and someone, a stranger, scolds the child, they say “stop it, otherwise that old guy gets angry with you”. But they are expected to say “stop it, you are annoying everyone”.

Now I work between Japanese engineers and Canadian workers. In Japan, employees are generally slaves. When I worked for a big company in Japan, the union did not function; they conveyed managers’ decisions to workers on behalf of the managers. Believe or not, there was a systematic and non-illegal way to make employees vote union executives who were obedient to managers. I worked in an insane work environment, but nobody helped me. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon in Japan. On the other hand, in Canada, there are practical regulations to protect workers, which confuse those Japanese engineers who I work with. When they try to do something in a “Japanese” way, they are often prevented to do it. When it happens, they say “we cannot do it because the union does not allow us to do it”, while they are expected to say “we should not do it because we should protect the workers”. Should they be blamed?

During the war (in Japan, “the war” means WWII), soldiers were taught that surrendering was a shame and worse than death. Because they were told so, some Japanese soldiers treated captives brutally, which violated the international law. After the war ended, those Japanese soldiers went on trial, and got to know that what they had done was illegal. But it was too late; some of those soldiers were executed. Who should have been blamed? I do not have a single answer. It might be the executives who taught soldiers in that way, or might be the culture that cultivated that extreme spirit. In either case, any tragedy like that should be avoided at any level. I mean, at any level.

Now, what can I do?

May 10, 2013Permalink


When a foreign culture is imported, people often use its original name. For example, “honcho” is an English word, and it originated in Japanese: hancho. Being or behaving like a honcho is a Japanese culture. I lived in a small developing country called the Kingdom of Tonga. If I remember correctly, “responsibility” in Tongan language is “responisipiliti”. It’s a foreign culture in Tonga; if I understand correctly, people do not have to take responsibility in traditional Tongan life. When I heard of it, I thought “oh, Tongan…” But I should not blame them. In Japanese, leadership is “lee-daa-shippu”. It’s a foreign culture in Japan.

Now I work with Japanese workers who came to Canada to provide training to Canadian workers. But some of them are not good trainers, and those Canadian workers are often confused (and I seem the one who they can complain to). Who should be blamed? I don’t think those Japanese workers should be blamed because they have not been trained as a trainer; they have been trained as and have worked as workers. By the way, they are nice people and Canadian workers seem to like their personality. Someone, a manager, assigned them to come to Canada to provide training. Should he be blamed? No, not really. If I understand correctly, a manager in Japan is a honcho, and he/she does not have to “lead” his/her subordinates into doing their assigned job. After all, who should be blamed? I don’t know. Japan has developed technologies in many fields and they can compete internationally, but the speed of technology development is faster than the speed of cultural development.

I can think of two options now. One is to further develop Japanese culture so that they can be culturally competitive internationally. The other option is to retain the current level of Japanese culture and find areas where we can be competitive internationally as we are. Why do I distinguish between “they” and “we”? The answer is obvious.


Ramen is one of the most popular food in Japan. The origin of ramen is Chinese soup noodle, and Japanese people have modified it in a couple of hundred years and created new Japanese food. When I visited Taiwan and Hong Kong, I found that ramen is recognized as Japanese food. There are many ramen shops in Canada, but they are usually inauthentic; most of them are ran by Koreans or Chinese. There is a wide variety of ramen in Japan, but Canadian inauthentic ramen are clearly different from any of Japanese ramen. Let me put in this way. Some authentic ramen are as different as German shepherd and bulldog, but they are still dogs. On the other hand, Canadian inauthentic ramen is like prairie dog.

Recently a friend of mine in Vancouver posted some food photos on facebook. At a glance, I could tell they were Japanese food though they were not “traditional” Japanese food. If traditional Japanese food is Siamese cat, the food in the photos are like Persian cat, which is clearly different from typical Canadian style Japanese food that looks like meerkat. I even don’t know how I distinguish between German shepherd and prairie dog, or Siamese cat and meerkat (please do not take it literally. I’m not that much damn), but the difference is obvious for me. By the way, a day after posting photos of Japanese food, she posted photos of what looks like Chinese food to me, but I could not tell if it was authentic Chinese food or not.

I think this is all about authenticity; if you know it, you can tell, but you cannot tell how you can tell.

Where do humans go?

When I lived in Calgary to study industrial design, I rented a basement room. The landlord and his family are nice, I had good housemates, and enjoyed living there. But I did not have enough sunlight in the basement room. For this reason, I preferred spending day time at school; the industrial design studio was filled with sunlight.

Now I work night shift. Working night shift is not bad because I have more private time under the sun. But, in last couple of days, I spent nine hours straight in each day alone in a small room without window for a reason that I don’t want to describe here. I strongly believe that humans have not evolved to adapt to this environment. A few months ago, I wrote about human evolution and technology development, without imagining I would experience this. This in an exceptional situation and does not last long, but I’m sure there are similar or even worse situations in many other workplaces to retain today’s technology and to further improve it. People have developed technologies for better quality of life, and there are undesirable situations as a consequence. Now, where do humans go? What do we sacrifice for the better quality of life?

One good thing to experience something like this is that I can imagine other people’s pain. If someone complains about bad work environment, I will listen. In the future, I may work in a position to affect how other people work. If it happens, I will imagine what they feel at work, and listen to them.