Identity politics, Cosmopolitanism and Business:
Journey of a Japanese Company in Hong Kong
The major aim of the presentation is to analyze the discourse of identity politics and cosmopolitan values in the process of translating and reinterpreting Japaneseness in Hong Kong. It is based on a long-term participant observation at a Japanese multinational retailer, here called it Ichi in Hong Kong. Numerous scholars have positively evaluated the influence of Japanese companies on Hong Kong consumers and their behaviors. In comparison to these studies, groups of scholars criticized Japanese management system to be overtly traditional and to be left behind the global standards. However, few have explored how these two different perceptions on Japan or Japaneseness could exist without conflicting with each other. This presentation examines, specifically, how local employees constructed these two attitudes in a context of postcolonial Hong Kong. Ichi markets itself as a global company while the management system was backward which largely echoes with previous management literatures. Local employees, who interpret Japanese cultures as advanced and unique before joining Ichi, were disappointed at the Japanese management system yet reconfirmed their passive perception were not wrong. These two feelings surprisingly did not conflict with each other nor reduced their positive feelings towards Japan because it resemblances to the local identity, which was mixed by Western ideology and Chineseness, and also the cosmopolitan values allow them to choose what is suitable to the occasion. This presentation implies that the translation or reinterpretation process of one culture to another is not a singular phenomenon, but a plural and dynamic process, and it has to be understood in relation to the formation of the local Hong Kong identity and the influence of Japanese culture in Hong Kong.
Keywords: identity, politics, cosmopolitanism, business, postcolonial
Rites and Symbol in Corporate Management
This presentation aims to anthropologically examine the ways in which a corporate entity’s rites and symbols in management help construct a unique corporate identity, and the ways in which community members can cultivate a strong sense of belonging. Numerous management scientists believed that corporate identity was a fixed concept that could be measured scientifically. This perspective overlooks its fluidity and the impacts of routines and symbolic figures on identity building. This study will use the case of a Japanese ramen shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts (USA), to examine one of the unique aspects of Japanese management, which is to use daily routines and symbols to enhance collectivism. This paper uses the anthropological notion of identity building to offer a new perspective on management studies and to deepen the understanding of management in the Japanese context.
Keywords: identity, rites, symbol, management, Japan
Eat, Share and Serve:
Founder Philosophy and Community Building in Business
This presentation aims to examine how the founder philosophy influences the formation of a community in the workplace and to explore its possible implications. Few studies on business examined carefully how locally formed philosophy could be accepted and spread by the global audience without loosing its authenticity. This presentation is based on a fieldwork at a Japanese ramen shop, here called it Sakura in Cambridge (U.S.) in 2017, and aims to show how the founder philosophy that was represented along with the characteristic of Japaneseness, such as ramen and shop atmosphere, attract people across cultures to join the Sakura community. Founder philosophy states that everyone is entitled to dream, to share them and expected to eventually give back to society claiming that the shop was just a platform for people to realize their dreams rather than simply a ramen shop. Transforming founder philosophy to ideology was facilitated and controlled by series of informal rules, and members at Sakura seemed to have shared this philosophy voluntarily and believed they can dream and realize them only by joining Sakura community. This case shows that simple and positive message of the philosophy, its benefits to the members’ desires and creation of image as non-profit organization attracted people from different cultural backgrounds to create a community strongly bounded by founder ideology. It also shows how a company creates and recreates an eco system where members would voluntarily spread this spirit to outsiders to include more members as well as customers.
Keywords: community, business, philosophy, ideology, Japan
Language, Ideology, and Cross-cultural management:
Cases of Japanese managers in Hong Kong and the United States
With the increasing presence of Japanese companies overseas, many of them nowadays invest a great deal in English education, aiming to improve their English language abilities. However, is English the main and only challenge that Japanese companies face when managing local employees? Do people with better English abilities have a stronger advantage when attempting to achieve their goals than those who do not? This presentation aims to answer these questions based on fieldwork conducted in two Japanese companies, an apparel retailer in Hong Kong and a ramen chain in the United States. Despite their differences, the top managements in both companies believe in the potential of Japanese culture and aim to spread Japan-centered ideology across cultures through their products and management that is considered to be superior to that in other companies. Stories from these two companies show that one of the major factors that determine their relationship with local employees is not the language ability, but rather, the extent to which they attempt to impose Japan-centered ideology on the locals or, in another words, the extent to which they expect the local employees to “Japanize” their behaviors. This implies that language is a tool to express deeply rooted ideas, such as how employees interpret Japan-centered ideology and take action based on it. The findings of this study suggest that companies should invest more in educating employees to improve their ways of thinking and highlights the necessity of respecting and learning from local people rather than simply focusing on language education.
本発表では、Barth (1998) の民族境界論を理論的枠組みとし、企業文化と現地文化の接触を通じて、従業員が如何に内部者と外部者を区別し、民族的アイデンティティを変容させているのか分析する。事例として、香港における日系企業（A社）と日本における中国系企業（B社、C社）を取り上げ、現地調査得たデータにもとづいて考察する。日系、中国系とは、企業の創始者がそれぞれ日本、中国本土出身であることを指す。
Barth, Fredrik. Ethnic groups and boundaries: The social organization of culture difference. Waveland Press, 1998.
Reexamination of Cultural Superiority: Negotiating the Meaning of “Japaneseness” in a Cross-cultural Workplace
This presentation reexamines the conventional idea of Japan’s cultural superiority in Asia based on the analysis of how the local workers negotiate “Japaneseness” in a cross-cultural setting. “Japaneseness” here indicates the image of Japan constructed by the local consumers and the workers. Case of a Japanese multinational company, here calls it Ichi, in Hong Kong will be introduced to explore how the company imports Japanese culture through its business practices and how local workers negotiated the meaning of “Japaneseness” in their daily work life. Two conflicted yet coexisted interpretations of Japanese culture are observed: on the one hand, many local consumers stressed and enhanced Japan’s cultural superiority through their mass consumption of Japanese culture, but on the other hand, local workers were reluctant to uncritically accept this idea because they interpreted Japanese working culture as passive and inferior although interestingly, these two interpretations coexist with each other. This finding implies that perceptions of one nation’s culture will be largely influenced not only by the local’s socio-cultural context but also by the interpretations of particular aspect of its culture.
I organized the panel entitled “Business Anthropology and its Implications” and presented “What are the implications of business anthropology to management scientists?”
AJJ Fall Meeting 2016
Reinvention, Redefinition and Reconfiguration of Japan
26 – 27 November
University of Tsukuba
Official website is here.
Conference Theme / 大会要旨
You are invited to participate in a Fall Meeting of Anthropology of Japan in Japan (AJJ) to be held at University of Tsukuba, Japan from 26th to 27th November 2016. AJJ has organized series of meetings about Japanese studies and Japan in the discourse of globalization and localization, centers and periphery, and in the context of transformation of identities and the challenges and developments of its landscapes. In the direction of these discussions, this meeting asks how Japan has been reinvented, redefined and reconfigured accompanied by the emergence of new social-cultural ideologies, practices, organizational forms, and political spaces.
Beyond merely describing instances, this meeting aims to conceptualize the relationship between poli-economic change and social change as one of mutual conditioning. How, for instance, are political developments in Japan part of, or responses to, larger global processes or world systems? How does Japan aim to develop its status as cultural superpower through the consumption and representation of its subculture, cuisine and customer service? How do the gender identities and relations have been redefined and how does the masculinity and femininity have been reformed in this process? How has employment restructured in response to the decreasing number of labor force and adaptation to the globalized environment?
With these questions in mind, this meeting aims to stimulate critical dialogues about the transformation of Japan and provides a platform for scholars to foster intercultural exchange. The sub-themes of this meeting include, but are not limited to reinvention, redefinition and reconfiguration of:
- National-cultural identity (such as 「日本を取り戻す」Retrieving Japan);
- Student movements (such as anti-war protests);
- Japanese values and aesthetics (omotenashi, etc.);
- Japanese business;
- Work and self (diversity of employment patterns, etc.);
- Gendered practices (such as same-sex marriage);
- Education (Super Global High Schools, Super Global Universities, etc.);
- Subculture (such as “Cool Japan”);
- Care for the elderly (new institutions, practices, etc.).
Participants are very welcome to submit paper proposals on other related themes.
- サブカル（Cool Japanなど）；
Organizing Committee / 大会組織委員会
- Prof. Keiji Maegawa, University of Tsukuba (Head)
- Prof. Hisao Sekine, University of Tsukuba
- Assc.Prof. Nobutaka Suzuki, University of Tsukuba
- Dr. Toru Yamada, University of Tsukuba
- Dr. Shuhei Kimura, University of Tsukuba
- Dr. Grant Otsuki, University of Tsukuba
- Dr. Yi Zhu, University of Tsukuba
- 前川 啓治（筑波大学）委員長
- 関根 久雄（筑波大学）
- 鈴木 伸隆（筑波大学）
- 山田 亨（筑波大学）
- オオツキ グラント（筑波大学）
- 木村 周平（筑波大学）
- 朱 藝（筑波大学）
Panel title: Selective Evidence: Legitimating and Affirming Identities in Asia-Pacific
Presentation title: Corporate system and its implementation: Lessons from a Japanese company
Key words: system, hospitality, customer service, manual, Japaneseness
This presentation anthropologically examines the implementation process of a corporate system and its effects on employee behaviors at a Japanese fashion giant, here called it Ichi, in Hong Kong. As the largest Asian fashion retailer in 2015, Ichi expanded its business aggressively overseas. With the aim of becoming a real global company, Ichi started a unique campaign that aims to disseminate the Japanese spirits, in particular the Japanese hospitality or “omotenashi” spirit. Serving customers with traditional Japanese hospitality has been regarded as ideal and Ichi embodies this into the written form, a Customer Service Manual as well as in a promotional system so as to ensure and to facilitate the progress. Field data I collected through a one and a half year participant observation at Ichi stores shows a unique picture. Employees who did not share the corporate ideology have been largely influenced by the act of memorizing and repeating the Customer Service Manual in their daily work life and started to serve customers as the way company expected. However, the field data also shows that many of their performances were manipulated so that they could satisfy their own interests, which was to get promotion. We may conclude that the company has succeeded in achieving their goals, but employees may not have to compromise their interests to get what they want. This implies that the conflict discourse within the organization could be interpreted differently in the various local contexts.