Back from the Land of the Rising Sun

I am just returning to Seattle from Tokyo where I was the keynote speaker for Remix Japan. About 1500 people attended the event held at the Tokyo International Forum on Wednesday, September 19. In addition to the 80-minute keynote, I also presented a 50-minute general session for all attendees.

The keynote and general session covered various aspects of Microsoft’s Software+Services initiative and our broad Web platform, tools and services portfolio. Following the 3 hours for the back-to-back keynote and general session I spent another 3 hours in the afternoon doing interviews & briefings with members of the Japanese press.

It was my first time visiting Japan and the trip was too short for me to really take Tokyo and its 12+ million residents in. I spent the morning of Sep 18 meeting with my colleagues in the Microsoft Japan building near Shinjuku station (the busiest train station in the world). We then spent the rest of the day in rehearsals with the various partners and Microsoft staffers who were preparing demos for the keynote and general sessions. I left my hotel room at the Park Hyatt—the hotel featured in the movie Lost in Translation…it’s amazing!—at 9 AM and returned just before midnight. I was in the bed by 1 AM and up again at 6 AM to make it to the venue by 8 AM for final keynote preparations. The keynote started at 10 AM.

Tokyo Panorama from Park Hyatt room 4216
Picture of Tokyo from Park Hyatt
Nikon D200, Nikon 18-200 f/3.5 @ 18mm f/16, ISO 400, 1/80
Panorama captured from room 4216 at the Park Hyatt hotel. It consists of 5 individual, landscape photos taken by hand (no tripod) then stitched together as described in my panorama tutorial.

The real highlight of the trip was my colleague, Yohei, who was tirelessly attentive to my needs. He sent me a detailed itinerary before the trip and we spent a good amount of every day I was in Japan together. He was the first person to greet me when I arrived at the office and the last person to bid me sore dewa (goodbye) after we walked to the train station. (FYI, sayonara is for formal or long-term goodbyes and I will see Yohei again in a couple weeks when he visits Redmond.)

Flag_of_JapanThe most memorable experience during my abbreviated trip was Yohei taking me out for authentic Japanese sushi during the 30-minute break we had between Tuesday’s rehearsals. We snaked through a series of circuitous alleyways and came to a standing-only sushi bar with enough space for 8. We were customers 7 and 8 so the other patrons had to shift down as we entered the sliding glass doors that were only 18 inches from the bar. Yes, we had to stand at a bar and the series of doors for patrons to enter/exit slid close behind us as we entered the narrow space. Think telephone booth. I wish I had a picture but, alas, I did not have my camera at the time. 🙁

All the signs were in Japanese. (English literacy is very low in Japan.) Yohei did all the ordering. He told the chef, "Omakase," meaning "chef’s choice." That indicated to the chef we wanted sushi made with what he considers the best catch of the day. The chef went to work pausing at the 500¥ and 1000¥ points to ask Yohei if he should continue. (One U.S. dollar is about 115 Japanese yen.) We made it to 3000¥ (total) when we could not take anymore. It was the freshest and most delicate sushi I have ever tasted. Ironically, that sushi bar had the lowest-end décor of any sushi establishment I have been in. They focused on the food, instead. Go figure.

I had several other insights and discoveries during my short trip but this blog is no substitute for real human interaction and conversation. Suffice it to say, I am looking forward to returning to Japan with TB and doing more sightseeing and culture exploring before I remove it from my "Top Places to Visit" list.

Humbly submitted,

Keith-san Ichiban

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