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February 01, 2006

Letters from the Front - Tokyo

I've been in Tokyo over the past week on business - I'm staying at the Cerulean Hotel in Shibuya which is really fabulous. Without revealing too much, it's been a very successful trip. I love Tokyo and the Japanese people. I've been to Tokyo twice before, but never for any extended period. In my quest to be more cognizant of the world around me, I spent some time immersing myself in the culture. Japanese people are the most kind, gentle, considerate people in the world. The staff here at the Cerulean is simply amazing. Really, service at it's highest level, you can't walk through the lobby without a half dozen of the staff bowing and wishing you good morning. Although it gets a little weird when they wave you into the hotel elevator, and then get in with you, push the floor button, ride with you, wave you out of the elevator and walk you to your room. They are so kind. So a few of my observations;

- There's approximately 18 million people in Tokyo which is about the same size as the 5 boroughs of NY. That's almost twice as many people in the same area. That's a lot of people, but everything is clean, efficient and nice, really nice.

- The train system is phenomenal! Picture the NYC subway/train system and then multiply it by 10 in terms of number of trains/lines. It's very. very clean, the trains run like clockwork and they are packed with people. They have white gloved attendants ushering people in and out of the trains and giving information to lost souls like me. Although at one point I had an attendant chase me into one of the subway cars blowing his whistle. I had no idea they had subway cars reserved for women only.

- Speaking of trains. The Shinjuku station processes 5 million travelers a day. That's 5 MILLION a day. Do you know what 5 million people in a day looks like. One rush hour morning as one of the attendants was squeezing people into a subway car with a baton I swear my feet came off the ground because we were packed in like sardines - although he was so nice while he was doing it. It was great for my claustrophobia - NOT! One good point is that I'm about 6" taller than most so at least I could see above everyone.

- The cabs are amazing. The seats and headrests are covered with white linen clothes (like grandma had on her Sunday dinner table). Clean as a whistle. The drivers wear white gloves and suits! Really taking pride in their job. I took a cab to Roponggi Hills and the driver missed the exit. He circled back and then waived the fee apologizing profusely for his mistake. Last time I took a cab in the US I had to roll down the window because the guy hadn't showered in a week. And then he swore at me when I only tipped him 10%.

- Ya know the pictures that we see with Japanese people wearing white surgical masks on the street. It's not because they are afraid to breathe smog. It's because they may have a cold or the flu and don't want to get others sick. Talk about considerate. Think about that the next time you're on the number 7 from mid town to the Bronx and some guy is hacking up a storm all over you.

- Shibuya is a proxy for all teen fashion and technology worldwide. There's like a million kids that hang out in Shibuya, shopping, talking, coffee, bars, restaurants, etc and they are all dressed up. It's a place to see and be seen. If you're marketing products to teens, go to Shibuya and you'll see what the rest of the world will be wearing/using next year.

- Japanese people are thin. Without exaggerating I would estimate 49 out of 50 are rail thin (although I mostly noticed the women :-). You won't find jeans and baggy sweatshirts here, everyone is dressed very fashionably and takes pride in their appearance. It's a site to see.

- Japanese clean their hands all the time. Everywhere you go they have warm wet towels waiting for you to clan your hands. So, clean environment, health conscious, thin - let me see....think their health costs are low. I bet they're a small fraction per capita of ours.

There's not much bad to say about Tokyo or the Japanese. Some say the food isn't the greatest but I had some fabulous but strange food over the past week. Last night I went out for Tapenyaki (on my own) which was a trip. No one spoke English. I think the waiter got a kick out of me, he asked where I was from in very broken English and I said Denver, CO and he said "ahh, Broncos" or something like that. We laughed and nodded our heads a lot. He brought me a complimentary rice wine - OK, that sucked.

February 1, 2006 in Business | Permalink

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