Blowfish

Back to Contents of Issue: January 2003


Favorite athletes, how to apologize properly, moonlighting and lots of mineral water.


Making water. With the exception of dips in 1997 and 1999, demand for bottled water has shown steady year-on-year growth. Last year, the market surpassed 1.2 million kiloliters, more than six times the volume of a decade earlier. Leading the pack is Suntory's Minami Alps brand, with a commanding 21 percent share. Following are Coca-Cola Japan's own brand, Mori no Mizu Dayori, with 14 percent, House Foods with 13, then Volvic (8%), Evian (5), Kirin's Alkaline Ion Water (4), Crystal Geyser (4) and Vittel (2).

Moonlighting for crumbs. The business weekly Diamond surveyed 800 salaried employees from ages 30 to 50 about holding down outside jobs. Of the total, 39 percent said they've had outside jobs. Of these, 12 percent were currently working, and 27 percent had held the jobs in the past. Did their employers permit such work? Nearly two-thirds, or 66 percent, said no, 16 percent said yes, and another 18 percent said they were not entirely sure of the rules regarding secondary employment. The amounts earned at such extra jobs, by the way, tended to be minuscule. Forty-six percent reported monthly income under JPY30,000; 24 percent made between JPY30,000 and JPY50,000; and only 10 percent made over JPY70,000.

Risky work. A survey by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare looked into the physical complaints of workers who put in late night shifts. Stomach and digestive complaints topped the list; they were mentioned by 51 percent of the respondents. High blood pressure came next (22.6%), followed by dysfunctional sleep (18.8), liver ailments (13.1), diabetes (6.9), psychosomatic disorders (5.4), cardiac problems (3.4) and asthma (2.7).

Bowing and scraping. Nikkei Business provided seven hints about how to write a letter of apology in Japanese. They are: 1) Acknowledge mistakes directly and in a frank manner; 2) Use sincere expressions; 3) Strongly express an intention to rectify the problem; 4) Write promptly; 5) Standard phrases are preferable to ones own awkward expressions; 6) Avoid issuing excuses; 7) Use expressions designed to mollify anger or dissatisfaction.


Why things go wrong. Type the Japanese words "Mafii no Housoku" (Murphy's Law) into the google.com search engine and you'll get 12,300 hits. You can thank the Nihon Murphy Fukyukai Japan Society for the wide acceptance of Murphy's Law in Japan. Nikkei IT magazine presented in its October 2002 issue some examples of Murphy's Laws that relate to the IT sector. Here's a gander at some wit and wisdom from Japan's own Murphology mavens:
+ No matter how pricey the system, its performance will promptly be eclipsed by a significantly cheaper system.
+ The more important the item in a spec sheet or manual, the smaller the size of its text.
+ The less time or money available to do the work, the sooner a computer will malfunction.
+ The more you lean toward dependence on email for communications, the worse people will become at understanding what you have written.
+ IT is a useful tool to make excuses as to why something wasn't accomplished.
+ The more elaborately festooned a business plan, the weaker its overall contents.
+ A computer room that can only be accessed by a security card can also be entered simply by knocking on the door.
+ When you ask different computer companies for estimates, the highest costs are always applied to different items (thus rendering cost comparisons impossible).
+ As soon as you turn off your PC's power, you remember there's an email you've forgotten to send.
+ By the time you remember to look at your PDA, the important date that you'd entered is long past.
By the way, the Japanese rendering of Murphy's most famous law -- "If anything can go wrong, it will" -- goes thusly: Shippai suru kanousei no arumono wa, shippai suru.

Tiger's 13 strokes back. Who are the most popular sports stars in Japan? In the 10th annual survey of 2,000 Japanese conducted by the Chuo Research Co., Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners, with 23.0 percent of the votes, was head and shoulders above the other candidates. Second was a baseball star from an earlier era, "Mr. Giants" Shigeo Nagashima, who received 8.7 percent of the vote. Third was Giants' slugging outfielder Hideki Matsui (now a free agent and regarded as a prime candidate for the US major leagues), with 8.3 percent. The top 10 were rounded off by soccer pro Hidetoshi Nakata (4.8%), San Francisco Giants outfielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo (3.2), Hanshin Tigers manager Senichi Hoshino (2.8), sumo grand champion Takanohana (2.4), Olympic marathon champion Naoko "Q chan" Takahashi (2.3), all-time home run record holder Sadaharu Oh (2.1) and Yomiuri Giants Golden Glove winner Yoshinobu Takahashi (2.0). Baseball players, by the way, accounted for 18 of the top 30, with sumo and soccer both represented by five each, and golf by three. The list contained only two women: marathoner Takahashi and No. 12, Olympic judo medalist Ryoko Tamura. Tamura was followed by the sole non-Japanese on the list: Tiger Woods.

Smoke gets in your eyes. The number of Japanese adult males who smoke fell to 49.1 percent, the first time the figure has fallen below the halfway point since the former Japan Tobacco Monopoly (now called JT) began conducting its survey in 1965. The figure for males was down 2.9 percent from 2001, attributed mainly to a decline in older smokers, whose reliance on nicotine tapers off sharply past age 60. The percentage of male smokers above this age was just 34.5 percent. The rate for females, 14.0 percent, declined by 0.7 percentage points. The peak year for puffers of both genders was back in 1966, when 83.7 percent of males and 18.0 percent of females smoked. @



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