There are many cute things in Japan that foreigners fall in love with, and are the reason why they want to visit this country. One of them is Hello Kitty, the mouthless cat with a big bow pinned on her left ear. Everything can be made cute, like this pack of tissue paper given out free to pedestrians.
Anything that can be made cute and adorable, will be made cute and adorable in Japan. Even serious matters like bank account books and ATM cards and seemingly fleeting items such as toilet paper.
Those who have lived here as a non-tourist will tell you there's the other side of the country that not many foreigners know. They might have read it in forwarded emails, and laugh about it. But those who can truly nod their heads in empathy are those who have experienced it themselves.
One of my first "heart attack" experience happened sometime last year. I had long known that Japanese prefer to use a scheduler to record their appointments. It's something they carry in their bags, and refer to all the time. These come in all designs and cuteness that most Japanese grrls have one, Japanese men would have the men version, not cute but functions the same.
I would have expected them to use the Office calendar for work purposes, or in our case the Lotus Notes Calendar. To cut the long story short, I was trying to help organise a week of workshops for the Japan team, and had reminded the organiser to send everyone meeting invites to book time. I found out that the organiser had sent an Excel table of schedule to everyone in an email, not in individual meeting invites with specific time slots to relevant people.
And this was after I had promised our UK-based vendors that yes, they would get their calendar invites too. Imagine my embarrassment having to explain to them that Japanese would transfer that information from an Excel table to their hand held scheduler (not even PDA/tablet) one by one.
Imagine my frustration when I have to organise meetings with them, and not having visibility of their availability. It's bad enough that Lotus Notes Calendar do not show multiple availability like MS Outlook, now there's no point in even looking at their calendar as there is nothing to look at!
They go around asking each person what their available time slots are. I cannot imagine having to do this with the senior management, nor with large groups of people who are not available in the same location, whatmore in a foreign language.
I'm really glad our CIO who comes from an MNC background has started to implement the calendar meeting invites in the IT dept since he joined the company. Even then, some of the staff here still send out "email invitation", which I have to manually create my own invitation in my own calendar.
Yes, I have lots of self-invited meetings if you care to look at my calendar.