October 03, 2016
I was greeted by a mask wearing immigration official who was very polite but looked completely ridiculous amongst scores of non-wearing human beings. I then realised that he was wearing the mask to protect me and it set the tone for a fabulous visit to amazing Japan.
My first impression was bizarre to say the least, I wondered whether I had landed in a SARS or Ebola zone.
I was greeted by a mask wearing immigration official who was very polite but looked completely ridiculous amongst scores of non-wearing human beings!
So some useful advice. Getting from the Airport (Henada in my case) to central Tokyo is easiest by Monorail and then Metro to Tokyo central station. By taxi to the city centre will take too long, the Monorail/metro option will only take about 20 minutes to get to Tokyo station, the metro is easy to use, is cheap, a 20 minute journey will cost about £1.00. As well as names, all the stations have numbers and on the platform there are notices displaying station directions so one is less likely to go the wrong way, that old trick. The metro opens at 0530 and run until 2300 or so.
Taxis are plentiful, you pay the exact fare and don’t tip, tipping generally doesn’t happen in Japan, which makes life easier. Of note, taxi rear doors open and close automatically, once again it's that great service culture.
It's been a delight to be here on business. Tokyo is a modern city (the US Air Force flattened most of bit in the latter months of the war) and works well. It's clean, doesn’t feel very crowded (but suspect I have got lucky) and everyone is so polite, yes there is quite a bit of bowing that goes on and I have learnt that you either bow or shake hands but don’t do both, an error which President Obama made on greeting the Emperor a year back. It's summer, luckily not too hot this week but it was 35c plus last week with rampant humidity. Sensibly, jackets are generally not worn in the summer nor are ties but for formal business meetings it's best to wear a suit jacket or blazer.
Generally every one is well dressed, especially the ladies, so if in doubt go smarter, a concept I tend to struggle with. Lunch seems to be prompt at 1200 and normal working hours are 9 to 6. The food is a delight, you can eat loads and one don’t feel too full. Presenting business cards is a bit of a ritual, give and receive with both hands and then treasure the card, don't stuff it into a wallet or pocket in front of your host/guest.
I went to Kyoto, the old Imperial city, by Bullet Train (Shinkansen) which leaves from Tokyo station and travels at around 320 km/h, train leaves about every 20 minutes and 16 coach cars of which about three are unreserved, you would have thought you don’t need to book, but best to do as it gets very busy. Return fare to Kyoto is around £130 – there are cheaper options but it's one of those life time experiences so even on a tight budget you might consider it. The city was spared by US Air Force due to its historical importance, they say it made the shortlist for an H bomb but Nagasaki got unlucky on that one! Kyoto is well worth a visit, I found the best way to get around was by bus, a one day bus ticket costs Y500, about £2.50 – very good value. Lots of nice temples, best are on the outside of the city. I went to Eikando, Ginkahuji & Kinkakuji. The central section is quite modern but do go to Nijo-jo castle, the old Shogun fort. It has lovely gardens and nice interior.