The Misuse of PowerPoint in Japan: Lessons Learned from the Art of Bento

Living in Japan affords many pleasures (at least for me), chief among them being the journey back from Tokyo on the Shinkansen (bullet train). Having wrapped up a successful meeting in Tokyo, I boarded the Nozomi express at precisely 6:03 PM, bound for Osaka, accompanied by my trusty “Ekiben” (station bento box) and a bottle of Asahi Super Dry – the epitome of Japanese beer. While trains abound globally, few offer such a quintessential “Japan experience”: zipping through the countryside aboard cutting-edge technology, savoring local delicacies, and enjoying a cold brew while glimpses of temples, shrines, and even Mount Fuji glide past the expansive windows.
image 7 The Misuse of PowerPoint in Japan: Lessons Learned from the Art of Bento

Halfway through my delectable bento, my gaze wandered to a “salaryman” across the aisle engrossed in a printed stack of PowerPoint slides. Two slides per page, they were packed with Japanese text, devoid of white space or imagery, one dense page after another. Were these intended for a presentation? If so, my heart went out to the audience. Or were they simply documents printed via PowerPoint? If the latter, my sympathies lay with both creator and reader, for PowerPoint is not a document creation tool.

This stark contrast couldn’t be more poignant: the exquisite, meticulously designed “ekiben” versus the poorly crafted, visually unappealing PowerPoint slides across the aisle. Should your slide design aspire to resemble the bento boxes sold aboard high-speed trains? Absolutely, for the bento embodies content arranged with utmost efficiency and elegance. Its simplicity, beauty, and balance create a feast for the eyes, without excess or ostentation, yet with impeccable design. My 20 minutes were delightful and invigorating.

When was the last time you could describe a presentation in such glowing terms?

Little Thoughts Along the Way

Translating this piece offered two insights:

  1. Learning from All Around Us: Beyond bento boxes, inspiration can be found in various forms: advertisements, outdoor signs, book covers, movie posters, business cards, postcards, photography books, design manuals, comics, films, TV series, and more. Stay tuned as I explore these connections further.

  2. The Challenges of Translation: Translation is multifaceted, requiring mastery of both languages and an understanding of cultural contexts. As an American living in Japan, Garr’s writing blends English with Japanese elements. Gratitude goes to those with linguistic prowess who assist in bridging these gaps. Focusing on a single author’s works over time has its benefits, allowing one to familiarize with their style and background, enhancing translation quality.

A Different Perspective:

While Garr posits that PowerPoint isn’t meant for document creation, underscoring the distinct roles of software like Word for writing and PowerPoint for slides, I see PowerPoint’s dual functionality: as a tool for projection presentations and for crafting digital documents or “e-books.” Each purpose requires distinct approaches, a topic I’ll delve into in an upcoming blog post.

Template Sky
Template Sky » The Misuse of PowerPoint in Japan: Lessons Learned from the Art of Bento