Posts Tagged ‘tokyo’

While I have been diligently twittering away, I have not been such a good blogger. From the tweet I read, I found out Acumen Fund just celebrated its 8th anniversary today! Congratulations! Jacqueline Novogratz was doing a book reading and signing at Tribeca last night. I dropped by to see how it was. There were about 80-90 people in the crowd. I have probably heard her speak more than 10 times, but I am always so impressed by her ability to speak in an articulate and inspiring manner. I am looking forward to her lecture here at JS in May. Prior to that, Alan Webber will be returning to JS on April 22 to speak about his new book Rules of Thumb – 52 truths of winning business without losing yourself – . He is another great speaker, who is a lot of fun and very insightful at the same time. I enjoyed reading his book! Hopefully it will be translated into Japanese. In a couple of weeks, my coworker Betty will be going to Tokyo to organize an exchange titled “Learning from Disaster: Miyakejima and New Orleans”. This is a second part of an exchange program that started last April. Miyakejima is an island about 110 miles off the coast of Tokyo. This small island with several thousand residents has an active volcano. In 2000, the volcano erupted and all residents needed to evacuate. In 2005, after 4 years and 5 months, the residents were allowed to return to their home. A group of people, who were involved with the relief and recovery effort at Miyakejima went to New Orleans last April to meet with like-minded people who are rebuilding the post-Katrina community as members and leaders of the local government and non-profit organizations. The exchange was started as a way to learn from each other’s experience and share wisdom. In turn, this April, a total of 16 Americans including observers, will be visiting Tokyo. Some of them are planning to visit Miyakejima, which is mainly accessible by a ferry. (There are flights, which get canceled frequently due to precarious weather conditions.) There will be a public symposium on April 18 at Meiji University. The outcome of this exchange will be published as a book in Japanese and English. (Fumiko)

New Orleans April 2008

New Orleans April 2008

@Ashe Cultural Center April 2008

@Ashe Cultural Center April 2008


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One of the loveliest places in Tokyo is the International House of Japan‘s exquisite traditional Japanese garden. The large picture windows in The Garden Tea Lounge open up to one of the most beautiful settings for breakfast (lunch or dinner). If you stay at I-House, a stroll through the garden is a “must do.” (Betty)


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Back in vogue?

Back in vogue?

Some days before leaving for Tokyo, I fretted about the state of the global economy, and Japan’s economy in particular.

In my January 30 post, GDP Blues, I mentioned David Resler, Managing Director & Chief Economist at Nomura Securities International, Inc., predicting that Japan’s 4th quarter GDP for 2008 could drop 9 pct or more.

That number, announced today, shows GDP contracted at an annual rate of 12.7 pct, Japan’s worst quarterly drop since its economy shrank at an annual pace of 13.1 pct in the first three months of 1974.

Exports are key, of course, but judging by what I’ve seen of consumer demand (or the lack thereof) in Tokyo, the slump is likely to continue for some time.

Even in osharen na Azabu Juban, 100 yen stores are very much back in vogue.

(Daniel Rosenblum)

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Robert Feldman, Heizo Takenaka, Kotaro Tamura

left to right: Robert Feldman, Heizo Takenaka, Kotaro Tamura

It’s time to bring out the big guns and talk about the relative competitiveness of financial centers – Tokyo vs London vs New York etc.  At least that was the plan six months ago.  Now it’s more a matter of how to salvage a global financial trainwreck. Should make for an interesting discussion. 

Capital Market Competitiveness: Burnishing Tokyo’s Image in the Face of Global, Asian Challengers a Japan Society Corporate Program public symposium at Academyhills on February 12 – will feature the best and brightest from the US, UK, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong. 


The event will be available as an archived webcast on the Corporate Program’s wecast page for those interested ex-post-facto.  (Daniel Rosenblum) 



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Trouble ahead, trouble behind?

Trouble ahead, trouble behind?

Watching Wall Street implode from Japan last September, it was easy to hope that after a couple of bailouts life would quickly return to normal.  

Clearly, that’s not the case.  As I prepare to return to Tokyo next week, I wonder how the people and the city are holding up under the strain of a seemingly intractable global recession.

At Japan Society last night we hosted a program with Nomura Holding America and the Women’s’ Bond Club of New York on the impact of the Obama administration on Asian economies, particularly Japan.

During the discussion, it became clear the outlooks for both the U.S. and Japanese economies were none-too sanguine. 

Panelist David Resler, Managing Director & Chief Economist at Nomura  Securities International, Inc., correctly predicted that U.S. GDP numbers for the fourth quarter coming out today would show a strong contraction. 

That number, released this morning, showed the economy shrinking 3.8 pct, the biggest drop in 27 years.  

And what of Japan’s fourth quarter GDP? 

Resler suggested a drop of 9 pct or more.  Indeed, the decline of  9.6 pct in Japan’s December preliminary industrial production, announced on Friday, doesn’t bode well.

The darkest hour before the dawn?

(Daniel Rosenblum)

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Sometimes attitudes towards work – especially work considered by some Americans to be “menial” – can offer insights into Japanese society. Recently I was chatting with a Tokyo taxi driver when I asked him how long he’d been a cabbie.

“Five years,” he answered.

“And before that?”

“I was a regular salary man.”

“Why did you decide to become a taxi driver?” I asked, wondering whether economic hardship had forced this man, who looked to be well into his sixties, to delay retirement.

“After sitting in an office all day long for so many years, I wanted to experience a different way of life, and I’d always wondered what it would be like to be a taxi driver,” he said.

“But what about retirement? Don’t you want leisure time to relax?”

The taxi driver waved his hand dismissively.  “Nah, I don’t care about leisure. I want to lead a productive life. Being a taxi driver I get to meet many different people and be a part of the working world,” he said. “Work has true meaning, leisure does not.”

Very wise, I thought.

Later I was at the New Otani Hotel when I came across a elderly shoeshine man working in his cubical in the hall next to the hotel’s shops and restaurants. My shoes were a little worse for wear and in need of some polish.  After exchanging some small talk, I asked the man how long he’d been in the shoeshine business.

“Twelve years,” was his answer.

I was surprised. The man looked to be in his seventies. I assumed that elderly shoeshine men had always been shoeshine men, having started out in their youths as shoeshine boys.


The man explained: “For 40 years I worked as a salaryman but I had always had an interest in shoeshining. Having shined my own shoes for so many years I decided it would be fun to have my own shoeshining business. I rent this space for the hotel, can work my own hours and get to meeting interesting people. This is much better than retirement.”

The man held forth with pride that his shoe polish, made from the finest oils, came from France and was rarely available in Japan.

“There, much better,” he said with evident satisfaction as he put the finishing touches on my shoes.

I handed him 700 yen and thanked him, thinking that more than shoes radiated light from this man.

(Daniel Rosenblum)

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