Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Your Portion



Read an interesting self-published book by an American, Glenn Fishbine, who worked as a technical consultant in Tokyo for a few months. Despite his short time in Japan, he gave me an insight into the meaning behind Japanese corporate meetings: namely, there is none.

"The purpose of a meeting in Japan is not to come to a conclusion. The purpose of a meeting in Japan is to develop a consensus about the current status and direction."

Leave it to Japan to adopt a mentality than is quite efficient, but still infuriating to the western brain. As a worker bee, you don't meet with fellow bees to discuss new directions and objectives; rather, you blindly follow the orders of the queen, only communicating with each other about how to best carry out those orders. The comb is still built, the honey still sweet, but I'm not one to go buzzing around the workplace.

Business meetings in Japan by foreigner standards are quite useless; of course there are exceptions, and different standards, but for the most part managers relay little information directly to you. So your part, your obligation, following the meeting, could be summarized in less than two minutes. However, you are expected to stay and learn about other progress in different sects that may or (most likely) may not affect you. Consensus. Not progress.

Read a preview of his work here and you can download the full version for free.



About one third of Americans are overweight. Even before I came to Japan, one reason I thought why this was so was portioning; we receive more food than is necessary from restaurants and feel obligated to eat it, either from machoism or feeling: you paid for it, you eat it all. Pints and gallons of ice cream. Super-double-ultra-fragilisticexpialidocious gulps from 7-11. Chili's Big Mouth Burgers (who am I kidding? I miss those). The examples are endless; perhaps the movie Supersize Me studied this phenomenon best, although Morgan Spurlock didn't exactly have too many controls in his little experiment.

Where America compensates for these huge portions with diet and exercise, Japan succeeds on its own merits. Portions in Japan are probably on the order of one fourth as large as those you see in America. A McDonalds burger easily fits in the palm of your hand. Häagen-Dazs in a container you could fit your fist around. Even the style of ordering at izakayas is conducive to good health; you order small dishes as you go, each dish containing enough food, but not enough to gorge yourself on. A few pieces of sashimi; three chicken legs; personal pan pizza. No wonder I've lost weight since coming to Japan; it's amazing there are any obese Japanese people.




Apparently there is an opportunity to don a samurai costume on March 21 on the traditional Japanese island of Miyajima. Everyone should take advantage of this, regardless of cost. How often to you get to experience the warrior soul, in a part of Japan associated with an ancient era. Feel the weight on your shoulders, let the history course through you. I'll post more when I know the details. Source

2 comments:

Pat said...

Nice post. I agree the portions are getting way out of proportion. You should eat at a Claim Jumper Restaurant when you get back in the states. When we go out to eat, I often times will not order a meal and will take a bit from my kids or wife's selection.

Pat
Arizona, USA

Glenn Fishbine said...

LOL, just caught your review of my short collection of stories. Actually, I went to Japan 25 times, so it wasn't quite a short visit. And the true purpose of the meeting is to reach consensus, in this life, or the next. :)