Japanese vs. Chinese Made Massage Chairs

August 2, 2011
 By Dr. Alan Weidner
August 2, 2011
 By Dr. Alan Weidner

Japanese vs. Chinese Made Massage Chairs

Massage chairs are made either in China or Japan, for the most part. All Inada massage chairs and Sanyo massage chairs are manufactured in Japan. Human Touch and Omega have their chairs manufactured in China. Panasonic has a couple of models made in Japan, with the rest being manufactured in China. Japanese massage chairs are typically more expensive than the less-expensive Chinese counter-part. Pretty much ALL of the cheap online massage chairs are what I like to call “Chinese knock-offs” because they are made in China at a lower price and many of these chairs are created to mimic quality name-brand massage chairs, but feedback we get is that those “knock offs” are of a poor quality.

Inherently, we tend to think that the Japanese chairs are of a better quality workmanship and that the Chinese chairs are of a lesser quality workmanship. I don’t know exact statistics from the massage chair manufacturers for which we carry their chairs, but based on feedback from clients, the Chinese-made chairs tend to have more warranty issues than do the Japanese chairs. Now, I don’t hear from every customer, but I do hear from some and there seems to be a tendency to a higher failure rate amongst Chinese-made chairs. I’d really like to see some legitimate stats from the manufacturers to support or debunk that hypothesis. But, I doubt that they would surrender that information for obvious reasons.

I did a little search on Google for any chatter or information about the comparison of Japanese and Chinese product quality…not just massage chairs. I didn’t find much, but I did happen upon an online political forum discussion that addressed the question. The reason I am putting it here is because the question and the responses are very similar to and indicative of what I hear from customers and shoppers in my industry (the link to this conversation is here: http://www.politicsforum.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=71&t=123607)

Sphinx: I am wondering why there is much difference in quality between Japanese and Chinese products, although as far as I am concerned they have similar IQ statistics.

Potemkin: Japanese products weren’t always of high quality. Back in the 1950s and 60s, ‘Made in Japan’ meant pretty much what ‘Made in China’ means now – shoddy workmanship and poor quality control. It’s what you bought if you couldn’t afford to buy American or British. It has nothing to do with IQ points, and everything to do with infrastructure, training and investment.

Eauz: Part of this reason was that they were just advised to produce goods and services, not perfect upon them. The Japanese given an idea of a commodity, and were advised to just reproduce it or copy it, in the cheapest way, in order to provide cheap consumer goods to society. As the Japanese society grew, they started to design and manufactor their own products similar to those that were originally imported from a foreign country and were highly successful, as we saw that within the span of one decade, Japanese manufactured goods were covering the world, with products that were superior in quality and design. This concept of continuous improvement is found in the word Kaizen (改善).

Although, the Japanese had a more refined culture of analyzing and studying products (master-apprentice approach) to their smallest concept, from 1860’s until 1960, the Japanese, just like the Chinese were required to just copy and reproduce American made products in the cheapest way. It was not until the Japanese manufacturers became strong enough, in the global market, did they dump the foreign junk and start to reproduce more efficient commodities, with higher quality and design. I don’t think China has this concept of kaizen in its society, thus, I doubt it has anything to do with race or intelligence.

Potemkin: I believe the Chinese do have a concept similar to ‘kaizen’ in their culture. An interesting case study might be the recent development this year in Taiwan of a new and genuinely innovative fountain pen at an affordable price, which seeks to improve on the fountain pens available in the same price range in the West, as documented in this thread in The Fountain Pen Forum. The way in which the manufacturers have sought and incorporated feedback from the user base of consumers is exemplary, and bears comparison with the efforts of Japanese manufacturers to improve the quality of their products in the 1960s and 70s. The pen has even won a design award. This is clearly ‘kaizen’ at work, but in China (Taiwan) rather than Japan. Manufacturers in mainland China have also recently shown awareness of the need to improve their quality control and to produce genuinely innovative products.

I hope this post sheds some light on the Japanese vs. Chinese made massage chair issue. We are always asked about the country of manufacture for our massage chairs.

Dr. Alan Weidner


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