Tag Archives: japan

A Wonderful Whirlwind in Japan

japan-112722_640While traveling for work, I always make an effort to carve out at least a small pocket of time to enjoy my destination… through cuisine, local acquaintances, or a drive-by sight-see. When I found out I was going to go to Japan for work recently I wasn’t sure what to expect. Meetings, dinners, train rides, repeat. While I was excited to return to Land of the Rising Sun, it was hard to imagine having any time to enjoy the culture.

Without really trying, my experience of traveling to Japan for work exceeded expectations by a mile. My trip was full of out of this world food and flavors, unexpected hospitality, meaningful local connections, and exposure to a new side of global business. I even was able to wrap up some unfinished business from my trip 10 years prior…


My American colleagues and I were lucky enough to have a few of our local Japanese colleagues with us for the vast majority of our week. When did this become invaluable? Not only when navigating the intimidating train systems, but even more so when it was time to eat. From ramen and rice to sashimi to shabu-shabu (above), I ate some of the most delicious Japanese food. The most adventurous selection of the week went to sea urchin.


I’ll try everything once and that’s a great attitude to have in Japan, especially when you’ve got locals ordering on your behalf.  A dictionary of food came in handy at one meal to help in our interpretation of the beautifully presented edibles.

Name that sushi?

Name that sushi? My favorite is on the top left.

When traveling on business, you have to work to see the sights. That's why one night I kidnapped my colleague and took him on a field trip to Shibuya crossing to see the famed intersection. With little research we hoped on the train, found our way, and even stumbled into a local watering hole.

When traveling on business, you usually have to go out of your way to see some sights. That’s why one night I kidnapped my colleague and took him on a field trip to Shibuya Crossing to see the famed intersection. With little research we hopped on a late night train, found our way, and even stumbled into a local watering hole for a sake nightcap.


Getting the chance to do business in Japan was invaluable experience. Business in Japan is built on a foundation of respect, honesty and follow-through. I am a wiser professional after building relationships with colleagues from some of the most successful and well-established companies in the world.

Umeda Sky Building

I’ve always had a fascination with skyscrapers and tall structures, and the Umeda Sky Building in Osaka had me entranced from the moment I laid eyes on it. I had never seen or heard of it and it became the subject of early morning exploration. While I didn’t have time to go up to the hanging gardens on the top floor, it will forever be in my memory as one of the most unique buildings I’ve ever seen.

Perhaps the most

After 5 non-stop days of meetings, presentations and train rides we finally earned some official sightseeing time. Thanks to the never ending hospitality of my local colleague, we enjoyed Kyoto with visits to the Nijo Castle and the Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion). While I had been to both spots during my study abroad in 2004, being back was a time to reflect on how I’ve grown in the 10 years since my first visit.

Because of the nature of this trip, we spent a lot of time on the Shinkansen (bullet train)…  traveling from Tokyo to Hamamatsu to Osaka to Kyoto and back to Tokyo. During my premiere trip to Japan 10 years ago and during our ride early in the week south to Osaka, I missed the opportunity to see beautiful Mt. Fuji out the train window due to less than desirable weather. On our final train ride back to Tokyo, the day before we were to depart, as the sun was setting, without a minute of sunlight to spare, we lucked out and I finally got to see the majestic mountain.

It was a spectacular and satisfying way to wrap up an unforgettable week. More photos and memories on Flickr.

Happy Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Last night as I was poking around HBO looking for something to watch, I stumbled upon a 22-minute short documentary titled, East of Main Street – Small Talk, which features interviews with Asian American kids talking about their culture, heritage and feelings on living in America as child of Asian decent. The piece originally aired in May 2012 to coincide with Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and it appears as if they made it available to celebrate again this year.

The interviews with the kids are candid, adorable and entertaining. I loved hearing them talk about their families and friends, and gaining insight into their awareness and understanding of diversity, race and culture in America.

Here’s the trailer to get a flavor of the special:

Of course watching it made me think of my own heritage and my (maternal) grandma, Sueko, who moved from Japan to the U.S. in the early 1950s, after she met my grandpa in the Korean War. She was one of the funniest women I ever met and was one of my best friends growing up as a young boy.

Derek and Grandma, circa 1990?

Derek and Grandma, circa 1990?

She introduced me to weird foods like octopus and ginger, forced me into loving the Detroit Tigers, and most importantly, exposed me to a world outside our homogeneous Midwestern town of 7,000. She made me realize how big of a world this really is and introduced me to diversity. Her influence led me to look beyond Michigan for my future and ultimately what led me to having dreams of moving to San Francisco.

While we lost her far too early (when I was in college), there aren’t many days that go by that I don’t think of her. She was one of my favorite people ever and I am grateful for having been part of her life, and for her being part of mine.

Work it out Wednesday > #50

Ok the audio quality of YouTube videos can be dreadful. Let’s try a new embed option to share this week’s dance tune. A new collaboration between Martin Solveig and Dragonette, always a fun duo…

Martin Solveig with Dragonette – Big in japan