One interesting word of Japanese is gaishi-kei, a word that means “foreign capital company” and which describes firms from America and Europe doing business in Japan, like Coca-Cola, P&G, Nestle, Michelin, Apple and AFLAC. Since these companies come from outside Japan, they represent a way of doing business that’s uniquely un-Japanese, which often leads to interesting results in the marketplace, as the unifying Japanese concept of joshiki (lit. “common sense”) don’t apply to them. Gaishi-kei companies also offer opportunities to Japanese employees that are likely not available at their more straight-laced domestic counterparts, and Japanese who have an aptitude for foreign languages, who are good at thinking “out of the box” and/or who have the ambition to do interesting things with their careers are often attracted to these unique companies. When my wife and I went to Tokyo a couple weeks ago, we decided to stay in the Park Hyatt, the foreign-operated hotel featured in the film Lost in Translation. I was impressed with the hotel on several levels, including the level of service they provided and the linguistic ability of their staff. The hotel gets a large number of guests who are foreigners, and knowing that we generally love everything about Japan, they’d decorated the hotel with fascinating books on Japanese history, art and culture that we were free to pick up and read at any time. I was very impressed, and wanted to read everything. I don’t think a Japanese-run hotel would have thought of doing something like that.
Foreign companies in Japan are interesting.