Japan from the inside out

ichigen koji (208)

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, October 25, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

I went to a consumer electronics store today to buy earphones, and counted more than 50 different products. Does this represent an exceptional effort on the part of companies, or a wasteful use of resources? Perhaps Japanese consumer electronics companies should take a tip from Apple and focus on just a few mainstay products.

– Ishi Taka’aki

3 Responses to “ichigen koji (208)”

  1. JF said

    Three comments in one here from a long time reader, first time commenter

    The thing is, if you want to do something with an Apple product that the designers didn’t have in mind, it can be bloody difficult. Having a variety of products available makes it easier to find exactly the product that meets your precise need. cf iOS vs Android

    I understand that you present the quote without explicitly stating whether you agree or not, but I take it as implicit that you at least sympathise with the position put forward. From many of your other posts I gather you lean libertarian on economic issues. Does not the sentiment decrying the free markket in earphones in Japan vis a vis the desire for central command from an all knowing Apple dictatorship not go against your Hayekian tendencies?

    Finally, where’s the link? I notice that you generally don’t provide one with your 一言居士 posts but as someone (whose Japanese is still very much in the intermediate stage) looking for interesting Japanese content to use as study matrial a link to the original source would be very much appreciated

    A loyal reader who shares your love of Japan
    JF: Thanks for the note. Glad you like the site.

    The last first — I don’t provide links to Japanese language articles or Tweets. (This was a Tweet.) First, a significant number of the readers here can’t read them, and I want to facilitate things for them. It’s probably hard enough as it is for people unfamiliar with Japanese politics (for example), and whose eyes might tend to glaze over a bit seeing a more Japanese names in one article than they’ll see elsewhere. Specifying which link is which breaks the flow (I think). I make an exception for sites that have photographs and the text isn’t important.

    Second, Japanese-language links don’t last long. Most newspaper links are gone in a month, and the longest is the Sankei, which last about a year. If I want to refer to something I wrote a year later, I’d be out of luck.

    As for Ichigen Koji, I don’t always agree with the people I quote. One reason I have it is to present things that people unfamiliar with Japan might not be aware of, in part to demystify the country. Whether Ishii was more concerned with resource use or business strategy, only he knows.

    You’re right that I like Hayek, and that hasn’t changed. As for Apple products or the company’s strategy, I’m not qualified to say anything because I’ve never owned an Apple product. Last year I helped a crusty old American guy I know figure out some problems he was having with a Mac someone gave him, but that’s the extent of my experience. Everything else I know is heresay.

    For Japanese study, I recommend Japanese Twitter. It is the Japanese blogosphere. (Most blogs here aren’t that interesting.) Follow some people you know about and go from there (Politicians aren’t that interesting, unless you want to know what they ate for breakfast and where they’re giving a speech that day.) There’s a lot of retweeting going on, which turns up other interesting people. Also, a lot of news sites (including newspapers) Tweet links to individual articles. It’s like having another RSS feed.



  2. Andrew in Ezo said

    Mr Ishi used a poor example- those headphones are likely mainly third party products (90% or more China made) or OEM. I for one am thankful for the wide variety of products for sale in the big Japanese electronics/camera stores- superior to the stores back in the states, and more fun.

  3. J said

    I tend to only ever buy headphones/earphones in Japan because I’m yet to find stores outside of Japan that will let you test *everything* with your own reference music/samples. That said, I do think that they tend to make too much…
    Without taking into account the different colour options, if you take Audio Technica as an example, for each series they bring out they have a cheap, medium and expensive model (each in about 3 colours) and they bring out about 3-5 series a year for earphones. They do a few less, if not the same amount, for the headphones as well but they tend to have a longer product life cycle. I think the closest comparison to AT’s range would be Sennheiser and I don’t think they do a bad job especially since AT also dabbles into the professional/semi-professional scene too.

    Sony are probably a lot worse since they tend to also put out the cheap-n-cheerful (aka disposable) earphones that are about JPY 950. I’ve seen a wall of just their earbuds… which did make me wonder if they made any money on those. Now that I start thinking of it, it does make me sad that there hasn’t been that many good audio products from Japan in recent years. Even Yamaha have moved their low-mid range instrument production overseas to largely automated facilities. On one hand it means that starting up something is relatively cheap but it was much better quality when they weren’t so mass produced.

    There was an interesting read over at BusinessWeek, if you hadn’t read it already:

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