Monday, February 28, 2011

Giant Robo (ジャイアントロボ) and the Romanticist Japanese

Yesterday, I wrote about the world's first robot marathon that was held by Japan. See that article and some very funny videos here.

Japan has always had a certain flair for robots (be they real, giant or otherwise) and when I was a kid growing up in America, we always thought it was strange. Even though my mom was Japanese, us kids living in the Midwest USA thought these Japanese cartoons and TV shows were not cool.

How little did we realize that this 60's Japanese Kitsch was extremely cool.... The ones who weren't cool were us dorky kids who wouldn't recognize cool if it came up and slapped us in the face!

When a good friend and regular reader sent in a Youtube video link to Giant Robo for me after reading that article about the robot marathon, I clicked on it and watched. "Ah!" I thought, "I remember this TV show! His finger is a rocket!"

A few seconds later, when the theme song to Giant Robo came through the computer speakers, my wife heard it and ran over like an excited little girl and exclaimed, "I loved this TV show! When it ended, I cried and cried!" (She almost started to cry too!)

When my wife said that to me, tears came to my eyes! She reminded me of my mother; and, her emotions remind me, once again, just how romanticist and delicate the Japanese can be.

I love this country and these people. 

Here's the story of Giant Robo... Just one more clue into why the Japanese have a fascination with robots and giant radioactive creatures from space and the bottom of the ocean....

Giant Robo first appeared in 

The Giant Robo manga (comics) first appeared in a weekly comic book called Weekly Shōnen Sunday on May 1967. Written by Mitsuteru Yokoyama, Giant Robo tells the story of Daisaku Kusama, the titular Robo and an evil secret society known only as "Big Fire." In October of the same year, a live-action adaptation premiered on TV Asahi

To see the very final scene of the final episode of Giant Robot - when he destroys the bad guy and destroys himself in the process - thereby saving the entire world by sacrificing himself - watch this one. The part with the final episode begins at about 4:37. Giant Robo meets his most deadly and dangerous adversary so far. The only way to destroy this evil creature is by flying into space and crashing into an asteroid and killing the monster and himself in the process.

Talk about making the ultimate sacrifice!

Fact of the matter is that, even though this was a hugely popular show with the kids and the ratings were good, the productions costs were way too high and sales to sponsors were not good. Maybe, since this was the 1960's, and before Japan's Economic Miracle, kids weren't a choice marketing target.

Watch this with any Japanese who is between 40 ~ 50 years old and they'll probably start crying. This is so very Japanese. The idea that a guy will kill himself - sacrifice himself - for the good of his loved ones is a theme that is steeped in tradition and a part and parcel of the Japanese psyche. In this country, the true hero is considered anyone who will do anything to save his loved ones.

See? I told you the Japanese are quite romantic!

To see more geeky stuff about Giant Robo click here.

Thanks to Ira Hata

Sunday, February 27, 2011

You Need a Break. Two Minutes of Funny Videos!

It's a Sunday night and I surf the Internet and find these silly videos. This one is merely two minutes long but you can get 10 minutes worth of laughs. It never ceases to make me chuckle.

From I Am Too Curious:

Happy April Fools! This is a hilarious compilation of some of the best Japanese pranks we have ever posted.

Surely, "Laughter is the best medicine!"

Marc Faber - "Still not too late to get in on gold and silver"

Got gold or silver? The other day, I gave you more reasons to protect yourselves.

Yesterday, Marc Faber Gloom, Boom & Doom Report  publisher chimed in:

"Nominally, gold has surpassed its record highs of the early 1980's (and silver is well on it's way). In real terms, adjusted for inflation, gold would have to hit roughly $2300 per ounce to have the same "value" as what it had in the 1980's."

Get that? " would have to hit roughly $2300 per ounce"!?

Marc Faber "USA & Japan could default."

I also wonder if you good folks living in Japan caught this one: World’s Largest Pension Fund Needs to Sell Japanese Bonds; Japan’s Demographic Time Bomb Officially Goes Off:

Deflation Irony

The irony in this madness is that all the Japanese people want is their money back. They are not looking for appreciation. They do not have absurd pension plan assumptions like the 8% expected returns we see in the US. They do not want stocks, or real estate. They just want cash, and they want it to be worth something.

Yet, the Japanese government was hell-bent for two decades attempting to generate inflation which would have weakened the value of those bonds.

Recently, those bond holdings have been rising with a strengthening yen. However, lingering debt from preposterous deflation fighting efforts of building bridges to nowhere must be paid back.
Horns of a Dilemma

Japan choices are to default on its debt, print money to fund interest on the debt, raise taxes effectively robbing savers of their money, or undertake huge spending cuts.

The dilemma stems from years of Keynesian and Monetarist stupidity.

Gold and silver are going to keep going up. 

Gold in Japan?

Silver in Japan? 

Robot Marathon Held in Japan

This is pretty funny! In Japan, a robot marathon race started last Thursday and just finished running a few moments ago. Take time to watch the videos below. They are definitely worth a few laughs.

But, now, I'd like to be the first to announce the winner to the English press. 

Ladies and gentlemen... The winner is.... er, this dude....

Heck, what's his name? I don't know. Let's just call him "Mr. We Love Osaka Dude." He's, er,... she's, it's the winner of the world's first robot marathon ever held and it's was an exciting race!

Omedetou gozaimasu! (Congratulations!)

National Post Reports:

Robot Marathon Ran in Osaka

A group of knee-high androids have crossed the starting line in Osaka, Japan for the first ever robot marathon, reported the BBC. The race, which started on Thursday, is expected to take about four days and will require 423 laps around an indoor track. The rules are as follows: bot operators are allowed to change robots' batteries and motors during the race, but they can't pick them up if they fall over - the droids must right themselves.

Since I enjoy British humor a lot, here two funny takes by the Brits on the festivities. Enjoy!

If you are crazy about Japanese Robots

Also thanks to Japan Today

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Japanese Girl's Dream Come True! Nose Lifter

You'd be surprised to know that most Japanese (well, all Asians in general) think they have a flat nose. I don't know about that. I like their noses just they way they are, thank you.

Can you imagine if every Japanese girl ran around with a schnozzola like Jimmy Durante?

No thanks.

Well, anyway. Japanese girls think their noses are too flat. You'd think this was no big deal but I've met many girls who claim that because their nose is too flat, they cannot wear fashion brand designer sunglasses. Now, for a country full of women who think about designer goods constantly, THAT IS a problem!

I'm not making this up.

Just to show you how much of a preplexing drama the Japanese actually perceive this as being, a company has come out with a gadget that they claim can lift the bridge of your nose. Talk about snake-oil salesmen!

Geeky Gadget reports:

Do you dream of having a more beautiful, higher nose? But you shy away from going to a plastic surgeon? Then you might want to check out the so-called “Beauty Lift High Nose”, a gadget made by Japanese company Omni.
According to its maker, all you need to do is to stick the device on your nose for about 3 minutes per day and let its do its magic (Omni also says that it fits noses of various kinds). The thing is supposed to “raise” the bridge of your nose by vibrating and thus “stimulating” the nasal bone (it’s powered by a CR2032 battery).
The Beauty High Lift Nose is made in Japan, sized at 7×5×7.5cm and weighs 25.
If you want to try it out but live outside Japan, get the device over at the the Japan Trend Shop for $144.

Ladies, I linked to the shop that sells this device. I know the people who run that establishment and they are great, honest folks... But this product is a scam...

If you really do want a nose lift, then I think you need to see a qualified plastic surgeon.

I think your nose is cute enough as is.

Bloggers Unite! High Quality, Original Content is King!

Writing a blog can be a very tiresome, worrisome, frustrating and exhausting experience... It can also be hugely rewarding. Recently, the Net has taken down governments with Bloggers, Tweeters and Facebooker's taking the lead role. 

Shouldn't you start to stake your claim by starting a blog?

It might be the most rewarding thing you undertaken in years! It is for me.
XTC - King for a Day 
Currently, I am spending my time coaching two wonderful people on the virtues of blogging and how it will help them and their business grow. Coaching is a lot harder than I thought it would be. I sometimes am asked to blog or teach blogging to people, but, with these two, it is the very first time I've ever said, "Yes!" I said "Yes!" to these folks because I believe they have some great insights and I know they have some experiences and expertise that no one else has.  

My "students" are incredible people. They can add a world of knowledge and information to help us bloggers build, as Google describes it, "a healthy web-ecosystem." I think I understand what Google means by this. They mean that they want various sites that have original content rather than sites that collate information from various blogs.

I mean, news sites are needed and designed to aggregate various news sources, but there seems to be an increase of blog aggregation sites that offer no new, original information but simply list up a bunch of articles from various blogs around the world and copy and paste those on their site.

If those blog's purpose is to spread the word on a particular position concerning politics or social issues, then I understand that. If their purpose is to use other original content to gain hits on their websites so that they can get higher Google Search rankings so that they can sell more affiliate stuff when people click on links on their pages, well, I can't fault someone for trying to make a living, but I can see how Google would want to help support the independent original thinkers.

Now, Google has gone one step further. They've made a major tweak to their algorithm so that these "content farms" get lower search result rankings.

Yahoo! reports:   
Google tweaks search to punish 'low-quality' sites

Google says it has tweaked the formulas steering its Internet search engine to take the rubbish out of its results. The overhaul is designed to lower the rankings of what Google deems "low-quality" sites.
That could be a veiled reference to such sites as Demand Media's, which critics call online "content farms" -- that is, sites producing cheap, abundant, mostly useless content that ranks high in search results.
Sites that produce original content or information that Google considers valuable are supposed to rank higher under the new system.
The change announced late Thursday affects about 12 percent, or nearly one in every eight, search requests in the U.S. Google Inc. 
Wow! This affects one in eight!? So, the point is, once again, original content is king on the Internet. 
Sure, Mr. and Ms. Blogger, we are not "journalists" in the traditional sense of the word, but we never claimed to be. Nevertheless, our opinion matters more and more everyday.
People listen to what bloggers have to say! Take, for example, you see a full page color ad in the newspaper for a new steak-house. The steak-house spends $20,000 for that ad. The ad says the restaurant is great! Do you go to that restaurant? If it were me, I wouldn't pay any attention to the ad at all. It wouldn't motivate me to go there.
But! If a blogger I like says that the restaurant is good, I probably would go and try it once. Why? I know the blogger is telling me the truth. I read this blogger's writing often. I know s/he didn't receive a bunch of money to write that recommendation. That means I have a relationship with this blogger and know who s/he is. I trust this person. 
Now, Google has saluted us with giving us more power on the web by rewarding us original content makers with this Search Engine tweak.
Thanks to Google Search Engine for recognizing us as the force to be reckoned with that we have become.

More concrete details on Google's new search engine algorithm here.
PS: I've written recommendations for cheap eats in Tokyo. There's cheap and good tasting sushi in Yoga; Raw Fish & drinks in Futagotamagawa; Delicious soba in Daimon; Wine & Dine in Omotesando; Fantastic Udon in Kamiyacho; Tokyo's best coffee and meeting place in Hanzomon; Tokyo's best hamburgers at Tsubame Grill; Out of this world Croatian food in Kyobashi at Dobro - Now, who you gonna trust? Me or some full page ad in the newspaper?
Think about it. Let's start blogging! The world wants to know you!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Japan! Can You Dig it?

Can you dig it?

Japan does it again! We have some great contests in this country. I wrote recently about the contest whereby guys thousands of guys, dressed only in a loincloth, gather together at a temple to try to grab their "sacred wood."

Yeah. That's one that you just don't want to miss.

But I just found out about another contest in Narita that I missed! I had to slap myself in the forehead. It is the All-Japan Hole Digging contest. This contest has been going on for 11 years now and people gather from all over the country to join in the, er, "fun"!

Japanese boy digs it big time!

There are awards given for best hole, deepest hole, most creative digging, and best digging costume.

Entrants have 30 minutes to dig whatever they want and to try to grab the coveted, er, "Hole Award."

There's even rules on how big shovels can be and many contestants are kids and ladies groups.

It is contests like these that help make Japan a wonderful and peaceful place to live. It gives people a chance to get out and meet new friends and work together with the community.

I think I'm going to show up next year and earn one of those trophies! Sounds like lots of fun!

Thanks to Ira Hata!

Japan's Great Train Robbery: The 70,000 Missing Condom Mystery

There are a lot of strange things that go on here in Japan. One thing that happened recently was the theft of 70,000 condoms from one of Japan's biggest condom makers (pun intended). 

You read right. Someone stole 70,000 condoms. A huge crime (pun intended). Weird? well, yes but the details make it even stranger. There a devil in the details. Read on. 

The weird part about this crime dawned on me when I read the report. First off, here from Canada's Canoe News:

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian police said Tuesday they were investigating the disappearance of more than 700,000 ultrathin condoms which went missing in transit between Malaysia and Japan.

Sagami Rubber Industries, Japan's first condom maker, said last week that the shipment was loaded into a container at its factory in northern Malaysia, but that it was empty with the locks replaced when it arrived in Tokyo.

"We take the matter of the missing condoms very seriously... we are investigating the matter," a Malaysian police spokesman told AFP.

Sato Koji, manager of the Sagami rubber factory in Malaysia's Perak state, said they had lodged a police report over the loss of the shipment.

"We are unhappy over the incident. This is the first time such a thing has happened since our Malaysian production started in 1997," he told AFP.

Officials at Sagami's head office have said that the prophylactics, which it bills as being 14 percent thinner than conventional ones, are worth 1.5 million dollars at Japanese retail prices.

Freight forwarders say goods being shipped out of Malaysia go missing routinely and that many cases are inside jobs.

"There are locks, seals and checklists provided by freight forwarders and shipping lines for every part of the journey from factory to destination so it is very easy to find out where and when they were tampered with or changed," said Air Freight Forwarders Association of Malaysia head Walter Cullas.

I would never steal 70,000 condoms... But when you tell me that they are worth a half-million US dollars then I can understand someone stealing them.

I wonder how they are going to unload (pun intended) them? Is this the beginning of a rise (pun intended) in crime?   

But, the part that really strikes me as weird, and wasn't reported in the regular news reports, was the fact that when the Japanese company received the cargo container in Japan and opened the locks, they found it empty - but it was still locked. Isn't that weird? 

70,000 condoms stolen yet the criminals replace the broken locks with new ones?

Why would anyone steal something and then replace the locks with different locks? I mean, if you steal them and the cargo carrier container then becomes empty, why put locks on it? Wouldn't those locks just help the police with clues, like finger prints or something, when they come looking for you?

Isn't that weird? Or maybe the criminals replaced the locks because they were being polite?

Here is a real TV commercial by this condom maker for this brand of condoms. This is pretty weird too. I'm sure, with these kinds of TV commercials, their sales go up (pun not intended).

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What the Japanese Think About Americans - Volume One

I just came back from the grocery store. As we were driving out of the parking lot, there was a huge truck backing out of the parking lot too. 


Japanese truck and taxi drivers are the best drivers in the world. I've seen truck drivers driving down streets (sometimes backwards) where there wasn't 5 cm  (about 2 inches) space on either side of their rear view side mirrors. I thought, "There's no way they are going to make it down that street without hitting a wall or something!" Yet they did it. 

Typical American female truck driver (writer's image)

They were able to navigate the streets without hitting the sides or scratching their mirrors. I've seen Japanese truck drivers who could drive their 8 foot wide trucks down a 6 foot wide road. Of course I'm exaggerating, but I've seen some awesome driving in this country.

Hell, you should see my car. I never drive in tight spots, yet I have nicks and dings all over the place. My car bumper is a mess! (They are all my wife's fault, of course!)

Anyway, as we left the grocery store parking lot, there was this huge truck backing out and navigating a few curves and turns then out into the street. I was thinking, once again, "What an awesome driver!" When I noticed that the driver of this huge truck was a girl who looked to be in her twenties!

I said to my wife, "Wow! Look at that! That truck driver is a young girl! She looks like she's 25-years-old or there about."

I was surprised that women, especially young ones, were driving trucks in Japan. That says something about the economy and the mind-set of young people today. It says a lot about the way Japan has changed. 

Actually, this girl was petite and pretty, as truck drivers go, which really surprised me. 

Typical Japanese female truck driver (writer's image)

I then added, "That's a big difference between Japan and the United States. In America, a lady might drive a truck, but she'd be huge and fat (muscular) tough as nails, smoke cigars, have tattoos and drink Jack Daniels."

To which my wife replied, "In America, a woman doesn't need to drive trucks to do that!"

And that's what the Japanese think about Americans Vol. 1. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Groupon Ex-Partner Chimes in

Groupon Japan is a loser. They aren't going to make it here in this country. Don't believe me. Read on....

Beck - Loser (Instrumental)

I've been writing at length and often about Groupon Japan and their constant mistakes. (See here, here, here, here and here). As my good friend James Allen (author of Online Income Blueprints) wrote; "It's getting like shooting fish in a barrel... I smell an opportunity." (I reviewed Online Income Blueprints here).

James is right. There is an opportunity. But, that window of opportunity in Japan seems to be closing quickly. Competitors to Groupon are out already. The two that are quickly staking their place in Japan are Pomparade (owned by Recruit - a stalwart and major influence in Japan) and Kaupon (privately owned by Kiramex) both well known in the Japanese market.

Groupon has committed the Cardinal sin that many companies from the west committed before in this country; they came to Japan and didn't make the effort to understand the Japanese and this country well enough. Now they will pay the price for that mistake. I've written before in an article entitled, "How New Companies Can Succeed in Japan - and How They Fail." It's about  how, in spite of the fact that giant players from the west came to Japan, with great products and a successful track record in the west - such as Pepsi Cola, Universal Studios, E-Bay, Carrefours, etc. - they failed miserably because they didn't take the time to learn the intricacies of Japan and how to do business here.

The companies that do well here, Disney, Coca-Cola etc. Did bother to understand the market and now they dominate. McDonald's, in fact, even changed their name to fit in with Japanese pronunciation! McDonald's in Japan is not McDonald's. It is "Makudonarudo." Go up to any Japanese and ask them where a McDonald's is and they won't have any idea what you are talking about.

But I digress...

Failure in Japan

Groupon, I predict is the next in a long line of failures in Japan. In fact, today I met with a friend who is the head editor of one of the biggest magazines in Japan and this editor said, "There's no way for that company, Groupon... Their reputation is already shot. And, in Japan, reputation is everything. The women don't trust it."

This was the first time that someone who knows how the average Japanese woman feels telling me what I had already suspected; Groupon Japan has a terrible reputation with the women in Japan and it's getting worse. 

Here, today, is a message from a former Groupon partner client who has quit using Groupon and saw my recent article entitled, "More Problems From Groupon Japan - Again!"  Let's let them tell the story:

"I have a bar in Chiba and sold coupons through Groupon once in 2010. For about 17 coupons sold, there were about 10 redeemed (roughly 25 new customers), 2 of the groups came back once more, the rest just took advantage of a cheap meal. So much for creating "repeat customers..." 

For a ¥3000 coupon they (customers) got ¥6000 of food and drink. Embarrassingly, (I know..!) my FL ratio is nearer to 2/3 than 1/3, so I lost money in the vain hope of gaining repeat customers... 

I'm in Chiba city, but the customers came from all over the prefecture...

If you figure the "cost" of the coupon = loss of revenue (opportunity) ¥3000 + commission ¥1500 + FL (OK, let's be nice) ¥2000 = ¥6500 for ¥6000 worth. I guess that's a total loss. 

Groupon approached me again to try a different menu strategy, yadi, yadi, yadi... 

My reply was, "I could stand on the street in front of my bar and give out half price drink vouchers to passers-by (who actually live within stumbling distance!) for a predictably much better return. Thanks, but no thanks.."

I agree that it's unsustainable. I've been approached my similar "flash marketing" sites, offering a better commission, etc, but at the end of the day it's probably just coupon clippers who will take advantage of you. 

Thanks for confirming what I paid to learn!"

Thanks to you for writing! Your input is invaluable and your experience might just save some others from losing money.

Well, dear readers, there you have it. From the mouth of someone who has actually done this with Groupon. Considering how much bad press Groupon gets (actually have you read any good press on Groupon?) I wonder how much longer they can do this.

Groupon, I predict, is the next in a long line of companies from the west that failed miserably in Japan. They won't be the last.

Thanks to James B. Allen and his buddy in Chiba! You guys rock!

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