Japan visit in 2005:

TravelBlog Please visualize this ..

An ATM machine in Mumbai has unclaimed cash at night. There is a passerby who saw the money,

called the cops about the ATM. Since there is no one to claim the money, the ATM is shutdown temporarily ?

You are in a cab in Hyderabad and you have asked the driver to take you someplace. The meter

showed Rs 500 and cab driver is insisting that he needs only Rs 300. Upon relentless questioning

he meekly admits that he had made a wrong turn and hence the fare is Rs 200 more.

Imagine you are traveling by Minar express from Hyderabad to Mumbai. You got off at Pune and realized that you forgot your expensive jacket in the train. You pick up a phone and call VT station, Mumbai about the jacket. VT station officials call you back in few hours and ask you few questions about the jacket and send you the jacket by mail.

Are you wondering if this is possible at all anywhere in the world …

Having visited Hiroshima, Japan, I would say that this is exactly like Japan.

Japan is very very different .. I wanted to add few more verys and one go so far to describe Japan.

Country with few natural resources, no army to defend, so little land (30% livable and rest mountainous) and still is the second dominant economic force of the world. That’s only possible with hard working people with strong values engrained to the core. The people are bound, secured and protected by the Japanese culture. Plain hearted / soft spoken people and always ready to

help others. It is not putting an act for few hours but being themselves every second of their lives. They will do their best and never get annoyed by anything.. No need of motivational speakers to change thinking as they are natural in thinking positive.

No customer satisfaction training / seminars for the sales guys, would yield the customer satisfaction results seen in Japan. They literally fall over you, keep running, asking bosses, and will get you what you want with a smile. I heard that customer is God and in this trip I have seen and experienced worship (feeling Godly)

This is an attempt to capture my limited understanding of Japan seen in 2 weeks and I think there is nothing different these 2 weeks in Japan and never has been for thousands of years.

90% of Japanese believe in God and at the same time not religious. They are honest to the core, hardworking, respectful of everyone especially to elders like bosses, parents. They don’t look into adopting any western cultures and never have immigrated to any country and at the same time never allowed anyone outside to settle in their country. Even child born to a Japanese parent may not be get citizenship automatically. Both parents need to be Japanese.

Trains, Planes and Automobiles ….

I never realized the importance of ISO 9001 until I saw the taxis in Japan. They recently got ISO 9001 quality certification. Cab drivers with white gloves, emaculately clean cars, laced seat covers and dress in Boeing 757 captain like uniform (suit, cap, shoes). I have seen heard a honk and anyone getting upset over his own or other’s driving. Driving is a non-event in every day Japanese life. No stress, no construction signs, no peak traffic chaos. Oh God! I miss my construction signs, honks, stares, fingers of Michigan

I have had my visions about Bullet Train. I missed that 70s movie very badly and had to listen in to second hand versions from my friends literally hundreds of times. How one bullet train at 300 km/h speed cannot stop and the rescue train travels at the same speed and someone crosses over using a ladder with two trains at 300 km/h .scary stuff…

While my Bullet train ride was uneventful at 300 km/h and I slept most of the time … relaxing after the ladder episode maybe.

I have seen people mention about train timings and punctuality. Never seen / heard the timing culture of the Japanese. On the dot and the dot is very very small…

Bullet trains going over 300 km/h and are spaced 10 minutes apart.

My friend (who lives in Japan) went to the station and enquired about an 8:30 train. The information desk said there is no train at 8:30. While he was waiting he saw a train go by towards same destination. He asked again about the train that went by. The information desk reminded him that he asked for 8:30 train and not 8:29. The moral of the story is 8:29 always comes at 8:29 and not 8:30.

Prior to this episode, he used to read train #, platform # and time of arrival. Now he always reads time and then finds out about platform # and train #. Suddenly unique key is switched from train#, platform# to train time .. more granular key …

One of the Desis at a party mentioned about the Indian style of re-confirmations every step at the railway station made him miss his Bullet Train. He meticulously planned to catch his Bullet Train and was on the right platform in time and did several reconfirmations at the information counters, stalls, coffee shops and co-passengers. Finally when the moment arrived, his Desi “no-confidence in any system” hormones kicked in and he wanted to confirm one more time with the train official at the platform who would signal the train. He thought who else knows about the train better than the one signaling it. While few passengers were getting in, he took his own course towards the Official…

Desi: Excuse me, I want to go to Hiroshima, Does it go to Hiroshima?

Official: one minute, Sir

waves his flag at the train and replies

Official: Yes, it left for Hiroshima.

The official thought, everybody got in and train is ready to leave and there is no way this Desi will get into it on time. Moral of the story, shed your Desi fears and start believing what you read at the station.

Hiroshoma Bombing .. 130,000 killed. The whole city brazen to ground .. first time in history an atom bomb was tried on humans. black rain after hours more deadly than the Bomb. Unbelievable destruction to human bodies, skins .. Many school children going to schools got killed (8:15 am).. Current Nukes 1000 times more deadly.. Few cities short listed for bombing on July 25th. 1945 and Hiroshima was picked among them due to its unfortunate clear weather on Aug 6th 1945.

I did mention about mannerisms and friendliness about Japanese people. I was also curious about what is more important to Japs. Some of things that caught my attention while in Japan

Ø Sakhi (rice based) and Soochu (Vodka like) drinks are very popular Japanese drink. BTW it is served cold or hot in small cups (like tequila shots). Sipping hot Sakhi, I felt like getting high drinking tea.

Ø Karaoke rooms are very popular. Family, friends rent Karaoke rooms (sound-proof small rooms) and start singing taking turns in singing.

Ø They are many activities for kids at schools. There are many schools, after-school activities which parents participate. The education, I heard, focuses on character building along with learning subjects.

Ø

Desis have slowly started percolating into the system (H1 like visa) and contracting companies take care of the housing, admissions into schools (more support than our US Desi employers)

Ø After work parties are popular — usually 7:00PM after work on Fridays and they meet in a bar and have some drinks and catch the midnight Shinkansen (Bullet Train). Japanese say it is a good communication tool for discussing office politics. No one discusses personal issues, politics, not even make personal calls at work. I went to after-work office party with my Telugu friend and his colleagues and had fun trying all Japanese delicacies and drinks. Everyone splits the bill equally (ABVP — Avery Bill Valley Pay). There is the blow-fish which only few Chefs are certified to cook. The fish apparently has poisonous glands and if he makes any mistake in slicing the fish, he will take down his customers along with the fish and his license.

Ø Work culture is different. The day starts with some announcements at 9:00AM (PA system). People arrive at 8:45 AM and get their coffees etc. and will be at the seat 9:00 A.M. sharp. The boss leads the whole group in few warm-up exercises. At NOON, there will be lunch break for 45 minutes. At 3:00PM people discuss about safety precautions (mandatory safety rule) for 5 minutes — should share few safety tips / stories from home, neighbors, schools etc. At 4:00PM, everyone cleans the workplace and everyone take turns to pick up papers, trash for the aisle. The day closes at 9:00PM except for Wednesdays (6:00PM). Between these breaks, I have never seen anyone taking their eyes off their terminals.

Ø There is no office cubes concept even for the managers. Everyone gets to sit in hall with few conf rooms along the wall. One can make out the position in the company on where he/she sits in that hall. Manager sit along the wall and direct reports take the next row and so on. An Aerial shot of the floor plan can also be the updated org chart

Ø The killer-app “Excel” is making a killing at Japanese work places. Every monitor has Excel open with few numbers / graphs. They write memos, letters in Excel. My friend asked his Japanese friend take few digital pictures and asked him to send pictures next day. Boom .. next day he got a note with Excel attachment. He immediately called his friend and his friend replied the pictures are embedded in Excel

Ø Fashion is a big industry in Japan. Everywhere you see you find people wandering in malls (malls (underground, strip, 100 yen shops). UniClo is a Chinese brand name of T-shirts with good quality/price.

Ø I didn’t any see any cop on the street for the whole 3 weeks — no one getting ticketed, no speed chases, no mob controlling cops, no cops on bikes, none what so ever )

Ø Bike is basic means of mobility. Children come back alone at nights from friend’s home and get to stay home alone — no laws around child care ..

Ø TV is not as big as you think, no unending soap operas, only few game shows, local news..

Ø Base ball is big and a very popular sport. Golf is picking up.

Ø Lot of recycling at work/home. Cans, coffee cups, burnable trash. Every floor has different recycling bins, you need careful read before you get rid of your trash (almost has as many selections as a vending machine). Talking about vending machines, one can get cigarettes, beer at the vending machine. Wonder how under age drinking is controlled without anyone regulating/monitoring it.

Ø Like every country in the world, there are social changes. We heard that women are opting to separate from husbands in their sixties. They make sure kids complete college and get married before the separation. In western countries, people separate as soon as they disagree while in Japan they wait for decades to separate. For a strong family man like me, it is a tough choice. I told my wife that both look appealing to me ;-)

IT Manager at Ford Motor Company and Former President of Detroit Telugu Association. He enjoys writing blogs, short stories and dabbles in music