TEDxTitech – Northen Europe x Startups

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Hello everyone.

My name is Takaaki Yoshikawa. I come from Osaka and live in Oslo, Norway as a legal expat.

You might think “why did he move to Norway when they don’t even have better sushi than Japan?”

It’s true, they don’t. But even so, I live in Norway and work for a Norwegian startup tech company called Vivaldi Technologies because I wanted to.

When I tell my friends in Japan that I live in Norway, they often say –

“So you are working at Nokia, right?”

“Is your Swedish partner blond?”

“Do you speak Danish to her?”

“Please send me some salmon.”

Some of them still have a very blurry picture about the whole Nordic region.

But recently I started getting decent reactions.

“The Nordic countries always rank high in the world’s happiest country reports. And Japan always ranks negligibly low.”

The thing about Japan is a real pity.

I truly believe that the food scene in Japan is jaw-dropping and mouth-watering.

The sun’s rays during the winter time feel much better than in Northern Europe locked up in darkness for months.

There are several reasons why they rank so differently.

Let’s take a look at the work environments where people spend a lot of their time.

Have you been told “I’ll make you happy.” by your coworkers or bosses?

If you say that in Japan in 2018, it’ll sound like a marriage proposal from a male to a female

But keep calm and doubt everything. It’s not that the men in Japan have an exclusive patent to make someone happy.

Everyone is allowed to make someone happy.

So you are allowed to make me happy too. I’m happy with that.

People who work together can make each other happy too.

If someone at work says –

“I’ll be on vacation next month!”

to you, you can say

“Great, have a lot of fun!”

If they say –

“My kids are sick today.”

you can say

“Oh no, please stay close and take care of them.”

If they say –

“I feel too tired.”

you can say

“Rest well and get better soon.”

At least in a workplace in Northern Europe, it’s common to see such a compassionate exchange of words.

People working in Japan might have been told different things.

“I’ll be on vacation next month!”

“Be sure to take a laptop with you so you can work remotely.”

“My kids are sick today.”

“But you can’t use your kids as an excuse for you to take a full day off.”

“I feel too tired.”

“Why don’t you let Red Bull give you wings?”

I hope you don’t hear such barbs at work.

In fact, I hesitate to say in front of Japanese people that I work from 9am to 4pm each workday. Nine-to-four is very common in Norway.

I know to some people it sounds like I’m too lazy, which they think I shouldn’t be until I retire.

If you have a full-time job in Japan and get to work from 9 to 5:30, your friends will say “You are lucky!”

If you have a full-time job in Japan and get to work from 9 to 4, your friends will say “Poor you, it’s 4am of the next day, right?”

and if you tell them that it’s seriously 4pm, they will say “And how can your company manage to get any work done?”

My personal experience shows that quitting working long hours helps you make less mistakes, which will naturally also allow you to avoid spending time on fixing mistakes.

And your company will usually make do somehow even when you disappear for a bit longer than usual.

In exchange, your company earns a priceless gain. You, a rejuvenated worker who is ready to perform again.

Another recipe to keep the employees physically and mentally healthy is to help them reconcile their work and family commitments.

These are pictures from my workplace.

My coworkers with small kids can work in the playroom whenever they like.

Another coworker of mine takes turns with his partner to take care of an important family member and so he regularly brings him to work.


Well I wish he was a member of my family.

Those compassionate exchanges of words, decent work hours and who you can take to work with you are still not the most significant differences I noticed between Japanese and Norwegian work environments.

It’s how commonly you can see people work casually.

I’ll give you an example with supermarket cashiers.

In Japan, a cashier would always stand and bow to each new customer when they come to the register, pronounce the name and the number of each item, carefully and neatly put the items in a box and count out each bill and coin for the change.

In Norway, first of all, a cashier would be sitting, and say “Hei” when a new customer comes to the register. The customer puts the items on the conveyor belt, yes they usually have a conveyor belt at a register, then the items get flown to the sitting cashier. They scan each item and put them on the belt again so they will get flown further down. Normally people pay by card so there will be no change. The customer picks up the items at the end of the belt by themselves. If you need a bag, you tell the cashier, then they throw a bag to the belt so you can pick it up too.

The whole process is usually done by the time the cashier has said the next four words.

“Hei!”, “Pose?” “Kvittering?” “Ha det!”

The meanings are “Hi!” “Bag?” “Receipt?” “Bye!”

You think there is too much cultural difference between Japan and Norway?

But most Japanese do like casual services, am I wrong?

If I remember correctly, there was even a cat train station master, a shiba dog tobacco shopkeeper and the likes in Japan.

They are not necessarily polite, but people like them.

If you believe that your customers are gods following the Japanese business proverb, then why not entertain the gods?

Don’t worry, it’s easier to follow the Norwegian style at cashier than you would think.

Let’s actually do it in Japanese. Repeat after me.

“らっしゃい!”, “袋は?” “レシートは?”, “また!”

It’s easy, right? It even feels like a somewhat traditional Japanese style. Make cashiers great again.

I truly believe that it’s a positive thing for both sides to let people work the way they like

and that such a casual and embracing attitude is a mandatory requirement to make people around you happy.

I also recognize that most Japanese people do already know what I’ve been complaining about in regards to Japan.

It’s just that people are not in a situation where they can create their own work culture.

From the job-hunting stage to the onboarding training stage, they usually go through warnings or trainings about how they need to dress or about business manners.

There are dozens of written or unspoken rules, most of which are based on gender, about what hair colors are allowed, whether piercing is allowed and so on. It’s no exaggeration to say that it’s almost army-like.

Why? They would say “Because some customers would complain.”

without actually considering if customers would really care and to what extent.

What they do is rather continuing what’s been passed down from the past without thinking about it.

And this is where the other keyword, “startup”, plays a huge role.

Startups are not born with a structure or rules.

Most of them are rather established to do something new or tackle the ongoing issues in the society.

With new ideas, with new technologies. All from scratch.

There are actually wonderful startups in Japan in various fields like IoT, AI, robots, green tech, space tech… (buffer section)
examples. https://forbesjapan.com/articles/detail/14840

But unfortunately, I get the impression that most Japanese startups operate solely in Japan. And I know that Japan wants to change that too. Fukuoka is a good example and they have been putting efforts to become a role model as a global startup city.

From actually working at a Norwegian startup, I can share some hints from the Nordic countries to become international.

My company, Vivaldi Technologies, has just over 40 employees from about 20 nationalities working from 7 countries with actual offices in Norway, Iceland and the USA.

The country with the largest number of users of the Vivaldi browser is Japan. Yay!

Never heard of Vivaldi? Haha, now you have.

27 million people. That’s the population of the Nordic countries – Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland. Same as Kansai and Shikoku combined.

It’s as good as nothing, you might think. Besides, people in Kansai and Shikoku have the “advantage” of doing business freely in a market of 120 million people, Japan.

Actually, this advantage is not as big as it sounds.

Basically, Nordic people are allowed to do business freely in the whole of Europe thanks to The European Economic Area, EEA, with a population of 500 million.

What this provides is the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital within the European Single Market, including the freedom to choose residence in any country within this area.

And most Nordic people can use English at business level.

I know it sounds like a Spartan lifestyle to Japanese people – but they don’t just start learning English earlier than Japanese school kids but also grow up playing video games in English and watching American or British TV shows with subtitles on a daily basis.

So at least they won’t have a big language barrier to do business with other English speakers.

Therefore, their market is actually big.

EEA can bring the most skilled workers from outside of Northern Europe too.

So startups don’t have to worry about whether they could afford to issue work visas for their foreign workers from Europe.

Commonly, marriage, pregnancy or childcare don’t mean that talented men or women have to quit work.

Wouldn’t it be a great reassurance if we could genuinely bring whoever we need to startups without worrying about their visa, language or life-stage issues?

Norway is known to have higher income levels even in the wealthy Northern Europe, and there 130NOK, which is about 16,7 U.S dollars or 1,700, 1,800 JPY, is a lowest-level wage per hour.

Those lowest-level wages are commonly seen in the foodservice industry, but then it’s highly possible that the workers can get tips too.

And the monthly amount of tips could be as high as a monthly house rent in Oslo.

I too have paid my house rent in Oslo just by tips for many months.

And people can get enough rest because normally the work hours won’t exceed 8 hours.

No wonder Norway is an attractive place to work even for the well-off Swedes.

So what’s our advantage again?

Luckily, there are still countless people who are interested in living in Japan in the long term.

But at the same time, they are not. Because of some bottlenecks like the square-toed work environment.

So we should question ourselves.

“Is our work environment good enough that the people we genuinely need for startups feel like getting in without them worrying about their visa, language or life-stage issues?”

I am here today so in the future we will hear more people say “Yes” than now.

Don’t stay with just Japanese. Don’t stay with just men.

Bring your kids and dogs to work and question old norms.

Gather people from the world,

create a work environment that spreads happiness,

and give the world back a wonderful service!

Thank you for listening.

Istanbul: a gateway from Asia to Europe

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Travel journal

As Jon is travelling in Turkey and has been sharing his impressions and pictures of the city, it reminded me of the time I spent there.

Moving from Japan to Norway is so far one of the biggest choices I made in my life. Thanks to the situation where there’s no direct flight between the two countries, I took the chance to make a fun transit.

I picked Istanbul. I’d never been to Turkey until then, but I was always fascinated by the city that bridges Asia and Europe.

The city felt just perfect for a transit destination. I expected that seeing the border between where I come from and where I go to would make my resolution for the challenge of moving to Norway stronger.

To make the transit in Istanbul happen, I took the opportunity that Turkish Air offered, Tour Istanbul. I joined a group available to me, and our tour guide took us from the airport to the city centre to take us around from 9:00 to 18:00.

These were the things included in the tour:

Sultan Ahmed Mosque

So after being overwhelmed enough by the beauty of the gigantic mosques each of which holds a special place in the pages of history and by the intriguingly mysterious Medusa head pillar at Basilica Cistern, we went to Topkapı Palace.

Personally, this place made the biggest impression on me as expected since, over the Bosporus, Asia lay in front of my eyes, viewed from this palace located in Europe.

Instead of taking too many photos, I decided to read a tanka to save my impression.

I shall go,
you seagulls have no way of knowing
how this strait constrains me.
Goodbye Asia.
Goodbye friends and family.

– 24th February 2016

You wonder how I’m doing in Norway now?
I’m living happily, thanks in no small part to Istanbul.

jisho.org for Japanese learners

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jisho.org on Vivaldi

Yesterday, I met one of my friends who is learning Japanese.

He thankfully downloaded Vivaldi and started setting it up after I recommended it. One of the first things he did was add https://jisho.org/ as a Web Panel. I’d actually seen the page before – yes, it’s one of the most popular Japanese-English dictionaries out there. I’ve seen some of my other friends using it.

He wanted to look up the letter 矯, which I wrote in a document we were looking at. Even though his Japanese is good enough that we had almost all the conversation in Japanese and he got N2 in JLPT (meaning that his ability to understand Japanese used in everyday situations, and in a variety of circumstances to a certain degree is certified by Japanese Language Proficiency Test) not so long ago, the letter 矯 seemed difficult for him.

So, he checked the word on jisho.org and said: “Oh, it’s an N1 (the highest level in JLPT) word.”

It implies that the letter didn’t show itself when he studied for N2, I think. I feel relatable here, having taken HSK 5 and knowing that there are still tons of Chinese characters I’ve never seen or have no idea how to read.

He used to open a new tab to look up Japanese words with his previous browser, but now he can just stay on the same page that shows the word he wants to look up.

This usefulness in reading texts written in a language that I want to be better at is one of the initial reasons why I had got stuck with Vivaldi before I even dreamed of working for them.

And for Japanese learners, I recommend adding jisho.org to your Vivaldi!

Ninja searching using a POST request

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Just another Vivaldi tip.

When you download Vivaldi, it has DuckDuckGo as one of the pre-added search engines.

In the address field or after calling Quick Commands, try searching something by starting the search term with “d “, and you’ll see the icon of DuckDuckGo (a duckie with a dicky bow).

Calling DuckDuckGo on Quick Commands

Calling DuckDuckGo on Quick Commands

It’s one of the few search engines out there which allows you to use POST method (most search engines only work by GET method), and you can choose it on Vivaldi. (So what, you say? Shhh, and read on. Also, you can turn on POST requests alternatively DDG’s settings page as well.)

"Use POST method" is checked off.

“Use POST method” is checked off.

Go to settings, and you will see the “Use POST method” option in the search section. When it’s not checked off (which is the default setting), it uses GET method. To see what the option changes, try turning it on and off, search the same word and look at the address field.

Example: search term – “Norway”

GET: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=norway&t=vivaldi&ia=news

POST: https://duckduckgo.com/?ia=news

Obviously, you can’t tell the search term in a POST request and never again, once you’ve left the page. Browser functions to visit pages you’ve visited, such as going back or forward in history,  don’t work since the string doesn’t include the search term.

I moved on to the “Images” section when I searched “Norway” on DDG, and the URL was the following.


It doesn’t tell you what I searched images of. My family won’t know I saw beautiful pictures of the fjords (and a shocking picture of a dead sheep on a plate, “Smalahove”).

For more about DDG’s privacy policy, please check out here. https://duckduckgo.com/privacy

Have a nice ninja day!

Prepare for an overload of cuteness

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Cute animal pictures is one of the most heartwarming things of which one can get a health dose on the Internet, IMHO.

We had a visiter to the Oslo office today.


His name is Obie.
He is cohabiting with a Vivaldi Team member, JonMC.

Welcome to #vivaldibrowser Obie🐕#cutepuppy #officefun #timetogobacktowork

A post shared by Vivaldi (@vivaldibrowser) on

I want to hire him to Vivaldi quite badly.
AFAIK, Oracle Japan has had a culture to hire dogs for more than 25 years, since 1991.

The current doggy (4th generation) is called “Candy”. Reportedly, Candy goes to work only on Wednesdays. (And I believe most of the Japanese people should make their working hours at least a bit closer to Candy’s.)

The first dog “Sandy” worked as a contract employee, but from the second dog “Heidi”, they have been signed as regular employees.

Footage of Heidi

Anyways, let’s make the Internet a lovable place instead of a hateful one♡

Why I still travel

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I didn’t used to like traveling. At all. I felt like I was being kidnapped to somewhere unfamiliar and I preferred to stay safely in my home in Osaka.

When I made the map above, the fact that I didn’t used to like traveling felt like a joke. “Then why have I traveled in 27 countries and in countless regions in the countries so far? If I just wanted to peep the world, I could use Google Earth.”

Having such easy access to texts, pictures and videos about all kinds of stuff on the Internet, I feel like I could just find everything there. Instead of thinking or trying hard to remember something, why not brainlessly Google? Facebook even tells me what relationship my friends are in with whom, without me having to communicate with anyone else. “I can basically know it all,” that’s at least how I feel.

Well, that’s the reason why I ended up traveling. I find it enjoyable ever since I learned there would always be new discoveries from the trip, no matter how much Internet-searching I did about the area in advance.

Shanghai – do you see too much or too little information around you?

Not everything is on the Internet. You can’t just copy-paste people’s formless real-life experiences. The bitterness that grew in me when I first realized in a toilet at Suzhou University that I couldn’t always expect to find toilet paper in some toilets in China, is not searchable on Google. But it’s stored in me as a treasured memory.

My first travel abroad, on a school trip to Brisbane, Australia when I was 16 years old, made me realize that I didn’t have a muffin top. On the next oversea trip to the UK in 2007, I was shocked to see self-service cashiers for the first time in my life at a local supermarket in Oxford, and it made me start doubting that the legend of Japan being a tech country was true or not. Panmunjom in 2009 felt more like a tourist attraction than a scary conflict area like I imagined through some Korean movies and Japanese news media. A guy in Tallinn, Estonia paid for a bottle of Champagne that I was trying to buy at a supermarket because he got too excited to welcome a rare guest from Japan also in 2009. In January 2010, I thought I would die frozen when I was waiting for a night bus from Gothenburg to Oslo, under the circumstances where no information was guaranteed if the bus would really come, all the nearby buildings were closed including a gas station that a worker at the Gothenburg Station told me I could wait inside and the temperature outside was colder than -20℃. (And a quiet, tall blond guy who obviously wouldn’t talk to anybody unless drunk came to the bus stop, and I was finally relieved and thought “OK, the bus to Oslo will definitely come here to take this Norwegian guy home.” and it actually came several minutes later. )

And so on. Where will I be in 2018? Wherever my life takes me. I have a good friend in São Paulo, Brazil whom I promised to visit soon. So at least there. It’ll be fun.

I like these opening lines of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald:

‘In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.
“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”‘

I’ll still browse the Internet everyday, to guess what I could not know yet.

I’ll still be traveling whenever I can, to greedily take in new experiences and hopefully shape my less judgmental self.

P.S. I hardly ever use Google. I usually go for Ecosia. My browser? Vivaldi. Needless to say.

My cheeks fell off in Reykjavik

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Travel journal

On a scale of 1 – 10 with 10 being the most positive, how would you describe your dinner tonight?

If I were to score what I eat, I would say 7 is the highest score to what I can instantly put the perception into words, like “juicy” or “delicious”.

André Breton once said, “Beauty will be CONVULSIVE or will not be at all.”

Yes, from the scale 8, it needs to be convulsive. It needs to be something that makes you lose control of yourself.

Well, at least in Japan, you don’t just say something is delicious.
“Oh, my cheeks are falling off!” is the right expression. (Trust me, I’m a native.) That level is where it’s above 8.

The below are the places where I lost my cheeks in Reykjavik.
(The Icelandic Vivaldi Team, I owe you so much for taking me to those amazing restaurants…!)

– Add: Aðalstræti 2, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland


At Matarkjallarinn, together with all the other people from Vivaldi, I had the Icelandic Nature Menu: Grilled puffin & goose confit – Mushrooms, pearl barley – Malt cured salmon – pickled cucumber, mustard. – Grilled lamb – root vegetables, lamb glace. – Skyr & blueberries with chocolate.

Icelandic lamb is always so unbeatable. Especially at Matarkjallarinn. And I’m really sorry puffins. I love you and you are too good to be true.


Bryggjan Brugghús
– Add: Grandagarður 8, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland


They make their own beer. We compared their Lager, Pale Ale, IPA, Session IPA, Pumpkin Ale and Stout, if the alcohol-related memory impairment didn’t hurt me enough.

We also shared langoustine salad (with Icelandic lobster…!) and spicy tuna taco. O that lobster. Loved and hated the meltiness. It disappeared from the mouth too soon. Such a tease. And the spicy tuna taco. It was a revolutionarily beautiful harmony of things that probably many wouldn’t think of combining. Why did I meet the combination earlier? It made me speechless with gratitude.

By the time I started having the best fish&chips in my life after eating/drinking all these delicacies, I need to take off my belt to loosen up my stomach.

Thank you for the meal! Takk fyrir matinn!

Northern lights in Reykjavik

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Travel journal

Seeing the northern lights was one of the things that I wanted to accomplish in my life.

And four days ago, I finally did it in Reykjavik, Iceland!

northern lights and big dipper

Northern lights with the Big Dipper

Expecting to see more, I went out again on the next day, and then…

Northern lights with Grótta Island Lighthouse

Northern lights with Grótta Island Lighthouse

Even stronger northern lights with Grótta Island Lighthouse

Even stronger northern lights with Grótta Island Lighthouse – happened just several minutes after the previous photo

Sky filled with northern lights

Sky filled with northern lights

It was amazing. I’m wondering how poets would describe by words the beauty of the northern lights now, because I couldn’t help but get lost for words.

Northern lights seen from Seltjarnarnes

Northern lights seen from Seltjarnarnes

… So I went out again on the next day XD
I think I’m totally in love with northern lights…