Home Again

Keiko and I arrived back in Orono Maine yesterday at 7:35PM …… 24 hours after we departed Osaka Japan. Taro jumped into our arms when we arrived at the apartment. Such unconditional love and loyalty explains why we missed him on the trip.

We needed a quick trip to Woodman’s for a beer, wings and a meal to feel right at home. Colleagues Nicole Gogan and Jason Harkins where kind to join us.
A welcomed night’s sleep and I feel refreshed and ready for the day. After years of long distance travel my body still appears to adapt quite well to distance and time changes.

Heading Home

Keiko and I are staying at an airport hotel in Osaka and in 12 hours time will begin our journey back to Orono Maine, arriving about 7:30PM on Saturday June 4. 24 hours of travel time.
My thanks to those who have followed our trip. Look for some reflection posts over the coming days.

Final Tokyo Meals

As regular followers of this blog know, when we travel to Japan Keiko plans many of our activities around what we will eat! Today was no exception.
Lunch was a welcome interlude from our final shopping tasks. We found a small and inexpensive udon noodle shop that was a real treat. It proves again that while Tokyo is one of the most expensive places in the world to live or visit, you can eat quite modestly and enjoy a very wide diversity of foods.
Dinner was another family affair and the event was held at a Chinese restaurant of some renown. The chief has a Japan TV show. The meal was authentic Chinese (compared to the “Chinese” fare we get in the US) that prompted culinary memories of my days in China. Quite a treat and great way to end the day.
Tomorrow we pack and head off on another bullet train ride. Due to the nature and type of tickets we purchased for the MBA trip (and a cancelled CED trip that was to follow) we are flying to Bangor from Osaka (via Tokyo’s Narita and Detroit). Paying $700.00 in change fees seemed excessive so we will see Osaka (Japan’s second largest city) and prepare for the journey home from there. Spending the 5 hour layover at Tokyo’s Narita Airport will be made comfortable through access to the All Nippon Airline lounge –– another example of Japanese quality in product and service.

Customer Service Experience

Japan’s “rainy season” doesn’t disappoint. A constant drizzle characterized our last day of outings over the Tokyo landscape.
Much of the morning was spent at the Ginza Apple store where we had a memorable customer service experience. As those who know me well will attest, I am an Apple fan. Japan also defines customer service at a level not generally experienced elsewhere in the world. So I approached our coming encounter at the Apple store with high expectations. But even I was taken aback by the extraordinary positive experience.
First, I did make a purchase …. but not for me ;-(.
Keiko and I purchased an iPad2 for her parents to thank them for the generous hospitality and care we have received on our many visits to Japan. Without question, her mother will almost exclusively use the device. We made the decision after seeing how mush she enjoyed using my iPad during the visit. Clearly, older Japanese (as American) consumers are a primary target for the device. (As I write this, Keiko and her Mom are taking the iPad on a test drive and using Skype for face-to-face conversations. I suspect it will bring great joy to them both when we return home.)
Now back to customer service point. Since Keiko would need to explain everything to her Mom in Japanese and she does not have an iPad of her own, we asked if someone could give her some assistance. We were escorted upstairs and over two hours later she had been helped in getting the device activated and set up, learned how to use every standard application and feature (and a few from the App Store) as well as a host of useful techniques. In observing the other Apple reps and customers in the room, I realized we were not getting “special” treatment. Whatever the product, each customer was offered an unbelievable amount of time and assistance.
I often tell my marketing and international business students about customer service in Japan. The customer is not the “king”, they are a “god”. The Apple encounter, while extraordinary in some respects, is replicated, with very rare exception, in almost every consumer experience.
A powerful marketing story.
The rest of the story? I am planning to get Keiko an iPad2 for her coming birthday!

Tokyo Update (5/31-6/1)

Relaxing in Tokyo can be tiring. We have walked countless miles as we connect with many old and new friends, trek to a favorite eating spot, hunt for gifts and pickup personal items we cherish from Japan.
Yesterday we visited with someone I had not seen in 8 years ….. and it seemed like only yesterday. Mark Uno had served as President of Avaya-Japan when I secured the company’s FIFA World Cup sponsorship for Japan-Korea in 2002. We developed a strong professional and personal relationship. It was good to see him after so many years.
Next year marks the 10 year anniversary of that landmark event and I am hoping we can arrange a Tokyo reunion gathering. I’d really be excited to see that team together again.
Another great dining experience as well. Keiko found a small “yakitori” bar where we met with Sachiko to thank her for her help on the MBA trip. The selection of grilled meats and veggies plus a bottle of wine was fabulous (the pork, brussel sprouts and white asparagus were my favorites). BTW, Groupon in Tokyo works great.
Today we toured Tokyo and then visited with friends at Itochu. The photo with this post is the future leadership of this powerful Japanese trading company. The young professionals pictured here represent the firm’s global business in electronics, food (fish and meats) and chemicals as well as the corporate finance and IT functions.
We ended our day at a family-style sushi restaurant with Keiko’s parents.