7 Reasons Why Japan’s PR Troubles Can’t Stop It From Being Awesome

Japan has a major public relations problem.

Yesterday, an article in the Guardian titled “Why have young people in Japan stopped having sex?” made its way around the highbrow social circles of the internet. Then there’s the continued fallout from Japan’s two-year-old nuclear reactor disaster in Fukushima, which continues to present problems of epic proportions. There’s also the issue of the Japanese economy, which people love to refer to with negative terms like “The Lost Decades,” despite the fact that things in Japan appear to be rosier than they are in many other places. Finally, on the foreign policy front, Japan’s problems with China and Russia continue to be a source of international tensions.

But Japan is awesome. Really awesome. And it doesn’t deserve this negative press, when Japan has solved many of the problems that plague us every day. Here are some things that I love about Japan.

1. Crime

Japan has the lowest crime rate, by far, of any country on earth. This leads to a significantly higher quality of life than one would have elsewhere. Whether you’re going home by yourself late at night or traveling to a rural place alone, you feel incredibly safe in Japan. No place is perfect, but in this respect, Japan comes as close to perfection as anything I have ever experienced.

2. Public Transportation

Japan’s system of public transportation is nothing short of incredible. In San Francisco, people complain that a propensity for earthquakes and a seaside locale has prevented the city from building an extensive underground transportation system. I actually believed this was true… until I visited Japan, where every city has incredible public transportation, typically in the form of subways, despite being close to the water and in earthquake-prone zones. Japan also has bullet trains that make it easy as pie to travel between Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, and other major cities. And domestic air travel is a breeze. The country’s low crime rate means that domestic airports are similar to what American airports were like pre-9/11, with very few security checkpoints. Also, in New York, I am used to being barrelled over by SDPs (Seriously Disgusting People) whenever I am on the subway. In Japan, there is tons of order. People wait in two places to board the next subway — in one line that guarantees you will get on the next train, or a second place that guarantees you a seat on the second train (that typically comes just two minutes later)!

3. Pride and Honor

Whether I am handing money to a cashier at 7-11, getting served dinner at an izakaya, or asking for assistance at the train station, in Japan, I was treated with respect and everything operated with incredible efficiency. Last year, I wrote an article for PolicyMic about the drawbacks of a tip-based culture, and I acknowledged that in Europe service is restaurants is inferior because of a lack of tips. However, Japan provided me with service that was superior to that of any American restaurant, because people take pride in their work. After eating approximately 30 meals at restaurants, I had not one complaint.

4. Heated Toilet Seats

5. The Cleanest Public Restrooms Ever

Yes, I will say more. Every restroom in Japan is incredibly clean. True story: I didn’t even consider building a nest when going #2!

6. Convenience

With vending machines everywhere, one never has to worry about getting a nice cold coffee or tea for little more than $1.

7. The Food

You may say, “I live in New York and we have the world’s best food.” I don’t think that’s true. Sorry broseph, but in New York, lots of the food isn’t fresh. In Tokyo, you have the Tsukiji Market in your backyard. I ate many of the best meals of my life in Japan. And they were super healthy too. Three words: Sushi. Sushi. Sushi.

Yes, I love Japan for all of the above reasons and many more. Any Guardian readers who doubt it would do well to visit the country and see for themselves.

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Want More Millennials in Office? Then It’s Time to Ditch the Two-Party System

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If you’re reading this and you’re a millennial, there’s a high chance that you’re a a political independent. A plurality (45%) of millennials identify as independents, compared to 33% who identify as Democrats and 23% who identify as Republicans. I am proudly a member of this 45%. And this isn’t because I’m uninterested in politics, but because I am uninterested in the two political parties that I have to choose from.

At different times, I have felt disgusted by both political parties. Yes, there are certainly some smart people who accept their party’s faults and work within them to make changes… and then there are the slimeballs who we see on TV every day. It seems like most millennials would prefer to run the other way from the rats.

If America had a parliamentary system, like the UK or Australia or Canada, life would be very different, and I can almost guarantee that our generation would already have a strong political presence in Congress. But instead, the two-party system is dominant, and that has made life horrible for anyone trying to work from outside the political system to break in. The American political system has been carefully designed to screw over outside contenders from third parties and political independents, so that Democrats and Republicans gain instead.

Only in rare cases have independent politicians made any strides in America. Sure, George Washington is the most notable example, but it’s been all downhill ever since. Yes, we have Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the Senate, and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) used some trickery to run (and win) under the Connecticut for Lieberman Party after he lost the Democratic primary in 2006, but that’s about all we’ve had at the national level recently.

But what happens when you try to run for office from outside the system?

For example, take Carl Romanelli, who was almost the Green Party’s 2006 United States Senate candidate for Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, to even get on the ballot, the cards are completely stacked against you if you are not a Democrat or a Republican. In order to qualify for the ballot in Pennsylvania, the major parties have to submit only 2,000 signatures, but third-party candidates have to collect 20,000 or more signatures.

According to Pennsylvania law, candidates who are not Democrats or Republicans must collect signatures equal to two-thirds of the number of votes that the highest vote-getter received in the last statewide election. This is complete and utter nonsense for anyone who wants to run as a third party candidate. (I made a feature-length documentary about Romanelli’s plight that you can watch for free.)

America also creates a system where there are many candidates who literally never face an opponent in elections: In the 2012 elections in Pennsylvania, of the 203 state House races, 96 were unopposed, and nine out of 25 candidates were unopposed in state Senate races. This would never happen in a parliamentary democracy, or in a society that values its citizens’ opinions.

As Melissa Daniels writes on Watchdog.org, “in many unopposed races, a strong party in one region may deter its opposition from putting up a candidate. For example, the majority of the House delegation running this year in Philadelphia is unopposed Democrats, and in northern Pennsylvania, incumbent Republicans run unopposed.”

So what is the real Step One in terms of how to create a true democracy in America? Change all of these laws that favor the ruling elite and prevent newcomers and those affiliated with third parties or no party at all from running in elections. Because right now, millennials are prevented from running for office our way, as independent-minded people who are not affiliated with the two major parties. And yes, in this case, Democrats and Republicans are equally to blame.

Millennials, It Was Your Moment, And You Failed

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Millennials, I love you, but you’ve failed. The government shutdown should have been your moment to shine, but instead, what did you (we!) do? We took to Twitter and kvetched, we took to Facebook and moaned, and we didn’t do a single thing to actually take political action. But there’s still time to change this.

It seems like it was just yesterday that the Occupy Wall Street movement gained tons of traction, but I, like many others, was not wholly on board with the movement. Perhaps it was because its “leaders” were a bunch of (dare I say…) dirty hippies, and people who it seemed like never had jobs to go to, and didn’t really want to do much other than complain. At least that’s what it appeared to be for me when I witnessed these events in New York and London. They weren’t the intellectuals, the elite members of our generation. But now, as all of us are getting screwed by the U.S. government, it’s time to do something.

Here, before us, we have 100 Senators and 435 Representatives (plus a few non-voting reps from Puerto Rico, Guam, etc.) who don’t want to work. But what will we do when the 2014 election cycle comes around? We will, in all likelihood, re-elect most of the people we are currently referring to as douchebags, scumbuckets, and lazy-ass mofos.

If history teaches us anything, and I can thank Mr. Kohut at Oceanside High School for teaching me this during my senior year, being re-elected to the U.S. Congress as an incumbent is one of the most sure things out there. Even with the “Tea Party Revolution” of 2010, some 87% of Congress was re-elected. And that’s just pathetic, since Congress had an approval rate of 13% that same year, just months before the elections! We are all fools though, because we decided to give these creeps a second (or 25th) shot!

But why do we keep doing this? Has the internet finally tipped the scales in favor of electing individuals who are not crazy, criminals, or otherwise incompetent people?

John Catsimatidis spent $419 per vote in his failed bid for New York City Mayor, and Anthony Weiner spent $190 per vote, and of course they didn’t get elected because neither man would have been competent enough to fill the role! These politico-wannabes are pathetic. And we knew it, in part because of the power of the internet. Anthony Weiner’s “Carlos Danger” scum-mongering alias flew around the web faster than he could pull off his pants! These failed candidates couldn’t hide their nonsense from anyone, because the age of transparency is here. (Yes, we can thank social media for this phenomenon!)

So what don’t we the people have? We don’t have money from special interest groups, that’s for sure. We don’t have cozy relationships with the lobbyists who throw suitcases full of money at us every single day. Nope. But we can fight that.

We do have crowdfunding, as President Obama’s campaign team showed us. We have the power of the internet. And we have tons of ideas. We have undiluted brains that are fed up. And we have lots of complaints, because there’s so much that should be changed.

If this shutdown mess taught us one thing, it should be that we need to elect new candidates in 2014. I’m talking to you! Yes, you may be 25 or 30 years old. Yes, you may not have political experience. But when we’re talking about a room full of criminals, you’re probably just as smart as they are, more willing to compromise, and have better ideas about how to run the United States of America.

Let 2014 be the year that the people rise. Let 2014 be the year where Congressional re-election rates plummet like never before. Let 2014 be the year that millennials make their way to the United States Congress and every other deliberative body in this country. (I’m talking state senates, assemblies, city councils, and even school boards.)

Yes, it is very easy to sit back and let the Baby Boomers (and their parents) run America into the ground. It’s very easy to say, “This blows!” and continue to kvetch. But why should we do this? Why should we not fight the idiots who made things bad, the people who won’t even show up to work to govern this country? We shouldn’t have the attitude that I know so many Europeans have, that they accept their governments are corrupt and inept institutions.

No, that’s not the American way. And it will be up to millennials to put our brains where our mouths are. Let’s all make a pact to run for some office in 2014, if only to ensure that the bozos in power now make sure they know we’re watching them. And you never know, you could very well win.

Want to Be a CEO? You Need to Watch This TV Show Now

Yes, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m late to the party. Very, very late. It was only this week that I sat down with Netflix and happened to stumble upon Undercover Boss. And I think I can safely say that this show is the stuff of genius and should be required viewing for all business school and marketing students.

Here’s the premise of the show: A boss, typically a CEO or other ultra-important figure, goes undercover and has to do the job of approximately five employees who work under him (or her), often at the very lowest levels of the business.

Webster’s dictionary defines empathy as “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions.” Unfortunately, most CEOs don’t have such feelings. Why would they? They’re typically dealing with “top-level” assignments and they have neither the time nor the inclination to wonder what’s going on at the lowest levels of their organization. Enter Undercover Boss.

I watched three episodes that each struck me for different reasons:

1. Hooters. Yes, Hooters, the restaurant/bar known for its wings and the beautiful women who typically serve its customers. Though Coby G. Brooks is no longer the president and CEO of the company, he was during this episode of Undercover Boss. In the show, we learn that Brooks never aspired to work for the company that his father co-founded and led, but upon his brother’s and father’s deaths, he was named their successor. To watch Brooks fail at working as a busboy, to watch him learn that women view the company as sexist, and to watch him be utterly embarrassed as a manager mistreats his employees makes for excellent viewing and learning. It is clear that Brooks empathized with his employees and at the end he sets out to make real changes within this company based on his experiences.

2. Kevin Sheehan is a New Yorker turned CEO of Norwegian Cruise Lines. On this show, it is clear that Sheehan is trying to learn about the ins and outs of his company. He becomes frustrated when a Brooklynite who’s spent his whole life at sea tells him that his paint job needs lots of work. It’s also clear that Sheehan can’t dance nearly as well as one of his associate cruise directors directs him to. And most certainly, Kevin lacks the coordination to work as a cruise-ship waiter. But Kevin takes all of these things that he is unable to do in stride. His greatest lesson comes from watching his employees assemble an ice rink on top of one of his ships. When nobody uses this skating rink, Sheehan wonders why his ships are even equipped with these silly things that waste lots of manpower and resources, with very little upside. He learns from these experiences and takes action.

3. Finally, one of the most interesting episodes of this show features Mark Mallory, the mayor of Cincinnati. It takes a whole lot of cojones for the mayor of a major American city to be willing to go undercover on national television. Mallory (equipped with some dreadlocks and a goatee) first rides around with the one man in his city whose job is to collect all of the dead animals that have been killed on the city’s streets. Then, he works as a repairman at a shop that repairs all of the city’s vehicles. He also walks around with a parking meter attendant and observes how tough it is for a community recreation center employee who has way too many kids under her watch due to budget cuts. Mallory asserts that he will make simple changes that benefit everyone. He adds GPS to the vehicle that the pest-control officer rides in. He links the parking-meter attendant’s device with those of the police department to better monitor stolen vehicles. He makes sure that the city’s repairmen are recognized at a city event. And he ensures that the recreation center won’t be cut from the budget and expands a program that teaches adolescents how to work at real jobs.

This is the first television show that I have ever watched that has made a real-world difference in people’s lives. I realized while watching Undercover Boss that sometimes it may take a camera and a look under the microscope to make this happen. So to

any CEOs reading this: If you decide to go on Undercover Boss, your company will come out stronger, and the general public will have a far greater respect for your brand. It is worth any risks to go on this show, because you will learn so much. I know I did, just by watching.