Posts tagged with "Japan"

The moral high ground: Japanese woman leads worldwide campaign to wear flats at work

June 13, 2019

It’s high noon in the workplace: Women are gunning for a change in office dress codes that would enable them to work—and walk—in comfort.

Indeed, according to a report by The Guardian,  millions of women worldwide, at all levels of the workplace hierarchy, continue to endure their working hours tortured by blisters, bloodied flesh, foot pain, knee pain, back pain and worse, as a result of the pressure to conform to an aesthetic code—sometimes explicitly written into contracts or policy, more often subliminally expected as a societal and cultural standard—that deems it appropriate to wear high heels.

Now they are pushing back, in a campaign called #KuToo—a a play on the words kutsu, meaning shoes, and kutsuu, meaning pain, in Japanese and inspired by the #MeToo movement.

In early June, Japanese actress and freelance writer Yumi Ishikawa told reporters that she and her supporters had met with the Labor Ministry, “Today we submitted a petition calling for the introduction of laws banning employers from forcing women to wear heels as sexual discrimination or harassment.”

Ishikawa had the idea for the campaign after she was forced to wear high heels during a stint at a funeral parlor.  Now, she has everyone debating the politics of footwear—and has received a groundswell of online support.

But not everyone is a fan: Takumi Nemoto, Japan’s health and labor minister, defended the dress codes, telling a legislative committee that he believed it “is socially accepted as something that falls within the realm of being occupationally necessary and appropriate”.

The Guardian notes that a similar petition against high heels at work was signed by more than 150,000 people in the UK in support of the receptionist Nicola Thorp, who was sent home from work on her first day of work at a PwC in 2016 for wearing flat shoes. The case prompted an inquiry on workplace dress codes by a committee of MPs, which highlighted other cases in the UK where women were required to wear heels—even for jobs that included climbing ladders, carrying heavy luggage, carrying food and drink up and down stairs and walking long distances.

However, Britain never changed the law, claiming scope for redress already existed under the Equality Act 2010.

In 2015 the director of the Cannes film festival apologized for the fact that women were being denied access to the red carpet for not wearing high heels. Cannes kept the dress code, despite a protest by the actor Julia Roberts, who went barefoot the next year.

However, in 2017, Canada’s British Columbia province banned companies from forcing female employees to wear high heels, saying the practice was dangerous and discriminatory. That means things might be looking up—err … down.

Research contact: @guardian

Read this and weep: Crying at least once a week is good for you

December 26, 2018

It’s counter-intuitive, but crying at least once a week may be the key to a happier life—free from tension headaches and agitation.

In fact, one Japanese academic claims that the most beneficial way to relieve stress is to shed some tears—either happy or sad— the UK’s Independent newspaper reports.

Since 2014, former high school teacher Hidefumi Yoshida, 43—who calls himself a “Namida sensei” (“tears teacher”)—has teamed up with Hideho Arita, a professor at the Faculty of Medicine at Toho University in Tokyo, to launch a series of lectures nationwide in Japan aimed at raising awareness of the benefits of crying.

Yoshida says that he came to recognize the benefits of a good cry after one of his former students stopped showing up for consultations after the pupil had opened up and shed tears.

 “The act of crying is more effective than laughing or sleeping in reducing stress,” says Yoshida, adding, “If you cry once a week, you can live a stress-free life.”

Yoshida explains that listening to emotive music, watching sad films, and reading tragic books—and in the process shedding some tears— can offer huge benefits to your mental health by stimulating parasympathetic nerve activity, which slows the heart rate and can have a soothing effect on the mind.

And Yoshida isn’t the first person to tout the soothing effects of crying, the Independent notes.

In 1982, The New York Times reported on the study, entitled “Tear Expert”  and conducted by Dr. William Frey—who claimed that crying releases endorphins, subsequently promoting feelings of happiness and well-being.

Frey—director of the Psychiatry Research Laboratories at St. Paul-Ramsey Medical Center in Minnesota and a self-appointed student of ”psychogenic lacrimation,” as he calls emotionally induced tears—believes that tears help to relieve stress by ridding the body of potentially harmful stress-induced chemicals.

Another study, conducted in 2008 by researchers at the University of South Florida and the University of Tilburg among a cohort of 3,000 people found that crying made people feel much better in difficult situations, leading the authors to suggest that inducing tears should be used as a cathartic form of therapy.

So get those tissues and hankies out and put them to use. A good cry may be just what the doctor ordered.

Research contact: @Oliviapetter1

A ‘moving’ experience: Japan’s drive-through funerals

August 15, 2018

Few memorial services are as “moving” as the one now being offered by a Japanese funeral parlor. Mourners can pay their final respects without ever leaving their cars, according to a report by the Daily Telegraph of Australia.

The undertaker’s “drive-through” service is a first in Japan, where a rapidly aging population means that funerals are anything but a dying trade.

In fact, according to Bloomberg, Japan’s population of 127 million is forecast to shrink by about 33% within the next five decades. The proportion of over-64-year-olds —currently about 25%—is expected to reach 38% within that time frame.

Mourners simply check in by rolling down the car window and using a touchscreen tablet device. They then are asked to make a traditional offering of incense—all while their images are videotaped and viewed by the grieving family inside the venue.

The initiative aims to speed up funeral services and also to give infirm relatives the chance to participate, Masao Ogiwara president of Kankon Sosai Aichi Group,  told the Australian news outlet. “Older people may hesitate to attend a funeral because they have to ask for help to get out of the car,” Ogiwara said, “but we want as many people as possible to be able to come to say farewell to their friends or neighbors.”

The drive-through funerals represent the latest in a series of Japanese innovations attempting to win a slice of the competitive US$11.5 billion national funeral business.

One trend that has sparked controversy, according to the Telegraph, is a so-called “rent-a-monk” system, which offers mourners the opportunity to arrange for a monk to deliver funeral rites at the click of a mouse. Amazon has been advertising packages offered by Minrevi  which sends out monks to perform Buddhist memorial services and other ceremonies. However, the Japan Buddhist Federation (JBF) objects strenuously to the idea —saying that hiring out monks over the Internet commercializes a religious act.

And finally, for those who would like to lament in private—or cannot afford to pay expensive funeral fees— a temple near Tokyo accepts the ashes of the deceased via mail and places it in its burial facility. There’s even an app that has been developed so that the family can view the burial site by smartphone.

Research contact: @dailytelegraph

Trump’s tariffs on steel, aluminum raise ‘external risks’ for U.S. companies

March 27, 2018

U.S. trade policy has risen to the top of the list of “biggest external risks” facing the members of the CNBC Global CFO Council., an elite group of chief financial officers representing public and private companies from various major sectors.

Indeed, based on a quarterly poll of the council members released on March 23, more than one-quarter (27.3%) say U.S. trade policy is now the biggest risk their companies face. That’s up from 11.6% in the fourth quarter of 2017, outranking other threats that have recently ranked high among business concerns, including “threat of cyber attack” and “consumer demand.”

The CNBC Global CFO Council represents some of the largest public and private companies in the world, collectively managing more than $4.5 trillion in market capitalization across a wide variety of sectors.

The survey was conducted after President Donald Trump signed a pair of proclamations that impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, but before the announcement on March 18 that the United States will seek trade penalties of up to $60 billion against China for intellectual property theft.

The chief financial officers voiced strong opposition to metals tariffs, especially in the broader context: potential retaliatory moves taken by other countries. “The impact direct from steel/aluminum tariffs would be negligible,” said one CFO respondent. “The indirect impact from retaliation could be significant.”

Almost two-thirds of respondents (65.8%) say the tariffs will have a negative impact on their companies, and even more (86.9%) say they will have a negative impact on both the U.S. and Chinese economies.

The CFO Council’s outlook for GDP has been downgraded amid the increased tariff fears, including in three key global economies. Canada, China and Japan were downgraded from “improving” to “stable” by CFOs.

Still, the United States was rated as “improving” for the seventh straight quarter, while the Euro zone was seen as “improving” for the fourth straight quarter. No region was seen as worse than “stable,” a trend that has now held for five quarters.

Research contact: @DavidSpiegel