The Foreign Rational

The world seen through the eyes of a life-long nomad

If you just want to see the video, feel free to skip the background and click on the embedded link below!

I try to keep my day job and my blog separate, but my most recent work project is very close to my heart. I hope you don’t mind me sharing it here with you. It’s also a big reason I haven’t been posting as much in recent months. Turns out my creative energy is a finite resource after all. 

My day job is to be the editor in chief of a media website called Kintopia. The concept is to reimagine the relationship between people, companies and society. Everything is sponsored by my company, Cybozu, which makes a piece of software called Kintone (hence Kintopia) designed to make work easier, more productive and most of all, more collaborative. 

So far, pretty straightforward. 

Almost all the content we publish on Kintopa relates in one way or another to making work better. We want to dispel the myth that work necessarily means hardship, and show concrete ways in which people can be happier at the workplace. Since I’m based in Tokyo and a lot of our readers are either living in Japan or interested in moving here, about half of what we publish relates to the Japanese work environment. For example, the manga we created is based entirely on things I’ve personally experienced, working as a foreigner in Japan.

A big realization we had while making all our content is that many people have a set image of the Japanese work environment that lacks the nuance of reality. Stories in international media tend to either be over-the-top wacky or terribly depressing—which makes sense; the weird and the horrifying are more newsworthy than the mundane and the ordinary. 

But what about the people who want an accurate picture? Where can they turn?

There are some specialized websites and great series on Youtube that show more of the reality of the Japanese workplace, but they usually don’t go into the amount of depth it would take to truly overcome the cultural divide. It’s fascinating to see where people live and work, but beyond that it’s also important to talk to workers directly, ask them how they feel about their jobs, how their working conditions have changed, and whether or not they feel their jobs will change in the future. 

With that in mind, my team at Kintopia decided we’d make our own Youtube series. Introducing Work in Progress Japan. 

In this series, we showcase individuals who work in seemingly traditional Japanese jobs, but are also reimagining those jobs to fit the needs of the modern global economy. For the first episode we spoke to a tea master who, instead of making a living by conducting traditional tea ceremonies, decided it would be more interesting to think of new ways to introduce Japanese tea to as many people as possible. 

There are still plenty of problems in the video we’re looking to fix and refine moving forward. I especially want to apologize for the poor sound quality—especially the bit at the bar, where it sounds like we’re trying to talk about the weather on the floor of a steel factory with a dozen foremen yelling at us. 

I also promise to get better at reaction shots, with more insightful commentary than just “surprising” or “interesting.” I’ve been binging on shows of people eating to up my game. 

Anyhow, I really hope you enjoy the video. If you have any comments or ideas on how to improve our series, feel free to share them with us. We have at least two more episodes in preparation, but hope we’ll get enough interested viewers to make more after that. 

I’ll also keep working to keep this blog alive with new content about all of my interests, whether it’s Japan, multiculturalism, human rights, social commentary, or any other subject on which I feel like my opinion could be worth reading. 

Thanks again for all your support, and stay safe and healthy!

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