Susanna reflects on traveling to Japan on an
assessment trip for Hiro Takeuchi’s Japan IFC: Tohoku; The World's Test Market
for Authentic Entrepreneurship.
WERE YOUR FAVORITE AND MOST MEMORABLE MEALS IN JAPAN?
My most memorable meal was eating a live abalone for
dinner at the Ryokan. I didn’t love the taste, but I’m so happy that I just
went for it!
My favorite meal was when my colleague, Mike Holland, and
I went to Ichiran Shibuya for
ramen. It was deeeeelicious.
YOU ABLE TO GET MUCH SLEEP ON THIS TRIP?
As with most GEO assessment trips, my schedule was jam-packed
from early morning to late evening. My best night’s sleep was definitely the
Ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn where we wore yukatas and slept on tatami
Relaxed and ready for a good night’s sleep!
WAS THE TRAFFIC IN JAPAN?
We hit some heavy traffic on our shuttle from Narita
airport to our hotel. Once we arrived in Tokyo, we took the subway which was
incredibly efficient and fast. Definitely way cooler than the red line train I
usually take to work :)
We took a few cabs during our trip. Our cab drivers usually
did not speak English, but thankfully Mike had taken a Japanese 101
class and was able to communicate with the cab drivers. Speaking of cabs – one
tip I found helpful was to carry a copy of the address of my destination
written in Japanese. I would show this to my cab driver, and then we’d be off!
WAS THE WIFI?
The wifi was great in Tokyo and Sendai. Service got
spotty as we drove through the more rural areas of Tohoku.
SURPRISED YOU MOST ABOUT JAPAN?
I did my research before the trip, but I was still surprised
by the formality of Japanese business meetings and the intricacies of their
etiquette and protocol. For example, I learned early on that it was
important that I remove my shoes before entering many of my meetings. Lesson
learned: next time I’ll pack slip-ons!
I was also terrified of blundering the hugely
important business card exchange: Accept with both hands, briefly read it, then
place it on the table in front of you for the duration of the meeting.
WAS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT IN JAPAN?
It was late on a Friday afternoon when I knocked on the door of a new project partner, Ai San San. Several minutes passed and I became concerned that perhaps the founder of Ai San San had forgotten about our meeting. Just then, the door opened and out walked a gentleman with a profound physical disability. I was watching this gentleman make his way down the street when the founder of Ai San San emerged from inside and greeted me with a warm "Konichiwa."
As we sipped tea around a small conference table, the founder explained to me that Ai San San’s mission is to provide viable employment for people with physical and developmental disabilities. At Ai San San, the gentleman I’d seen earlier, and others like him, work together to create and deliver healthy bento boxes to the rapidly aging population of Japan. At the end of the meeting, I asked the founder about the gentleman I’d seen leaving as I waited outside. The founder told me that this gentleman is one of their best employees, and is known for creating and delivering the most delicious bento boxes to the elderly in his neighborhood.
OTHER PICTURES YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE?
We don’t usually have downtime during assessment trips,
so here is a rare image of Mike and me enjoying a day off at the Yakult
Swallows baseball game.