Michael McThrow comments

Posted in: Why doesn't Japan have much of a start-up and venture capital culture? See in context

I believe one of the reasons why there aren't a lot of startups in Japan is because the consequences of failure are much greater there than in other places. In America, suppose a bright college graduate gets together with a few of his or her colleagues and creates a startup company. If the company fails (which is the usual case), then these founders are usually able to find employment with no fatal consequences to their careers. In fact, their experience starting a business may make those candidates more attractive in the eyes of companies.

But in Japan, major companies prefer to hire fresh college graduates. If a person misses this limited window of opportunity to apply for a job during the "shuukatsu" season (which is during the junior and senior years of undergraduate), then that person could wind up having a career filled with low-paying jobs that offer little prestige and job security, since major companies seldom hire people as non-temps who are not recent college grads. For a bright, entrepreneurial college student, it is safer to apply for a job at a major company during his or her junior year of undergrad than to gamble by starting a company. While the payoff is huge if the startup becomes successful (consider the stories of companies like Rakuten and GREE), the career losses could be great if the company is unsuccessful.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Posted in: Tokyo bar owner, 3 hostesses arrested for drugging, robbing customer See in context

As an African-American man, I am annoyed whenever Nigerians or other black people in Japan commit crimes. Over three years ago when I lived in Japan, I unknowingly ventured into Kabukicho when I entered Shinjuku for the very first time (I never heard of Kabukicho before and all of the problems there). While I was walking through the area, two black men approached me; I thought they were going to start a conversation with me about their experiences in Japan. But then they started asking me, "Do you want to **** a Japanese girl tonight?", and they even presented pictures! I've never seen this before even in the rough parts of America! I declined the proposition, managed to get myself out of Kabukicho safely, and found the Shinjuku Station to get away from the area.

Such people who perform illegal and immoral acts annoy me because they only reinforce the stereotypes that many people around the world have about black people, that we're prone to criminality and that we're bad influences wherever we go. These people make it harder for hard-working, law-abiding, moral black people to gain acceptance. Four months after that incident, I was stopped by the police in Shibuya on a summer Saturday night at around 9:00pm, being asked about why I was there. Once I told them that I was an American just sightseeing in Shibuya for the night, they politely ended the conversation and left. What was that about? I suspect it was racial profiling; that never happened to me in America.

I wish more people realized that, like it or not, we are representatives of our ethnicities and our home countries whenever we travel or live abroad. We have a responsibility to conduct ourselves respectfully in order for the next person from our ethnicity or nationality to enjoy a good experience. I had an overall great experience living in Japan; in fact, I'm going to go back later this month on a vacation to visit all of the friends that I made when I lived there. I was treated with respect by most people. I want it to stay this way.

20 ( +19 / -1 )

Posted in: Mama-friendships can be deceptive See in context

There's an interesting drama called "Namae o Nakushita Megami" 「名前をなくした女神」that is about a group of mothers and the drama within the group. Judging by the article, apparently it's a reality.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Posted in: Okinawa's off-base housing may suffer infestation of Chinese bugs See in context

Hopefully this doesn't lead to discrimination against Chinese immigrants in Japan or to foreigners looking to purchase real estate in Japan. Currently, if I understand correctly, there are no restrictions on the purchase of real estate in Japan by foreigners, although banks typically require permanent residency or citizenship for mortgages. I hope that this, as well as Japan's disputes with its neighbors, doesn't lead to increased restrictions on the rights and privileges of foreigners.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Posted in: What Japanese women think about money and marriage See in context

Ummmm, how exactly does a 30-year old man earn ¥6,000,000 per year in Japan, short of him working in the financial industry or his having his own business? I thought that the basic salary for recent college grads is around ¥200,000. Even for recent PhD graduates (who would be around 27 or 28), most starting salaries I've seen are around ¥250,000 to ¥270,000, which translates to ¥4,000,000-¥4,320,000 per year, assuming biannual bonuses equal to two months of salary each. I would be very interested in finding out.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Posted in: Japan's largest McDonald's opens in Harajuku Omotesando See in context

tmarie, back when I lived in Japan I found that while McDonald's value menu items are hard to beat (two years ago, a hamburger was ¥100, and a cheeseburger was ¥120; I don't know how much they cost in Japan now since I've been away from Japan since August 2010), for meals there were plenty of other restaurants that offered other options at the same or similar price. I believe a Big Mac meal in Japan goes for around ¥650. There are plenty of other options for ¥650. There was a place near my internship that sold maguro-don and a bowl of soup for about that much, and the restaurant served free water and tea. I could also get a freshly-made bento box for about the same price. Gyudon and a side salad was less than ¥650. Rice and gyoza could be bought for around ¥500. The cheapest lunch in my area was a grocery store bento box, which came in many varieties and was only ¥298.

I'm starting to get hungry thinking about the food I had in Japan.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Posted in: Japan's largest McDonald's opens in Harajuku Omotesando See in context

I must say that the food that I had at the McDonald's locations that I went to in Tokyo and Kawasaki during my eight-month stay in Japan were the best McDonald's I've ever tasted. The service was exemplary. I wish McDonald's in America served the ebi (shrimp) burger; that was awesome. It will be interesting to check out this flagship location the next time I'm in the Harajuku area.

I enjoy Japan's "native" restaurants and street food; I loved the small ma-and-pop restaurants there, and even the chain restaurants like Rakeru and Yayoi-ken and fast food places like Sukiya, Tenya, and MOS Burger are worth writing home about. But there's nothing wrong with having McDonald's in Japan, and the Japanese McDonald's locations that I've been to have been well-run, from the service to the presentation and quality of the food.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Posted in: IMF urges Japan to triple consumption tax to reduce debt See in context

Japan is in a very difficult situation. In the 2012 budget, the government is projected to take in 46 trillion yen from taxes and other non-loan income. Nearly half of it (about 22 trillion) will go toward servicing the national debt. After adding social security spending, (about 26 trillion), Japan is now 2 trillion yen in the hole, and this leaves out defense, education, infrastructure spending, healthcare, and all of the other things the Japanese government does. This is an even worse situation than the US government's budget situation, which is pretty dire. The Japanese government plans on funding its obligations with over 44 trillion in loans, which is almost as much as it receives in actual income! There's no way the Japanese government could tackle its debt when its deficits are almost as high as its income, and when servicing the debt consumes half of it.

Raising the consumption tax from 5% to 15% to solve Japan's deficit problems is like a firefighter upgrading from a water gun to a garden hose to fight a city-wide fire. It's so sad to see Japan in the flames of massive debt and expanding deficits. Japan is a very inspiring place, in my opinion, but its government's massive debt and chronic deficits threaten the well-being of the nation. Since the yen's strength is tied to Japan's ability to pay its debt, this has profound consequences for holders of yen (e.g., Japanese people). Given Japan's financial state, it's somewhat odd that the yen is so strong. Then again, that may be because the yen is compared to the currencies of other debt-encumbered areas like the US and the EU. This is just a guess (please correct me if I'm wrong), but I believe much of Japan's debt is bought by Japanese banks (such as Mizuho), while much of America's debt is bought by the Federal Reserve. I think this explains why there hasn't been much price inflation in Japan since the bubble era ended, while price inflation in America has been growing steadily.

I don't have any good solutions, but unless a combination of radical spending cuts, privatization, selling off of publicly-owned property, and explosive growth in Japanese industry and exports occurs, Japan will be forced to either print its way out of its debt problem (leading to hyperinflation à la Weimar Germany in 1923, which would devastate Japan) or look into repudiation (which could also destroy the value of the yen since it is not backed by anything). This is the future of the EU, America, and other heavily-indebted regions/nations, too, if they do not reverse their years of debt accumulation and chronic deficits.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

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