Last week I went to Tokyo for business. It was my first time traveling to Japan since my one and only visit in 1979. I had to ask my mother for details. After her father semi-retired from practicing medicine in Korea, he wanted to keep working and had an opportunity to work with a friend in Japan. While it probably wasn’t common for Koreans to immigrate to Japan, my grandparents lived outside of Hiroshima from about 1970 to 1990, during which time I visited them.
I had been meaning to get to our Tokyo office for quite some time, but schedules got in the way. The opportunity to travel with colleagues presented itself last week, so I took it. It was an amazing week to meet and connect with the various teams there and our hosts could not have been more gracious and inviting. We enjoyed many meals together and had productive meetings.
We also took the opportunity to explore a bit, venturing further and further from the comforts of Roppongi Hills as the week went on. I had some great meals during the week based on recommendations from friends and hosts. The truth is I had Starbuck’s every morning, two hamburgers for lunch, and zero sushi all week. I did have amazing Katsu while meeting up with my b-school friend, Tom. In the it’s-a-small-world department, I randomly ran into a dad from Lucas’s school.
My colleagues and I ordered ramen from a vending machine and also figured out the subway to Harujuku one evening. Half of us indulged in a second dinner (the really hungry half). I stayed one extra night by myself to explore. I caught up with another b-school friend, Trista, who lived not far away. It was great to catch up with her.
The best meal I had was ironically French, at L’Atelier de Joel Rubuchon (RIP). The last time dining at one of his restaurants was on Grace’s 40th birthday in Paris. I wasn’t super hungry so I ordered a 4-course meal, which was perfect. Although I could have stayed in to watch the Ryder Cup (glad I didn’t), I instead got on a bus to Shibuya to see what it was all about. At that hour, the crossing was busy, but not worthy of a time-lapse or extra effort. The general people watching was entertainment enough.
Although I had visions of pulling an all-nighter so I could sleep on the plane and get back on schedule, I can only keep myself company for so long. After wandering around (and around) and having the wrong people ask me the wrong questions, I decided it was time to get out of there. What I didn’t know was that public transit ends at midnight. It was 1am. Apparently I’m terrible at hailing a taxi and/or recognizing who was for hire, so I just started walking. Eventually, down a dark alley, I caught a cab just as some people were getting out.
On Saturday, I headed back to Shibuya to meet up with an old work friend, Benjamin, who was spending a month in Japan. Great catching up with him as well. I was only a little worried about getting out before the Typhoon arrived. I might have arrived at the airport a little early, but it gave me time to buy some gifts and get in one last meal of Katsu curry.
I would have loved to stay longer, but I had to get back to the family for Elin’s last weekend at home with us. I’m sure I’ll be back in Tokyo again. Apparently, my Epic ski pass works at Hakuba Valley in Nagano, so it just might be when the powder is deep.