3 days into our amazing tour of Japan one thing is clear – Japan is different.
The tour commenced with a traditional dinner, followed by a wonderful Geisha show. Thanks to the great sake and ambience, it wasn’t hard to get the team into Japan mood.
Very appropriately our first visit was to the 600 year old Taizo-In temple, where the group had the privilege to try mediation and experience Zen with the guidance, inspiration and “motivation” (in a form of a large wooden stick) from the lead priest. Strolling through the amazing gardens, observing Catching catfish with a gourd, Japan’s oldest ink painting and indulging in a traditional temple lunch concluded our experience. In the following days, we will see how the themes taught in the temple will resurface in both business and government.
Aside from learning about cutting edge equipment designed and manufactured by Screen, we also learned about sustainability in business from the CEO. Over two thirds of companies over 200 years old worldwide are Japanese. There are a staggering 33 thousand companies older than 100 years in Japan. Per Screen’s CEO, the primary drivers of this unique phenomenon are the seriousness in the approach to make a business sustainable, the deep care for the brand, and the desire to preserve family, company and community respect.
The next day we started with a visit to a beautiful shrine, followed by the drive to Toyota city to visit one of the oldest Toyota production facilities. Our amazing guide took us through Toyota’s mind-blowing figures – all within one plant the size of 16 baseball fields, making over 370K cars annually from parts supplies by local suppliers. The parts inventory is as large as one shift and as short as 2 hours. This is possible thanks to the fact that 75% of the suppliers are within an hour drive from the factory. Walking through the production facility we saw the harmony in which employees work along robots, each complementing the ability of the other.
We spent the night in a traditional Japanese hotel, enjoying traditional baths (in natural hot springs –called onsen), local cuisine and, of course, plenty of sake and karaoke.
The next morning, thanks to the amazing Shinkansen (“bullet train”), we got into Tokyo in just over one hour. Traveling in comfort and silence at speeds of over 180 MPH is a unique experience and a very appropriate one before our next visit – All Nippon Airways. At ANA, we toured the hangar, learned about maintenance of the largest Dreamliner (787) fleet in the world and observed the maintenance process up-close. Later we had the opportunity to discuss ANA’s competitive advantage and even participate in a brainstorming session tackling ANA’s challenges.
Tired, but in awe of Japan’s culture, business, and scenery, we are humbly looking forward to the experiences ahead.