HDE Advent Calendar 2016

“one day - one person - one blog post”, from December 1st - 25th

HDE Advent Calendar Day 4: こたつ コタツ 炬燵 Kotatsu

Hello, I'm Akane, working as an Internal IT manager. (Please note that there are 2 Akane, 茜子 and 茜. I'm the latter.)

It's already cold winter. Happily, a Kotatsu (こたつ/炬燵) has just arrived in our office. (Every winter, Kotatsu comes to HDE. :))




Kotatsu is an old style Japanese heating appliance but is still evolving.
Since I'm a Kotatsu lover and actually I've just ordered a new Kotatsu last month (now I'm waiting for its arrival), I would like to talk about features where I was really impressed with its evolution when I was choosing Kotatsu.

1. Flat Panel Heater

The most common heater is Halogen Heater. However, it has two big problems, the thickness and the small concentrated area of heating.

Halogen heater.

As you know, the most pleasant time when using Kotatsu is lying down and get into the Kotatsu Futon. However, the heater makes your only one part too hot and you have to adjust the temperature again and again. And, ah, imagine how annoying that the thick and sticked-out heater hits your hip when you are turning over and interrupts your comfort sleeping!!

Thanks to some genius, a new type of heater, "Flat Panel Heater" came to us. The size of the heating panel is almost same as the table so that the heat goes around in Kotatsu evenly.
According to some articls, the power of heating is weaker than the conventional heater, but I believe that the hotness is enough for a person living in non-cold district like me.

2. Remote Controller with Off Timer

You can of course adjust heater's temperature but most of cases, the controller is inside the Kotatsu so you have to grope for it.

Heater's temperature controller. 

Advanced Kotasu has a remote control (not wireless yet though). And also some of them have timer!! You no longer need to care about turning the heater off when you are going to sleep under the Kotasu!!

3. Appearance

The reason why I decided to buy a new Kotasu is this. Appearance. My current Kotatsu is made from Plastic and looks cheap (actually it was cheap, just ¥3,000), not cool, or rather, it's ugly. :(

I think the most evolved point is this. Recent Kotatsu looks really modern. They are made with many different kinds of materials from plastic to wood, the colour is various, black, white, brown, and mosaic, and shapes are not only square but also round and even asymmetric.
Considering that Kotatsu unveiled from Futon can be used every seasons, it is better to choose nice looking one. I ordered one made with walnut. :))

4. Kotasu Futon

Kotasu Futon is, of cource Futon (布団) so it is basically thick. It may occupy your room because of its bulkiness.

Recentnly, to make it look sharp and cool, a lot of thinner and space-saving Kotatsu Futon is released. (However, to tell the truth, I don't like this type of Kotatsu Futon, so I chose ordinary thick and warm Futon. ;D )

And, the recent Hokuo (北欧, North Europe) design boom in Japan gave us the change of the design of Kotasu Futon covers. You can find a lot of modern patten and it would fit your modern room. It is so fun to find favorite one. 


Well, are you ready for your Kotatsu life?? If you want to try Kotasu, come visit HDE!!




HDE Advent Calendar Day 3: A Digital Tour of London

Hello everyone! This is Alice, an intern in the Cloud Product Development team. I’ve been living in London for the past 4 years so I thought I’d take you all on a digital tour of my favourite parts of the city...


First up: The Barbican. Mostly famous for its tall apartment blocks, there are also cinema screens, cafés and a tropical greenhouse within the same complex. A lot of people don’t like the brutalist architecture but I personally think it’s fantastic!

Sources: left, right


One of my favourite galleries to wander around is the Tate Britain - it's not as well known as the Tate Modern so tends to be quieter, and it has a wider range of artistic styles and media on display. A lot of museums and galleries open late on every first Thursday of every month. This is my favourite time to go to the Natural History Museum - you can drink beer and cocktails as you look at the dinosaurs!

Sources: left, right


London is a great place to live if you're into live music. There are some pretty cool venues as well; I've been to gigs in churches, warehouses, a brewery and a veterans' club..! 


Source: mine :)


When the weather is nice (which happens sometimes! sort of!) I like to go for a walk along the Lea River. A fair number of people live in houseboats in the canals - a cheap way to live if you're not too attached to electricity!


Source: mine :)


Other great green spaces to go are Hampstead Heath for its huge trees and wide open spaces, and Richmond Park for the deer:

Sources: top, bottom


It's hard to tell from the above photo, but there are LOTS of deer. To demonstrate, here is a video that shows what happens when you set a dog loose in Richmond park...


There are also many interesting areas in the suburbs. Below is a map based on the 2011 census, showing the 2nd most spoken languages (after English) in London.



This means it's possible to buy authentic food and clothing from all over the world! The area I live in at the moment is home to Jewish, Turkish, Caribbean, Latin American and Polish communities, so I can find great Challah bread, baklava, ackee, arepas and kielbasa, all within walking distance. I could write a whole blog post just on food - Londoners are really spoilt for choice!


And that's about it, I hope you enjoyed this whirlwind tour! Here are some cool instagram accounts to follow if you want to see more:




@alices_snaps (ok this is me, hence the bad photos 😛 )


Thanks for reading!

HDE Advent Calendar Day 2: David's guide on surviving 2016's Winter




I'm David from Colombia, an intern working on the Cloud Development Team.


Ah December a kind reminder that the year is over, winterish weather, grey skies, and holidays.
Lots of holidays, and family time, so here is my personal recommendations of movies/books to survive this season :

1. Home Alone


Yeah, it is time to set you in mood, I know you have been listening to xmas carrols since early november, but Home Alone is a xmas classic, appealing to the nostalgia factor, and perfect to get you in xmasy mood. 


2. The Motorcycle Diaries


With a great cast of actors and amazing sceneries,  this movie  is about an   argentinean historical figure travelling all around South America. It has nothing to do with Xmas but you might get inspirations for your 2017 holidays. 






3. Kubo and the Two Strings

Another non-xmasy movie, with a heavy japanese style, it is probably the best stop motion movie I've ever seen, a must watch before 2016 is over, no description, just go ahead and watch it. 


4. Holiday's on Ice - David Sedaris

Holidays on Ice - Wikipedia


An easy/short book collecting stories about xmas. I got this book as a xmas gift one year ago, it is hilarious and a great read for the daily commute. One of the stories recounts the exagerated experiences of the author working as a xmas elf in one of the iconic malls of New York.


5. 28 Days Later

By this time you already tired of xmas lights, time to refresh yourself with a zombie movie, in my opinion one of the best in the genre, the story takes place in London for a change :)



6. Good Bye Lenin

German comedy addressing how Berlin's wall fell in a blinking of an eye. Very humurous in how the whole east-german society changed overnight.


7. The Secret of Kells

An Irish film, with a "ghibli resembling" style, telling the story behind the book of kells, and heavily inspired by Irish mythology. The animation is sweet, hopefully your next visit to dublin will be more exciting than just going to the Guiness factory.  


Enjoy the holidays

And because it is dangerous to go alone, take one of these gifs:













HDE Advent Calendar Day 1: Adopting English As An Official Language (A Real Story)

Howdy everyone! I'm Richie Ogura, CEO/CTO of HDE, Inc.
This is the first post of HDE Advent Calendar 2016, on which HDE members do “one day - one person - one blog”, from December 1st - 25th.


3 years ago, we decided to start hiring people from all over the world, both in order to get great talents, and to go global. To achieve that, we started our plan to make English our official language. Last October (October 2016), finally we carried out our "Write in English, speak in English or language common to the group" policy, and now we're using English and Japanese, along with other languages in our office in Tokyo.
This made our company to gain diversity quickly, which made our business to grow at a high pace, and pushed us to spread out of Japan (recently we opened our first foreign branch in Taipei!). 3 years ago we had only Japanese people, but now we have people from more than 10 different countries in total at our office in Tokyo.
Although there are companies adopting English like us, it's not yet popular here in Japan, where most people speak only one language. We even got featured in a newspaper recently.
So in this article, I'd like to share some topics regarding how we have proceeded with this plan, and what kind of problems we faced.


2013 Aug: TOEIC-IP 1st

2013 Nov: Ken goes to Cebu

2014 Mar: Manager meeting got Englishnized

2014 Apr: All-hands meeting (zenshakai) got Englishnized

2014 May: CEO(me) announced that he will write in English only and give speech in English only

2014 Aug: CEO started wearing kimono everyday

2014 Nov: First international employee entered our company

2016 Oct: "Write in English, speak in English or a language common to the group" policy

The first and obvious obstruction was the English ability of our members. Since we got established in 1996, we had run business for 17 years in Japan only, which means, of course our members, including me, had no business English skill. So, we thought we need some way to ramp up our English ability.
We first had a TOEIC-IP test for all  our employees to measure our current English ability at that time. After that, we roughly classified our members into four types. Apparently, there was distribution among employees.


We didn't want anyone to drop out, so for the 3rd quadrant people, we offered a 1 month English training at Cebu island.
Ken, the head of Cloud Product Development Division, became the first one to try this training in 2013, and since then, we regularly send our people to Cebu island. It's only 1 month, so it doesn't make an instant effect, but people who come back from Cebu always seem more confident using English. They can improve if they continue learning; and they do improve in most cases!
For everyone, including the members who's been to Cebu, we offered company-paid Skype English training. The good thing is that the Skype English training company (QQEnglish) is also based in Cebu, running school there, so you can continue your lesson on Skype with the same teacher you got a lesson in Cebu school, even after you come back to Japan.


We didn't make any specific TOEIC score target yet at that time, because we were not sure how is the score related to real English skill. After this first TOEIC-IP test, we are now taking it regularly at a place close to our office (roughly 30-40 people participate in the exam). Our current conclusion is like we need TOEIC 700pts to read and write English in our company, and we need around 900pts to carry out real business or business related discussions.  


TOEIC score average of our company

As you see, we are still improving ;-)


Accepting Interns

Then we started to accepting interns from foreign countries. We started to have 2-3 interns from abroad to work at our office, for about 1-2 months, full time. We also had several exchange students studying in Japanese Universities as interns. We didn't require Japanese ability basically, so most of them couldn't speak Japanese at all. And the only way to communicate with them was to talk in English. I think this changed our company's atmosphere very much.
Because most of them spoke English as their second (or sometime third, fourth) language, they were understanding how difficult is to acquire language ability. Also our Japanese members knew that they studied hard, so everyone in our company respected them, and tried to talk with them in English when working together.
We also started hiring some of them after the internship program finished.
This internship program is now promoted as HDE Global Internship Program.



Not All Teams Proceed At The Same Pace

Soon after we jumped on the train of "Englishnization", we faced many problems. One obvious problem we found, was that all teams don't proceed at the same pace. The R&D team, which had non-Japanese people relatively early, had an urgent need to change all of their meetings, documents, workflow into English, because otherwise they can't work with each other. Soon HR team which started global recruiting faced the same problem. But for example the Japan sales team didn't have a real urgent business requirement to change their main language. So, we made roadmaps of English adoption for each team.
It differed between teams, but all roughly consists of 3 steps:
Step 1: Document titles, chapter titles, commit messages, ticket/issue titles, figures, charts, tags and other short messages must be in English 
Step 2: Written documents, such as specification documents, release notes, presentation slides, minutes, etc.. must be in English
Step 3: Online written discussion that will be preserved and referred later, such as threads on issues/pull requests, or discussions on ML/SNS, must be in English. Team must have the ability of oral English communication to discuss topics in English (must be ready to welcome non-Japanese person to the team)

We made objectives and deadlines regarding when to achieve which level, and allowed those objectives to be different between teams. This helped very much to make clear what we should prepare, and to avoid unnecessary anxiety.


Problem: Japanese-only Equipment

We never expected this, but we've found that most hardware in our office requires Japanese reading ability.
We had to put a lot of labels on things, to let our international members operate on office equipment.
Copy machines had English UI, but buttons only had Japanese on it, so we needed to put a label on it

Coffee machine, labeled

The same thing sometimes happens for IT systems, or forms required by the local government, etc. I think Japan has a room to improve in this area. 

Why "Write in English, speak in English or language common to the group"?

Written words will be searched and read by future colleagues. Spoken words disappear in the air. When speaking, we can choose the most efficient way of communication, while when writing, we should choose the most versatile language.
In the real world, we mostly choose Japanese when we have only Japanese people in our internal meetings, but sometimes we choose English even in those cases, to get used to using English in meetings.

Japanese Learning Program

For full-time members who don't speak Japanese, we invite Japanese teacher to our company and provide Japanese learning program after work, because although we don't require Japanese skill, it's good to know Japanese if you're living in Japan, to get the best out of Tokyo.
At this moment, some of us speak some Japanese, and sometimes we mix Japanese in our conversation. Let me introduce some useful words which are surviving our Englishnization so far.
めんどくさい/It's mendokusai
When you want to say something it's not easy to do something or you're reluctant to do something. No good translation in English.
おつかれさまでした/Otsukaresama deshita
Japanese can't help themselves say this after the meeting or when they are leaving the office. And it's contagious.
Something like "I see". Mostly used as a stamp :naruhodo: on Slack.
Used when you can't instantly believe something and want to show that you are surprised.
To show that you're impressed by something.

How Do You Like It?

In a homogeneous team, we take it for granted that everyone is the same, sharing the same standards and values, so we tend to point the finger at someone who acts differently, as the famous Japanese proverb says "A nail sticking out gets hammered in".
On the other hand, in a diverse team, because difference comes first, we look at what different strength we have, how we can help each other, and we appreciate the core values we share. The culture accepting difference, is the greatest thing we've achieved in this 3 years. I believe this made us resilient, strong, and agile.


But diversity is not just strength. It's also fun to have! I feel so blessed to have the chance working with people from different backgrounds. I can never get bored with them every day!
That's it for today, thank you for reading!