Rubén Rivero Capriles

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Two Weeks for Venezuela and Japan


Two hours became Two Weeks for Venezuela and Japan. This continuation gave me the opportunity to redraw a favorite theme that I have explored throughout my life wihich are country's flags. As usual in recent days, the cell phone camera does not do justice to the drawing. The left section misses a few centimeters worth of detailed linework, and the upper section misses five small Korean flags and script. Now that the holidays approach I will have some extra time available to finally get three professional pictures taken from my Saskatoon, Two Hours for Japan and Venezuela and Two Weeks for Venezuela and Japan drawings. I sincerely hope that this personalized interpretation and juxtaposition of flags does not offend Japanese and Korean sensibilities. If it does, I do apologize and reassert that I am just trying to promote awareness about the similarities some people have noticed between our cultures, as well described below:

“Interesting topic Rubén. I am Venezuelan-Japanese residing in the USA, serious user of LinkedIn network for professional purposes. Knowing both the Venezuelan and the Japanese cultures, I agree that there seems to be a "resistance" coming from these cultures to take advantage of this type of networking. Not necessarily for the same reasons, however. The concept of "networking" the way we do know it in the US is not universal by nature. French organizations in the US, for instance, find the concept fascinating and use the English word to define it. Once abroad, they have found the need and the taste to promote their language and their culture, together with the advantage of creating professional and business connections. The Alliançe Francaise, the French-American Chamber of Commerce, are very strong organizations that have embraced the cultural and professional idea of networking. And not typically done in France. Perhaps with more Japanese and Venezuelans living abroad, the concept of professional networking will gradually start to make sense for them. (Rumi Mishimura at Intercultural Communications)

"In fact, I have been a member of LinkedIn for the last three years, but have never been active, until recently. For this point, I, a Japanese, wrote in my summary, which I hope will help you: In fact, LinkedIn has few Japanese members, because of; 
2)‘Sense of belonging’ (to the company/firm/team), which in turn means ‘Trust.’ In Japan relation is face-to-face one, and the company does not allow the employees be involved and expose themselves in the ‘virtual relations.’ 
3) Virtue of ambiguity. See "
(Michio Hamaji, Japan USA Business Consultant)

"Hi, Ruben. Apologies for changing a little bit the discussion. I just want to place here (copy & paste) one comment I did on other group about the subject of Japanese people participating on SNS like LinkedIN. I’m just trying to build an argument that the current SNS sites may not experience in Japan the same level of usage that they enjoy in other countries. I just put four points which I believe may explain, in part, the “why not” answer. 
1) According to this "Prosperity Index Report", in the item SOCIAL CAPITAL, Australia is number 4, Canada is 9, USA is 7, UK is 11... and Japan is 40 (forty)!!! Here is the full report: 
Here is the site: 
2) According to journalist Michael Zielenziger, there is an aphorism in Japan that around 70% of the population (poll) agrees completely. Here is the aphorism: 
'hito o mittara, dorobo to omoe' . 
Which is English is like: 'the strange you meet on the street is likely to be a robber'. 
3) When you go to Mixi (JP SNS) and realize that 90% of the profiles there DOES NOT have a photo and DOES NOT display the real name, THEN, you know that something in the behavior of the people in Japan does not "obey the same rules" as the western expectation. My personal opinion is that these 3 points here are CONNECTED and it is in the very fabric of the Japanese Society. 
4) If you are a Japanese national and build your professional profile in LinkedIN, showing a variety of rich professional experience, I believe that this profile will not promote yourself as competent professional (for the old traditional JP structure), because essentially the value of a rich profile is intended to show higher degree of INDIVIDUALITY AND INITIATIVE, two things that in Japan can make yourself "unfit" to the majority of the old Japanese structure, because it can be "translated" as indiscipline (in the old Japanese view). 
</end text> It is just my point of view; I don’t have any serious knowledge over the subject. (Valter Fukuoka at Ark 21st)

Valter, I believe you are not changing the subject but you are instead providing food for further thought. 
1) I checked a comparison between Japan and Venezuela in the home page you mentioned and Japan gets significantly better scoring in all categories. However, on the Social Capital rankings both countries rank very similarly, as the Japanese line and the Venezuelan line on the comparison chart almost cross each other, but only at the social capital area. It seems now that the prosperity report somehow confirms my hypothesis that both Japan and Venezuela share a mistrust of networking. 
2) "the strange you meet on the street is likely to be a robber". Most Latin Americans and certainly Venezuelans could not agree more with the Japanese on this! This leads me to infer that many Latin Americans learn about Japan according to European or North American views translated from English, and of course we are led to believe a terribly huge difference in cultures. I wonder if there were more direct contact between our cultures, we would perhaps discover that Japanese and Latin Americans share a general worldview on society, welfare, and family issues in contrast to European and North American countries. Our main difference that sets us apart (to the worse for Venezuela) involves work ethics and habits. 
3) Valter, as a South American who has an interest about Japan but has never been there, I would appreciate your elaborating on the rules that you refer to. Here comes my first culture shock as I do not get what you are talking about! 
4) I infer that you are saying that Japanese traditional culture rewards group or social mentality over individuality and initiative. However, many countries around the world last century applied that intent to discipline people onto socialist and communist regimes. Even here in Venezuela there is a state-sponsored effort for unified social cohesiveness. It impresses me that Japan, to the contrary, has been able to thrive in the capitalist outside world for many decades. Is it perhaps that individuals are not supposed to show individuality and cohesiveness? But the country as a whole must actually do so? (my response)

"Hi ruben, a few more cents from my end - prosperity index aside, it certainly is true that there are a lot more SNS users (here in Japan) who feel it is de-rigeur to not reveal your real name on venues such as SNSs. They appear to feel that this is risky, and is an open invitation to unwanted or unsolicited spam msgs or criticisms or worse yet, cyber stalkers.... or ...even unsolicited intrusions from workplace colleagues that they may not particularly be fond of. 
As I have never quite looked at things quite that way ( and I am certainly no less Japanese than most.), I was bemuzed to here such tones repeated when a dozen of us - all from the same workplace - visited korea to sync up on the internet/mobile/retail market there - where I found my colleagues were shocked to find that korean users, even high school girls - were appearing on SNSs and alike - all with their pictures and real names !! - the notion being that this would be unthinkable for them (or their daughers...or their wives..for that matter ^ ^ ). Having said that, I would also venture to guess that this behavior - and the logic around it - pertains more to users of casual social networks like MIXI or Facebook Japan.....than to users of more business networking ecosystems such as LinkedIn where it is instead "de-rigeur" for one to openly and widely publicize the profile/credentials so that you can sell your face to the to speak. Like my tweet elsewhere, I suspect the slow take up of LinkedIn in Japan has more to do with language allergy - allergy to English that is.. more than anything else.
To Valter's 4th point, my take is : a may certainly be "revolting" or "low-class" to some audience here (esp those who are over 50) ...for anyone to be seen to be so "overtly" advertising him(her)self - - when what you are made of (eg.your professional credentials) would never have been achievable by yourself only (the notion being it took the people around you, your mentors, your workplace colleagues, the brand behind the organization you worked for while building your career.. all were essential and requisite parts of what you are made of ... and that overt "self profile" does not do adequate justice to the contribution of those that helped you get to where you are now...)......, 
but then again, I suspect this is a rather outdated perspective even here. You will find plenty of local executives that are very very overt in their presentation and advertising of what they have achieved and what they can deliver... only, very few, if any such blog sites/personal web sites... are ever in any language other than Japanese, and therefore, not exactly on the radarscreens of many people who do not speak the native tongue." (Yosuke I. Itoh III ay Sigmaxyz, Inc:)

“I think in Japan the reasons are different and more culturally related. You establish your business relationship face to face through long term contact, mutual commitment and trust - then linkedin is not the first tool to help you out in Japan.... this is I think one of the reasons why it is used less by the Japanese. I have worked in Japan and after returning to Europe only one or two of japanese colleagues have added me to linkedin - and those both are without a lot of contacts” (Kirsten Kramer at Finext)

“I used to work for Japanese companies for almost 12 years and they are approaching business in a formal way. Also they don't like long introductions and if you can add some sentences in Japanese will be helpfull. Keep in mind that desicion maker people in a regular Japanese company are ussually people in the 50 (or older) who speaks (believe or not) a little English.”  (Patricio Dauguet at DCM Industries)

“Linked in is not really used by Japanese folks mainly because it still does not have Japanese Language capability in the language settings (for the user) I have worked with Japanese companies for over 20 years and was also a foreign exchange student to Japan. Most Japanese companies are very conservative and risk adverse. If you are trying to market something as a foreign company it is much more difficult than if you were Japanese. Sometimes it is better to have a local facilitate the marketing aspects to be successful.” (Jim Roberts at Lower Colorado River Authority)

“I can't provide any insights about Venezuela as I do not have the experience to do so, but I can provide in-depth details about Japan. There are several things people need to understand about Japan when it comes to networking. Japan's networking is not in any way "digital" if you will. Japanese networking has always been "analog", in many aspects. Social drinking, meeting face to face, introductions, etc. The very foundations of Japanese networking are pretty much about trust and credibility. LinkedIn provides some level of credibility in terms of being able to share your credentials/CV, but that doesn't really give you enough details about credibility. I think that Northeast Asians (Japan, Korea, and China) share the same ideals about networking, although they are all very different from each other in terms of business nature. You may also find yourself surprised, Japan looks very advanced and ahead in many areas, but in reality, Japan is really not that advanced. Especially in IT, particularly hardware and software. Japan has always been at least 5 to 10 years behind US in this area. The reason for this is that Japanese mentality is pretty much dependent on manual labor and manual skills. We see some very gradual shifting to systems dependency but it's not moving as fast as the western world. As the saying goes in Japanese "Ishibashi wo tataite wataru" - this literally means check the bridge made of stone before crossing it. Nobody really does that as the bridge made of stone is a lot stronger than a bridge made of wood. Japan is very late in "commoditizing" cellular phones. In fact, Hong Kong was earlier. NTT Docomo was so confident that they can beat iPhone with their "so called" iMode with Prada Phone, but when Apple made their revenue statement last year, NTT Docomo is now eating humble pie and they're even going to launch iPhone under NTT Docomo platform. The same can be said about Panasonic (Matsushita Electric). They waited until they get beaten and defeated by Samsung and LG before they realize that they are not the best. It takes a disaster to happen before things would change for the Japanese. People do not look at the future and innovate anymore. Many Japanese people that I know of view Cyber Networking not too different from Facebook and other online dating sites. It's really frustrating to think about it but that's how Japan is and that's how it's going to be in the future” (Cesar Sison at Centimax China Corporation)

“Whilst I can certainly see where Cesar's coming from and much echo's with what you see around you in Japan. However I am more optimistic and expectant that Japans embracing of opportunity and innovation will grow faster than people think. I'm a big believer in face to face networking and feel online networks enhance and facilitate growing the networks of people you know well. I certainly see the difference in numbers of Japanese people using online Business networks. Some of this can be explained with Japanese conservativeness and privacy concerns. Online Social networks & persona (largest nation of Bloggers in the world - until China lifts the ban maybe!) do thrive here much more than Business networks, but the majority of social network, blog and online profiles are anonymous. I know many non-Japanese that don't like the importance & requirement of opening yourself up on LinkedIn and so either do not take part or barely so. For Japanese this must be ten fold. With regard to business, networking, innovation, competition and entrepreneurial hunger - don't discount the young up and coming Japanese professional who is hungry for success, cannot rely on wealthy parents and does not fit into the structured and stiff Japan system. Watch out too for the older Japanese man (and women) who has been unable to re-enter the workforce after losing his salary man job years before and has not given up - far from it, has launched into using his network to start his own business and push out into business opportunity both here and abroad. And finally as in Marketing; you can't tell the market what to do, you can only do what works, recongnize that, and do more of it. If Networking with Japanese people is easier offline, Network with people in or connected to Japan offline! 
So much online 'Networking' is little more than the accumulation of 'connections' and very little connection or two way conversation, if any, goes on at all.” (Jason Ball at Good People Japan)

My conclusion is that I believe serious online networkers can go beyond the accumulation of connections and actively seek for sporadic two way conversations every once in a while. After a few months of years, such connections have the potential of becoming as strong as traditional face-to-face friendships. The good response I have received from this post suggests me that there is some interest among some sectors of Japan to experiment with this new form of communication with those who do not have the resources to travel there. 

Rubén Rivero Capriles

Caracas, December 16, 2009