Learning Japanese & Doing Business in Japan
Steve: Today I have Steve from Steve's Point of View, and that's not my point of view, it's Steve who has a channel which he beams to Japan from the United States and talks about all kinds of things, including cars, but he is fluent in Japanese. And I would like to find out from Steve, and you can begin then by introducing yourself, like, what is it that you do right now?
How did you learn Japanese? And how did you manage to turn your knowledge of Japanese into an activity that is a viable business.
Steve POV: Hajimemashite Steve-san.
Steve: Hajimemashite, yoroshiku onegaishimasu.
Steve POV: Uh, thanks, uh, for having me on your channel. It's an honor. I appreciate you having me. My name is Steve. Um, I have a channel called Steve's Point of View or Steve's POV for short. I am fluent in Japanese. Um, uh, but I didn't start off my life that way. I started studying Japanese, I really wasn't interested in Japan until I got to college in 1988 at the university of Wisconsin.
I was a business major there studying business. And at the time Japan's economy was booming. Uh, there were books being written about Japan becoming the number one economy in the world. It was fascinating for sure. Uh, and as a business major, I, I, my goal was to make money and to try to be successful in business.
And I thought by combining, uh, Japanese language with my business degree, it would be a way for me to achieve, uh, success, uh, working together with Japan. And, uh, that was my stepping stone and I got to Japan in the summer, uh, back in 1991. I spent three months on a chicken farm in rural Japan, immersing myself into the culture, avoided speaking English for three months and came back to America with a, uh, a strong, uh, confidence, I guess that I can learn this language. I can master the language, the culture as well. I can get the, learn it very well and, uh, be successful that way. And I won a contest in 1993 called the Japanese Speech Language Contest. It's a national contest held in Chicago and that, that got me, uh, back to Japan and got me my first job opportunity there in Japan in 1995.
Steve: Interrupt you for just a second, because you said something that's so important. You came back confident that you could learn the language. I think that's an absolute key, that, that sense that I can do this thing anyway. Sorry to interrupt. But I just thought, I thought that was such an important thing.
Steve POV: It's a fantastic point, Steve. I wasn't confident until I went to Japan, I was not confident. I was one of the kids in the class who didn't have any experience with, with cultural exchanges or, or homestays or anything like that. A lot of kids in the class did. I didn't. I felt that I, I wasn't very good until I got to Japan and spent that three months.
And really that was the confidence. I came back with that confidence that I could learn this language. I could speak it. I could pronounce it. I can, I could, I could do well with it. And then, you know, there's another point of language you maybe understand that they say at some point, when you're learning a language, you start to dream in the language.
You start to, you start to speak the language in your dreams. And that, after that point is when I started actually having dreams in Japanese and somebody told me at that point, that's when you know you, I just mastered or to some degree, you know, you've got the language. And, uh, that day came and, uh, and from there I got back to Japan, started working, uh, worked, uh, for a Japanese company for about a year and a half or so before I ventured off on my own.
And I started, uh, doing, uh, translating and importing and exporting and all kinds of stuff in Japan as a foreigner, uh, back in the early nineties, uh, long way through there, back to the United States and California to now, to Texas. But I started YouTube about seven years ago. Uh, the passion of doing so was to show people, uh, there is a Japanese speaking, um, non-Japanese person here in north America who, uh, understands business and would love to work together and, and venture with people.
And that was the purpose of starting steve's POV. And, uh, thankfully here, about seven years later, almost 400,000 subscribers strong. Uh, the channel is, um, something that's fun to do along with my real estate business as well here in Texas.
Steve: So you have a real estate business in Texas, and then you have this, this YouTube channel, and I know you're very interested in cars, but, uh, do you just talk about cars, uh, or does your point of view include, you know, Steve, uh, you know, ranting on, like I do on a variety of different subjects in Japanese, uh, that your Japanese audience finds interesting, or is it mostly cars?
Steve POV: Well, Um, lately it's been mostly cars, but the channel started with something from my POV, the point of view that I had in living and working in Japan, living and experiencing Japanese culture and being an American.
And then coming back to the American, America and with a fresh Japanese work mindset, that way of doing things and coming back to America and experiencing a bit of culture shock, but even as an American back in from Japan. And I started making videos where I played a Japanese salary man and a Japanese salesman in the same kind of short parad... parody type setting. And it shows kind of those big differences between Japan and America.
Steve: Sorry, did you say a Japanese salary man and a Japanese salesman?
Steve POV: American salesman.
Steve: American Salesman.
Steve POV: American salesman versus Japanese salesman.
Steve: Okay, sorry.
Steve POV: No problem. Sorry. I might've missed that. Um, so, and you know, they're very different Japanese, you know, the necktie's on you're very, you know, you're suited up.
You're, you're very stiff. You're very rigid. You're very manual in many ways, there's way to do things. And there's only one way to do things and yeah. And then Americans were a little more laid back, but you know, my feet are up on the desk guys. T-shirts on Fridays and we're out of the office at 2.30, we got a baseball game for the kids, you know, it's, uh, it, these are things in Japan you didn't have. I found those differences very interesting. And I put some videos out about them that did very well.
Steve: You know, one of the big differences in my experience is in Japan, if you are dealing with someone in business, then you say, can you do this? And they said, "Hmm, do desho", very difficult. That means he's going to do it. Uh, in the north America.
If you say, can you do this? Oh yeah, no problem. Uh, maybe, and maybe not.
Steve POV: Maybe, maybe not. And everything's the best here. You know, we talk about us a lot.
Steve: Oh the best.
Steve POV: And it's mine. That's very personalized. You could be working for a company here, but you talking about my warehouse, my products, my guy in the warehouse, my guy in the back, you know, it's very personalized.
You're in Japan. It's about the group. It's about the company. It's about the bigger, uh, entity.
Steve: Plus in Japan, they don't necessarily, because you say my product is the best, that, they don't necessarily believe that, you know, just because you say yours is the best, you may not be convincing anyone and maybe you want to try to persuade them that you're going to try hard to, you know, look after your customer, rather than just saying mine is the best.
Steve POV: There's a bit more of a humble approach, I think, to, uh, to what you have there.
Steve: Yep, definitely.
Steve POV: It's not that hard, maybe sales push, or maybe as hard of a, you know, there's the best you've got to try the better, it's more of a humble approach. And you know, that's all built into the culture too. So when you learn Japanese language, right, Steve, it's not just learning "nani nani desu", "nani nani masu" you know, you know, the basic Japanese words, but it's, it's learning that culture.
And then the hierarchal Japanese society and how you humble yourself or elevate others, and how you talk to somebody older than yourself, or a teacher or a Shōchō, a president in a, in a company versus the guy who works below you in the company. It's very different. It's a different mindset that you need to understand.
Steve: But, but, uh, one thing I would say about that is that first of all, because Japan has had a different history and is from a very different culture, it doesn't mean that a North American can't learn that just as a Japanese person can learn the North American way. And so I definitely feel that, I mean, I can go over there and feel I'm integrated in with them.
I mean, they look at me, I look a little different, but culturally, in terms of what we're saying to each other, we're all operating kind of in the same cultural environment. Uh, that was one point. And I think another important point is you can't read a book which tells you how you should behave. And when you use the polite form and then expect to apply that you actually have to live it until you start to feel it naturally.
Steve POV: Exactly true. And that's part of going there and, you know, there's a lot of foreigners that were in Japan, uh, now, you know, and over the years, more and more have increased and you see a lot of foreigners stay together with other foreigners that there's, you know, there are people who are with Japanese, of course, but if you really want to learn, you've got to go out with Japanese in different social situations, whether it's eating, whether it's drinking, whether it's studying together or whatever, it may be working together and to understand those non-language, the non-language language, and the gestures. And, but some of the differences, differences that are there that unless you experience it, like you said, you can't just learn it in, in a, in a book necessarily.
Steve: No, no. And I think it's important to then want to be part of that group. And the same applies in reverse. If a Japanese person comes to North America, you have to want, or anybody learning any language, you have to want to be part of that group. And, and it's it's, if you're very self-conscious of yourself, here I am, I'm an American or a Canadian I'm in amongst all these Japanese. And, and somehow the fact that I'm this American speaking Japanese is somehow important.
All of that is negative. You're just there, one of them, part of the group, uh, that's been my experience that leads to acquiring the language and feeling part of a group.
Steve POV: If you go there and you act like, you know, Hey, well, I'm an American, I do things differently and all that. So you're, you're gonna, you're going to fail.
I, I, in my opinion, in, in, um, in really understanding and appreciating and learning Japanese culture and the beauty of it. I think you need to go overe there as if somebody comes here, it's not, you know, you have your culture, you have your identity. That's great. But you know, you're in their country. You're a guest in that country.
There are certain rules and certain formal things that are done. And believe me, if you don't follow those, you'll see maybe some people say, well, he's American, you know, or he's a foreigner. So, you know, we'll give him a pass on it. But if you're there and really trying to assimilate and you're doing stupid stuff, you're going to get called out on it.
Steve: But I think though it's important not to over sort of dramatize this. Like sometimes you'll get Americans going over there, they're bowing 90 degrees. You know, you have to feel it. You have to have, you know, sensitive tenticles, antenna that, that you start to feel it naturally. And so it's comfortable doing it.
You don't want to be doing something that's uncomfortable. I mean, of course you'd take your shoes off before you walk in a house. But other than that, I don't think people need to be so uptight. If they just naturally connect with people, person to person, they'll gradually start to see how other people behave and start behaving the same way.
Just as we acquire language through imitation, we acquire that, that cultural communication skill through just letting it come. You know?
Steve POV: I agree with you.
Steve: Yeah. Tell me...
Steve POV: Please go ahead with your question but I agree with your point.
Steve: No I was going to say, what is it now? What is the appeal to your viewer base, 400,000 subscribers, that's a lot. Uh, what is it you think that they find appealing in your videos?
Steve POV: I think they, they find appealing a couple of things. One, the fact that I'm located in the United States, I'm, I'm not Japanese, but I'm doing my, provide my shows in Japanese. That I've raised a son here in the United States who was born in California,
now in Texas is 21 years old who speaks Japanese fluently. He's comfortable doing it and he's not, um, um, ashamed or embarrassed in any way. I think there's something unique and completely different about that. Um, I also try to point out in my videos, even if they're about cars, the cultural differences, whether it be how a box is packed, that came from Japan and how it's wrapped and presented versus something that showed up from just down the street that looks like it just went through, you know, all around the world and under the ocean and everywhere else and back.
You know, these, these things, I try, I think people maybe find that point of view interesting, um, a father, son relationship as well. Certainly part of it as well.
Steve: Okay. Yeah. No, the Japanese attention to detail. If they're going to do something, they're going to do it 110 percent. Whereas they're in north America, 65% is good.
Steve POV: Maybe
Steve: Sometimes. We shouldn't be...yeah. Okay. Well, uh, we're going to have a chat on your channel in Japanese, and I'm certainly going to leave a link to your channel in my description box. So we can continue this conversation in Japanese and see where that takes us. But thank you very much.
And I hope your example will be an inspiration to people who follow my channel, who are interested in learning Japanese or any other language for that matter.
Steve POV: Thanks Steve
Steve: Thank you, Steve. Bye for now.