Our arrival to the magnificent Tokyo signaled a shift in the nature of the tour from the private sector to the governmental one, and from moral traditional Kyoto to the more modern and hectic Tokyo.
The Tokyo experience began with an alumni reception, where we had a privileged insider’s look at some of the challenges Japanese corporations are facing and the restructuring efforts many companies are currently undergoing. The lecture identified both economic and cultural root-causes, which served as the perfect segue for the following discussion. During an engaged Q&A session we discussed with the active alumni members about the balance between the Japanese style of management and its differences from the western/American one, and how the strength in the 1970’s became the weakness of today. One of the alumni concluded that “Japanese companies need to infuse American style, while American companies need to adopt some Japanese elements”. The reception that followed was as lovely as the setting – a beautiful space with Tokyo views where group members had the opportunity for more intimate conversations and networking. Although not always in full accordance with the proper etiquette unique to Japan (there is a little ritual behind this seemingly simple interaction), multiple business cards were exchanged.
The next morning, we visited the prime minister’s office where we were awestruck by the beauty of architecture and Zen in the design. It was impossible to resist the opportunity to take a group photo on the stairs where the famous Japanese cabinet photo is taken. Rather appropriately, in the cabinet offices we had a lecture by prof. Takeuchi Seiichi, a renowned author and expert on Japanese Zen and its relation to government and business.
The next day we suited up for the last time to visit the Bank of Japan where we had an opportunity to hear about BOJ’s views on monetary policy and the burden of being a trailblazer in fiscal behavior of central banks. At the beautiful BOJ complex we not only peered into the future, but also into the past, visiting the old building, the vault, and riding the oldest elevator in Japan.
It would be impossible to write about Tokyo and not touch briefly on the culinary heaven that this megalopolis symbolizes. From street stands to decorated Michelin star restaurants (of which there are many – 227, by far the most in any city in the world), team members tasted it all.
Many group members further dove into the local culture by attending the famous (and very early) Tuna auction, taking a sushi class and participating in a traditional tea ceremony (Chadō).
The tour was concluded with a cruise around Tokyo bay during which we enjoyed our last Japanese dinner and, of course, a healthy portion of Karaoke. The intense singing further amplified the lifelong friendships created during the trip.
Although it’s only been a week we had an astounding opportunity to immerse ourselves into Japan’s business, government and unique culture, and for this we will be forever grateful.