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Final Notes Before The Show

(MW Tokyo) Notes From The Henna Gaijin - Final Notes Before The Show

by , 2:30 PM EST, February 20th, 2001

Welcome back to article five and the final pre-show release of Notes of a Henna Gaijin! In this article, we will cover some events you'll want to see at the show, some Japan gifts to bring back for yourself and your family, and a crash course in proper manners.

Some Events

There are some events you will want to see, even if you cannot understand them.


Everyone already knows that Steve Jobs will return to Japan to give the keynote on February 22 at 10:00 AM. Jobs-san is a regular attendee, and rightly so, considering Japan is the largest Macintosh market outside of the United States. Last year the show was extended an extra day to accommodate Jobs-san's appointment schedule. You will find that the "cult of Jobs" is very strong in Japan. They love his story and the story of Apple.

Mac Fan Night 2001

This is a big party which usually includes the appearance of some Japanese "talento" announcers and an awards ceremony for innovative Macintosh oriented products, including the Mac Fan magazine Reader's Choice awards. Mac Fan is a very popular Macintosh magazine in Japan. Last year, REAL Software's CEO Geoff Perlman came with me and accepted a Reader's Choice Award on stage (it is a very large stage) for REALbasic 2.1.2-J. These shows can be fun, and now and again you can meet an unusual mix of business people and media people as well. It costs 2,000 yen to enter (about $16), and that includes one drink. To be honest, I have never paid to go to this party. Either I was gifted with tickets, or, sometimes a few folks will hand out free tickets to the show. There will be some kind of lottery style game with several nice software and hardware prizes this year, and also a showing of a contest winner of Mac Fan digital movies.

Special Seminars

There are plenty of special seminars, though with some exceptions they are all going to be in Japanese. You can find out about the English ones by visiting the MACWORLD Expo web site. I would like to point out that Macintosh developers will have a wide selection of seminars, provided by MOSA (Mac OS Software Association) and Macintosh Developer Online. Presentations will include developing with WebObjects, building Mac OS X applications with Codewarrior 6, building REALbasic applications with mySQL, and even Scott Keith of Openbase International, Inc. will give a demonstration of Openbase and its Java client. My own company, Proactive International, will be sponsoring the REALbasic seminar and Paradigma Software has generously decided to give away several copies of Valentina and Valentina for REALbasic.

Easy Gifts at the Show and Elsewhere

You may be thinking about that special someone back home (or yourself) and bringing home a fun gift from the show that has a special Mac message -- or not. I recommend that you avoid any electronics that must be plugged into your home or office to get power since you'll need a step transformer to use them. A portion of the floor is set aside for resellers. These will be constantly mobbed by customers wanting to get some reasonable discounts, but don't be afraid to weasel your way in. Resellers love your money just the same as their Japanese customers.

Here are a few safe gift recommendations, both at the show, and also at Akihabara or any shopping center:

Laptop and Computer Bags

Mobile Bag will be present and they will be showing off a wide variety of laptop bags, including many produced in Japan and Europe. Since PowerBooks don't vary in size from country to country, this is a safe purchase. Visit their site and you'll see they have some very interesting designs.

Business Card Holders

You may find some of these on the show floor, especially at resellers of Apple branded goods. I also recommend that you take the time to get one if you don't already have one (see my Crash Course below). If you want to pick one up before the show, walk down the street to the mini-mall I mentioned in article one. The stationary shop will have a nice selection.


Do you still have a floppy enabled Mac, or have a friend with one? You can be sure to find a wide variety of translucent, multicolored or Animé covered floppy disks. The Iomega ZIP Drive has made some headway in Japan, so you may also find some custom ZIP disks as well.


The Japanese take their writing utensils very seriously and you may be able to find a few Apple branded pens on the show room floor. I always pick up extra pens in Japan, because they last a very long time and keep a fine point. Japanese erasers are also excellent and don't leave a long trail of gob in the wake of a serious erasing.

Post Pet Cell Phone Holder

Yes, you can get a warm, fuzzy cell phone holder made in the shape of that bright pink Post Pet bear!

Game Boy Games

If you have a Nintendo GameBoy or a young one at home who owns one, you'll be happy to learn that Japanese GameBoy cartridges work in US GameBoy systems.

VHS Movies

The VHS format between the US and Japan is almost exactly the same. Because of this, you can pick up Japanese movies on tape and they work just fine on your home VCR. If you visit Akihabara, you can pick up some of these used at a bargain price.

Tasty Snacks

Castella is a type of popular pound cake which travels well. Although originally a borrowed delicacy from Portugal, the Japanese just love this cake. Go to any major department store and visit the food section in the basement levels. They will have Castella displayed in glass cases. Castella comes in about three layers of wrapping, so it will stay nice a fresh for several days (if you don't open it).

Kokeshi Dolls

These are traditional Japanese wooden dolls. Your kid won't want to play with it (some of them look a little creepy if you ask me) but they look very nice on display.

Fans and Byoobu (Screens)

You can get very beautiful fans or small Japanese screens for around $20. These make wonderful gifts and usually come in a very attractive box.


These are small fine cloth wrappers with a Japanese design, and have traditionally been used to carry items. However, you can always use them as scarves, table pieces or wall hangings. They make a great gift for grandma.

Chopsticks & Chopstick Holders

These are little arched pieces of pottery or laquerware which keep your chopsticks from touching the table. They sometimes come in sets along with chopsticks.

Your Crash Course on Japanese Customs

I have dropped a lot of critical points in the Japan Tips sidebar over the course of these articles. However I want to drive home a few points on Japanese customs and expectations so that you don't completely humiliate yourself.

Greeting People

You may have some business meetings planned. You may already know that Japanese people bow instead of shaking hands. When they bow, they tend to veer to the right in order to avoid collisions. I once saw two very old, dignified bald Japanese business men clonk heads on a bullet-train railway platform (and no, there wasn't the sound of two coconuts hitting each other...). It was hilarious, but still, even Japanese people make mistakes. If the Japanese people you are meeting offer to shake hands, by all means shake. A lot of Japanese business men aren't very accustomed to it and either give a limp shake or squeeze harder because they are concerned about giving you a good western style handshake.

Business cards are a fact of life in Japanese business. Bring a LOT of them. Be ready to present yours. When you get someone else's, give it a very polite look, then either place it into your business card case, OR, if you are sitting down for a meeting, you can arrange them neatly next to you to help you remember who everyone is. If you shove them into your pocket or write on them, you'll be making a very grave error.

If you are meeting some friends for the first time, bear in mind that Japanese do not hug or kiss in public.

Eating - Chopsticks & Bowls

If you are not proficient with chopsticks, you will want to carry a disposable fork if you want to visit ramen stands or other informal eateries in Japan. They know what a fork looks like, they just cannot imagine eating ramen with a fork.

Do not jam your chopsticks into your bowl of rice. There is a ritual for serving rice to the dead, and chopsticks are jammed into the center of the bowl of rice.

Do not pass food from your chopsticks to someone else's chopsticks. When someone is cremated, relatives will pass the bones from the "ash tray" into a jar using this method. Do not point at someone with chopsticks, wave them around or rub them together. If you think about it, this isn't acceptable behavior with a knife or fork either.

You will often be served a small bowl of misc. soup with a meal. The proper way to eat it is to bring your bowl closer to your face and sip, using chopsticks to get the nice bits. Just watch the professionals and you'll get the idea. Try to get by without a spoon.

It isn't considered rude to slurp your noodles. In fact, if you are wolfing down ramen this is one way you'll keep your mouth and gullet cool enough to handle the heat of the noodles.

Don't expect napkins or forks in noodle shops.

Basic Public DON'Ts and Cultural Considerations

Do not blow your nose in public. It is considered incredibly disgusting.

If you are going to visit someone's house, it is absolutely necessary to remove your shoes. Wear nice socks without holes in them. Do not put your feet on the table.

Do not eat and walk. Some young folks in Japan are doing this, but that doesn't make it right. Yes, it is convenient, but a sure sign that you are a knuckle-dragging barbarian.

Do not chew gum when you meet people. This is another knuckle-dragging moment.

Speak slowly, clearly and remove all idiomatic phrases from your speech. If you do that, many people will understand your English.

The Japanese media is all over the sinking of that boat full of students by the US sub. It is a sensitive issue right now, so tread carefully.

You may see some racial portrayals which are not politically correct, or some truly sexist things on late night TV as you are getting ready to knock off for the day. You won't change the country by loudly complaining about them or making generalizations about the culture.

You may see some very attractive girls in very, very short skirts at the show or handing out free mini-packs of cigarettes on the street or in drinking places. Yes, it isn't politically correct. Lads, wipe the smiles off your faces!

Off to the Show

This is the last article of Notes from the Henna Gaijin before the show. You will likely see an after-show report here or on MacNN, and I will be doing a show wrap up on The Mac Show Live! (you can hear a pre-show interview at The Mac Show as well).

I hope my advice has encouraged you to make the journey to Japan for the show, and you are able to put these time and money saving hints to the test. I'll be lurking around the show floor whenever possible, though like many industry folk I will be spending the better part of the show in meetings. Keep an eye open for the Henna Gaijin and best of luck!

If you have something to contribute, hey, send me a note. We have plenty of space bar just for you :)

Notes From The Henna Gaijin comes to us courtesy of where this series is being written by Lynn Fredricks, the President of Proactive International. Lynn is the former International Sales Manager for Now Software, one-time makers of Now Up-to-Date and Contact and Now Utilities (both since acquired by PowerOn Software), and later at Qualcomm's Eudora division.. You can find more information on the Henna Gaijin at Japanware Web site.

Other Columns From This Series

(MW Tokyo) Notes From The Henna Gaijin - Final Notes Before The Show
February 19th

Notes From The Henna Gaijin - More Travel Guide & Advance MACWORLD Tokyo Product Announcements
February 8th

Notes From The Henna Gaijin - Getting Around Electric Town & Unique Japanese Software.
February 1st

Notes From The Henna Gaijin - Getting There, Avoiding Disaster & Having Fun At The Same Time.
January 31st

Notes From The Henna Gaijin - MACWORLD Tokyo Basics
Janaury 30th

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