November 1, 2016

Where Silence Is To Be Filled … Japanese Corporate Public Relations in the United States

 In the 50s and 60s, it was primarily American managers who travelled across the Pacific as expatriates.  Lately, the current has reversed.  More Japanese and other Asian managers are coming to the United States – an indication of reversing roles and perhaps reversing economic status.

However, unlike the Americans who had a history as liberators during World War II, the Japanese are coming to the United States arousing America’s lingering fears of expansionism.  This view of the Japanese coupled with a culture more diametric to the Americans or the Europeans – major foreign investors as well in the U.S. – has contributed to the image problem of the largely successful Japanese companies.

Where Silence Is …

“In Asia, eloquence is silver and silence is gold,” according to Ben Okamoto, New York bureau editor for The Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s leading newspaper.  “However in America, silence gets you nowhere and eloquence will get things done.”

Kunio Ito, Public Affairs  Director of the Japanese External Trade Organization (JETRO) calls it modesty.  In practice, modesty is letting one’s actions speak for themselves.  In Japan, one assumes that those who are involved in and those who are observing company activities will understand their purpose.  There is no need to announce much less advertise the events with press releases and other  media presentations.  In the United States where “silence is to be filled.” the company must make more pronounced and repeated efforts to inform the public and other interest groups what they are doing.  In spreading the word, there is nothing as “one too many.”

There  are two messages a number of Japanese companies want more Americans to know about: the establishment of local manufacturing operations  and Japanese participation in local communities.

Made in the U.S.A.

When  Toyota established a new factory in Kentucky, the primary concern of the company, according to Akikazu Kida, Toyota’s Public Relations Manager, was that some might think of it as another economic invasion from  Japan.  To allay this apprehension, Toyota decided to take a more proactive step by initiating a media campaign to inform the public that a good number of Toyota’s vehicles would be made by Americans for Americans.

With  consumer goods, there seems to be a need to stamp “Made in the USA” on an essentially Japanese product to assuage nationalistic fervor.  However,  in higher levels of business where there is no need to directly interface with the American public, Japanese companies are expected to be totally Japanese in their  dealings with American businessmen, according to Mike Masayuma, Deputy General Manager of the trading firm, Mitsubishi International  Corporation.  Outside investors are not only looking  for seed money but the Japanese style of management.  For  example, Masuyama believes the Japanese have a more caring and attentive approach in terms of customer service.

According to Ito, the “Made In the USA” drive is part manufacturing strategy to locate production near the customers and part an effort to please American consumers and politicians.  One concern, even after moving production to the United States, is the way the American people perceive Japanese companies.  They don’t think of Honda as just a motor company but as a Japanese company.  He comments, “always Japan”.  The label Japan is on Honda and other Japanese companies.  If Sony buys Columbia Pictures, it’s Japan invading Hollywood.  If an Australian company buys a film company, it’s just company A buying company B.”

Japan Bashing

Mr. Satoru Maruyama, Chief Representative of OKI-America, a telecommunications firm, said there are two sides to Japan-bashing, the emotional side as espoused by the politicians, and the business side seeking to protect their own interests.  Another high-ranking Japanese manager thinks that Japan-bashing is an expression of frustration and jealousy in the face of America’s diminishing economic power.  When asked about allegations of unfair trade practices, he commented that the Japanese government has been removing trade restrictions for the past five years.  Even before that, trade barriers were not so much a matter of policies and regulations, but more of cultural preferences.  It takes longer to change Japanese consumer attitudes toward foreign products.  As to assertions of Japanese companies dumping products in the United States (i.e. the selling of goods below production and marketing costs) he stated that this would lead one to think Japanese companies are willing to sell at a loss which is the wrong way to run a business.

To counter Japan-bashing, aside from shifting production to the United States, an increasing number of Japanese companies in the U.S. are working to be better corporate citizens in the American perspective, either through charitable donations, local community involvement, or both.  Fujitsu, a computer and communications firm, sponsors a college basketball tournament and has established a scholarship fund for minority scientists. Toyota has a series of national ads portraying its community involvement with the theme “Investing in the Individual.” One ad depicts an employee who volunteers her time to the Special Olympics for disabled athletes.  Another features a child with a computer  in a local daycare/community centre supported by Toyota.

Is the Strategy Working?

Most Japanese companies are finding out that solely donating money can lead to suspicions of self-serving interests.  This is precisely the reaction met by one corporation when it gave a significant donation to the research department of a leading university.  Financial contributions used for the local community, where there are no clear-cut returns, accompanied by genuine participation, are received with more bonhomie.

The efforts in active community involvement seem to be working in reducing anti-Japanese sentiment.  This was confirmed by a JETRO survey of a number of American officials and local community representatives.  The reason for  such anti-Japanese sentiment, Ito explains, is partly due to the fact that there is still something unknown about the Japanese by the Americans.  Unlike European countries where the people and culture came first, in the case of Japan it’s the products which preceded the people and their culture.  Americans know about the products but they don’t  know the people.  This unknown quantity is something they fear.   

This “faceless” Japan, according to Hironobu Shibuya, president of the public relations firm Dentsu  Burston-Marsteller – NY, is compounded by Japanese reticence and failure to mingle with the local community.  “Though, the same can be said for Americans living in Japan who usually stick to their own clubs.”  One Japanese manager  said that they prefer living in the same neighborhood because their wives and children speak little English.  And knowing that they will be reassigned in three or four years, there is really no point in making serious efforts to acculturate to American society.

Within The Company

Though studies have shown that the language difference is one major problem in a Japanese company in the United States, the situation is not easily solved with translation when connotations are different.  Ito cites the word “parallel.”  In English, it could mean you’re heading in the same direction.  In Japanese, parallel implies you will never meet.  The Japanese might think he is communicating with his American colleagues but they are arriving at different conclusions.  Even the question “why?” can upset some Japanese because when it is raised in response to an instruction, it would imply hesitancy to follow procedures.  When raised in response to an explanation, it would be an impolite implication that the explainer was not clear.

One problem language differences has affected is the question of career development.  According to Jil Galloway, Personnel Manager at Mitsubishi International, “working for a Japanese firm is in a sense different from an American firm because there are always two levels of personnel, the Japanese manager and the American staff.  At some level above you, there’s  always a Japanese staff.”   Would fluency in Japanese be advantageous?  Masuyama said that in trading or banking firms where the mandate comes from Tokyo, it would help to be bilingual.  However, one need not necessarily know Japanese to be promoted in manufacturing firms where day-to-day decision making is mostly done locally.

Another issue Japanese managers must address is the assumption that every employee knows his duties and responsibilities.  This assumption  succeeds  in Japan but it fails in the United States because of the differences in hiring systems.  According to Ito, Japanese companies hire college recruits en masse every year for lifetime employment whether business is up or down.  They undergo a rigorous training program for several months.  Because these recruits work in groups, one can assume each member has the same level of knowledge.  This  team work is one explanation why there are no individual job descriptions in Japanese companies; and since the group’s objectives are paramount rather than individual success, the individual appraisals are relegated to an informal basis.  Performance  appraisals of the question and answer form common in the United States are unfamiliar to the Japanese manager, according to Galloway.  In the United States employment is on as needed basis and turnover is higher.  As a result, such extensive group training is neither possible nor worthwhile.

It would seem the American employee faces more obstacles working for a Japanese company.  However, in a recent study, the major concerns expressed by American  employees working for a Japanese company, other than language problems, are the same as those working for America’s Fortune 500.  The employees want to be more of a team, to be respected for what  they do; they want to be heard  and be given a chance to contribute.

Japanese companies are instituting more measures within the company to promote greater communication feedback and to overcome language and cultural barriers.  For one, cultural orientation programs are being held for both Japanese and American employees.  Improved employee and community relations could answer some of the unknowns and mollify the fears and mistrust.  Most importantly, they could confirm common human dimensions bestowing upon the Japanese managers, and ultimately the companies, a less apprehensive image.

October 17, 2016

SHIRLEY DELICIOUS in Vancouver Island British Columbia

Julia with Phil at Shirley Delicious

There is something enjoining in facing the sea on a near dark evening and talking to a friend.   And that is what transpired in Whiffen Spit in the village of Sooke.  On my way back to the campgrounds, I was in the mood for a light snack.  So when I saw Route 14 Diner, I thought I spotted a sure thing.

Inside it was almost filled with one empty table.  A doe-eyed smiling lady came over with the menu.  I decided on a crab cake plate.   – for two small 3 inch crab cakes average tasting plus a small side of carrot/cabbage shreds, I paid CAD$16.00 plus tax and tip.  It was nicely plated in a white long rectangular but Not a sure thing!  

I asked the server a suggestion on a breakfast place on the way to Port Renfrew.  She blurted out Shirley Delicious.  

Shirley Delicious?

Yes it’s in the community or hamlet of Shirley along Route 14 (also dubbed West Coast Road) where you can hardly see any house or people.  

I was intrigued.

The next morning, I got there close to 8 am.  It was an A-shaped frame and Julia (who had a very light European accent – turns out she was Dutch) asked if I wanted coffee.  A few seconds later, a bubbly slim man named Phil came out.  His accent was harder to pinpoint – and as it turned out – as often the case - with an inflection from South Africa.
Corn Frittata

Shirley Delicious had an unusual brunch menu in addition to the standard sausages, eggs and bacon.  I had two flat pancake-like corn frittata which was served warm - topped with a salsa of cubed tomatoes and feta cheese - noticeably tad too cold – just direct from the refrigerator?  CAD$ 9.00.  For dessert, a gluten free Double Chocolate Cranberry & Walnut Torte – CAD $6.50 -  quite hard to bite after being in the cooler overnight – but holds promise.

The siren’s call was the selection of baked sweets, a number of which are gluten free.  As I was planning to go on several hikes later that day, I stocked up with Pumpkin Cinnamon Shortbread CAD$4.00 (satisfyingly dense), Salt Caramel Cheesecake with a douse of caramel syrup CAD$4.00 (okay), a Peach Berry Pie (a bumbleberry mix) CAD$5.25– (tart and sweet), a cheese-ham squarish croissant CAD$4.50 – fresh from the oven – how can you go wrong but otherwise ordinary.  The star was the Cinnamon Twist stick.  With a core of sugar cinnamon syrup this is a must (twice) at CAD$3.50.

Reasonable prices, good friendly service, Shirley Delicious is a welcome pause in the journey.   And just a mile away is a panoramic short hike to the Sheringham Lighthouse.

Address: 2794 Sheringham Point Road corner Route 14
Shirley BC
Tel:  778 528 2888
Open every day 8 am till 5 pm except Christmas.

BTW here is a good blog on what Vancouver Island Beyond Victoria has to offer including Shirley Delicious.

Adobo - a Filipino Entree for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner or just a Snack

I had to demonstrate Filipino Cuisine to the West Point Grey Baptist Church Cooking Class, mostly wealthy Chinese ladies immigrants, on October 14, 2016.  So I decided on Adobo as an entrĂ©e and Leche Flan as dessert.  Rice and bottled atchara were the sides. Before doing so, I researched and experimented various adobo recipes including those previously posted. To taste test, I requested James a Taiwanese student whose feedback with his Chinese palate was very helpful.


So here it goes:

There over 28000 variations in the preparation and cooking of Adobo.  Philippine adobo is different from adobo done in Mexico, Spain or other Latin American countries.

Adobo came from the Spanish word “adobar”” which means a seasoning or marinade.
The way Joseph will do it is considered the classic style.  Simple and easy.

All the ingredients are simply placed in a pot, covered and simmered for hours. Sometimes, with the long period of cooking, the chicken meat disintegrates into strips floating with its own fat, but it tastes deliciously the same.  Americans love adobo.

Chicken or Pork Adobo

·         1 whole chicken cut into pieces (or  a package of chicken thighs, or pork side ribs/pork back ribs, or pork belly, or rabbit, or eel, etc.)  I prefer meat with bones - bones give taste and contains gelatin good for the skin.
·         1/2 c soy sauce or 3/4 c soy sauce (if you prefer it more soy-ish)
·         1 c vinegar (Filipino coconut/palm vinegar or apple cider vinegar)
·         1/2 c water or 3/4 c water if using 3/4 c soy sauce
·         1 head garlic (peel out skin, pressed using mortar and pestle or any heavy object, and sliced into pieces) – the way you work on garlic affects its enhancing taste see The Best Way to Mince Garlic  or How to Mince Garlic  
·         1 tablespoon ground pepper
Note: based on James' taste testing, I realize Chinese prefer a more soy sauce -ish marinade whereas moi prefer a more sour vinegary immersion.

Put all ingredients in a bowl.  Do not use anything aluminum as the coating on most aluminum pans react with the vinegar.

Marinate the adobo overnight in a refrigerator (or at least a couple of hours before cooking). Some cooks include 2 pieces of bay leaf.  Joseph doesn’t.  I find the smell overpowering and unnecessary.

The following day transfer the chicken and marinade into stock pot – again do not use aluminum pots.

Simmer, without stirring, in low fire for about 1 hour.   Do not touch chicken while cooking in vinegar.  Only move it around when cooked.  Moving it can affect the flavor, according to older ladies.

Reduce sauce.

When sauce is bubbling thick, turn off heat.  Pull out chicken pieces.  Brown fry in a separate pan in cooking oil.  Do not use canola or olive oil.  Healthier alternative is coconut oil.  Frying gives texture and crunch to the skin.

Once golden brown, pour in the remainder of the reduced sauce.


You can simply let the chicken stay in the sauce while reducing.  This may cause the chicken to shred tender into pieces.  With pork, this is not an issue.  Just reduce till pork marinade becomes almost its own fat.  In a way this is pork adobo confit.

Season to taste with lemon or fish sauce or a combination.  Serve with steamed white rice and as a side: atchara (Filipino pickled thin green unripe papaya strips) or steamed veggies of your choice.

For leftovers refrigerate the adobo (will last for two weeks) or leave on the kitchen counter (will last at least 4 days in tropical room temperature).  Vinegar kills bacteria and is pickling. 

The 30 Chinese ladies and man love the Adobo – everything was gone – and they had many questions.  Can they use duck or turkey?  I tried turkey but it was average because turkey has little fat.  Fatty meats or parts work best.  Can they add rice wine?  Why not, try it.  Is there a Filipino restaurant nearby?  Now that is a benchmark!