November 25, 2005

Closely Packed

Went to the factory because a big-corp. customer was visiting and because I was due for a trip anyway. Of course, being a big company doesn't mean they'll be a big customer, and it's kinda pointless to be sitting around the factory during Golden Week when nobody's working anyway. The meet-and-greet stuff went well enough, although they had their own native-Chinese people on the team, and I wasn't too much help when the visitors started talking amongst themselves in Dutch. So that was Day 1. Now what?

Just keeping up with the usual deluge of email was almost enough for full-time work, but that's not terribly productive in and of itself. Not to mention all that ass-sitting wasn't doing much for my physique. So I went along when some people from the office wanted to go hiking on National Day. The bus ride to the park was an experience in and of itself as people were out and about on the start of the big holiday. Thankfully enough of them decided against physical exertion so that the park wasn't overly packed. The mountain was only 700m high, but they decided to take the direct approach up, i.e. many steep and irregular steps. It was a still, muggy day, and remember that I haven't exactly been active lately. The result is that I don't think I've ever sweated more in my life, even without a direct sun. It took some serious will power, plus the macho shame from the girls scooting ahead in front of me, to push myself up to the top. Coming down was no joke, either, as the knees took quite a pounding. Finally got back to the snack shop at the base of the hill just in time for a badly need bottle of ice-cold water, even if the price was an exorbitant 5RMB. One of guys treated us to ice cream bars. Turned out that it was one of the best ice cream bars ever, and not just because of the circumstances, either. Usually I don't like chocolate-covered ice cream bars because the chocolate coating overwhelms the flavor of the vanilla ice cream. But this bar was made with a thin, mottled chocolate coating rather than a thick, solid layer, so there was a perfect mix of chocolate and vanilla flavors. Sure, it was probably made that way because cocoa costs more, but it was still good.

Well that was fun, but the prospect of another week cooped up in Shenzhen wasn't. So I jumped at the opportunity to go to Japan for the CEATEC electronics show. Went with the top factory people to check out the competition on their home turf. First time in Japan for me. Yeah, there are a lot of people packed into Tokyo. We stayed in a business-class hotel in Shinjuku down the street from our Japanese sales office, just on the periphery of the massive buildings of the Shinjuku skyscraper district. Made it easy to walk over to the office to meet with our Japanese crew, but it meant an hour-and-half commute to the Makuhari Messe convention center, including a half-kilometer hike of a transfer through Tokyo Station. I didn't mind it too much. It was cool to pack in with the commuters on the JR trains, and at least now I know how to get to Tokyo Disneyland (it's on the way to the Messe). Turned out that Makuhari JR stop is also the location of Chiba Marine Stadium, home of the Pacific League (and soon-to-be the Japanese MLB) Champion Chiba Lotte Marines. Go Bobby V.

The show was a little disappointing since some of the big names in our field didn't show. Plus our booth was a total embarrassment despite spending bucks on a good chunk of real estate right near the entrance. Did wander over to worship at the fancy new TVs and ridiculously fancy cell phones that'll never ever see the light of day outside the Land of the Rising Sun. Thought the 2005 50" Pioneer plasma at home was the shit, until I saw the Pioneer booth where a side-by-side display alongside the 2006 model put it to shame, especially in the black levels. Not complaining, mind you, just noting a natural phenomenon.

After the show-going and staff meetings, they took us out to izakayas to wind down, eat, and get totally plastered, as an izakaya is designed to do. The small-plate food is made to satisfy while leaving plenty of room for the bee-ru. One of the places was on top of a Shinjuku high-rise, looking out onto the night scene. Thankfully we were near the office, and I could walk back to the hotel in a curvilinear fashion. The head of our Japanese office had a two-hour commute back to Chiba, and he was right back in the office all ready to go the next morning.

All that didn't leave much personal time. Finally on my last full day, after a meeting with a potential supplier, I had the rest of the afternoon to myself. Got a chance to run around the Shinjuku Station area picking up random gifts for the GF. Thanks to NYT, I made sure I got some bestselling doodads for my presents. Didn't hurt that the store's right in Shinjuku Station. Got a chance to gawk at the massiveness the deparment store-age. Ate in the basement food halls of Odakyu. Was in the mood for a slice of strawberry cake afterwards. Not sure if a 500-Yen slice of cake suited the mood, but it was a good slice of cake, and the fruit was good even though it's not strawberry season.

Couldn't fly back direct to Taiwan from Japan since my tickets were already set, so I had to go out of the way and spend an extra couple of hours tooling around Hong Kong Airport. Hey, I get to pile up miles on two airlines, for whatever that's worth.

Posted by mikewang on 06:08 PM