Traveling now to the next destination on the fabled bullet train – the train which is the benchmark for all other high speed trains. Literally as I type this we are pulling into Kyoto. My trip so far has been typically Japanese, from the bento box yesterday, to the sushi last night (best sushi ever, more later) to the mere fact that I seem to be doing a tour of places that sounded exotic and almost mythical two years ago. Kobe, for example bares no scars from the earthquake in 95 for which it is famous. Sure, it is a lifetime ago but the devastation was almost absolute. Reclaimed land sank into the ocean up to 40cm. The city hss recovered, but stories if the quake and it’s aftermath are just below the surface.
Dinner last night was at a sushi restaurant that my host knew. I was aware of the other diners looking at me and my mastery of chopsticks (questionable). I had read that the Japanese will do this, automatically expecting that any westerners would not know how to use them. His reason for choosing it was the chef’s command of English, combined with excellent food and it was wonderful. As fresh as you would expect from a coastal Japanese city. My order was simple. I told him about my love for Sushi and particularly sashimi, but that in England, and in my experience in the US too, it is difficult to actually get anything unusual. I mean, everyone knows about the delights of Tuna and Salmon, and the standard fish…, but other varieties of fish are neglected. Wen I told him this, he gave me freshly hatched and completely transparent eels, bonito fish, eel, and a tiny, tiny little fish about 3 cm in length, which is a local delicacy. We would also instruct me which ones to add soy sauce and wasabi to, and which ones were best eaten as they were. It was a real treat – those who are interested, let me know and I will give you the address in Kobe.
Today, work was on the cards, so those of you not interested in my job, please skip down to the next paragaph! I have visited bike shops all over the world now. USA, Italy, France, Denmark, Taiwan…. You name it, and I have looked at, and compared prices there. Today, however, I will safely say that I went into the best stocked shop that I have ever been to. The level and variety was impressive. Shimano was expected, and in vaste quantities, but the Campagnolo full selection was not. Klein bikes were also present, their distribution being something which in Europe has long since been given up. They were well priced too. The challenges of running the international sales part of our fledgling brand was discussed at some length. The frustrations relating to pricing and supply being shared on both sides as well as the ever present conversations about the state of the Worldwide economy. Hopefully we can build on what we discussed, and come out in a better position. That is the reason for this jolly. There is only so much that can be discussed via email and there is even less that can be seen. The company (Marui) are at the absolute tip of the industry here in Japan, and I have no doubt in them, or the people behind them. The fact that they are so close to the industry’s most mighty player (both in terms of business and friendship) is also a big plus.
Back to today… the bullet train is to Tokyo. So far Japan appears to be a beautiful country, somewhat juxtaposed with the uncomplimentary modern arcutecture of industry and modern cities. There are many very small looking, somewhat unattractive, or in the least anonymous small and tightly packed single family homes, with typically Asian tangle of overhead power lines with a tiny, but stunningly cared for Japanese rock garden every now and then. The town planning seems to be random, although in Kobe, owing to 1995’s tragic need for a rebuild, it isn’t, and the signs of an expanding economy, and modern architecture literally reaching for the stars that I have seen in Osaka, and Kyoto on my way through (and I have read of Tokyo) remind you of what a powerful economic force Japan has been for the last few decades. This might seem to be scathing, or a criticism, but there is something honest and yet secretive about it. The towns are very take me as you find me, but you know that if you delve deeper, around every corner, there is something beautiful and awe inspiring waiting for you.
Tokyo should be interesting.