April 22nd was Earth Day. Except for an event held at Yoyogi Park the weekend before, we didn’t hear of any major events in Tokyo. The fact that Japan has pledged a 25% reduction of its 1990 greenhouse gas emissions level by the year 2020 makes it sort of a shame that there was nothing special. To be fair, April 22nd was an unseasonably winter-like cold and rainy day in Tokyo and because of global warming there are certainly people who are conscious of the climate change problem and were aware of Earth Day.
A long time ago, I read that Tom Cruise once gave a speech on Earth Day where he said that in the beginning it’s okay if it’s trendy or “in vogue” to think about the environment because we just want people to start doing something. Years after his speech, the actions taken toward trying to solve environmental problems have clearly become more widespread and the number of related goods and services has increased. While there are goods that are seriously involved in helping the environment, the reality is that in Japan there are a lot of goods labeled “Eco” simply to promote sales.
For the current Japanese government to realize its goals, it has to change the consciousness of not only corporations, but also average citizens. How does the Government plan to move forward with social approaches to environmental problems that are now just seen as fashionable (only in consumer goods)? It almost seems that they are just leaving things up to “nature.”
I sometimes come across articles that say Japanese were “eco” even a long time ago and it is certainly true that there are elements to being “eco-friendly” that come from Japanese customs. At the same time, Japan is a culture of “disposable,” “new release,” “anytime, anywhere.” Finding solutions to environmental problems means you also need to consider the cultural aspects, which is something that requires time.
Will Japan be able to meet its goal ten years from now? We hope there will be a little more promotion and action from the Japanese Government.
We’ve received various inquiries in our inbox from overseas companies wanting to know about our services. After reading the emails, we began to notice that many of them mentioned an interested in developing their products and services for the Japanese market and had participated, some several times, in exhibitions held in Japan. However, despite their efforts, most mentioned that they had been unable to get any business leads in Japan.
From what we could gather, it seemed that the biggest problem for these companies was not only the different styles of business negotiations between their countries and Japan, but also communication with the Japanese. Although we don’t know the exact details about what types of buyers they encountered or how they attempted to conduct negotiations, it seems likely that there were some misunderstandings due to the fact that both sides were communicating using English as a second language. Even for us, communicating in English with clients from non-English speaking countries sometimes results in misunderstanding or confusion. If we were able to work with each client in his or her native language, business would probably run fairly smoothly, but obviously this would be difficult.
There are likely a number of reasons why these clients’ business negotiations never progressed, however one of the problems may have been that the Japanese side never flat out refused. In many cases, communication ends prematurely and some hope is all that remains.
Problems such as these have probably continued from a long time ago. The language barrier isn’t something that will break negotiations right away, but it’s important for both sides to put effort into understanding each other. Especially for communication over the internet, which is mainly written word, it seems that an even greater effort must be made.
As a third-party observer, we aren’t entirely sure what may have happened to these companies who sent us inquiries, but we’ve received a number of similar ones which leads us to believe that some type of problem does indeed exist. Certainly, no matter what type of “communication” you are involved in, leaving things up in the air can’t be good. Hopefully, this will begin to change for the better.
After years of growth and success, Starbucks, like many companies, is facing tough times with falling profits, fewer customers, store closures and worker layoffs. Over-expansion has resulted in a “watered down” experience and turned off many customers, even in its hometown of Seattle.
To bring back customers and revive its brand, the company is testing a new concept in Seattle – rebranding (or de-branding) several of its existing stores. In April 2009, Starbucks opened the “15th Avenue Coffee & Tea” store in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood and although it “shares the Starbucks mission and values,” you may never know you are in a Starbucks. There are no green siren logos, no promotional signs, no Starbucks mugs and no green aprons. Everything from the menu, which includes alcoholic drinks, to the interior is different.
The idea is to create a store with a “community personality.” 15th Avenue Coffee & Tea reuses things from the past and reworks them so customers can re-explore the traditional coffeehouse spirit and coffee for which Starbucks was first known. By turning back to basics, the company hopes to draw a new urban crowd that frequents Seattle’s independent coffeehouses and bring back customers who may have stopped visiting Starbucks as it became more and more of a corporate chain. The store regularly offers musical performances, poetry readings and daily coffee and tea “cuppings,” all things you might expect to find at your local coffeehouse. Starbucks also opened the “Roy Street Coffee & Tea” and plans to test the concept stores before possibly expanding to other cities.