First impressions from my trip to Japan

23 11 2015

I have been infected with the ‘Japan Bug’ since I am four years old. My first encounter with the Japanese culture was when I became friends with Takashi in kindergarten in Amsterdam. That is the first time I also started to learn about the Japanese cuisine, Japanese manners and discipline. I got intrigued immediately and never lost my fascination for Japan.

Huge Transformers out in the streets of Tokyo.

Thanks to my Japanese childhood friend in Amsterdam I got hooked on sushi, origami, Nintendo games, Japanese comics, Transformers and electric toy cars. Obviously, thanks to my friend, we had fresh supplies straight from Tokyo twice a year.

Strangely enough I never shook that passion for Japan, but it took me 32 years later to finally visit this mythical country. And, the irony is that it was work that took me there. Casio invited my father and I to visit their factories in Japan. In 1983 Casio created the revolutionary G-Shock watches, which I also got infatuated with when I was 4 years old. So, you can imagine how excited I was that we got invited to travel to Tokyo.

Today I got back after spending almost a complete week in Japan where we visited only Tokyo and Yamagata. So, I still need to process and let everything sink in, but wanted to write a quick post and share my first impressions (in random order):

People: They are so SO friendly and polite. The stereotype is so true that they bow at every occasion and multiple times in a conversation. The more respect they have, the deeper they bow. After a week you get used to it and one notices that you start bowing yourself automatically.
The locals are also very helpful and will go out of their way to help you.

Cities: I have only visited Tokyo and Yamagata, but what I noticed first is that the cities are so clean. And, the funny thing is that you will not find a single garbage bin anywhere! Almost a contradiction!

They ALL queue up neatly!

Metro: I have visited many cities and try always to use the metro system at least one. I was impressed by the Japanese network and infrastructure. Not only very clean, but also very punctual. And, a lot of people warned me that it is a difficult country to navigate in as hardly anyone speaks English and all the signs lack English. I can not confirm this. All the navigation signs (roads and public transportation) where bi-lingual or even tri-lingual (Japanese, English and Chinese). And, let’s not forget all the signage on the floors to indicate walking directions and where to que up 😉

Culture: First thing I noticed that the people are very polite and well dressed. And, you hardly see people are over-weight. Or, even better said, it seems (not statistically researched by me) that 95% is lean! Then you notice that even late at night you see people leaving work at 8pm, 9pm, 10pm and even 11pm. You literally see them leaving offices, streets are busy that late at night and people in suits and business attire. Nobody bumps into each other. And, what was interesting, nobody raises it’s voice. It seems that they take the issue of keeping the volume down so seriously, that it is forbidden to speak on mobile phones in the metro!

They they take their mouth caps very seriously in Japan!

Mouth Caps: In The West we are used to seeing Asians wearing mouth caps. Especially when SARS accured. But, flying from Amsterdam to Tokyo I spotted a few people on the plane wearing a mouth cap, but as soon as we landed in Tokyo, it seemed 10% tot 20% of people where wearing a mouth cap. After a week, you get used to it and it seems normal. Everywhere you go, no matter the ago or gender, approx 1/5 of the population was wearing a mouth cap. When you enter a drug store, there are hundreds of different kinds in different sizes, available with different scents and colors. When you inquire why people wear them so much, the official answer is: People who wear a mouth cap have an infection and do not want to infect other. Uber form of politeness! Right?! But, I started paying attention and many people wearing a mouth cap were not sneezing, coughing of seemed fatiguq… So, I think a second reason is less polite and more self-centered: they do not want to be infected… Which is fine 😉

My dad and I having OG Tempura / Soba noodle lunch.

Cuisine: In case you love Japanese cuisine (read: sushi is just a small part of it), you feel in food heaven in Japan. In case you do not like Japanese food, you are not going to enjoy a visit to Japan as much as I did. Obviously you will find many different kinds of restaurants, especially as it seems that Japanese love French, Italian and American fashion & cuisine. But, I think that 90% of the food establishments are focused on Japanese cuisine. In case you love fish, I really recommend you to visit Tsukiji Market (Tokyo Fish Market – which is moving in 2016 to a new location).

Vending machines EVERYWHERE! Like a Boss!

Technology: I was always under the impression that Japan was the most advanced technology nation out there. I got this impression by the many technology companies they have, the innovations they launched, the focus on robots and their leading role in mobile technology. But, arriving in Japan, I noticed that I was somewhat disappointed. I did not find any new mobile phones, no new camera’s, no amazing hybrid cars (which I never seen before – on the road or online), no technical innovations I not have seen before. Maybe my expectations where unrealistic as we live in a super connected world and the world is getting smaller since we are so connected and every technological innovation is adapted globally in a split second…
But, I still did not shake my sense of disappointment as I saw many people still using flip phones (fold-able phones) and old smart phones. And, what really struck me as odd: the number one phone in Japan was the iPhone… Yes, an American product! In contrary to most of the world, iOS is leading in Japan and they do not like Samsung & Android in Japan. Is it strange that I expected that Japanese phones (in combination with Android) would dominate?
But, I have never seen so many vending machines in my life. Literally every corner in Tokyo and Yamagata had a vending machine. Mostly for drinks. Most machines offer cold AND hot drinks from same machine. I drank hot milk tea and hot coffee IN cans from vending machine offering cooled bottled drinks.

Economy: It seems that the Japanese economy is getting back on track. They always exported more than they imported and Japan is a producing country. Mostly technology and innovation. VAT on products is only 8% and it seems the Japanese are real consumers. They shop a lot and like luxury. They eat out a lot and work many hours. It also seems they are a real work nation and people make many hours. As I understood from our hosts at Casio, up until 20 years ago everyone would work 6 days a week. Only in recent years they went back to an European model of working 5 days a week. But, I must say, I was surprised to see that on Saturday I have seen a lot of people commuting to work, dressed in suits with ties and carrying business bags. And, what I found very impressive, you see a lot of old (read: older than 65 years) working! In all kind of positions and functions

View of Tokyo from 350 meters above taken at SkyTree.

Tourism: Japan is very pro tourism. The emphasize on tax free shopping everywhere. All pricing in Japan is, like in North America, listed with sales tax (VAT) and added upon check-out. But, as a tourist spending more than 10,800 Yen in one shop on the same day, they don’t charge you any VAT on the spot. They stamp the invoice in your passport and upon departure from Japan, they customs office only rips it out. They do not even want to see the merchandise. Talking about trust!! Although the Yen fluctuates often and has a big bandwidth, things are not cheap there. Neither for locals I have asked. Living is expensive, both housing as shopping. Nice to know: Japanese do not tip and do not expect tips. Not even bell boys in the hotels or drivers in cabs.

Cars: My expectations where met regarding cars… I expected to see 95% Japanese cars on the road, I expected Toyota to dominate, I expected to see some Europeans cars and I expected to hardly see American cars on the road. All these expectations where met. What surprised me is that I hardly saw Lexus on the road. I was surprised so hardly see sports cars on the road. Hardly Japanese and in the week I was there I have seen maximum 20 Porsche’s, 1 Ferrari and no other European Super Cars. But, what surprised me more, I hardly saw Japanese sports cars…

Casio MT-G Triple Sensor watch

Watches: Regarding watches I had also high expectations. I expected that Japanese watches with dominate Japanese wrists and this was definitely the case. Looking at the three biggest Japanese manufacturers: Seiko, Casio & Citizen, you would see them often on wrists. As a jeweler, we know that Japanese love luxury goods, especially European luxury, like Swiss watches. I was surprised that I did not see so much luxury watches on wrists, but in retail the following luxury brands seemed to be the most popular: Breitling, Omega, TAG Heuer, Rolex & Longines (in this specific order). And, then the sixth position in the luxury list, seemed to be filled by: Grand Seiko. A brand that is slowly coming up with hardcore watch collectors in Europe, USA, Singapore & Hong Kong.

Mita Skeakers Ueno Tokyo.

Retail: Japan is a real retail nation. There are MANY shops, department stores and malls. Stores are open at least 12 hours a day. They have all the international brands present in Japan! There are so many area’s in Tokyo to shop. One week stay in Tokyo is not enough to see it all! We hardly slept in Tokyo (literally 4 hours a night) and we tried to see many different areas. I will try to post a City Guide later this week for our experiences. What I noticed, there where hardly Western tourists there, but loads of Korean, Chinese, Cantonese, Indonesian and Singaporeans. I always thought that Hong Kong was ‘the New York’ of the East. But, I am starting to get the feeling it is Tokyo…

Casio Premium Production Line in Yamagata, Japan.

Casio: I have been wearing Casio watches since 1983 (launch of G-shock) and have collecting G-Shocks since. We have been Casio retailers for several decades and now that Casio is moving up market (read: prices between EUR 699 and EUR 2.699) they invited us to find out why Ace Jewelers should sell these lines (G-Shock Mr. G, MT-G and Edifice) in our premium boutiques and eBoutique. As I had expectations about all other aspects of our visit to Japan, I had these also about Casio. And, I can state that all these expectations where surpassed! I will write a seperate blog post about this.

Karaoke & Alcohol: Yes, this stereotype is so true. The Japanese L O V E their karaoke! It goes hand in hand with a lot of drinking! There are so many karaoke bars in Tokyo, it seems they don’t like to do anything else. And, even when they are not into karaoke, they still love their alcohol. It is an interesting view to see all the people around midnight walking the street in their business attire pissed off their faces. I read in this months Time Out Tokyo magazine that Japanese often call-in sick at work due to hangovers, but hardly use drugs. It’s as low as approx. 5% used cannabis, 4% XTC and 3% cocaine.

The Chita, Suntory Whiskey

Whiskey: Since we are on the topic of alcohol. Obviously the sake is amazing in Japan and there are so many kinds and I tried at least two different ones every day. But, what is highly recommended it the local whiskey. Yes, you have read it well! In Japan whiskey is made locally and is fantastic. I read about it already on Bexsonn‘s blog, but only got to try it in Japan. If you are into whiskey, I highly recommend you try some!

This is what came to my mind and wanted to share with you. Please share your feedback on this post and let me know if you have ever visited Japan and how you have experienced it!

[Photo credits: All images are taken by myself. For more views of my trip check my Instragram account for more snap shots and my Flickr account for more qualitative images.]

Strong heartiness is a result of regular exercise and lifestyle. How can remedies hels up? However, there are online pharmacies that offer discount drugs to patients who need them at low costs. Some families already heard about Zovirax that is an antiviral drug. Usually, this curing is mostly used to treat outbreaks of herpes. Zovirax will not fight herpes, but it can lessen the symptoms of it. Many men order online such remedies like Cialis. What about how much does viagra cost and sexual existence? Nearly every man knows about discount viagra. (Read more viagra prices). The signs of sexual health problems in men turn on improbability to have an erection sufficient for sexual functioning. Typically, this may include diabetes, anxiety, or a panic disorder of some kind. Along with their utility effects, most medications, still, have unwanted aftereffects although mostly not everyone experiences them. Finally purchasing medicaments from the Web can save money, but keep above mentioned tips in mind.



Instagram Game #DefenderChallenge

15 02 2015

Recently I stumbled upon a social media game on Instagram named #DefenderChallenge and I started to join in.

Both Chantalle Shemie and Dale Vito Boom have a deep love for the iconic Land Rover Defender cars and to share the love they both took snapshots of Defenders on the street. As a joke they started to tag each other and starting using the hashtag #DefenderChallange to keep score who encounters more Defender cars on the road.

@cshemie on Instagram

Their passion is so infectious, that more people started joining and are playing this game with them. I decided to write a blog post about it for two reasons:

1. None of the players actually own a Defender vehicle.
2. The power of social media.

Usually people use social media to show off what and how much they own. But this initiative by Shemie and Boom was created spontaneous and comes from a deep love for the car. When asking the founders of the game where their love comes from, they answered:

“Ever since I am a child I a crazy about Africa, wildlife and safari’s. And, a safari is not complete without a big old school Land Rover Defender to find wildlife during a safari in Africa. I have had the opportunity to spend a month in the bush and the Defender is not only beautiful and handy, but actually a necessity, a true lifesaver.” says Chantalle Shemie. She continues and indicates that: “Although you don’t actually need a Defender is a flat country like the Netherlands, I am saving up to buy an vintage Defender here. It will be my piece of Africa in Holland.”

Chantalle Shemie

Dale Vito Boom comes from a totally different angle and he states: “Since my childhood I am crazy about art and design. My greatest passion is vintage watches, which are marvelous pieces of art and often design icons. What I love about vintage watches is that usually form follows function. This is definitely true for the Defender. I hope to own one some day.”

Dale Vito Boom

From these short quotes we can conclude that although both do not own a Defender today, they are actually planning to own one in the near future. Which leads me to the second reason I wrote this post: the power of social media.
Although both Shemie and Boom do not own the car, their passion for it is so infectious that the bug infected their friends on Instagram to join in and play the game too (including me – I love this car too every since I am a child). This shows how powerful and sincere social media can be. And, what a fantastic pool of knowledge and data this can be for brands. And, that is why I love social media. Besides that it is great fun.

It’s interesting to note that when I asked both Shemie and Boom if Land Rover liked, regrammed or commented on their posts, they both said the had no reaction whatsoever from the brand. It important to note that they both actually tagged several official accounts of Land Rover in the pictures.

Land Rover Defender by @rhphotographie

Message to Land Rover:
Please wake up! Embrace these future Defender owners! They are already your brand ambassadors.

Make sure to follow Chantalle via: @cshemie and Dale via: @dalevintage (ask permission) or via his open account @dalevito (no Defenders though).

Strong soundness is a result of regular exercise and lifestyle. How can remedies hels up? However, there are online pharmacies that offer discount drugs to patients who need them at low costs. Some families already heard about Zovirax that is an antiviral drug. Usually, this treatment is mostly used to treat outbreaks of herpes. Zovirax will not fight herpes, but it can lessen the symptoms of it. Many men order online such remedies like Cialis. What about how much does viagra cost and sexual life? Nearly each man knows about discount viagra. (Read more viagra prices). The signs of sexual heartiness problems in men include impossibility to have an erection sufficient for sexual functioning. Typically, this may switch on diabetes, anxiety, or a panic disorder of some kind. Along with their utility effects, most medications, still, have unwanted aftereffects although mostly not everyone experiences them. Finally purchasing medicaments from the Web can save money, but keep above mentioned tips in mind.



New pic for our book: The ACE List

11 05 2012

It has been a long while since I took the time and sit down to write some posts about my passions. I haven’t taken the time as I put almost all my energy in my passions: Ace Jewelers & eBusiness. We are soon launching 3 (three) new eBoutiques… I will post more about it when we go live. On top of that we are publishing a book this summer: “The ACE List – Volume I” and today we received our ISBN number: 978-90-819228-0-7.

For this book we did a photo shoot on the Museumplein in Amsterdam and this picture will be next to the introduction I wrote for the book:

Do you like it? I liked it so much, I decided to use it as my new profile picture on all my pages on the social networks. Please connect with me on these networks, just check the ones I am on in the side menu of this blog 🙂

Have a wonderful weekend.

Strong soundness is a result of regular exercise and lifestyle. How can remedies hels up? However, there are online pharmacies that offer discount drugs to patients who need them at low costs. Some families already heard about Zovirax that is an antiviral drug. Usually, this medication is mostly used to treat outbreaks of herpes. Zovirax will not fight herpes, but it can lessen the symptoms of it. Many folk order online such remedies like Cialis. What about how much does viagra cost and sexual existence? Nearly each man knows about discount viagra. (Read more viagra prices). The signs of sexual heartiness problems in men turn on impossibility to have an erection sufficient for sexual functioning. Typically, this may switch on diabetes, anxiety, or a panic disorder of some kind. Along with their utility effects, most medications, still, have unwanted aftereffects although mostly not everyone experiences them. Finally purchasing medicaments from the Web can save money, but keep above mentioned tips in mind.



Book Review: “When China Rules The World” by Martin Jacques

9 10 2011

Usually I send out a ping/tweet about books that I read, liked and think my friends should read to. I just finished a book that I like so much, that I am posting a short review about it. I liked it so much, as it really opened up a new world to me and created a ‘wow-effect’, maybe even an enlightenment moment.

Martin Jacques

For the over a decade everyone is speculation that China is going to rule the world, but as China is slowly growing and becoming its own self fulfilling prophecy, nobody really quantified why and/or if China is going to rule the world. When I heard about Mr. Martin Jacques, and his newest book: “When China Rules The World: The Rise of the Middle Kingdom and the End of the Western World“, I knew I needed to read it immediately. (By the way, I first heard of him via TED.com, where I learn many mind gobbling things 🙂 ).

Although it is a thick (441 pages) and rather academic, it does read rather smooth. This book is not just a in-depth analysis of the current situation of China and where it is moving, but gives an deep, full historical understanding of the 3000 years old Chinese culture. It gives an inside view, seen from the Asian perspective AND Western perspective. Very well done.

As I declared this book as a ‘must-read’, I don’t want to spoil too much… The books concludes in “The Eight Differences that Define China”:

1. China is not really a nation-state in the traditional sense of the term but a civilization-state.

2. China is increasingly likely to conceive of its relationship with East Asia in terms of a tributary-state, rather than nation-state, system.

3. There is the distictively Chinese attitude towards race and ethnicity. The Han Chinese conceive of themselves as a single race, even though this is clearly not the case.

4. China operates, and will continue to operate, on a quite different continental-size canvas as continental in scale.

5. The nature of the Chinese polity if highly specific. Unlike the Western experience, in particular that of Europe, the imperial dynasty was neither obliged, nor required, nor indeed desired to share power with other competing institutions or interest groups, such as the Church or the merchant class. The Confusian ethos that informed and shaped it for some two millennia did not require the state to be accountable to the people, but instead insisted on its loyalty to the moral precepts of Confucianism.

6. Chinese modernity, like other East Asian modernities, is distinguished by the speed of the country’s transformation. The Asian tigers are time-compression societies. They embrace the new in the same way that a child approaches a computer or a Nintendo game console.

7. Since 1949 China has been ruled by a Communist regime. Paradoxically, perhaps the two most significant dates of the last half-century embody what are seemingly entirely contradictory events: 1989, marking the collapse of European Communism and the demise of the Soviet bloc; and 1978, signalling not only the beginning of the most remarkable economic transformation in history but also one presided over by a Communist Party.

8. China will, for several decades to come, combine the characteristics of both a developed and a developing country. This will be a unique condition for one of the major global powers and tems from the fact that China’s modernization will be a protracted process because of the country’s size: in conventional terms, China’s transformation is that of a continent, with continental-style disparities, rather than that of a country.

As quoted in the final chapter of the book. It also contains a great Guide to Further Reading on pages 438-441.

If you have read the book already, please share your thoughts. If you are interested in China, world politics and/or economics, please do read this book.

I really enjoyed it and learned a great deal from it.

看到您的到来 (Kàn dào nín de dàolái) = See You Soon

Strong health is a result of regular exercise and lifestyle. How can remedies hels up? However, there are online pharmacies that offer discount drugs to patients who need them at low costs. Some families already heard about Zovirax that is an antiviral drug. Usually, this curing is mostly used to treat outbreaks of herpes. Zovirax will not fight herpes, but it can lessen the symptoms of it. Many folk order online such remedies like Cialis. What about how much does viagra cost and sexual life? Nearly either man knows about discount viagra. (Read more viagra prices). The signs of sexual soundness problems in men include impossibility to have an erection sufficient for sexual functioning. Typically, this may include diabetes, anxiety, or a panic disorder of some kind. Along with their utility effects, most medications, still, have unwanted aftereffects although mostly not everyone experiences them. Finally purchasing medicaments from the Web can save money, but keep above mentioned tips in mind.



Meet & Greet with Lewis Hamilton

13 10 2010

Today  I had the honour to meet Lewis Hamilton in person at Schiphol where he raced against Facebook/Vodafone. Real cool marketing stunt by all companies involved.

This is a video I made for AceJewelers.TV during this event:

Ace Jewelers presents: F1 Lewis Hamilton vs Facebook

Enjoy!

Strong soundness is a result of regular exercise and lifestyle. How can remedies hels up? However, there are online pharmacies that offer discount drugs to patients who need them at low costs. Some families already heard about Zovirax that is an antiviral drug. Usually, this curing is mostly used to treat outbreaks of herpes. Zovirax will not fight herpes, but it can lessen the symptoms of it. Many men order online such remedies like Cialis. What about how much does viagra cost and sexual life? Nearly every man knows about discount viagra. (Read more viagra prices). The signs of sexual soundness problems in men switch on impossibility to have an erection sufficient for sexual functioning. Typically, this may turn on diabetes, anxiety, or a panic disorder of some kind. Along with their utility effects, most medications, still, have unwanted aftereffects although mostly not everyone experiences them. Finally purchasing medicaments from the Web can save money, but keep above mentioned tips in mind.