Another quest, this time in Japan

No matter how many times I have boarded the plane to discover a new place, every time I am amazed. This time around, the mission was a business trip to Tokyo, Japan.  A trip over to the land of the rising sun, to meet local business people, uncover opportunities for partnerships for eFront and hopefully uncover some of Japan’s hidden treasures.

Representing StartTech Ventures as part of the Greek business delegation exhibiting at Tokyo’s CEATEC 2012, Japan’s largest IT and electronics exhibition and conference – I landed at Narita airport on Sunday 30th September. What followed was an intense week full of business meetings, commuting frenzy, cultural epiphanies, politeness, cleanliness and good manners – all in large quantities. Epignosis’ Sales Director, George Kalfas, flew over for a few days too and we attended some very successful meetings together. We also did a short sightseeing tour of Tokyo and had a nice drink on one of the highest buildings in town, with a view over Tokyo by night. Everything is in place in Tokyo. Everything in order. Japan-style.

On the business-side of things, it seems that Japanese people are hard to “win” as partners; once trust is there however, they are loyal. The first trip and meeting with them served the purpose simply to meet in person, get to know each other and start building a personal relationship. You can’t do business in Japan without the personal aspect. Repeated visits are mandatory in order to establish a partnership with a Japanese firm; what’s being negotiated or shared on the meeting table is usually transferred to the lunch table and after a few rounds of sake, the pressure is off and that’s when the Japanese reveal their real thoughts and intentions. Their attention to detail and the decision-making process is unique. “Nemawashi” in Japanese means “laying the groundwork” for a change or a new decision, and successful nemawashi enables changes to be carried out with the consent of all sides. Japanese spend a lot of time evaluating parameters and possible solutions to a case, considerably more time than other cultures. However, once a decision has been made, it is supported by everyone involved. Thus the time lost in decision-making is offset by a quick delivery with everyone involved in the project. For those interested in finding out more, you can also Google “ringi”; then you can absorb what an amazing nation the Japanese people are.

As the saying goes, diligence is the mother of good fortune; and strict discipline is definitely made in Japan. Tokyo is a city of 32.5 M people; millions of them are walking the streets, commuting with public transport, working, living and yet, everything is in perfect order. Never before in my life have I been to a city where absolutely nothing caught my attention as not being in the right place, in the right order, or “not right” by any means. I have never interacted with as overwhelmingly a polite people as the Japanese, never received and said so many “thank you’s” in a single day as I did in Japan, and I’ve never woken up in a city where everything runs like clockwork. This, alone, was a lifetime experience.

By all means, it’s not the perfect city, but whoever is lucky enough to visit it one day, is in for a ride – guaranteed!