Thoughts on Japan trip

Hopefully most of you saw my pictures posted from Japan. It was a great, eye opening trip. As one exec said, “Japan is an audience segment of one- unique and should be treated as such”. Boy did I see that. The culture is multi-layered and rich with meaning. The technology, hands-down the most advanced in the world. A trip to Ahikibara greets you with 8 floors of every conceivable type of gadget (pics coming soon). A few things I learned:

  • Narita airport is about 2-2.5 hours from Tokyo. Pack a Bento box.
  • Japan should be treated as a separate market with its own needs and opportunities.
  • Politeness and etiquette is very important, more-so than the US
  • Gaijin (foreigners) are expected to be unfamiliar with most customs, small attempts go a long way.
  • Don’t open the taxi door or close it. It’s automatic.
  • Don’t hand money to someone. Put it in the little tray.
  • Our mobile phones pale in comparison. With less than 1% turnover, hundreds upon hundreds of dollars in subsidies are paid out to customers. A $10US phone in Japan is more advanced then a $300 smartphone in the US.
  • Simple, clean UI often appears empty and feature-less in Japan. Cluttered/compacted UI in good Industrial Design wins the day.
  • A mobile phone should be a flip-phone and make an audible, tactile “click” when opened. The bigger the phone, the more features you have.
  • In Japan it’s legal to rent CDs. Everyone rips them and returns.
  • Americans are too worried about Location-based services and privacy vs. Japanese. Japanese already have TV and GPS maps built into their phones. This is very cool.
  • Many Japanese snooze on the train in-between stops. Perhaps it’s because they work late and then many stay out late.
  • Melatonin can really take the edge off jet lag and help you sleep. I’ve adjusted both ways better than any other trip.
  • Slingbox is hands-down the best thing for business travelers. EVER. I was watching local TV flawlessly from Japan in WMV9 from my TiVo at home. It helps avoid homesickness.
  • MSN Messenger is good for voice chat but you must remember to bring a microphone if you laptop doesn’t have one.
  • Nintendo DS is very popular with older Japanese thanks to a new game called “Brain Games” that tells you your mental age through a series of fun little games.
  • Harajuku girls aren’t out during the mid-week. Go see the Meiji Shrine.
  • The Fish Market & auction must be seen at 5am, but the market is closed on Wednesdays. Have the best sushi in the world with your VP in a hole in the wall with a long line, even if you don’t like sushi.
  • If local Japanese ask you where you’re from and you say Seattle, follow up with “Ichiro”. Then they’ll understand- the Mariner’s player is a source of great national pride.
  • If you learn one Japanese word, it should be “Sumimasen“.
  • Have a drink at the Park Hyatt, where “Lost in Translation” was filmed.
  • Pick up a Japanese Bullet Train (N-Gauge) model at Narita airport if you have a young son. You’ll be the greatest Dad ever and hear about it for days. 🙂

Next up: My whirlwind “Circle Asia” tour next month- Seattle>Sydney>Adelaide>Melbourne>Singapore>Hong Kong>Narita>Seattle. Over 27k miles in 11 days. I heard circumnavigating the earth at the equator is 24k.

Geek dinner anyone in Sydney?

6 responses to “Thoughts on Japan trip”

  1. Your comment about simple/clean UI seems right. If you look at a typical Japanese Web site, for example, you will find lots of dense text and garish graphics, but little usable information.

  2. Welcome back neighbor. Did you see any interesting Origami in Japan? Will the rest of us see any interesting Origami this Thursday? Sounds more intriguing than anything at Ahikabara.


  3. TiVo? Does this Slingbox not work with Windows Media Center?

  4. I’ve seen Origami and yes, I want it. I can’t say any more right now as that would be a career-limiting maneuver.

  5. That’s true. I liked your way man. Anyway, glad to see the pictures.

  6. Sean,
    I already sleep on the train (Amtrak and BART) every day during my Sacramento to San Francisco commute. So Japanese people sleep on the train too. Was this your first train ride? As to the Japanese market, its no more strict as far as protocols go than some Islamic nations. As far as that goes, Germany has some pretty rigid protocols as well.