In recent years, several companion services and products have popped up in Japan. There is a wide variety. Companion robots and AI devices are entering the homes of lonely business people and the elderly. Others hoping to live an Instagrammable life are seeking out for-hire friends and family to stand by their side in pictures. Have a break down at work? Crying services can dispatch a supportive counselor to help you weep your way through it.

These are stressful times. No matter the place, the pressure of an increasing workload, constant connectivity, and a withering work-life balance can bring anyone down. In Japan, businesses and individuals face the same problems. By and by, resilient consumers are turning to emotionally supportive products and apps to help handle the pressure.

Low Self-Esteem

In terms of self-esteem, Japanese citizens are sensitively poised. Suicide is prevalent here, especially among young people. The culture's save face attitude limits people's ability to ask for help. 46.9 percent of respondents to a government survey admitted that they would have trouble asking for help when confronted with stress [1]. In general, mental health issues go undiagnosed as they are associated with embarrassment or shame. A lengthy government campaign attempting to understand the underlying causes of depression and ease the stigma has had little effect [2].

Youth in Japan notably lack self-confidence, a reliable indicator of mental resilience. A survey by the National Institute of Youth Education (NIYE) showed that Japanese high school students have lower self-esteem and body-image scores in comparison to their counterparts in Asia and America [3].

Indeed, only 44.9 percent of Japanese respondents answered that they considered themselves to be a valuable person. In comparison, 75.6 percent of American, 70.4 percent of Korean, and 62.2 percent of Chinese students answered affirmatively to the question. These results occurred although Japanese students were the least obese and had the best diets according to the survey.

“Japanese people tend to care about others more than themselves, and they evaluate themselves relative to others,” explains the chief director of the NIYE. The situation seems reminiscent of social media depression whereby users develop “Facebook envy.” Everyone one else has it together, why not me?

Depressed Teens Become Isolated Adults

Unfortunately, worrisome tendencies continue into adulthood. Isolation is a common problem among a working class that is increasingly forever single. Adult men cite having fewer friends and weak social connections [4]. Finally, the number of Hikikimori, recluses, is increasing [5]. This phenomenon of intense social withdrawal could affect as many as 10 million, according to Saito Tamaki, an expert on the issue.

OECD data about the state of the economy corroborates these negative findings. According to its Better Life Index, Japan ranks below the average in terms of civic engagement, subjective well-being, social connections, and work-life balance [6]. Add a long daily commute, which many residents endure, and a host of other stressors and social frustration is easily understandable.

The Power of Praise

In trying times, a few supportive words can work wonders. Everyone can attest to the effect of praise, especially when that positive reinforcement comes from a superior. Research has indicated that the psychological impact may be as significant, in terms of neural activity, as a monetary reward.

The positive effects are not only subjective, however. Pro-social behavior and personability are increased by praise, research finds. For example, preschoolers who receive approval for constructive behavior develop better people skills [7].

Quick to innovate, Japanese developers and entrepreneurs are employing several products and services to spread the love. These uniquely Japanese innovations are harnessing praise to ensure happy, more productive humans. Good job, Japan!

Unipos App

Business people in this country work hard. With grueling hours, sābisu zangyō サービス残業 (unpaid overtime), and a litany of responsibilities commonplace, it’s hardly surprising that Japanese consumers are unsatisfied with their jobs [8].

Unipos app attempts to lighten the load by providing a social environment similar to Slack or Microsoft Teams. With one crucial difference: Unipos is centered around praise and positive feedback. When an employee notices another’s exemplary actions, they can publicly send a “peer bonus”, a sort of “like” for hard work.

Overall, the purpose of the app is to provide positive feedback and spread core values. Points can also be shared. Depending upon the organization, bonuses may be redeemable for cash or rewards [9].

In Japanese companies, supervisors often forego praise, opting to focus on company improvements. According to Unipos’ CEO, communication is always difficult in a business, especially when the members are distributed. Unipos's Peer Bonus system is a way to encourage and accelerate this essential communication [10].

Compliment Bar

September saw Homeru Bar open at Osaka’s Lucua department store. Homeru ほめる (pronounced "hoh-meh-ru") means "to praise" in Japanese. Although it was only a pop-up bar, the staff lavished customers with praise. Inspired by the simple observation that adults work hard every day but are rarely shown approval, the bar received a lot of patronage as well as online attention. With high spirits abounding, hopefully, compliment bars become a regular fixture of Saturday night pub crawls [11].


Homejyohzu, or "exceptional complimenter," is a crowd-sourced board game for building confidence among classmates or coworkers. Players roll a die and draw cards accordingly. They then use their cards to compliment their partners. The better the compliment, the better the reward.

True to form, the game has received a lot of positive feedback. Ninety percent of participants who trialed the game rated it as fun. The game received massive support through its Kickstarter campaign [12]. Supporters also gushed on their social media accounts.

Compliment Log

Like Unipos, Homerogu, or "compliment log," is a company-based SNS platform. With the tagline "communication is motivation," the platform allows users to compliment each other in a fully integrated platform. Through this compliment system, polar charts are generated displaying an employee's strengths. By omission, however, it also reveals an employee's weaknesses. So whether it's motivating to have high-points for a great smile, but low scores in terms of competency will have to be determined on a case-by-case basis [13].

By - Luke Mahoney.