Meanings/ Origins of Japanese company names post much expanded

Still needs a lot of work, though, so questions and corrections here please:

Japanese company names explained

Why did Uniqlo suddenly switch to having katakana in their logo?

This changed seemed to happen slightly earlier abroad than in Japan and I also saw Uniqlo advertising “Japanese technology” in their winter underwear, it seems like a deliberate move from wanting to be generically international to wanting to have a specifically Japanese image. As I know nothing of the internal decision making of this company obviously talking about the reason why would be pure speculation, but here goes anyway with three possible theories:

- It was an internal decision to bring back some national pride to the poor Japanese salarymen who were being forced to use English in the headquarters in Japan

- It was a reaction to the success of the faux-Japanese brand SuperDry

- It was due to the expansion of Uniqlo in China, where everything Japanese is either cool and worth a premium price or evil and worth burning, depending on the day

Why are Prius owners the worst drivers in Japan?

I notice this again and again, and often are growling at the crap driving before I even see what car it is, so it’s not some kind of prejudice.

My theory is that the car simply attracts holier-than-thou types who think they have even more an entitlement because they have a green car. It’s certainly not due to actual concern for the environment that the Prius has become a bestselling car in Japan, that’s for sure. It actually seems to be more some kind of showing off, though I can’t quite work out how or why.

Why are bananas by far the cheapest fruit in Japan?

There is sometimes a big bunch for 98 yen next to apples which start at 298 yen a piece.

I’m guessing the government puts few restrictions on their import because they aren’t grown here and so there is no danger of Japanese farmers being hurt. There is also a Japanese free trade agreement with the Phillipines, where most or all of them (including those sold by American companies like Chiquita) seem to come from.

Same explanation seems to work for why fruit salads in convenience stores and supermarkets are always at least 80% pineapple.

Why aren’t Superdry clothes sold in Japan?

This came up in a teachers’ room conversation the other day and I could instantly make myself unpopular for being a smartarse because I’d heard all about it on a BBC Radio download in which the CEO mentioned they are still in dispute with Asahi of Superdry beer fame over the use of the name.

If you’ve never heard of them, there’s a Guardian article on the company here.

Why was a job for life a big thing in Japan?

And why is it fading away?

“Shrewd observers of the Japanese system had long ago noted that lifetime employment offered companies the opportunity to employ scads of young people at little expense. Starting wages were fixed below true value across whole industries, and workers endured them in return for security and promised raises…

By 1993, with the percentage of workers fifty-five or older rising to 13 percent, that benefit had turned into a costly burden. Nearly 40 percent of Japan’s workforce had fifteen years or more of seniority. This posed a grave problem: Under seniority-based wages, only a tiny fraction of those older workers could be expected to produce more than the earned.”

About Face pg 153

Why are robots such a big thing in Japan? 2nd attempt

“In Japan robots were early on perceived as a strategic industry worth developing, not just because robots can provide labour at less cost than humans, but because robots can also be more accurate, reliable and clean” (America and the Four Japans pg 116)

Makes sense.

First attempt here.

Why the obsession with quality? 3rd attempt

“As Sony’s founder, Akio Morita, has noted, exporting forces an improvement in quality, not just to satisfy foreign customers but to reduce the high costs of servicing the products in distant places after the sales have taken place”

America and the Four Japans pg 120


Why so many white and silver cars?

“Around 1986, when the colour white became fashionable in Japan, 70 percent of the passenger cars pouring out of Toyota factories were white, with the figure as high as 90 percent for some models. Asking consumers why, one would get answers ranging from ‘it’s a clean colour’ to ‘white cars have a higher resale value’”

America and the Four Japans pg 86

Why are some Japanese always dabbing at their faces?

… both with the little (and sometimes not so little) towels they carry round with them, and with the very popular special paper for removing oil from your face.

I don’t think this is the main reason, but many Japanese salarymen wear vests all year, apparently to avoid any hint of a nipple being seen through their white shirts. Some of them also use special pads in their armpits to absorb sweat. Not sure why they think that is a good idea, because it just seems to lead to all the sweat coming out of their foreheads…

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