business

Low-tech Japan challenged in working from home amid pandemic

57 Comments
By YURI KAGEYAMA

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57 Comments
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Time to get with the modern age Japan.

19 ( +21 / -2 )

This may be a massive challenge to Japan, but at the same time, it will be very helpful and help encourage new ways of working. The fax may be consigned to the garbage heap (there are still some legal reasons why they are still in use) and homeworking may also become normalised. The sooner the better - when a developing country like India is better able to use new technology than Japan, it's time to take note.

16 ( +16 / -0 )

"Many Japanese lack the basic tools needed to work from home. "

This is the crux of the problem. The article title is very misleading. Japan is hardly low-tech. But it has a cultural issue with not being able to move away from the traditional company structure and lifestyle that it has embraced throughout the post war years. The idea of "working from home" itself is alien to the culture, which is why teleworking, and God forbid, teleschooling, are going to be enormous obstacles for Japan. Technology use on a personal level for the majority of Japanese is limited to their smartphones. Looks to me like this COVID19 crisis will likely force Japan to reconsider their hard set established approach towards "work".

12 ( +16 / -4 )

Working from home is fine - and I may go 100% working from home in the next few years depending on contracts. Miss the odd water cooler chat perhaps but slicing off 2 hours of a commute from my day is priceless. If you are living in Tochigi or Ibaraki and commuting 5 days a week to Tokyo, how much better would your week be if you could work from home twice a week? And how much more productive would you be?

22 ( +22 / -0 )

But I thought Japan was so high tech and futuristic! Japan's true colors are showing.

10 ( +15 / -5 )

Akula:

"And how much more productive would you be?"

I am not more productive at home. Even though my setup is the same (even a bit better monitors and keyboard). The problem is distraction and attention span. I tend to blame myself for not hitting my targets when I work at home. And instead of calling it a day and going home I now try to get work done outside normal hours, in a time where there is even more distraction in the house. YMMV though, the morale is that we are all individuals with different needs.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

A few days ago I pointed out on this forum of how I was frustrated by Japanese companies including a major bank simply because I did not have a fax machine.

Again,Japanese education system and tradition of group mentality needs to be overhauled.Japanese people have been molded to think and reason collectively and cannot make independent decisions.

When you ask a Japanese person a simple obvious question,he/she will in most cases ask another Japanese,who will again ask another Japanese and the simple question becomes a conference.

As a gaijin,I have been asked the exact same question over and over by almost all Japanese people I meet for the first time.This aspect alone gives you an insight of how they've been they've been molded to stick, think and work as a group.

15 ( +15 / -0 )

I noticed many in the younger generation were raised on cell phones and are not adept at PC use.

12 ( +14 / -2 )

Futoshi Takami, a “salaryman,” as Japanese workers are called, says he had to work from the office until mid-April, when he was finally told he could work from home. But so far, he's gotten few directions about what he's supposed to be doing. He might soon be assigned to take some online classes, he said.

By asking employees to work from home, I think the biggest fear is that they'll realize that most of them are redundant. Or maybe they already know this and are afraid that working from home means nothing to do, which may give the company an excuse to let you go.

14 ( +14 / -0 )

@ah soit will be very helpful and help encourage new ways of working.

Hopefully this will encourage entrepreneurs to start up businesses that can meet changing demands, and challenge the fossils running fossil businesses. And their fossil cohorts in government.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Takami, who asked that his employer not be identified, said he has been doing some soul-searching about workplaces that seem to value rules over human life.

“I am going to devote my time to think about what it is I really want to do with my life,” he said.

Nailed it.

15 ( +15 / -0 )

The use of Fax machines in Japan’s has 2 underlying problems. The ancient legislation and tedious nature of updating it and the culture of supporting industries/employment that are unnecessary or outdated due to political reasons.

I’m afraid this only opportunity may still not be taken to make fundamental infrastructure changes. Group think mentality in this country is probably the main culprit here.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

"Low-tech Japan challenged..."

Hahaha, fok news.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

“Telework requires that managers trust and delegate much more decision-making to employees because it takes too much time in email or Skype to check with the boss,” said Benes, who heads the Board Director Training Institute of Japan, a non-profit that offers management and governance training.

My view from the front-line is that checking with the boss is better, even for small decisions, because then I am absolved from responsibility if anything goes wrong. That is the Japanese way.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

It's not about whether work can be done from home. It's about the corporate elite losing control over their sheep (us employees). God forbid I turn on some music at home to help me relax while working...etc.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Most of the established J corp. never accepted both technology and trend,

yes, old school folks,

this is what happens when pandemic or natural disaster happens, and business has to still operate,

if you are still doing paper and scissors , how do you compete with global companies ?

oh i forget, we are in Japan, we do everything Japanese way, only way, no way. no how.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Contrary to the ultramodern image of Japan Inc with its robots, design finesse and gadgetry galore, in many respects the country is technologically challenged.

But the bigger obstacle is Japanese corporate culture

People outside Japan never believe me whenever I tell them this. About how retarded can Japan be sometimes and how incredibly low tech it seems at times. Really ironic.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Working from home could revive the countryside. People could move further from Tokyo and live in a real house with a real garden even if they had to go to a Tokyo office just once a week. Living within an hour's commute from Tokyo means living in a place that is too small and too costly, probably not even a house.

Telecommuting could do so much to raise the standard of life for so many in Japan.

16 ( +16 / -0 )

My boss came to me last week friday and said I can start Telework tomorrow (Tuesday).

But JUST on Tuesday!

I have to be back at the company on Wednesday and the rest of the week, because we have important meetings, which I have to attend personally.

What is the impact to prevent the virus by just 1 day telework?

The meaning of telework is also to NOT join meetings personally. Join via Telecommunication Systems.

Japanese companies really have to step into the 21th century!

12 ( +12 / -0 )

Old type business parson in Japan still want to make a decision "by reading air" in face to face meeting. We need to recognize that the decease is transmitted to person to person via droplets in the air. It is not because of low-tech or high-tech, but we should change the business process.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I hope the virus doesn't get too bad here, but on this subject I honestly don't think anything will change with corporate culture in this country unless is does.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Many Japanese lack the basic tools needed to work from home.

The problem is not the tech, the problem is the mindset. The right mindset would overcome any limitations with tech.

Almost all adults have a smartphone and you can tether off that and work anywhere. A smartphone is way more powerful and has a way faster connection than the computer I used when I started freelancing. Most people will not even need "high speed internet" at home. They are working ostensibly alone on single documents that are only shared when they are finished. If a boss wants to give instructions, high speed Internet is not needed to ring them up.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

If you ever want to time travel back to the 1970's, just walk into a Japanese bank - or hospital.

13 ( +13 / -0 )

As a "Marine Engineer" employed on Merchant ships had the privilege of visiting the Japanese ports of Nagoya,Yokohama and Tokyo in the 1980's and 1990's. As a Middle class Indian Indian brought up in socialist India was astounded by Japanese orderliness, cleanliness and technology.Still vividly remember young Japanese kids busy playing computer games at a time when such machines were a Utopian dream to average Indian middle class children.In 2020 i am surprised reading this article stating that the average Japanese worker is not accustomed to handling "Digital Technology" unlike the average Indian worker, something unbelievable as the World looks up to Japanese electronic technology and work culture.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

My office retains one fax machine for a single Japanese organisation that sends out confirmation of orders by fax. Yet it requires clients to send their orders by email or on-line forms. A dysfunctional system!

9 ( +9 / -0 )

A recommendation, I have for Stay At Home time, is to make sure your home is sanitized, especially carpet, and Air Conditioning filter (we have a filter which can block virus carriers).  Carpets, over time, pick up a lot of contaminants.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

When the news was about size of people's homes there was general agreement it's difficult to work from home.

We could expect that people and homes would be more telework ready in the future but can't really expect that many will actually be utilizing them

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Japan is a high tech country. They were the first country in the world to introduce reverse online classes during this pandemic. While schools in other countries chose to teach students at home, Japanese teachers stayed at home and taught students via monitors in classrooms. Made perfect sense to protect the teachers only since the virus impacted adults more than kids. This Japanese custom and technology should be quickly exported by Abe just as he did for the Abegain drug.

-13 ( +1 / -14 )

Very good article abt "fax legend" in japanese companies...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Japanese companies still rely on nuances of face-to-face interaction, or being able to “smell the air,”

I don't want to 'smell' the air when it's got the coronavirus.

It’s rare to find an office that doesn’t have one, unless it’s a futuristic company like SoftBank that frowns on such old-fashioned practices. Many respectable institutions shun emails and insist on receiving requests for information or other documentation by fax only.

God almighty! I'm glad to hear at least Softbank and the rest of the developed world has moved into the 21st century.

The woman in the middle of the photo looks as if she' praying and looking up to god. I'd be praying too, in that packed train.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The novelty of working from home soon wears off especially when one realises you're always at work when you work from home. And it's not like most Tokyo people have a spare room to set up a workspace at home.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

There are many tens of millions of workers who because of the type of work they do, can not work from home. Construction workers, engineers, shipbuilders, firefights, healthcare staff, garbage collectors, police officers, gardeners, restaurant workers, train and bus drivers, taxi drivers, shopkeepers, vets, farmers, car manufacturers, production lines, scientists and lab workers.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I'm old to enough to remember when Japan actually was the world technological leader, albeit in a more "analog" age compared to today. It's still a shock for me to see a headline like "Low-Tech Japan". But in this case, when discussing work and corporate culture, it is absolutely warranted.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@expat: Brilliant and right on. Add clinics as well. Add your local city hall, tax office, and loan finished confirmation offices as well. This place is no way high tech at all.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

It's pathetic. They really need to get on board with the rest of the world. This isn't the 19th century anymore. Forget about the stupid antiquated customs they so desperately cling to. Faxes in offices!? What a joke. Resistance to emails!? And their propensity to rely on cash instead of mobile pay which is so much more efficient is another thing that blows my mind.

They're not only an aging society unwilling to adopt new things, but without keeping up with technological advancements, they will eventually will be unable to compete with the rest of the world and left behind in the dust.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Many businesses are no doubt finding that by using computers they can get as much done by 5 people as they were when 30 people came into an office. So much unproductive discussion and middle management. So many people unable to type fast and use basic shortcuts and time saving tools.

Can only be a good thing for the competitiveness of the country.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

How could Japan be expected to work from home? It has the lowest PC literacy rate of all developed nations. Even if the dogmatic culture of "Must be at work" was not an issue in Japan, only a small percentage of workers are tech-savvy enough to configure their laptops to connect to their company VPN, hold teleconferences etc.

This pandemic is a wakeup call for sure.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Good article about what needed to be said. All my friends outside Japan think its ultra high tech, only for me to burst that bubble.

To me, it sounds like Takami doesn't need to be employed at his company.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Just wait until all of us with long gaijin names have to fill out the stimulus forms online here in Japan. The tax office had to shorten my name and it was really absurd.

IT is so backwards here and that is so sad for such a cool country otherwise.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Japan is the perfect blend of the 1950s and the 2050s.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The good news is the Japanese are struggling to work from home because they still have jobs.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I've always said Japan is one of the best innovators and creators of technology -- for export. Domestically it is one of the most behind. I still remember that Hong Kong, China, Korea, and other nations all had magnetic cards/key chains you could use to pay bus tolls and get in and out of train gates, charge, etc. In Hong Kong, which was one of the earliest if not THE earliest of such systems, the "Octopus" system was created in part by Japan, but once I got home from a visit there I was still buying paper tickets from JR ticket machines (or windows) that looked like they were from 1960's Sci-Fi movies. Go up onto the roof of a building (or just a high floor) in a mid-sized town and look over the landscape of houses, and you'll see TV aerials from the 50s. Japan resisted like mad against iPhone coming in, and still resist any nationwide system for using the same tech, because the branches of the same parent companies are rivals (like with Apple Pay, you can actually only use it with JR East's Suica, and not JR West's Icoca).

And then there's education, where Japan ranks dead last in terms of G20 funding, and so now the kids can't learn through distance learning because there is not enough equipment at the schools, and kids don't have tablets given to them for use like in some other countries. Hell, the nation is being crippled by the Hanko system and the old guys that insist you MUST come in and stamp a pay/work sheet, you have to write resume's by hand, and the Fax machine is still used more than computers for sending things! For 20 years Japan has been bandying the term "IT" constantly, but still heaps of houses don't even have a computer. Someone should just tell the government and right-wingers and South Korea and China are MILES ahead of them and that they will have to borrow from those nations in the future. That might get them angry enough to take action.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

What the heck is a fax machine??? I think I saw one of those in a 1980's film that was on TV last week. Is Japan bothered about its carbon foot print? just think of how much time, cost, effort, ink, that goes into feeding and printing sheets of paper, I find it amusing that I can get emails from Botswana and other far and distant lands, where lucky for me, a chap who I have never met wants to place millions of ( there currency ) into my bank and he keeps telling me he's a prince trying to escape etc, how come a must hut society can have such good internet connection, when Japan does not? its about time the big internet co stepped unto the mark and started investing in fibre broadband etc.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

this country certainly is a beautiful dichotomy of cutting edge technology mixed with 1960s thinking.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Japan has the British disease. Dreaming about past glories. They have no empires anymore.

The British left Europe because they still think they have an Empire. And the Japanese still believe they are advanced compared to the rest of Asia, and possibly the world.

The next time you are inside a Japanese post office watch how dated their working process is - stamping, checking, ticking boxes, all hardcopies and manually.

My company has customers who still request hardcopy invoices posted to them - they won't accept emails or pdf's.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

I'm really curious about the age of commentators who calling Japan as having high-tech or cutting edge technology. It's possible that their definition of technology may nowhere near actual practice of high-tech and the future of world. :)

Japan had a fantastic history in analog technology, however, unfortunately, totally missed the internet age and digitalization (it's not only about culture, more about missing necessary locomotive youth that will make business environment evolve in a positive way ), and nowhere near a high-tech country for any generation Y or Z in anywhere in the world.

I've both worked in Turkey and Japan, and can call Turkey is way more capable and technologically advanced to adapt to coming decades' needs.

The latest story about Sharp's (leading tech company of Japan) online sales embarrasement, which made both its website and smart home appliances down (in the same time because of its archaic IoT architecture, is a symbol of the technology level in Japan.

News from April 22

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/04/22/business/corporate-business/sharp-temporarily-halts-online-face-mask-sales/#.XqZ98VczaM8

https://www.theverge.com/2020/4/21/21229163/sharp-face-mask-demand-server-crash-iot-smart-devices

*Update of April 27, the problem continue to occur after 5 days :)

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Apart from a few, new, technologically savvy companies, Japanese office culture really doesn't seem to have progressed from the 1960's.

In most countries, an email from a person of authority is enough to move forward with a decision/proposal. No personal signature or seal required. Why? The only personal that should be able to send anything from your email mailbox is you. Then there is digital signing and document management systems of you want to be really efficient and secure . . . . .

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I am old enough to have actually sent a fax, but haven't sent one since 2000.

That is twenty years ago. Outside of Japan you have to be middle aged to know how to use a fax machine.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Last time I sent a fax I think was in the 90’s. Japan will only change in line with Japanese cultural norms (as do all countries), it’s just that in the West the cultural norm is for individuality and responsibility which facilitated the acceptance of digital working and now home working.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

“But this is a matter of life and death for the workers and their families,” said Tazawa

Only 300 or so people dead so far out of 130 million population is hardly a matter of life and death.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

The quality of comments starts topping the choice of news items; so to say.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Anyone who's seen the original Blade Runner Movie, would probably think Tokyo was leading the way in all things tech... but oh boy! How far off the mark could they be! Perhaps Covid-19 will push Japan into the future... though I somehow doubt it, "push back" is the current thing in Japanese Politics.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Neither the person who took the photo above nor the writer of this article are working from home.  The politicians who tell the public to stay home are not staying home.  It has nothing to do with Japan being low tech.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

Only 300 or so people dead so far out of 130 million population is hardly a matter of life and death.

tinawatanabe - your information seems to be a bit behind - it is now nearly 400.

However, what we don't know is how many deaths were caused by COVID-19 have not been recorded correctly. Until the mortality figures for March and April are released, we won't know. Given that of these few hundred people, two were well-known celebrities, I suspect that the total number of deaths and infections is far, far higher that the actual figures given by the governement.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Only 300 or so people dead so far out of 130 million population is hardly a matter of life and death.

Names the number of dead. Claims it's not a matter of death.

Um.....

1 ( +2 / -1 )

tina watanabe: "Only 300 or so people dead so far out of 130 million population is hardly a matter of life and death."

Yeah, sheesh! Curse those dead for making everyone look bad. Obviously no one YOU know died of Covid-19, tina.

"Neither the person who took the photo above nor the writer of this article are working from home."

Congratulations! You win the "obvious award"!

"The politicians who tell the public to stay home are not staying home. It has nothing to do with Japan being low tech."

Except that it has EVERYTHING to do with tech if they are all piled into that train and a guy taking a photo because they don't have the tech to avoid it and stay home. Well done, tina!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

 your information seems to be a bit behind - it is now nearly 400.

In Japan, 10,000 people die from influenza every year. 

Names the number of dead. Claims it's not a matter of death.

Even Influenza is not considered a matter of death for most people.

Obviously no one YOU know died of Covid-19, tina.

Obviously no one YOU know died of Covid-19, smith if injapan. Only  300 /130 million chance. And many of those 300 came sick from abroad this season.

it has EVERYTHING to do with tech if they are all piled into that train and a guy taking a photo because they don't have the tech to avoid it and stay home.

What tech enable him to take a photo of a packed train from home?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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