There has been a whirlwind of activity since I last posted, including nearly all of our company visits for the trip (Toyota, Rakuten, ANA and Uniqlo). I’ll be writing a separate blog post about those after the trip—in the interim I’ll give you a snapshot of the other activities we’ve partaken in.
A Very Impressive Group of CBS Alumni
The evening of our first day in Tokyo began with a reception at the Tokyo-American Club with CBS alumni in the city. The Club was a swanky venue, certainly much nicer than many of the university clubs I’ve been to in NYC. It was also very American in style; the staff was American and the format/etiquette of the networking reception would be familiar to anyone who engaged in on-campus recruiting. The Tokyo alumni were an impressive group, with senior folks from a wide variety of industries (including one Toyota executive who spoke with us when we visited the company). The best part of the event was actually the presentation—a young entrepreneur, Ken Isono, who just graduated from the Global EMBA program in 2013 talked about his new solar energy venture, Shizen Energy. Japan started late on renewable energy (it had focused on nuclear), with significant policies to support its development entering force only after the Fukushima nuclear accident in March 2011. This was particularly relevant to me, as I am currently enrolled in a class on the economics of the energy industry.
There were two key takeaways from this: (1) Japan’s solar market is now booming as a result of generous feed-in tariffs (i.e. long-term contracts with utilities at a good rate); and (2) Starting a company in Japan is much more difficult than many of us had imagined. With regard to the latter, our speaker described how venture capital funding was prohibitively difficult to obtain in the country—and that he is personally liable on the loan he was able to get. This is very different from the U.S., where financing is more widely available due to a dynamic venture capital industry.
Overall, I came away from the event truly impressed by the global scope of the CBS brand. I’m not usually one to drink the kool-aid on these sorts of things, but I’m sold.
And, the Karaoke Session that Followed
When one comes to Tokyo, it is inevitable that karaoke will happen. We all remember the scene in Lost in Translation where Bill Murray has a singing session of his own, and our friends/tour guides booked a room in an impressive establishment, Karaoke-Kan. Located in the Roppongi district, a famed nightlife area popular with foreigners, the building has well over five floors of karaoke rooms—with different themes. From the second we stepped out of the cab, all of us were excited; the vibe in the area is simply electric, with tons of flashing lights and packed streets. We were not disappointed. We were given a gigantic room with over 5 TV monitors, multiple lighting settings, and a stage with two microphones. For the next two hours, we sang song after song—from Oasis to the Backstreet Boys—as a series of dedicated waiters and waitresses made sure we were taken care of appropriately. Highlight of the karaoke session: when the guys on the trip serenaded one of our organizers, Mari, to K-Ci & JoJo’s “All My Life”.
Sushi, So Much Sushi
For those of you that have been following this blog, you probably noticed that I haven’t mentioned sushi since I landed in Japan. This is because, for all intents and purposes, sushi is more ubiquitous and consumed on a more regular basis in the United States (or at least NYC). As many of you know, basically every super market (and now even Duane Reade) has some sort of sushi available—and people eat it very frequently. In Japan sushi consumption is a bit different; it is a type of restaurant you go to much more rarely. So, upon arriving to Tokyo, we simply hadn’t had it as a group yet. This all changed on Friday night, as one of our friends/trip organizers led us to one of her favorite spots for sushi that comes around on a conveyor belt. Needless to say, it was fantastic. Everything from succulent fatty tuna to sea urchin was delicious and the bill wasn’t too bad either. I should mention that one additional difference between U.S. and Japanese sushi is that at Japanese places there really aren’t rolls—those are an American thing.
We also went to the famous fish market the next morning for sushi breakfast. We bought raw hunks of freshly caught tuna and devoured them while strolling around the market. Unfortunately I have to run; we’re off to our farewell dinner and boat cruise! Time flies when you’re having fun. And signing lots of karaoke.
P.S. — I didn’t write about this, but I also included a video clip of the geisha dinner we had in Kyoto.