- Experience a different working culture
- Live in the biggest city of the world
- Great weekend trips outside the metropolis area
- Wander around the many beautiful parks and Japanese gardens
After three month of traveling South East Asia, I had to face reality again and go back to work. But my flight from Bangkok didn’t go to in Germany. My destination was Narita International Airport in Tokyo, Japan. For the following six weeks my office would be on the eleventh floor of one of the biggest tech companies in the world, whichs headquarter sits in Kōtō-ku, one of the special wards (tokubetsu-ku) of Tokyo.
My new working place in Kōtō-ku.
Tokyo in general is a great city. So many different districts and everyone of them seems to be unique. So many skyscrapers and different styles of architecture. Some of them don’t even feel like you’re in a metropolis with over nine million inhabitants, respectively over 38 million in the whole metropolitan area of Tokyo. Not speaking of all the craziness going on. I mean, some districts feel like a real life manga.
To explore something new, you just take one of the trains in a random direction and see what’s going on there. Speaking of trains, it will be quite hard to get used to the face, that in Bielefeld trains “only” depart every ten minutes and not every three. Now I get nervous, if there’s not a train already waiting on the tracks or, at least, the display shows, that there’s one arriving soon. Even though, there are arriving and departing frequently, it doesn’t prevent you from the overcrowded rush hour trains. I had to face one of my biggest fears quite early and I really hoped, that those pictures I saw before leaving for Tokyo, were just photoshopped. Anyway, I can report, that it’s true and you get used to it. If you think the train was full people standing in front of the train will manage to get in. With the back to the entrance of the train car they’ll push everyone closer to each other, so the people stand even denser together. The other day it was so bad, that my Bluetooth headphones actually lost connection to my smartphone in my pocket.
Coming from Germany, which has only one city with skyscrapers, it was exciting to now work in one every weekday for the following weeks. And that with a great view over parts of Tokyo Bay. After entering the building on the first day and being welcomed by one of my new colleagues at the reception, he showed me around. We took the elevator upstairs, where I had the first shock: My new working space would be next to more than 100 others. Of course I should’ve been aware of that, but I honestly wasn’t.
Obviously there are differences in cultural behaviour. As it is rude to clear your throat in Germany (and I think the majority of Europe as well), it’s no problem to do it here. So especially in the beginning of Spring, you hear all kinds of throat clearing sounds accompanied by many running noses. The face masks as a protection, when you have a cold or to protect you from pollen, are a thing you get used to very fast. And I do have to admit, that they make sense. As I heard from another colleague, you even lose your colds way faster, if you protect yourself from external influences with the masks. Rumors say, that especially women can take advantage of them, if they don’t want to put on make-up.
Next thing I’d notice many times in the coming weeks, was the way of working on a project in different working cultures. As we are used to start right into a task quick and agile, here many things have to be discussed before you can even start with something. Even if you’re almost finished with one thing, you first finish it, before the next discussion for your next task starts. So compared to our mentality to just start and see what happens on the way, here you concentrate more on all the possibilities and concerns beforehand. Naturally there are advantages and disadvantages in both cases, but I honestly prefer the way we do it at home. It might be a matter of what you’re used to.
Japanese working days (at least, where I worked) start late, so basically the majority of people arrive at around 10am. For many of them, the reason is to avoid the highest peaks of rush hours in the morning. Accordingly people work late into the evening and many of them even until 9 or 10pm. The positive thing about it is, that you can make friends more easily, as you spend most of your time at work. I was welcomed very warm and was invited to lunch and many weekend or evening activities. Luckily there were a couple of other foreigners, who spoke English. Two of them even spoke German, although they are Thai and Hungarian. We did some hiking and trail running excursions in some mountainous areas outside the city, where you can easily get by train.
I was especially lucky to be here for Cherry-blossom (Sakura) Spring. To celebrate the beauty of this time of the year, literally thousands of people would gather in the parks of Tokyo on the weekend and admire the blooming Sakura trees. It’s like a giant picnic and called Hanami. Every group or family has their own plastic covers to sit on. Interestingly everyone takes off their shoes before entering the ground-covering plastic blanket. Quite a lot of groups even had small tables and all sorts of kitchen equipment with them. What mostly every group had in common was a respectable amount of canned beer, wine or sake.
Summit view of our trail run.
Cherry blossom spring.