Tag Archives: japan

The Mysterious Majesty of the Japanese Language.

Another few days in Tokyo, another whirlwind schedule of meetings, interviews, and dinners with old pals. Speeches at conferences too: I’m just back from one where I was talking about cybercrime – and the interpreting was not synchronous (!). Yes: lots of pauses :). I was so exhausted I thought I might faint on the stage at one point. But I stayed conscious, just.

Sadly, there’s been no time for tourism, only shigoto – work. At times I feel like a zoo animal: fed at regular intervals, then having to play to the crowd at allotted times.

Mid-shigota, I came across this here sign on the wall of the business center I was in:

Now, as a frequent visitor of Japan, I know a few symbols. But only a few. My level of katakana/hiragana is just below… touching the surface. I mean, I can recognize my name in Japanese syllabary, but that’s about it:

It works out, in Japanese, Ka-su-pe-ru-su-kee! And if we apply that tiny bit of knowledge to ‘Conference Room’ in the pic below, we get…

Read on: What a wonderful language!…

Chanting ‘Issa-ee’ on the Kanda Matsuri.

In Tokyo on the weekend nearest the middle of May (this year – the 14th –15th) the Kanda Matsuri – aka the Kanda Festival – takes place every year. This is when all the residents of a district of Tokyo (I think just Kanda) gather in the morning all dressed up in traditional coats in the color of their streets, and take these here… let’s call them mobile holy temples (correct me please if my description is way off the mark), and carry them in a procession to Kanda Shrine:

Read on: A quick break, then up and off again…

Another Long Week: Snows & Scorchers, Politics & Hacks, Moscow – Abu Dhabi – Tokyo.

Good day boys and girls!

I’ve been a bit quiet of late – but I’ve a good excuse – I had a real tough week: the schedule was tight and intercontinental, plus alarmingly… combative…

It all started in Moscow. Now, normally come the month of May, the last vestiges of the long cold winter – snow and ice – have long disappeared, at least by a month. Not this year. It snowed the other week! The weather was so bad – cold, windy, wet – that even the May 9 Victory Day parade was partially called off (the airborne part). Ye gods! And I was soooo looking forward to it.

Bad weather causing things to be called off – hardly anything new there, right? Well, actually…

You see, in Russia, the authorities have a habit of… making sure the weather’s good on special occasions. In Russian they call it ‘shooing away the clouds’. I don’t know the details, but they somehow shoo away clouds by… doing something to the atmosphere to make sure clouds don’t come close. Playing God? Maybe. Whatever, it normally works. My question: WHAT WENT WRONG THIS TIME?! I mean, the budget for seeing off clouds for the weekend must be huge. Hmmm, I wonder…

Early doors it looked like the budget was well-spent: the sky was clear and the sun was shining:

Read on: a sudden global malware outbreak…

Tokyo – Seoul.

This time in Japan, there were no Top-100isms, no day trips, no walks… no time-off. It was all conferences, meetings, interviews and other assorted shigoto (仕事), that is, work.

Before coming over to the land of the rising sun this time, I was hoping the tempo would be less hectic than usual, with more freedom for relaxed beholding of historical and natural landscapes, meditative evening strolls, cherry blossoms and so on. Right. The further into the trip, the further I seemed to get away from any chance of seeing things like Mount Fuji or Aogashima, and deeper into ‘all shigoto, shigoto, shigoto‘. Which is also good, of course, but… well, look what happened to Jack!

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The only bit of micro-tourism I did get in was a quick march along my favorite route outside/round the grounds of the Tokyo Imperial Palace.

Read on: Tokyo by night…

360-Degree Tokyo.

This is a first…

Early this morning I got to see a full panoramic view of Tokyo from a high up in a skyscraper-hotel!

Normally you only get to see one side of the city; however, this time my travel companion A. Sh. was on a different floor on the other side of the building. Out of my window we could see financial skyscrapers and Mount Fuji in the distance on the horizon, while out of his we saw the rest of Tokyo. Being so high up also had its benefits of course. Especially when the hotel management leave binoculars in every room on special plates :).

Read on: And if you look very carefully, you see…

A gaijin’s gauging of Japanese rail.

After yet more non-stop business meets and greets and chats and speeches – this time in Nagasaki – onward we traveled, on a high-speed train in pitch darkness. You’ll never guess where to, but here’s a hint:

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Ok, enough intrigue. We sped to the island of Kyushu, namely to the city of Fukuoka (the capital of the prefecture of the same name), specifically – the Hakata-ku district. Curiously, the trains (including ours) going to the Hakata district are designated the ‘trains to Hakata’, not the ‘trains to Fukuoka’. That’d be like having ‘trains to Kings Cross’ as opposed to ‘trains to London’. Unusual.

Read on: A gaijin who knows such places…

Wham, bam, Japan, man.

Phew! For a moment then I thought I was getting too old for all this. But just for a moment :)…

I’ve just completed a crazy quick business trip to Japan. Three islands (Honshu, Kyushu and Okinawa) and four cities – some well-known, others not very. Contrary to custom, there was practically no sightseeing on the schedule, only meetings, speeches and interviews. Still, you know me: there’s always something to write about and point a camera at!…

The Japanese market is complex, tricky, demanding, conservative, tough. Business is always good, and numbers of customers and partners grow – but only very slowly. So slowly I need to regularly get myself over there in person two or three times a year – a lot more often than to other countries. Not that I’m complaining. Regular readers will recall I have a soft spot for all things Nippon.

Now, the schedule’s always tight in Japan, but this time was just silly tight. A non-stop marathon of meetings, interviews, presentations and negotiations. It almost got too much physically. So I was naturally looking forward to a nice warm soft bed in the evening back at the hotel. But hey, a not-so warm, hard bed? Even that will do!…

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Perhaps what made the trip especially trying was that it was tacked onto the end of a similarly busy working schedule in Beijing. But no, there was no mistaking it when I woke up that morning: I was in one of the most interesting and unusual cities on the planet – and a personal favorite of mine. Clear skies and Mount Fuji as the backdrop (to whose peak I’ve been twice already!). Unmistakably… Tokyo!

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Read on: a hectic day…