Friday, May 9, 2008

Getting to Tokyo and Day 1 Activities


The flight left on time. 12 hours-- or 48 for one of us, due to a problem with the aircraft. Traveling over Alaska and the Bering Strait. You could imagine the same rugged artic landscape extending on into Siberia. Instant noodles for lunch showed how air travel has changed. First day with black sweater, white t-shirt and blue jeans, packed lightly - may need to wear this again.


Narita Airport
Narita Airport was as efficient as you would expect, though not earth-shatteringly modern. Boeing must have had a great 747 sales person in Japan. They dominated the airport and made an interesting comparison with our United 777. Nice to get off the plane. The highly powered and functional toilet seats created an immediate impression. A paper-based survey to measure queue times in the customs queue started us thinking of Kaizen. Prof. Robb Dixon’s operations exam question come to life.

Finger prints and photos at customs left you feeling alarmingly safe. Seiko, the tour guide, is ready for us to head to the shuttle warns us there may be traffic due to Golden Week and the Chinese Premier visiting – no traffic at all.

First impressions?
Balmy weather. Smaller scale. Friendly people. Some people thought Japan looked older than they expected. US car manufacturers do not look like they have sold much. One old Chevy van and a couple of Fords. Tiny mini vans are big. BMW and Mercedes own the luxury segment. Lexus might have been more about defense than offense. It does not look like Toyota is winning the luxury battle, however the Toyota Crown Royal has a Crown symbol in the front and seems to sell more than Lexus. Nice to see car and trucks of a scale that make sense in today’s world. McDonalds and KFC have won big. Starbucks, Gap, Coca Cola. Coca Cola’s Georgia Coffee is the number 1 selling coffee brands. No shortage of vending machines. The strategic use of plastic food including coffee cups showing ice and mocha helped get over the language hurdle. This does not look like a closed economy. Lots of Japanese branding, billboards everywhere with a diverse group of advertisements.

Expensive-looking hair
It seems like young men spend more on their new wave inspired hair styles than women. Big Duran Duran inspired dos definitely make a statement. Individuality with no permanent mark. Not many tattoos and pierces. They do not seem to have jumped on that trend. Always room for a short hair cut and a suit later. The young women seem more inspired by the sixties. Short skirts and knee high socks. Bright video parlors and loud music are the entertainment of choice. Everyone seems to be having fun.


Day 1:

Found our way to the Tuna Auction, although we went through the employee area dodging carts, bicycles, motorized pulleys and people in a rush. Caught the last public auction very quick fast paced organized sale. Nice to see EcoCarts as these are running off of natural gas. You can see the whole value chain from the auction to the actual shops selling fresh Sushi located in the same area.

Tokyo – the alley strategy
A whirl of activity and people. Flashing neon and crowds. We decided to take an alley. It is quiet. Interesting stores. Reggae music. Seems like we found Tokyo’s Caribbean section. Lots of hip Japanese. Nothing better than a rooftop bar on a warm Tokyo day. Looking around – the life looks relaxed and good. Some friends relaxing on a balcony across the way. People catching up over coffee.

Taxi ride
Found our way out of the alley back to the main strip, took a taxi and felt sheer panic as we navigated not hitting several vehicles along the way. Seems like we scammed a ten minute ride; actually took twenty minutes and 2,300 yen (US$23). I thought we passed our hotel twice as we turned in the opposite direction.

No dress expectations so we ran the gamut of slacks and dress shirts to sneakers and shorts – day two of the black sweater, white t-shirt and jeans still clean and somewhat fresh. Bus ride through Tokyo is not as good as walking the streets.

When in Karaoke
Has to be done. 15 people sitting in a small room on the forty seventh floor of the hotel. There are some superstar singers in the crowd. A lot of echo on the machine. They abbreviated Jimi Hendrix. One verse only.

Magnitude 6.8 earthquake, the impact was strongest in the Ibaraki and Tochigi regions, north of Tokyo but no damage. Most people get woken up. A reassuring announcement says the hotel is earthquake proof. Hate to see nature challenged.

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