Land of the Rising Sun - Again
(June 29 - July 22, 1999)

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Well, I once said you had to be flexible on this job and that turns out to be true once again.  I was supposed to be on the Singapore team for the next three weeks, but my manager had a skills mix problem and needed me to work on the Tokyo team.  It was disappointing to not get to see someplace new, but it is no secret about how much I love to come to Japan.  Also, a boyhood friend will be on vacation here for two weeks and will be staying in the same hotel for several of those nights.  What a great opportunity to visit with him in a foreign country.  It's part of what I love about this traveling job.  For the first time since last fall, I am working with my normal team and colleagues and look forward to it.

Diane and I arrived at the Hotel New Otani, which has become 'home' when we are in Japan, around 6 PM last Tuesday after a 22-hour door-to-door trip.  Other than being trapped on the tarmac in Atlanta last Monday for 2 1/2 hours due to bad weather, the trip was great.  As we landed, I told Diane that to put it into perspective, if we were going on to Singapore, we'd have had another 7 hour flight ahead of us.  She was already pretty exhausted and I think just the thought made her more tired.

This trip I am finally back with my normal audit team with some of my regular colleagues.  The first half of the year was spent leading a team of subject matter experts to do Y2K audits around the world.  This is a welcomed break and I get to just audit and not play leader this time, which is also a nice break.  Our team here is made up of Carol (she's from Winnipeg), Merle (he's from Dallas), Art (he's from Seattle), Jim (he's from Chicago and on loan to our team for this review).  The other half of our department is forming the team in Singapore.  Merle, Diane and I went to the Cozy Corner in Akasaka to eat when we arrived.  It's close to the hotel and a great first night eating place.  Then we got serious.  ;-)   Merle, Art, Diane and I went to eat yakitori the second night and shabushabu at ShabuZen the third night.  I haven't worked much with Art due to the Y2K assignment, but I found out that he loves shabushabu, maybe even more than I do since he said he could eat it everyday.

We are working in the Roppongi IBM location.  Normally, we take a hotel shuttle to the building every morning.  Given that it is the rainy season here, and it rained the first two mornings, I took the shuttle.  Finally on Friday morning, it was sunny and about 74 degrees.  I decided to walk as my friend Peter and I had done on many mornings when we were on the team together back in 1993 to 1996.  It's about a 30 minute walk and not too bad in the morning because the buildings shield the streets from the sun.  It's pretty muggy, but having lived in South Florida and Atlanta, I know muggy.  I missed having my walking buddy, Peter, with me.  I got to the IBM building before the shuttle did and we only have one key to the room we are working in, so I went up to the 13th floor cafeteria, got me some coffee and breakfast and sat at a table with a view of the city to watch the mass of humanity starting to stir down below.  Sitting there in the quiet of the cafeteria, with soft music being played on the speakers, got me to once again reflect about how considerably lucky I am to be able to see a lot of the world.

The good weather has continued into this week and I walked to work the past two days.  There is now a Starbuck's Coffee shop near the ANA Hotel on the way to work.  I now stop there in the morning to pick up a cappuccino and a scone to take to the IBM building.  Then I go up to the cafeteria and find a place to sit and start my day.  There is a HUGE construction site on the Tokyo Tower side of the building.  No one I've asked seems to know what they are building.  They are just at the land clearing stage, but it is interesting to watch them start their day.  This morning I got to the building at 8 AM and noticed three work groups on the site (quite far apart from each other as this site really is one of the biggest city construction sites I have ever seen.  Each group had about 10 men and 1 or 2 that must have been supervisors or planners.  The men were lined up in two rows of five and listening to the head guys.  I didn't notice any exercising, but I did notice some arm movements that may have been the end of a chant (?).  Then the teams moved several feet away from the area they were in and now were in a circle.  My guess is they were getting instructions for the day's work.  All three groups, which were hundreds of feet apart, were doing the same thing on almost the same schedule.  Talk about organization.  The construction workers in Japan all wear the same type of coveralls and shin-high boots with pants tucked into them.  Although I didn't see any women construction workers, this is the first time I noticed a female train operator.  She was on the Ginza subway line.

This past weekend was not very exciting.  This is the rainy season and Saturday we were pretty much marooned in the hotel, which was fine because it provided a full day of rest.  Art and Jim went out looking for Pokemon stuff.  I don't know if any of you know what Pokemon is, but I didn't have a clue.  I sent a note off to my daughter to ask if any of my grandkids know what it is.  Apparently, it's hard to find Pokemon stuff in the states and Art is buying up these card sets.

Sunday was a nice day.  Diane and I went to 10:30 AM mass and then hooked up with Merle about 12:30 PM.  We went to Ueno (pronounced "way no") for the day to walk around the park and the zoo.  The zoo is nothing special, but we wanted to see the pandas.  We spent the entire afternoon there and got back in time for dinner.  Nothing special, just a sort of tempura restaurant. 

So it was a rather quiet week and first weekend.  I hope the rain slows down so we can do more this coming weekend.  Merle's wife, Linda, arrives on Thursday of this week.  Our team shrinks from 5 to 3 as Carol and Jim will leave by end of week.  My friend Frank also arrives in Japan this week, but I won't see him until he arrives at the New Otani next Tuesday, 7/13.

Until next time.

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