Best of 2021: Your Best Books, Buys, and Big News in 2021

Best of 2021: Your Best Books, Buys, and Big News in 2021

In Part 2 of our “Best of 2021” series, you told us about…

  • A book or article or podcast episode you loved in 2021

  • The best purchase you’ve made under 10,000 JPY in 2021

  • Most interesting, eye-opening business news you’ve read in 2021

Need a good read during the holiday slowdown? 📚 Searching for a last-minute gift for someone on your shopping list? 🎁 

Check out these recommendations from TokyoMate readers and the Business in Japan community!


📚 A book or article or podcast you loved in 2021

It's hard to pick one, but I go with "Don't Shoot the Dog: The New Art of Teaching and Training" by Karen Pryor (1984). It really helped me to slowly build the habit of bi-daily early morning runs without much mental force (i.e. without stress), see my Re #1 for details

This book teaches you the skill of hacking your own brain or learning about the APIs of a mammal's "system".

Fuminori Gunji, CEO at TokyoMate


The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.

Debbie Howard,  CarterJMRN KK 


A pageturner book and motivator to start my podcast was “More than Enough” by Elaine Welteroth about claiming space for who you are no matter what they say. This applies to all aspects of life and business. Her mantra of “there is so much wisdom locked up inside the stories women never tell” became my adopted mantra for my Lawyer on Air podcast.

Catherine O’Connell, Principal & Founder of Catherine O’Connell Law, Tokyo | Lawpreneur | Lawyer on Air Podcast Host 


Customer Relationship Management: How to Develop and Execute a CRM Strategy by Michael Pearce - Compact knowledge in 190 pages. Actually entertaining. Interesting. Suitable for every level. An absolute highlight.

Gerd Engelbart, Marketing Technology & Data Management Specialist at Volkswagen AG 


The podcast episode by Debbie Millman interviewing Seth Godin on his latest book “The Practice,” recommended to me by Fuminori Gunji. This was absolutely the best thing I listened to this year, workwise, regarding shipping creative work. I loved that episode so much I immediately bought the book. 

Here’s a passage from The Practice that I’ve re-read several times, and which I’ll be returning to again: “The time we spend worrying is actually time we’re spending trying to control something that is out of our control. Time invested in something that is within our control is called work. That’s where our most productive focus lies. Worrying isn’t productive because it doesn’t produce confidence, and even if it did, the confidence wouldn’t last. Worrying is a way to hide from the fact that we are wavering on our practice. Reassurance is futile. The reason is simple: We need an infinite amount of reassurance, delivered daily, to build up our confidence. There will never be enough. Instead of seeking reassurance and buttressing it with worry, we could make the choice to go back to work instead.”

Tomoko Matsuoka, Japan-Focused Researcher & Copywriting Specialist


Marie Forleo - Everything is Figureoutable. Once you read this, there’s no excuses for ever not doing anything.

Francis Fung, Career Purpose Coach & Professor at Temple University Japan


Lessons from Thirty Years of Selling in Japan by Dr. Greg Story Leadership-Sales-Presentations-Tokyo, Japan.

Jason Ball, Solutions and Digital Team at Pactera Japan, Director


The best book I have read in 2021, by now, is called Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty by Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo. This book helps me to rethink about what money is, and how education can change lives, although I thought I had known. Looking forward to 2022, I just talked with my friend today, that I want to be more involved in volunteering as well. I was more focused in charities so far. I think now I am open to a bigger world.

Wine Zheng Mizuno, Global Marketing Manager


A book I’ve been reading a lot this year is ‘Never Split the difference’ by Chris Voss. To have a successful negotiation is to be an active listener and truly understand what the other side needs. Next, by being an active listener we can ask questions to see how ‘what they are saying they want’ is truly what they need. Asking questions causes the other to breakdown what they want and to see if it’s even attainable!

James Ball, US Project Coordinator, Projects & Technical Operations at Global-e


"The Laws of Human Nature" Greene, Robert.

Lydia Beukelman, Podcaster, Teacher, Compulsive Learner


Keep Going by Austin Kleon.

Anthony Griffin, MBA, Saga Consulting


Japan Unmasked by Kiyoshi Matsumoto (not a plug)...don’t necessarily agree with everything but it helps put a lot of things about Japan in perspective.

Stephen Turner, Representative Director & President at TS Japan Railway Travel Planning Company Limited 


🎁 Best purchase you’ve made under 10,000 JPY in 2021

A subscription to Readwise.io.

Anthony Griffin, MBA, Saga Consulting


I purchased a desk hammock for my feet from (¥3000) Amazon. It’s a cute novelty that lets me kick up my feet and relax for an extended period at my desk, since I generally work long hours in my home office.

Dwayne Grech, Founder & Experience Design Director at Hello xLAB


Oh most definitely my Microphone for my podcast. It’s a super little number and is perfect for getting quality sound not only for recording guests but also for all the online meetings where we need to sound good. It’s the SAMSUNG Q2U Dynamic Microphone and you’ll get change out of 7,000 yen for this beauty.

Catherine O’Connell, Principal & Founder of Catherine O’Connell Law, Tokyo | Lawpreneur | Lawyer on Air Podcast Host 


Face shields to wear while flying.

Debbie Howard, CarterJMRN KK


Universal Camera Lens Covers..for someone who takes a lot of pictures these are great and less likely to get lost!

Stephen Turner, Representative Director & President at TS Japan Railway Travel Planning Company Limited 


A 6-pack of Aussie Meat pies and a South Australian Shiraz probably?

Jason Ball, Solutions and Digital Team at Pactera Japan, Director


A WiFi Repeater for 6,500 JPY. Saved me lots of money and time to have a great Wifi connection in every corner of the office.

Fuminori Gunji, CEO at TokyoMate


My Strava subscription. I ran significantly less than in 2020. But every run is a pleasure. Strava won't let me forget a run. Great buy!

Gerd Engelbart, Marketing Technology & Data Management Specialist at Volkswagen AG


A ring light from Amazon, for all the Zoom meetings. Nothing worse than seeing a dark scary badly lit face.

Francis Fung, Career Purpose Coach & Professor at Temple University Japan


Best purchase I made this year under 10,000 JPY was a bike that allowed me to avoid the trains during Covid!

James Ball, US Project Coordinator, Projects & Technical Operations at Global-e


A 6-port USB charging station for my desk on Rakuten. Now everything can get charged at once!

Tomoko Matsuoka, Japan-Focused Researcher & Copywriting Specialist


📰 Most interesting, eye-opening business news you’ve read in 2021

Definitely it was the exponential uptick in the Influencer market in Japan and it was heavy amongst my clients working with premier product in market looking to support with contracting to wrap around the deals they strike with influencers they want to work with.

According to Japanese marketing research firm Digital Infact, and Japan Buzz, the influencer market in Japan exceeded $200 million dollars in 2018 and is predicted to surpass $500 million dollars by 2023.

Imagine the value in proactively aiming to gulp down just one slice of the Japan influencer pie? This pie is available to curious and adventurous business people and I think this is super interesting for 2022 to see where this goes especially with AI-influencers.

Catherine O’Connell, Principal & Founder of Catherine O’Connell Law, Tokyo | Lawpreneur | Lawyer on Air Podcast Host 


The Care Economy in the US was valued (by Melinda French Gates’ Pivotal Ventures) at $648 billion, larger than the US pharmaceutical industry ($510 billion).

Debbie Howard, CarterJMRN KK


Anything related to Notion.io.

Anthony Griffin, MBA, Saga Consulting


Difficult one, cannot pinpoint a single article, but I nowadays spend more time reading the opinion pieces in various publications - in this world where much of the mainstream media is polarised and often "missing facts that do not suit their political persuasion” it is good to read various essays and opinions - puts you more in charge of deciding your views.

Stephen Turner, Representative Director & President at TS Japan Railway Travel Planning Company Limited 


Amazon, Virgin, SpaceX all freely and regularly taking passengers into space. If companies started by normal people can achieve such feats, what’s stopping the rest of the planet from achieving even greater things? It makes me question whether I’m actually doing all I can in my own life, or am I suuuuuuper settling.

Francis Fung, Career Purpose Coach & Professor at Temple University Japan


Robo-writers: the rise and risks of language-generating AI.” A topic I’ve been keeping tabs on.

Tomoko Matsuoka, Japan-Focused Researcher & Copywriting Specialist 


The Great Resignation: the existential crisis of the modern working environment. Covid has been the great catalyst for us all to really examine our values and purpose, who we work for, where we work, and how we collaborate. I find this fascinating to see its impact on a global scale transcending language, culture, and industries.

Dwayne Grech, Founder & Experience Design Director at Hello xLAB


"Olympic Sponsor Toyota to skip TV commercials." - I loved watching sports. Everything ... that's different now. It is a disaster what the IOC, FIFA and UEFA have caused in recent years. An absolute disaster.

Gerd Engelbart, Marketing Technology & Data Management Specialist at Volkswagen AG


[元Paidyのエンジニアら、手数料・利子不要のBNPL「Smartpay」をローンチ——SMBC VCらから資金調達も], but I’ll admit I’m biased.

Pieterjan Vandaele, Smartpay founder


Tokyo snags Asian listing in 'Goldilocks' space between NYSE and Hong Kong” - After years of “Japan passing” this might be one of several signals that tides are turning. The big picture narrative and significance of this aligns well with this news article about TSMC as well.

Fuminori Gunji, CEO at TokyoMate


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