These weeknotes are brought to you by a 9.5-hour layover in Shanghai airport.
Japan has been amazing! To all the people who told me I’d have a great time: you were right. It has not been restful in the slightest, though, we packed a lot in.
On Monday we went to Tsukiji Fish Market, there’s a lot of cheese with things that don’t normally pair; I had some cheese-filled tempura squid rings. Fresh fruit and vegetables are really expensive here. Afterwards, we went to TeamLab Planets which was amazing despite having to walk around it all barefoot.
Later on, we visited Luke in his very fancy apartment and went for some dinner. We’re told very few people cook here, eating out is really cheap and all of the pre-made supermarket food is a lot better than we’re used to.
On Tuesday morning we booked in a trip to the Tokyo Stock Exchange with some of our Nikkei colleagues, it was really interesting and they very patiently translated some stuff for us. Afterwards, we went for lunch, turns out I was at the same sake tasting as some of the other attendees when they were visiting our London office!
Alex, Tatiana, Alice, whoever reads this first: can I claim back a half day of holiday for doing work-adjacent networking?
I assume claiming the cost of the flights would be pushing my luck?
After letting the others go back to work we went to find a roller coaster. We finished the day by meeting up with Luke again and going to an Izakaya, like a small bar that serves small plates of food. It was so much fun, hate to say it but they put London pubs to shame 👀
On Wednesday we took the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto which is a beautiful city and a lot more chilled than Tokyo. We visited a temple, got very sweaty walking around, and then went for dinner in CoCo Ichybanya – a chain with a large menu of customisable curry options. I’ll definitely be heading to the one in London when we’re back.
On Thursday we went on a day trip to Nara which is famous for extremely tame deer. We spent all day wandering around the beautiful parks and primeval forest, occasionally feeding and petting deer – they’re actually quite demanding when they know you have food.
Friday was Luke’s birthday, Happy birthday Luke! We wandered around Nishiki Market, walked part of the Philosopher’s Path (no cherry blossom at this time of year), and then went for a sake tasting at a local brewery which was very interesting and progressively got more interesting the more sake we drank.
We followed the sake with a little Izakaya crawl. We accidentally signed ourselves up for 30 minutes of unlimited sake in one of them (genuine mistake), tried an English bar (not very much like an English bar), and decided two hours of karaoke was a great idea at 1:30 am.
Saturday was not the best day, see above, but my lunchtime black sesame tantanmen was very restorative. We travelled back to Tokyo later in the day, were too tired to do anything, and then went to sleep in our airport hotel.
And here we are. Writing this took up about an hour of our layover, excellent work, Rowan.
General impressions are that Japan is very fun, but it’s also very easy to fill every waking moment as a result. I’ll come for longer if we ever return! I wasn’t disappointed with the food even once, the people we interacted with were all very friendly, and it’s super easy to work stuff out (especially in Tokyo) where every user-experience detail has been considered. Highly recommend 👍