Patrick McKenzie+ Your Authors @patio11 I work for the Internet, at @stripe, mostly on accelerating startups. Opinions here are my own. Aug. 28, 2020 2 min read + Your Authors

As someone who climbed up a difficulty gradient to be functional in Japan who understands that many people/orgs did not, I am repeatedly impressed how much various Internet-based platforms make Japan accessible to others and vice versa, mostly to mutual benefit.

Andrew here is talking about the furnished apartment market in Japan, which routinely charged what I describe as an "English tax", with companies able to do business with a foreigner exacting a 100%+ premium over prevailing local rates.

This is far from the only example.

Another one: there are relatively many companies in the world which would choose to serve customers throughout Asia + relatively few engineers in the world who speak Japanese.

Prior to AWS having a Tokyo region, a lot of those companies had to ring up a datacenter to negotiate.

Some of those datacenters have English-speaking sales staff, but relatively few of them, and you're rolling the dice again if you needed to say "Can you put on one of your technical people? I have some questions about your amenability to remote hands with bespoke hardware config"

This creates value in the other direction, too. I've had the honor of talking to some Japanese founders who were sweating what they expected would be a grueling and skeptical conversation with an American bank to get issued a merchant account.

"Oh don't worry, as you can tell, we all speak Japanese here and are happy to support you in that language." "Yes but for the merchant account." "To make a long story short, you will not need to speak to a US bank prior to charging US customers in dollars."

I think this is an under appreciated contributor to the boom over the last few years in inbound tourism and more foreigners choosing to live here for longer, at least prior to 2020's disruptions.

This has compounding effects, too.

The better Google Maps gets at the question "I'm in Daikanyama. I know nothing about it. Where can I eat?" the easier it is to vacation in Tokyo. The easier it is, the more people do. The more people do, the better Tokyo gets at support.

And I think people underestimate the social consequences of this. The modal user of Google Maps on their first vacation in Japan is a relatively well-off tourist.

The modal user of the foreigner desk at Meguro Ward office is very different.

Japan's markedly increasing solicitousness to foreigners (and that has been a *major* theme of the last 15 years, to a degree which few people either in Japan or elsewhere appreciate) is largely driven by responsiveness to demands from Japanese stakeholders.

There are many reasons why a socially established Japanese stakeholder would prefer the government or another institution to be solicitous to foreigners, but a very common one is "We represent our industry's interests and our industry thinks their yen are as good as anyone's."


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