[4-May-2010]-- Elaine was required to attend a business meeting in Japan last week, and due to some odd alignment of Japan holidays and Singapore holidays, it made for a string of non-work days for her. I decided to fly in and join her in Tokyo, where we were able to enjoy several days together. Although I worked with Japanese companies during my career, I never traveled there for business. However, prior to my career I toured a small part of Japan-- that was in 1971!
Tokyo was fantastic! The weather is perfect at this time of year-- about 65 F, and we caught the very tail end of the cherry blossoms in bloom. The azaleas were in bloom, with bright colors everywhere. It was a nice break from Singapore weather, which is considerably warmer, and much more humid than Japan at this time of year.
Tokyo is quite interesting, but very expensive. During my visit in 1971 one U.S. dollar could be exchanged for 365 yen. Consequently purchasing power at that time was very good-- cameras and electronics products of the day were probably a third of the cost in Japanese stores than the same product in a U.S. store. Today one U.S. dollar exchanges for about 94 yen on a good day, and you can buy the products more cheaply in the U.S., or for nearly the same. I am no macro economist, but I presume this is what maintains the level of U.S. exports that we do have. Globalization has pushed a lot of manufacturing out of Japan, and has brought many U.S. companies to Japan-- Disney World Tokyo, all of the fast food chains (McDonalds, KFC, Burger King, etc), and Amazon.com (actually it is Amazon.co.jp) are all now visible in Japan.
Getting around Tokyo for non-Japanese speaking/reading individuals seems much easier than I remember as well-- there are many signs in both Japanese and English, there are frequently menus at restaurants available in English, and many of the store clerks or restaurant servers know enough to get you by. It is shameful in many ways that while I was in Tokyo, I was accomodated by the locals with English, but I suspect that most destinations in the U.S. are not capable of accomodating Japanese tourists with Japanese. The Japanese were entirely gracious, and I am thankful for their hospitality.
I will provide posts in the next few days and share just a few of the pictures from our visit.
Spring blossoms. This was a garden at the Meiiji Shrine in Tokyo. This shrine honors Meiiji, the Emperor of Japan (1868 to 1912), who is largely responsible for opening Japan to the West, and bringing western culture to Japan.
Spring azaleas in Tokyo. I wish we could get our azaleas in Boise to look like these