Ronin Rescue In Japan
Ronin had the opportunity to do some work in Tokyo, Japan recently and felt that sharing our experiences may be helpful. We are not trying to compete with Lonely Planet here – just give some basic facts that would have helped us out. We were in Tokyo and it was a great city. I cannot say enough about it. Friendly, safe, interesting. If you have a chance to go there, take it – and book an extra few days to look around.
When you arrive from North America you will likely land at Narita International. Expect to line up. Customs took around 45 minutes to navigate. This airport is also around an hour outside of Tokyo. You can google different ways to get into the city, however it really comes down to two options. Bus or train. We took the train in and would recommend it over any other option. It cost around $42CDN return from Narita to Tokyo Station and was very simple to use (including hauling luggage). The cars were well marked in English and if you have ever travelled by train in Europe, regarding finding your seat – this was pretty much identical. It was clean, efficient, safe and regular. All and all from the time we landed to the time I was at my hotel (right beside the Marunouchi North exit of Tokyo Station) it was close to 2 hours. Take this into consideration if you are flying in for a meeting. 2 hours minimum to get into town and an hour minimum to get back to the airport. Then add 2 hours for check in, customs and security once you are back at the airport and you are looking at 5 hours minimum. This makes it tough to jet into the city for a quick meeting.
Marunouchi is one of the business districts in Japan. This happened to be where our clients offices were located, however is a very central place to stay. It is close to Tokyo Station and was not outlandishly expensive (around $280CDN per night) for a hotel. We would recommend not renting a car and using the metro for travel. As such recce your locations accordingly.
When working on a clients site (office environment) in Japan we wore dress slacks and a button up shirt. This fit in with the dress on the site. We did speak to other Westerners that were bidding work and meeting clients for the first time. They were dressed in suit and tie. As well the “Obama” (suit with no tie) is popular. Basically it is very similar to business dress in North America. Once thing to brush up on however would be some basic Japanese. There are formal and informal ways of saying good morning, thank you, etc. Learn the formal and feel free to use it with a small bow when you meet up with you client. Follow this up with a “good morning” in English and a hand shake. We have found that the respect you show for the local culture is always appreciated. Another little gem to know is about is business cards. It is not like North America where business cards are tossed around a table like cards at a poker game. Business cards are presented with both hands holding the card and a small bow. One takes the card with both hands, gives a small bow and looks at both the front and back of the card and then thanks the other person (in Japanese if you are able – don’t forget the formal – Arigato gozimasu 🙂
When you are in Tokyo at some point you will have to eat. There are literally thousands of places to eat. We usually check out and see what is busy (locals are seldom wrong). As a North American you may need to look up more often for food then you are used to. There are many restaurants on the 2nd to 5th floors (and higher) of many commercial buildings. On the outside of the building near the entrance you will see signs for different restaurants followed by a BF (Basement Floor) or 5F (Fifth floor). Find the stairs or elevator and head on up. A bit of a shock to us from NA is smoking is allowed in most Japanese restaurants. You can’t smoke on the street in most areas (there are designated smoking spots on the street), however feel free to light up at dinner. As for the food – it is awesome. You can pretty much find whatever you want. We ate traditional Japanese (including fresh sushi), Indian, Chinese and Irish (well it was a pub).
If you get a free moment in the evening, we would suggest taking the metro to Shinjuku and checking out both Kabukicho (red light district – fun for a laugh) and Golden Gai which is right next to Kabukicho and has over 200 odd, little (like 20 people in a place would be crushing) bars. The bars in this area open at 1900 local. As with any nightlife area, be careful, however we never felt unsafe. I would not go picking fights however, apparently a good many people in the area are yakuza.
Most Ronin staff try to maintain their fitness while traveling so finding jogging spots is always on our list. While staying in Marunouchi you are close to the Imperial Palace. There is a pleasant run of around 5-6 kilometres around the outside ring of the Palace. It is pavement (sidewalk) style running however it has no traffic lights or stops on the loop to slow you up. This is a popular place to run and you will see other runners. Remember that the route is counter-clockwise and run on your left (this is a right hand drive country). The stay on the left is good to remember for everything; entering malls, metros, doors, etc.
While we were out and about we did stumble upon some rope access work (on three different occasions) being performed. This was primary window and building washing on the numerous high rises. On one site we saw an 11mm mainline with a 5/8 lifeline being employed. The other two sites both had a 5/8 line as the mainline and lifeline. It appeared some workers where in class 2 harnesses and we could not ascertain where the rope grab for the lifeline was connected to nor what the control descent device was and where is was connected to.
Overall however it was a very successful trip to a very outstanding city.