Business Focus: the psychology of customer relations

The "Business Focus" column on Japan Italy Bridge continues and today we are talking about problem solving, communication and customer relations, also in Japan. 

Problem solving: the psychology of customer relations, also in Japan

Understand who is in front of you. This is a lesson that I have been given personally and that I always try to carry on. What does it mean to really understand who you are dealing with? Surely it is the basis of every activity, both personal and professional, and if it were easy, everyone would succeed effortlessly in their work. It is not easy.

Only a few people manage to stand out from the masses and from the noise that, especially nowadays, is heard all too often. In the midst of the noise a voice, an attractive and loyal voice. The voice of someone who is willing to listen, but very carefully, to the needs of others. To build an audience you need this, along with a lot of intelligence to understand human behaviour.

problem solving

photo credits: artplusmarketing.com

Attracting and keeping attention.

Let's talk for example, to make it more understandable, about the podcaster. The good podcaster not only has to attract his audience but also has to do his best to keep the listener's attention without shouting too much and without having voice drops that can lead to inattention.

Dreams must be created, needs must be met. Determination. Passion. Constancy. Consistency. One must never show anything that is contrary to the above factors.

Understand your own psychology

Before understanding others, you absolutely must understand yourself. In order to build an audience, one must first understand what we ourselves are inclined to do.
Are we able to communicate in the right way? Our job is to be among people, to attract customers, to care about our customers.

Are we not able to communicate well? Being in the "backstage" and in the "background", do you think it is bad or demoralising? No, it is not. Because most likely, the people on stage are only good at that and they should also learn how to build the show because the artist in question would not be able to do anything without a staff that creates the show from scratch.

In short, before you make yourself likeable by making an effort, the study to be done is very heavy and long and know that people notice your fake smile.
Don't risk what you are not! Whether or not you are able to understand others and therefore yourself, don’t go into what you are not suited to. Of course, you can always learn, but it takes a lot of time. It takes time to understand yourself and to understand others.

Let's take another example: my passion.

Having a passion and doing everything to pursue it is certainly very important, but to do it and do it well, you need to have the ability. Skills either come naturally or are learned over time. One thing I personally don't agree with is pursuing a passion without counting the rest, with your eyes closed. Often, unfortunately, this leads to not achieving the dream and in the worst cases, to the complete ruin of the path towards that dream. The opportunity can be misplaced, to cut a long story short.

Passion only follows commitment. To have passion you need commitment. Instead of following your passion, pay attention to what you find engaging.
Make yourself unique and don't do it just to attract someone or something, stay unique.

problem solving

photo credits: theabp.org.uk

Build something unique and move forward by being unique.
Make it clear that you are willing to be a staple for your customer, make it clear that you are willing to solve their problem.

SBe their problem solver.

So what is problem solving? Let's look at this essential part of building an effective audience.

As we have already said, giving confidence and ensuring your presence at all times is essential. You should NEVER get the customer to say or just think "I can get by without this person". That way customers are lost. One must be able to become essential in solving a problem.
In our case, the problem might be the construction of an event or the constancy of staying alive socially. We want to be problem solvers, so we need to have the ability to:

  • Recognise a problem
  • Define a problem
  • Determine the cause of the problem
  • Establish priorities
  • Select possible solutions
  • Deciding on a solution
  • Solve the problem

photo credits: 1985fm.com

To be effective as a problem solver, you need to train these skills above all:

  • Intuition
  • Common sense
  • Lateral thinking
  • Sensitivity
  • Lucidity (be careful because this often clashes with the previous one)
  • Understanding of limits
  • Understanding of capabilities
  • Decision making
  • Constancy
  • Consistency

It's not easy and some people are born with problem solving skills, but even if we don't have anyone in the team who can be a problem solver, we have two paths to take:

  1. Look for problem solving
  2. Become a problem solver ourselves

Of course, the road is not easy, because mind you, I did not say: Improvise Problem solving! It is not only very difficult but also not very productive.
And the client realises this most of the time.

Finding a purpose

The purpose must be personal and the lessons we are given must only be a help. Never take something someone else says as gold! As much as a person can be an important teacher, he/she must remain a guide, help in difficult times and be able to balance his/her psychology with yours. Yes, because what may work for someone can be completely useless for someone else.
And the client realises this.

Never listen to prejudices.

Although many times they may tell the truth, even more times they are bad advisors. We may be faced with a client who we don't "like" on the skin. How many times have I heard these phrases... these feelings, even though they are not to be thrown away completely, must not become predominant. let's make sure that the prejudice can remain as such (i.e. a judgement by feeling) and let's make it fragile, so fragile that it is then supplanted by judgement.

Build a very large network

Having a very large network of contacts is a very important help. In that way, among the many names, some may become clients, clients to be followed with constancy and over time so that prejudice is only a feeling that will then give way to judgement.
Then afterwards if you like you can also say "I told you so, I felt it!" it's ok if you like, but it's not required.

Be what you are, but hey I am not talking about being what you are despite everything. You have to be who you are but with a job behind you, you have to create a real awareness of who you are and then also have the honesty to understand the limitations of it, before someone else notices. Get help from those who have a greater capacity, and I'm talking about both backstage and frontman. Don't try to be something you're not, because if you really want to be something you have to put a lot of effort into it.

Be convincing

This, psychologically, leads to convincing yourself first. Don't try to convince someone else of something you don't believe!
They notice, trust me.
Work to convince yourself of something and then convince others. You will probably piss off quite a few people, but it will mainly be your competitors. The customer, the person you are problem solving for, will be by your side and will see you.

Be reliable

You have to be something known, something reliable. You must not run away at the first obstacle and you must be able to make yourself known. People tend very much to get involved with what is already known and fear the unknown. If you notice, we ourselves are attracted by what is known. We are usually more inclined to listen carefully to a song we already know, whose story we already know, than to a new one. Very often someone says to us, "Listen to it, it's beautiful, trust me!"

And the “trust me!” is the problem, because our mind is selfish and always tends not to trust, so then we will never listen to the song with the attention it has been asked for until it becomes part of our mind. Until we like it. This makes us realise how important trustworthiness is, how much we have to study and work to be, if not on a par with the mind of the client, as close as possible.

Just don't lose the essence of what made you fall in love, always think about that.

Modelling yourself for public perception

Always be yourself, it is said, do everything not to please others, but only please yourself. In this way, I would say you can even shut down and live in your own desert island without anyone bothering you. But if you want to deal with others, it is very important not only to have a good perception and knowledge of yourself but also to do everything to improve yourself so that you become an essential and indispensable part of the client. You have to be yourself, but with good work behind you. Because in a job with clients, it is essential to be able to relate to them and work to stay with them over time. Whether you like it or not, everything you create shapes people's perception and opinion of you. Unless you really like the desert island, at which point you can do without working while eating coconuts.

When you approach other people and want to work with other people, you have no other option but to live up to other people's expectations. Unfortunately, the belief that "we are us and we don't have to move a finger to be appreciated by others" is too common to be supplanted, but I hope with all my heart that sooner or later everyone's mind will open up to the possibility that we are not all the same and that the first ones we really need to work on are ourselves. Then we can think about approaching others and making good connections at work.

Being able to be problem solving also means being critical

Have the ability to understand where we are wrong and move forward by fixing the problem. We need to be our own problem solvers! Being critical also means having the ability to deal with criticism: finding the right explanation for unconstructive criticism and accepting constructive criticism. If they are called 'constructive criticism' it means that they are able to build something. You can spend your time feeding and paying attention to trolls and or you can spend your time creating something good and maybe only listen to what is constructive, the choice is yours. What you really need to avoid is the presumption, which, mind you, is quite different from confidence.
Conceit makes us blind, confidence makes us gain even more sight.

problem solving

photo credits: economist.com

Open your minds

And here comes my moment, OUR moment. Closed-mindedness does not help anyone, not even at work. It closes not only our mind but also avenues and possibilities. We often don't approach someone else out of fear and lack of knowledge. Prejudices, stereotypes, all this closes us in the desert island and does not make us look beyond.

Looking beyond

We decided to work with Japan, but not without a lot of study and effort. We have shaped our knowledge and skills in order to get closer to these people. We have studied and are still studying the language in order to get closer to them, we want to understand them more and more so that we can become a real Problem Solver for them, which can remain so over time, which can be a support in times of difficulty that should not be there because we know how to avoid them from the beginning.

The difference in language, culture, habits... we have said that all this is frightening. But we have to fall in love with this language, this culture, these customs, everything that has been said so far. If there is no way of shaping your own mind and falling in love with all these things yourself, I would say there is no point in trying. If you realise that you are in love with it, then start working and begin to understand what the Japanese in question needs. Very often we have come across what we never expected: incredible similarities. Japan and Italy look very much alike, but these things are only perceptible to the eye of someone who wants to be an expert, someone who wants to improve, someone who wants to approach. As I have said before, we have to fall in love first, then make others fall in love and, in this case, our client.

You cannot please everyone, but strive to please those who deserve it, those you want to walk alongside both professionally and privately. Most likely you will be not only their problem solver but also and above all yours.

The beauty of a website, of a social, of everything that is communication is important and it is the work of the backstage. But it is nothing without the work of the frontman, the same can be said of the backstage. A well-staffed team is one that has both back and front stage, never forget that and, at the end of the day, the psychology of building an audience is not that different from psychology in general. If it applied to everything we live, maybe things would be better for everyone.

Fall in love, but really fall in love. Oh well, there are always coconuts...


Ema tablets and the temples of Japan

The Japan Italy Bridge column continues to promote in-depth studies related to the world of Japan, today we talk about the Ema Tablets that we find in all the temples of Japan.

Raise your hand if you've never seen these curious wooden plates in an anime. Perhaps in a Shinto shrine, with a miko - the priestess dressed in red and white - going about her business. In any case, whether you've seen them before or not, today you can find out more.

Ema 絵馬 Japanese wooden votive tablets

Guest Author: Flavia

Translated as 'Horse Representation', Ema's are flat plaques designed to transcribe wishes and fears to be addressed to gods/spirits (kami) and buddhas. In other words, they represent a way for people to write a little message to the spiritual world. Formerly made of clay, they later began to be made of wood. Once a prayer has been written, the Ema is hung in a dedicated space at Shinto shrines as well as Buddhist temples. It is in fact a custom of Shinto origin that later spread to temples. Since they are all displayed together 'publicly', anyone can of course take a peek at them (it is important that the kami do the same).

However, it is also possible to keep them for oneself, as an heirloom. The great variety of representations, colours and styles that characterise them has always attracted the curiosity of folklorists. Together with the inscriptions on them, they represent a veritable prism through which a wide range of life stories are presented to us. A cross-section of spirituality that can show us the different colours of Japanese reality.

Ema are not the only religious objects designed to 'operate' in this sense, but they are perhaps the most widespread and can be found just about everywhere. The fact that they can be left in place distinguishes them from other religious objects such as Fuda (札) and O-Mamori (お守り). With an average width of 15 cm and a height of 9 cm, they can be very varied in size, shape and colour.

ema

photo credits: sharing-kyoto.com/

The themes depicted can range from the following:

  • the kami/buddha to whom the shrine or temple is dedicated (there may even be tablets depicting Thomas Edison!)
  • .

  • the specific benefits that kami (spirits/goddesses) and buddhas are empowered to bestow;
  • scenes on the origin and history of the place of worship;
  • religious or cultural objects, such as zodiac animals of Chinese origin (some shrines are specifically dedicated to an animal-sign of the zodiac)

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However, traditionally, particular importance is given to the representation of the horse, as suggested by the etymology of the name itself: e (絵) "image, drawing", but (馬) "horse".

Why the horse?

Short answer: because in ancient times people used to offer a horse to shrines and temples to obtain blessings and good luck. The figure of the 'sacred horse' still survives to this day, so much so that some religious centres use to keep one. And, if not in the flesh, in the form of a life-size model.

This sacredness of the horse originates from an ancient Shinto belief that saw the horse as an animal dear to the kami and as their messenger (although it is also important in Buddhism). One thing led to another, and so the horse quickly became a symbol carrying messages between the human world and the "other side". Or the Higan (彼岸) as it is also called in the anime/manga Noragami. (Noragami is highly recommended if you are attracted to the 'spiritual' genre, so to speak. Even through the author's fictional interpretation, it gives you a religious insight into Japan, and renders very well the relationship of the Japanese with spirituality).

Anyway, having established that our horse was considered special, the idea was to invoke a 'hand from heaven' in troublesome situations or events. For example, in times of drought they hoped for some rain (black horse) or, if not, for it to stop raining (white horse). However, in ancient times only a few people could afford to give a horse away easily. The majority of people tried to hold on to them as a valuable animal for their livelihood. Moreover, as the academic Ian Reader notes, such offerings could also prove costly for the temples if, at every prayer of some rich lord, they found themselves with a horse each time, which rightly had to be maintained, with the expense that this entailed.

ema

photo credits: japan-photo.de

It was in response to these contingent problems that the idea of depicting the horse began to emerge. Instead of using the animal in the flesh, why not make 'e-ma' ('horse-image') instead? An affordable solution, accessible to all.

Ema thus made their first appearance at the beginning of the 8th century (Nara period), while the first evidence comes to us from the mid-10th century (Heian period). The collection of Chinese poems and prose Honchō Bunsui or Monzui ( 本朝文粋 ) would be the very first work to mention the "ema". Many others would follow, one of which was the Konjaku monogatari (今昔物語).

E-ma: the origins of the tablets

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Ema are said to have originated as a substitute for the horse in the act of conveying one's prayers to the supreme otherworldly entities. Although some voices have been heard to the contrary of this general line. Another reading of the events would in fact have it that the plates took on the definition "ema", simply because the horse design was more popular than other themes.

This is because the theme of the design changed depending on the request. Let's say that the design of an Ema was that of a horse: the requesting party's wish could concern the welfare of their horse (think of the case of the most humble, for whom such an animal was fundamental). If the wish did not concern a horse but, for example, a physical ailment, the design would depict the painful part of the body; and so on. So "ema" according to this view would not indicate that the tablets were given the same "agency" as the animal. Rather, it simply means that there were a lot of requests concerning horses, from which an extension of the designation would be triggered.

Another interpretation, however, emphasises that the sacredness of the horse is not a purely Shinto invention and that in Buddhism, too, the animal has its own significance. Thus, the origin of the Ema would perhaps be more to be found by looking back at the role of Buddhism, on which Japanese folk traditions draw extensively. In this regard, the scholar Gorai Shigeru saw a possible origin of the Ema in a particular folk custom, related to the Buddhist tradition O-Bon (お盆). This custom consists of carving horse forms from certain plants, again for votive purposes to the souls of the dead. Gorai seems to suggest that the origin of this custom may predate that attributed to the Ema or other similar forms of representation.

Both of these dissonant rumours about the origins of the Ema do not seem to be well supported by archaeology. In fact, the archaeological findings all seem to confirm the hypothesis of the need for an alternative means of transport to the horse, which at the same time 'took its place'. Something equivalent, embodying its spirit, its symbol: its image.

tavolette ema

photo credits: shrine-temple-navi.jp

Ema as 'living objects'

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The proof of this would come from the language itself. There are numerous ancient inscriptions on Ema that, from a linguistic point of view, unequivocally refer to the tablets as if they were talking about the horse itself. Let us look at some of them.

In the aforementioned Honchō Bunsui there is a reference to the Ema containing the symbol 匹 ("hiki", "biki" or "piki"). Reporting from the Reader, the expression would be: "色紙絵馬三匹 "or" 3 coloured sheets of horse pictures". Nowadays used as a counter for small animals, in Old Japanese the ideogram 匹 referred to stable animals, including horses. The combination of the word "ema" with this linguistic particle, whose function is to designate a living being, speaks volumes. Similar inscriptions have also been found in two shrines in Yamagata and Saitama, dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries. In this case, we find the ideogram 疋 instead of 匹, but the meaning and reading are the same. Again from Reader, it is: "shinme ippiki" (神馬一疋) and "ema ippiki" " 絵馬一疋 ". That is, "a sacred horse" and "an image of a horse".

However, although the hypothesis on the possible Buddhist origin of the tablets was not solid, Buddhism at least in retrospect is certainly present, given the Japanese syncretism. Among other things, in the temples, the Ema serve as a means of transmitting Buddhist religious doctrine, thus assuming a further function beyond that for which they were born. We are talking about those teachings about the importance of altruism or compassion (understood in Buddhism as 'empathy') or through images taken from stories about the Buddha. Although not entirely certain, it is estimated that the adoption of tablets by Buddhist temples began roughly between the 12th and 14th centuries (Kamakura period). Indeed, many of the Emaki - scroll artworks - of the period depict the Ema or horses themselves, both in Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples.

ema wood

photo credits: japan-photo.de

Wooden tablets as an art form

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Over the centuries, the designs of the Ema became more and more elaborate and varied, giving rise to a true folk art form. In particular, the Ō-ema (大絵馬), or "big ema", proved to be an important step in the development of Japanese art. In fact, after the birth of the Ō-ema, several great Japanese artists would draw on the ema style.

Created between the 14th and 16th centuries (Muromachi period), these Ema were at least one metre in height and width. They were donated to temples and shrines as a sign of gratitude - even after the fact, not only at the time of the request - and were placed in special spaces, the Ema-dō (絵馬堂). The oldest Ema-dō seems to have been sponsored by none other than... Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1606, for the Kitano shrine in Kyoto. Also in Kyoto, the famous Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺) has several Ō-ema, originally donated by merchants as thanks for the safe return of their trading ships.

The consequence of this artistic development was the emergence of a "caste" of artists specialised in ema painting, which flourished in the Edo or Tokugawa period. This period - of economic expansion, especially at the beginning - led to an increase in the demand for professionals, enabling them to make a living from producing small ema paintings alone.

photo credits: japan-photo.de

The Ema language: symbolism

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It was during this period that most of the symbols and themes reproduced on tablets originated. But to what does this need to put thoughts and feelings on paper - or rather, on wood - owe? This need is rooted in the folkloristic belief that a desire has a better chance of manifesting itself in reality if it is expressed in words, because by doing so, it gives it form. We must also bear in mind that in ancient times literacy was reserved for a small segment of the population. An alternative language to words, immediately comprehensible to all, was, therefore, necessary: this is the encounter between folklore and symbolism. Symbolic language thus proved to be the most effective way of doing this, through the depiction of specific problems or the desired 'grace'.

The representations could range from the well-being of children to health, fertility and even sexual desires. If, for example, a wish concerning childbirth, an Ema with a dog was the most appropriate choice. While the image of the white fox still indicates prosperity and abundance. For requests concerning health, the part of the body with the illness was also depicted. For those concerning fertility and sexuality, well: the depictions were unequivocal.

photo credits: himawari-japan.com

The type of representation can therefore be purely symbolic, drawn from tradition (see the example of the dog) or directly portray the physical object of interest (body parts). In any case, let us remember that such symbology, whether analogical or realistic, is accompanied by the thaumaturgical function of the various religious entities worshipped (spirits/gods/Buddhas). As we said at the beginning, 'protective deities' of a particular sphere of life (health, education and so on) are also a main iconic subject of the Ema. These are just examples, as subjects and styles can be as varied as people's requests and desires.

Ema language: forms and words

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In the transition to the contemporary age, the traditional themes depicted have not changed much compared to ancient times. Of course there has been an addition of new subjects (see Thomas Edison or, why not, anime characters). However, we can observe an increase in the use of verbal language. We have already seen one reason for this: literacy. Literacy has thus added verbal language to symbolic language, allowing ordinary people to no longer depend solely on the former. So it is not uncommon nowadays to resort to linguistic games of homonymy and assonance to accompany the symbology of images.

Typical is the case of those Gokaku-ema (互角絵馬) - pentagonal tablets - with an 'educational' theme. They are designed for students, constantly seeking the support of the kami for success in their studies. Here, these Ema owe their shape to a pseudo-omonimy between the expression "gokaku" (互角) - pentagon - and "gōkaku" (合格) which indicates success in study. The subject of the Ema can therefore also be conveyed by the shape of the tablet itself! And, as you can see, it can sometimes make use of verbal meanings. A case of symbolism using verbal language is that of an Ema depicting an octopus, "tako" in Japanese (蛸) used to request help in eliminating corns. The term "callus" is spelled differently (胼胝) but is also pronounced "tako".

We can therefore see - to the delight of linguists and glottologists - that the ema language is made up of all these dimensions of communication. Symbols, shapes and words are thus integrated and intertwined in a single space. We should also remember that the graphic characters of the Japanese language derive from their ancestor pictograms, which directly represented visual objects!

ema

photo credits: blog.livedoor.jp

Verbal language is very helpful in interpreting the meaning of a tablet's message. Because understanding the true meaning of symbolic language, needless to say, may not always be possible. Obviously, the use of verbal language does not guarantee 100% understanding, it depends on each case: there may be quite clear inscriptions, others more cryptic. The scholar Jennifer Robertson, who dealt with the Ema at the time of the Second World War, found a particular ambiguity in the tablets of this era. For this reason, she stresses the need to always take into account different possible interpretations.

Kogaeshi and Mabiki Ema, a special case

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There is, however, a special type of Ema, where the message is neither a concern nor a need for something that is desired. A request, yes, but different from the others: a request for forgiveness. We are talking about all those plates that concern the delicate case of children, foetuses, aborted or stillborn: the so-called mizuko (水子). Ema concerning mizuko are called Kogaeshi (子がえし - lit. "sending back the baby"). Or even Mabiki (間引き - let's call it "reduction") which can refer to general infanticide.

In Buddhist temples specialising in mizuko (to which memorials are also dedicated), Kogaeshi Ema are hung in a special space, just for them, next to the statue of Jizō. In Buddhism, Jizō is a protective figure of the souls of children who died before their parents. According to belief, their spirits cannot cross the Sanzu - the river that separates earthly life from the "Other Side" - because they have not accumulated enough good deeds, due to premature death. They would therefore be condemned to pile up stones on the bank of the mystical river, but Jizō would protect them from demons and allow them to listen to mantras.

ema

photo credits: hotoke-antiques.com

They differ from normal Ema, because their inscriptions are addressed to the spirit of the child, rather than to kami or buddha. Of course, they express all the anguish, sadness, regret of the mother or sometimes even both parents. The most common inscription, according to Reader, is a simple 'Gomen ne' (ごめんね) or 'I am sorry' ['Forgive me'] together with the reason for the gesture. This phenomenon was particularly striking at the turn of the late Edo and early Meiji periods, when extreme poverty and famine hit the Japanese population hard. The use of Mabiki Ema, however, has continued until contemporary times.

Mukasari Ema, another particular case

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Another case of a death-related plaque is that of the Mukasari-ema (ムカサリ絵馬). In fact, these tablets were created for a singular purpose: to complete the CDs. Shirei Kekkon (死霊結婚), the marriages between dead souls. They belong to the category of large ema and, according to Robertson, their diffusion seems to be limited to Okinawa and the north-east of Japan, in the Yamagata Prefecture. "Mukasari' would in fact mean 'marriage' in the Yamagata dialect (not coincidentally written in the katakana alphabet). In essence, these Mukasari-ema allow to "simulate" in the representation of the plate, the marriage of a person who died single or unmarried. It is a way of allowing the soul to find peace, preventing it from becoming a tormented spirit.

For if that were to happen, the spirit might remain anchored in the earthly world, through grief, for not having been able to experience the joy of starting a family. Thus, haunting the world of the living. It is thus also a way for the family of the deceased person, however fictitious, to realise that dream. In modern times, one can also resort to photographs, if any, of the person in wedding attire while still alive. Such Mukasari-ema were particularly used at the time of the Second World War, for the reason easily imaginable.

ema

photo credits: journals.openedition.org

These are two borderline cases, the exception to the rule. Because, as is now clear, the Ema are made with an eye to human wellbeing, in the here and now, be it individual or extended to the whole of humanity. But they are still part of the Ema world and, if there is something that they have in common with the others, it is a significant function: the psychological function of releasing an inner burden. The very act of 'unloading' onto the tablets what one has inside - thoughts, desires, needs and concerns - is a profoundly cathartic act. Especially if those desires and needs run counter to the norms imposed by society. As Reader notes, a way for individuals to survive in situations beyond their normal control and the only way to survive, from social control.

People's desires

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But in general, what specifically do people who have recourse to EMA want? We could identify two macro-areas: protection and success.

Health is certainly one of them, and it is a major theme at all times. As mentioned in the introduction, kami and buddha are associated with healing powers, attributed by extension also to shrines and temples dedicated to them. Requests for 'mercy' from illnesses and diseases - or for preventive protection from any danger - may concern the applicant himself, his family members, or other persons. Requests for success, which is a very popular area, may also concern the applicant or third parties, or a 'collective self' of which the applicant is a part. This is the case of all those requests made to propitiate the success of one's own company or institution of any other nature. There are Ema's for example where the requester is concerned with the success of their favourite team (baseball is very popular in Japan).

But there is one realm that stands out above them all: education. The contemporary Japanese education system is very rigid and competitive, and the pressure of failure on children can be particularly taxing, psychologically speaking. So, you want for that reason alone. Or even for inspiration - seeing friends or groups of peers go to religious centres to write their plaques - the fact remains that students represent a good chunk of the Ema's "clientele". In addition to asking for 'heaven's favour' in the success of tests and examinations, Ema registration can represent a moment of light-heartedness for the very young.

How could we not mention at this point the kami shinto Tenjin (天神), patron of culture and education, certainly popular among Japanese students. (Incidentally, Tenjin is the deification of a person who really existed between the 9th and 10th centuries AD! A Heian court scholar and politician, in life his real name was actually Sugawara no Michizane). His shrines are busiest in the cold months, especially January and early February, when the infamous "entrance exam hell" takes place.

There is no shortage of requests concerning material well-being as well as those concerning affairs of the heart. Even those to "sever ties" with the help of the special Enkiri-ema (縁切り) to express the desire to break the cord that binds to people, things (vices, addictions) or situations (diseases).

The incineration of the tablets

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Yes, this is an important stage in the life of the tablets: the final one. Both Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples periodically burn the tablets offered for a dual purpose: ritual but also practical. (In Japanese religiosity, the practical and spiritual dimensions manage to marry serenely). The pragmatic motivation is simply... the need to make space! After all, hundreds and hundreds of tablets accumulate over time.

Spiritual motivation, on the other hand, is that through the ritual of the bonfire, people's wishes and requests can reach the realm of the kami and the buddha. Kami and Buddha who, I remind you, should have already read the Ema, always available in temples/sanctuaries, before the fire rituals. Once again Noragami comes to our aid, with its story so illustrative. It is not unusual to see the Tenjin himself wandering around in the sanctuaries dedicated to him, next to the Ema tablets. Noragami also touches on the theme of severing ties, which we spoke about earlier (in short, you get the hint: watch/read it).

ema

photo credits: https://youtu.be/Vn6AoThrXyc

When does this ritual take place?

The changeover to the new year is the moment that brings everyone together. However, it can also take place at other times, depending on each religious centre. Tenjin shrines, for example, usually do it at the end of October, just after the festivals dedicated to him.
The period around New Year's Eve, O-Shogatsu (お正月), is however ideal for everyone, being a time of transition. What better time to symbolically release what has now had its day, releasing the wishes and demands of the old year? And at the same time, what more propitious time to usher in the new year, perhaps by writing new ones? Boy, so many commissions for these kamis and buddhas from the very first sighs of the new year! The phrase "Getting rid of the old to make room for the new", in this context, can only fit well, lending itself more than perfectly to this dual interpretation.

Nothing rains from the sky!

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But be careful not to misunderstand. Don't think that this is merely an act of superstition: nothing could be further from the truth! Resorting to the Ema is not the same as thinking of folding one's arms and waiting for an otherworldly grace. Those who resort to the EMA generally know, even with a hypothetical "favour from heaven", that 95% of the chances of success are given by their own commitment. And one's own mental attitude. I refer, of course, to all situations where one has power of action. In cases where this is not possible, the only thing to do is to try to act, as much as you can, on your mental attitude.

Ema tablets testify to the search for change or safety from some risk or danger. They have the power to approach even the most "secular", those who perhaps do not lead a great spiritual life. This may be the case for many young people, or for children, who may see in the tablets a playful side, as well as a support for their studies. The meaning of offering an Ema tablet is basically to cope with a crisis, of whatever nature, by resorting to the supernatural dimension, which has always been a source of support. In other words, the Ema performs a function of comfort and support. And, by extension, an important therapeutic function.


TENOHA &|RAMEN: The Ramen Club

TENOHA &|RAMEN is completely new and becomes TENOHA RAMEN CLUB! Are you ready for a unique experience?

TENOHA &| RAMEN reopens with the new "Ramen Club"

Author: SaiKaiAngel

tenoha ramen tenoha ramen

"Turning the Ramen experience into a guilt-free pleasure" These are the words of the extraordinary chef Takao, the one who has been delighting us with the best ramen in Italy for years. Takao is not only an incredible chef but also a former professional boxer! You didn't know that, did you? Chef Takao has always been very strict about nutrients, but he has always had a soft spot for ramen. As a calorie-dense dish, ramen was considered an "enemy" to his boxing career, but would such a warrior have given up? Of course not!

That's why the new TENOHA RAMEN CLUB was set up so that you can enjoy this dish without any sense of guilt!

As soon as he left boxing, Takao became a ramen chef, perfecting himself to such an extent that he became the one who is able to offer the unique and unrepeatable experience of authentic ramen here in Italy, creating numerous recipes to experience ramen truly guilt-free.

TENOHA RAMEN CLUB, the delicious work of chef Takao, is a place where you can not only satisfy your palate with the authenticity of Japanese ramen, but you can do it without any sense of guilt, with the knowledge that each dish is perfect for the sportsman or for those who want to eat in a completely healthy way. We are in front of an absolute novelty here in Italy, you will realise it just by entering the TENOHA RAMEN CLUB, completely reborn to tell a story, one of those very important stories that will leave you fascinated. You will look around and be immersed in the world of chef Takao, in his history, in his continuous study to always offer the best to anyone who wants healthy and tasty nourishment. Work, effort, experience, health, determination and safety - all this is TENOHA RAMEN CLUB!

tenoha ramen tenoha ramen tenoha ramen

You will feel part of that important history, pampered and confident that you are in the hands of a chef whose mind is always on preparing healthy and nutritious ramen, 365 days, 24 hours a day.

Live and let your friends and loved ones experience this new freedom to eat the true tradition of Japanese ramen without any sense of guilt!

From 12 February, TENOHA RAMEN CLUB has a new face and is ready to amaze you again, always in the expert hands of a great chef and a great ex-boxer! Get to know Takao and his story!

TENOHA RAMEN CLUB - Via Vigevano 20, 20144 Milano

photo credit: Anna Daverio


TENOHA MILANO: Afternoon tea

Choose to spend Valentine's Day in a totally different way! Do you want to live and let your loved ones live absolutely unrepeatable moments? Now you can, thanks to TENOHA Milano, which always has something new and sweet in store for you!

TENOHA &| TASTE: Afternoon Tea per San Valentino

Autore: SaiKaiAngel

TENOHA Milano

And we are talking about a sweet surprise, TENOHA AFTERNOON TEA is a unique, special experience that only our favourite corner of Japan here in Italy can give us. Would you like to spend a special day and make your loved one spend it too? Valentine's Day in the name of Japan and a unique experience on the iconic tatami at TENOHA Milano! Want to know more? We have some pictures below that will surely make you even more curious!

10-14 February: Valentine's Edition

TENOHA Milano

TENOHA Milano

TENOHA Milano

The tradition of Japan has never been closer. For Valentine's Day, let's immerse ourselves in a unique and traditional Rising Sun experience on the tatami at TENOHA! Close the curtains and enjoy tea, drinks and handcrafted Japanese sweets in total relaxation! Only together with your loved ones will you be able to enjoy a tasting that you will hardly ever experience again. A few hours in the peace and quiet of the Japanese experience, with the best teas and sweets and of course the usual enormous attention and pampering that you can only find at TENOHA. Choose the day and time of day that suits you best!

Details

When: Two time slots: 14:00 ~ 16:00 | 16:00 ~ 18:00
Where: TENOHA MILANO — Via Vigevano, 18, 20144 Milano
Cost: 35€/pax (min. 2 people)

Remember, both in respect of security and of your privacy, booking is always compulsory! To do this you can use the following email address and phone number: taste@tenoha.it | (+39) 02 8088 9868

For more information, please click on the following link: https://www.tenoha.it/taste/tenoha-afternoon-tea/

photo credit: Anna Daverio


Samurai flags at the Tokyo Olympics

Samurai are still very respectable and important figures, so as the Tokyo Olympics approach, a content producer is hoping to spark greater understanding between nations with anime characters wearing traditional Japanese clothing.

Flags of countries revised as samurai for Olympics

Author: SaiKaiAngel | Source: The Japan Times

Kama Yamamoto along with other artists launched World Flags in 2018 with the idea of helping people around the world become familiar with their cultures in a fun way and says, "I want the project to be recognised globally as something that can unite the world through anime and samurai."

Yamamoto's idea is to use characters in samurai or traditional Japanese clothing to illustrate different nations, their flags and increase interest in Japan.

Here are some examples:
the Peruvian character Vargas is depicted as a ninja in red and white carrying a leaf-shaped kunai and, in the case of Chile, the condor, which is the national bird, is perched on the shoulder of a samurai, while the Canadian character wears a red and white kimono with a maple leaf on its sleeve.

Yamada says a lot of work is underway to get the initiative officially recognised by the Tokyo Games organisers.

Yamamoto's background is in educational personification books; he has drawn manga characters to represent jobs ranging from tapioca shop owners to web designers. The books are aimed at children and include information on average salaries and what it entails to better inform children about the choices available to them when they grow up.

Olimpiadi

photo credits: The Japan Times 

The educational purpose remains with World Flags.

There were about 80 characters on the website at the beginning of December, according to marketing producer at Digital Entertainment Asset Hiroshi Tsuruoka. The site is regularly updated with new personified flags.

Characters are introduced on the project's official Twitter page as soon as they are ready. With over 15,000 followers, the page also boasts fan art posted by those inspired by the characters.

However, characters can undergo both physical and "personality" changes in line with advice or criticism from people around the world, helping them to become more suited to the country concerned.

In one case, the Spanish flag, whose character is called Iniesta, was initially portrayed as a bullfighter, but was later transformed into a flamenco dancer following criticism that bullfighting was a controversial topic in the country.

The project got what Yamada called its first "big break" in the summer of 2019, when the Chinese flag depicting Aaron was widely shared online. Yamamoto soon began receiving interview offers from Chinese media, along with offers to create a range of merchandise e.g. mouse pads that are currently available online.

The characters are illustrated by a group of artists brought on board by Yamamoto, many from his previous projects.

"Some of the illustrations are by full-time artists, but others are drawn by people ranging from housewives to vets who draw as a hobby," he says. The flags are assigned by Yamamoto, who brainstorms a rough idea of the character design, to individual artists based on their illustration styles.

Olimpiadi bandiere samurai

photo credits: The Japan Times 

While Yamamoto works to finish personifying all the countries, a number of people from smaller nations have expressed delight at finding their respective flags in samurai form.

Some, including Mexico and Venezuela, have even received framed images of their personified flags at their respective embassies in Tokyo.

"We believe that an anime-style character representing Mexico can be an ideal way to convey the long-standing friendship that exists between the Mexican and Japanese people," Emmanuel Trinidad, the cultural affairs adviser at the Mexican embassy in Tokyo, said in an email.

"Every comment received about it on social media seems to praise the fact that the work goes beyond any stereotypical image and instead presents a fresh and more modern approach to the characters representing the countries in general."

The project was first published as a book last year, with illustrations of the characters and information ranging from national demographics to the number of Olympic medals won by the nation in question.

They would also like to turn it into an anime or superhero movie in the future, with the characters joining forces to fight an enemy to save the world.

"The story will not have a protagonist, and all the characters will work together for a common goal," says Yamada.

Yamamoto initially hoped to complete the project in 2020 ahead of the Olympic Games before they were postponed due to the new coronavirus pandemic. Now he is aiming to present around 200 personified flags by the end of this year. will he be able to achieve his goal of uniting countries with Japan? we are sure he will. Let's look forward to it and enjoy these works in the meantime!


Japan History: Asakura Yoshikage

Asakura Yoshikage (12 October 1533 - 16 September 1573) was a Japanese daimyō of the Sengoku period (1467-1603) who ruled a part of Echizen province.

Asakura Yoshikage, head of the Asakura clan

Author: SaiKaiAngel

Asakura Yoshikage

photo credits: wikipedia.org

Asakura Yoshikage was born in the Ichijōdani castle of the Asakura clan in Echizen province. His father was Asakura Takakage and his mother seems to have been the daughter of Takeda Motomitsu.

Yoshikage succeeded his father as head of the Asakura clan and lord of Ichijōdani Castle in 1548, demonstrating great skill in political and diplomatic management, especially through his negotiations with the Ikkō-ikki at Echizen. Thanks to them, Echizen enjoyed a period of relative peace compared to the rest of Sengoku-period Japan, becoming a place for refugees fleeing violence in the Kansai region. Ichijōdani even became a centre of culture modelled on the capital of Kyōto.

Asakura Yoshikage

Ichijōdani Asakura Family Rovine storiche | photo credits: wikipedia.org

Conflicts with Oda Nobunaga

After his capture in 1568, Ashikaga Yoshiaki appointed Yoshikage as regent and enlisted the help of the Asakuras to drive Nobunaga from the capital. In 1570, Oda Nobunaga then invaded Echizen and succeeded in invading the castle due to Yoshikage's lack of military skill. Azai Nagamasa, Yoshikage's brother-in-law, attacked Nobunaga with the Asakuras at Kanegasaki, but Nobunaga withdrew his troops and managed not to be captured. At the Battle of Anegawa, Yoshikage and Nagamasa were defeated by the superior forces of the Oda and Tokugawa clans led by Nobunaga and Ieyasu.

Death

Yoshikage fled to Hiezan after the battle and attempted to reconcile with Nobunaga, which enabled him to avoid conflict for three years. In 1573, during the siege of Ichijodani Castle, Yoshikage was betrayed by his cousin, Asakura Kageaki, and was forced to commit seppuku at the age of 39. His death also destroyed the Asakura clan.


TENOHA MILANO: Sukiyaki Experience

TENOHA Milano amazes us once again and does so with a special delivery. We are talking about the SUKIYAKI EXPERIENCE! A unique opportunity to have Japan at home.

TENOHA &| TASTE: Sukiyaki Experience

Author: SaiKaiAngel

Surely you know the best meat in the world, WAGYU, right? Now, thanks to Sukiyaki, you can have it right at home!

Let's first explain what this dish is: Sukiyaki is a very important dish in the Japanese culinary tradition. We are talking about thin cuts of beef simmered in a pot together with tofu, mushrooms, udon and vegetables. You can also dip the cooked meat in a raw egg to maximise the subtlety of the Wagyu's flavour.
We're talking about the world's best Wagyu here, not just any meat, but Wagyu Kagoshima 'A5'.
Wagyu beef is characterised by a high intramuscular fat density that makes the meat extremely tender, and the famous 'A5' grade KAGOSHIMA Wagyu boasts the best flavour of all.

sukiyaki

Kagoshima was ranked first among all regions in Japan at the 2017 "Wagyu Cattle Exhibition".

TENOHA PROVIDES YOU WITH EVERYTHING

Sukiyaki delivery also includes full service. It will be delivered to your home:

✓ SUKIYAKI POWDER
✓ LADLES and POTS
✓ FUROSHIKI and BACCHETTE
✓ INDUCTION PLATE
✓ BROTH (original recipe made of soy, sugar and mirin)

Make the Sukiyaki you want, it's very easy, you can do it easily with the link below and if you use the code SUKIYAKI25, you'll get a 25€ discount on the total order at checkout: https://sukiyaki.tenoha.it/

Opening Hours

DINNER: from 18:00 to 21:00
LUNCH: from 12:00 to 14:30
*LUNCH service available from Thursday to Sunday.

Don't miss this opportunity, TENOHA is coming to you! Are you ready for it? Impress your friends and family with this unique and rare experience!

photo credit: Anna Daverio


Business Focus: The importance of communication and marketing in Japan in times of pandemic

Communication has always been important in our lives and in this time of pandemic due to the spread of COVID-19, its essentiality has become even stronger. At a time when we are forced to forego hugs and physical proximity, what would we do without the Internet? Thanks to communication we can get closer to the rest of the world, our door is not closed thanks to the internet.

The importance of communication and marketing in Japan in times of pandemic

Autore: SaiKaiAngel

photo credits: mosaikoweb.com

The COVID-19 pandemic is certainly a very difficult time in which we are all involved, but we try to see the positive in this as well. What do they say? If you feel like you're in a tunnel, decorate it! So, while we are waiting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, we are trying to do everything to save our company and our relationships. The imposed lockdowns are very difficult to manage, but how much have they succeeded in making us realise the importance of the "small" things? I put the word SMALL in quotes, yes, because in this pandemic we have realised how BIG the SMALL things are. How special our normality is. How much we have looked for a hug, even if it is virtual, how much we have reinvented ourselves to keep alive a work project for which we have done so much.

Let's take advantage of this moment to start again even stronger than before, let's take some time to think, reinvent ourselves and prepare for total recovery.

Remember, however, that there are no miracles! You have to rely on the world of social marketing, but not alone. There are specialists in the field, people whose job it is to advise you and accompany you in the world of social marketing and communication without making you run into obstacles (like us).

comunicazione pandemia

photo credits: mosaikoweb.com

Never put your business activities on hold.

We are lucky enough to have the internet, why put a job or business on hold? The idea that one day the internet could go from being important to essential has been around for a while. We can attend meetings, we can organise, we can actually work together and stay in touch with our customers, all online. We can also focus on stepping up the content of our social media, of our websites, so that as soon as there is a chance to restart after the pandemic, we will be ready!

If our shop is closed, why take away the possibility of creating an e-commerce to continue selling our products? If we haven't felt the need to do so until now, we are now faced with this possibility, which is gradually becoming more and more important. If we can, let's try to build an online channel to communicate and continue our business! Let's also try to 'decorate' it as best we can.

Let's reinforce our corporate values and corporate image online!

Let us be seen, we have the opportunity! Let's not stop events, let's create them online and if we really don't want to do that, let's stop and organise the ones in presence, we have the possibility to do that, let's strengthen our communication network now!

Let's keep in touch!

Many children can continue to study and attend school thanks to Distance Learning, what we all know now as DAD. Is it important? Of course it's a help. If there wasn't this possibility of online meetings, children would surely be completely excluded from teaching and meeting their classmates. Instead, thanks to Distance Learning, students are able to interact with each other and maybe even distract themselves. Distraction in these moments of closure is very important, if there were no possibility to communicate online, we would really be locked out of the world. Perhaps now more than ever we realise how important online communication can be.

Still having doubts? Let's go and see what's happening in the rest of the world and especially in Japan, which has always been our focus.

The importance of communication and marketing in Japan in times of pandemic

Japan has always been very technological, it has always believed, almost more than anyone else, in the importance of online communication and marketing, and in fact it is now certainly at a better advantage than those who have stuck to tradition.
Japan lives with social networks in order to stay in touch with the rest of the world. Let's take a look at the most used social networks in this country with the relative percentages thanks to Statista:

  • LINE 77,4%
  • Twitter 38,5%
  • Instagram 35,7%
  • YouTube 23,2%
  • Facebook 21,7%
  • TikTok 8,1%
  • Skype 7,1%

Il caso LINE

comunicazione pandemia

photo credits: google.com

As you can see from the statistics, if in the West we use Whatsapp, Facebook and Instagram more, in Japan they rely a lot on LINE and Twitter. Do you know LINE? It is considered to be the Japanese Whatsapp, and has around 84 million monthly active users in Japan (end of 2020 statistics).

What makes LINE so popular?

LINE was born in 2011 from a collaboration with Naver, a South Korean platform.
Immediately after the great earthquake in Japan in 2011, most conventional communication channels were disrupted due to power outages. Therefore, official sources turned to online to communicate the news and confirm the safety of friends and family. The app was released for public use later that year, and proved very appealing to Japanese consumers due to its unique and customisable design, allowing for both private and business use.

How do the Japanese use social networks?

Compared to neighbouring countries, Japanese people used social networks 65% compared to 88% in Taiwan and 87% in South Korea. In contrast, as of January 2019, Japanese internet users spent an average of 4.8 hours a day with digital content, while Japanese 18-34 year olds used up to six hours. According to a survey, the main reasons for using social media among the younger generation are the convenience of gathering and sharing information, as well as connecting with friends and colleagues.

comunicazione pandemia

photo credits: epigeum.com

We have this moment to think about it and to reactivate as soon as possible. this has always been our job and now we finally realise that it has never been more useful. It was already before, but now it has become essential. We are ready to accompany you and are you ready for the (online) rebirth?