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Maybe there was an edit before but I had no problem downloading the linked pdf. [1]

Pretty interesting read, I have no real knowledge of Japan and I have to say I would've fallen into the category of people that assumed everything was miles ahead in Japan.

I've noticed a few people from HN living in Japan, I'd love to hear what their thoughts are on this.

[1] http://synaptify.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/An-Innovator...




I'm in Tokyo, and I have lived here for 12 years. The paper is quite interesting, and I have no major disagreement, but of course it is not the full picture. As I see it, the main problem Japan has is that the education and work culture is good at iterative learning and refinement, but bad at picking up and acting upon ideas that are far from how things are currently done. This is a consensus society, and things have to be broadly agreed upon in the group/company to have a chance. If there is a risk of disagreement the idea will either be buried in endless meetings, or simply dropped without discussion. This makes decision making slow and unimaginative.

Software is a good example. Most software and home pages in Japan look like they have been designed by committee, where every person in the room has a pet feature that has to be on the front page. This leads to software that is cluttered and hard to use. There is also little innovation; most new software seems based on designs already in use.

However, there is one aspect where Japan shines. People care about visuals, and graphics and icons are often pleasing. This at least is an advantage in game software, where Japan is not lagging as badly as in business software.


The game visuals in Japanese games are very pretty and stylistic. However this is just the surface and the game mechanics itself is poor. I find the Japanese games are typically a grind, collect them all, or single path perfection.

The game software reflects back on the real world. Lots of style but no substance. Example, the typical Japanese offices have very shiny reception area but where the real work gets done is a cramped, uncomfortable place.

Indeed Japan feels like it's run by a committee. I worry that Japan is like General Motors. Some very interesting products, some very passionate capable people, but the culture doesn't allow innovative things to happen.


I would recommend Alex Kerr's 'Dogs and Demons' book about Japan. It is kind of old (2001) but it is still a great read about what have been some of the specific problems from Japan these past decades.


I've always wondered why everyone recommends that book. In the English-teacher community in Japan it's like the sacred text for those who want to complain about Japan. ;)


The dropbox link eventually worked, it showed me an error message the first few times I clicked on it. I would love to hear more about it too. I wish the author had included more of their personal context in terms of why and how they decided to leave.


I'm still unable to download the PDF, can you post the link to the dropbox copy? Thanks!




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