Over the weekend I decided to visit Kiryu, a pleasant city near J-List that’s known as “Little Kyoto” because of the many temples and other cultural sites it offers. I had a nice visit, though driving through the narrow streets made me remember something I was told by a Japanese friend after arriving back in 1991: “You can tell which cities in Gunma weren’t bombed during WWII because the roads are narrow and cramped today.” Our own city of Isesaki was bombed during the war — my future father-in-law was five at the time, and heard the B-29s as they approached. It turned out to be an auspicious day, August 14, 1945, after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki but a day before Japan’s official surrender. Which means that the last bombs to fall in Japan, in the entire conflict of World War II actually, fell just a few kilometers from where J-List and Hakase and Nano’s house are located. Happily the damage and loss of life from the attack was low, thanks to the windless night and the fact that many spaces with no houses in them had been left open in the city to keep fires from spreading in the event of an air raid.
How is the culture at Japanese companies?
Each company will be different, of course, but certainly, larger and more conservative companies in Japan will tend to be very strait-laced, without a lot of flexibility. Happily, the old expectation that people will work for the same company all their lives is gone, and if someone wants to change jobs, there are many options. I know a guy who worked in a subsidiary of Toyota, but he quit and now he’s the president of a company making eroge and otome games.
How are things at J-List?
There are really two kinds of companies in Japan: Japanese ones, which can be tightly-wound organizations, and 外資系 gaishi-kei, international companies doing business in Japan, like Nestle, Aflac, Microsoft or even J-List. These companies will hopefully incorporate the efficiency and hard work of the Japanese side with creative ideas about how best to make customers happy. In our case I believe we merge the best of Japan with contributions from our staff from the U.S., France, Canada and the Philippines to find fun and wacky products for our customers.
Is it hard for gaijin to work in Japanese companies?
Foreigners are increasingly doing all kinds of jobs in Japan, including a German guy I know who makes sales pitches for advertising to normal Japanese clients. (His language skills are very good.) In all honesty, it can be a challenge being a foreigner in a Japanese company, since the pressure to do exactly as the Japanese around you can make you feel isolated. As with all things in life, you should look for a career that “fits” who you are.
What’s working in an open-plan office like in Japan?
We have this kind of office layout at J-List, and I personally like it a lot, since communication is improved and you know everyone is working hard. There’s a kind of energy that’s created when we’re all busy with a site update, adding products to the site, resolving customer tickets or mastering our next visual novel. At our San Diego location, there are individual offices, and much less communication. When companies like Google come to Japan, they naturally bring their crazy ideas about innovative workspaces that improve creativity, which are always widely covered by the news media, who can’t believe anyone could get work done in an office with a basketball court in the center of it.
Is smoking really allowed at work?
Several members of J-List’s staff smoke, and they pass many minutes together talking about various work or personal issues in our designated smoking area outside. “Working hard” in Japan is usually defined as “being at work long hours” and employees will use smoking breaks to relax a little. Since I don’t smoke, I tend to work all day without breaks and thus I feel more stressed. Maybe I should take up smoking like our Japanese staff….
May is a very special month, a month to get in touch with yourself and spend some quality time alone, if you’re feeling stressed out. J-List is offering an awesome 3x points on all personal toys, including “dolphin polishers” for guys, massagers for guys and girls as well as personal lotion and more. Also, we’re offering 3x J-List Points on all apparel and cosplay products. Make an order now!