My travel preparation typically consists of three readings. Monocle magazine produces a one page city guide which is great for knowing where to go should I stumble across a small fortune in a chic city back street and decide I urgently need a cashmere travel blanket. The Financial Times tells me what to do if I stumble across a second, larger fortune. And for everything else there’s Tintin. Unfortunately, and indeed peculiarly given its gyrations during Herge’s lifetime, Japan features very thinly in Tintin’s adventures. I can only recall Tintin and the Blue Lotus’ chronicling of Japanese imperialism in Manchuria.
Clearly I’ve been forced to gather intelligence outside of cartoons. Much like everything at business school, our standard issue reading pack starts with thirty pages of numbers and charts. Japan is big, rich and not growing.
En route to Japan for the first time, I can think of one theme for a Tintin in Japan story: exceptionalism. Government, economy, business, culture, language – they’re all unique in Japan. Like the forty odd MBAs on this trip, I feel further apart from Japan than any other developed country. Intrigue draws us to glimpse behind the kimono for one precious week.
– Robert Habib –