A Couple of Anecdotes for People doing Business with the Japanese!
A) The Filter
One day I accompanied a Japanese-speaking colleague to a local company that made filters of all kinds for vehicles of ditto. A video-conference had been arranged to discuss a problem they had with one of the products delivered, and my colleague was to act as interpreter. Being naturally curious, I enquired on arrival about the nature of the problem, and was told that the Japanese customer wasn't happy about the colour of one of the filters supplied.
"But all filters are brown, aren't they?" I asked.
"Well, 95% are brown of one shade or another," replied our host. "but it seems that we supplied a filter with the wrong shade of brown."
I couldn't quite get my head round this. "But filters are buried deep under the bonnet somewhere. Only a mechanic would ever see one! Who cares what colour it is?"
"Care? Well, in this business you soon get to learn that the Japanese care about everything ...."
B) The Dessert Factory
A visiting lecturer told us a story about a visit to a dessert-making company in Brittany by a bunch of Japanese businessmen. (They only travel in male bunches ....). The Manager of the company welcomed the group and showed them round the factory, where desserts were being made as they watched. The visitors had a lot of questions but the manager managed to answer them all without being thrown, and when the tour and and subsequent discussions came to an end, the Manager and his P.A. accompanied the visitors to their hotel, feeling rather pleased with their efforts.
Well, at 22:00 the very same evening the Manager was disturbed at home by a phone call from his P.A.
"What," he relied. "At this time of night? What on earth do they want?"
"I don't know, Sir. They didn't want to say."
Well, this was an important contract, so the manager had no choice. He got dressed again and went down to the factory to meeet the group once more. It seemed they wanted to have another look round the plant, so off they went, though it was at least a bit quicker - and with a lot fewer questions - than earlier in the day. Finally, around 23:00, the manager and his PA were able to say goodnight once more as the Japanese returned to their hotel, this time by taxi.
"Well," said the rather irritated manager to his P.A. "What was that all about?"
"Actually," replied his P.A., "I managed to get it out of my oppo. It seems that when they were here in the afternoon they noticed that the factory is next to a farm where there are cows, and they wanted to make sure there were no flies in the factory once dusk fell .........."