Putanga – Life on the Road

Stories from my journeys around the world…

Archive for the ‘Japan’ Category

Travel, Travel, Travel

Posted by Monica Johansen on July 11, 2011

OK, time is flying away faster than a Ferrari on Autobahn these days. After my visit to Japan in the beginning of June I had to go back to Australia for another three weeks. The first two weeks was in Canberra, and at this time of year the Australian capital is anything but pleasant. It was freezing cold, between 1 and 5 degrees Celsius in the morning, and despite bringing my warmest winter jacket and having the customer put the heater on maximum I was still cold all the time. It was actually quite depressing, and after two weeks I was starting to question the meaning of life.

Brisbane city center

But, above the clouds the sky is always blue etc, etc, and the last week in Australia was spent in sunny Brisbane. The moment I got out of the airport and I felt the warm air and I saw the palm trees my mood rapidly increased, and in the taxi to the hotel I was smiling again. The week in Brisbane was pleasant. I stayed at a very nice hotel called Oaks Festival Towers, which is located in the city center two blocks from the main shopping area. Although I had booked just a standard room, they gave me a two bedroom apartment with a river view and I didn’t have to pay any extra.

I came home from Brisbane early in the morning on Saturday, July 2, and already the same evening, after just 16 hours in Singapore, I had to fly back to Japan. This time I didn’t go anywhere else than Nagoya, but since I arrived on Sunday morning, and my hotel room wasn’t ready yet, I went out to the Nagoya Castle, which I hadn’t had a chance to see the last time I was there. Outside the castle I met a very nice old Japanese man who asked me in English if I was a tourist. I told him that I was on a business trip but I was taking any opportunity to do some sightseeing. The old man then wanted to show me a traditional Japanese theatre next to the castle, and he ended up giving me a guided tour and telling me a lot about Japanese art and culture.

Nagoya Castle

I must admit that at first I couldn’t help wondering what he wanted from me, because I am so used to locals in Asian countries stopping me and trying to get money from me somehow. But after a while I realized that this nice old man just wanted to practice his English. So while he practiced his English I took the opportunity to practice my Japanese. Unfortunately, I am still a beginner, but it is fun trying anyway.

My trip to Japan only lasted for a couple of days. I was back in Singapore already on Wednesday afternoon, and I have been home since. It was great to spend an entire weekend at home for once, although I was rather busy doing customer documentation, laundry and cleaning my apartment. Nevertheless, there is no place like home.

Tonight I am heading out on a new adventure. I am flying to Rome in Italy, and I will be on holiday for almost two weeks. Frankly, I can’t remember the last time I had that many days off from work, and right now I can’t wait to jump on that plane. Europe, here I come! 😀

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The Land of the Rising Sun

Posted by Monica Johansen on June 10, 2011

Finally!!! At last I have had the opportunity to work in Japan! Japan has never before been part of my territory, and in other companies I have worked for Japan has been completed separated from the rest of APAC from an organizational perspective. Luckily, my current company doesn’t have any consultants in Japan, so when there is a need for onsite consulting I am the one they will send.

The Imperial Palace in Tokyo

Since this was my first time in Japan I decided to stay a couple of extra days to do some sightseeing and take some photos, so I flew over already on Friday night and arrived in Nagoya early Saturday morning. My customer is based on Nagoya, which luckily is located along the Tokaido Shinkansen bullet train line with high speed trains running from Osaka to Tokyo. Along the same line you will also find Kyoto, and the train ride from Nagoya to Kyoto is only about 30 minutes. Hence, when I arrived in Nagoya I jumped on a train to Kyoto to see one of the more cultural cities of Japan. I was planning to stay one night in Kyoto, and at the train station I met an American gentleman who was there for business just like me and who offered to help me find my hotel since he knew the area rather well. We ended up spending the rest of the day together since we both were alone. On Saturday we walked around in Kyoto to see the Imperial Palace and some of the temples, and on Sunday morning we took the bus to the Rokuon-ji temple complex to see the quite famous Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji). In the afternoon my American friend was meeting a colleague, and I jumped on a train to Tokyo to get a glimpse of the Japanese capital.

Sushi restaurant in Nagoya

Tokyo was quite different from what I expected. The city is huge, but very modern and it actually reminds me more of an American city than any Asian city I can think of. However, there is an interesting mix of old and new buildings, and one of the most interesting attractions is the Imperial Palace (yes there is one in the old capital Kyoto and another one in the new capital Tokyo). I spent one night in Tokyo before I headed back to Nagoya on Monday afternoon to meet my Japanese colleague who was working with me on site to translate etc. One of the real challenges in Japan is of course the language, and unfortunately my Japanese is worse than their English, so I was very happy to have someone with me who could translate. Another challenge is the traditional and very strict etiquette in Japan. Growing up in a dojo I already know quite a bit about the Japanese culture, but knowing how to behave on customer site is a quite different thing.

I have now completed the first week of my project, and tomorrow morning I am flying home to Singapore. It has been a great experience to work here, and I have enjoyed seeing the beautiful temples, meeting the kind and polite people and eating great food. I think will miss this fantastic country, but luckily I am going back in a few weeks to complete the project. It is something I am really looking forward to. 🙂

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