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Nothing to Worry !! July 18, 2007

Posted by Gaurav Dhiman in Japan Experiences.
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There were a lot of warnings from local administration here in Kobe, Japan, about the strong typhoon approaching it over the last weekend. Everybody was informed and was asked to take precautionary meassures againt the typhoon, which is named as Man-yi. I think its a regular typhoon and comes every summer here in Japan.

My manager at NEC informed about this to us and asked us not to go out on that day. It was my first experience to have a close encounter with typhoon and was bit excited about it. On friday evening after reaching home, I told my wife about it and then tracked the route of typhoon on the Japan Meterilogical Agengy’s (JMA) website. The website was extensive and have a lot of information about Japan wheather, volcanoes, earthquake, typhoon etc. I think, its the best site to track the wheather in Japan. It keeps a track of all earthquakes (does not matter how minor those are) on everyday basis. On that site, I was able to get the satellite pictures of Man-yi typhoon. Actually earlier it was aheading towards Korea, but then it changed its track towards south of Japan. On friday evening itself, it hit the small island of Okinawa in Japan. Okinawa is a remote island mostly have US naval and air force bases there. Its a famous tourist destination as well. Read news on the net that the typhoon hiting the Okinawa, killing two people and distroying a lot of property. It was churning wind at a speed of more than 112 miles/hour, thats a blasting speed 🙂 , isn’t it ??

Typhoon was expected to hit Kobe city or pass by it over the sea on Saturday morning. From thrusday the weather in Kobe city was cloudy and it was raining haevily here. On Saturday, when typhoon was expected to arrive Kobe, one of my friend, Manish, was planning to shift his residence, so was bit worried about it. Eventually, on Saturday morning things were not that bad. It was just simply raining and there was no sign of fast winds and danger as anounced earlier. When I went to Manish’s house for helping him in shifting, the truck driver, who was Japanese, told us that the typhoon got delayed and might reach Kobe on Sunday morning. Well on Sunday morning, the weather was much better than what it was on Saturday morning. After seeing the wheather of Sunday, I thought that either the typhoon has crossed kobe or it might not have even reached kobe. I quickly looked on the JMA site and there I saw that it has crossed Kobe city. It did not passed over the kobe city, but rather over the Ocean. Kobe is on the Japan’s coastline and typhoon in place of hitting Kobe city, crossed over the ocean. On Sunday evening, the typhoon started to calm down and subsided over the ocean near tokyo.

There was lot of talk about it on friday evening, but on tuesday things were back to normal. Finally there was nothing to worry. On friday, I was excited to closely experience the typhoon, but unfortunately didn’t get a chance. Might get the chance next year if I stay here in Japan till that time. Don’t know where I will be next year !!

Indian Curry in Japan July 13, 2007

Posted by Gaurav Dhiman in Japan Experiences.
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Today there was special meals here in NEC office at Kobe. The special part was that Indian non-veg curry was served in Japan office. As the special meal was advertised for last few days in our canteen, so most of the guys already knew it, except me and few others (you know, I lack in Japanese 😉 ), so no one from our Indian bunch brought the lunch from home today. When I reached canteen at my usual time, I saw a huge line till he end of the canteen entrance and that line was for special Indian curry. Japanese too were excited about it.

I came to know from one of my friends here, that its a regular yearly affair. Every year, for one day Indian special meal is prepared in NEC canteen, the reason might be good Indian strength here. Although the  food was not proper Indian, but still then all Indian enjoyed the meals and I hope Japanese must also have enjoyed it. All other things were looking like Japanese items except the Naan. Yes naan, I was surprised to see the naan. Don’t know how did the canteen guys managed to get naam. I think it was readymade and they did not prepared it themselves, but still I appreciate their effort.

While writing about Indian food in Japan, just few of my past memories got refreshed, so mentioning the same here. Few months back our NECHCLST manager was on Japan trip and we planned to invite our Japanese manager and few other Japanese team mates to dinner in some Indian restaurant here in Japan. We got the booking done in Aarti restaurant, located in Sannomiya. It’s the famous Indian place (at least among Indians) located in the lively place of Sannomiya. We all left office together at 7:30 pm and reached the restaurant by 8:15 pm. We were first served with mango lassi and bear. As Japese prefer bear (they drink a lot of it), so most of the Japanese ordered for bear. They liked the Indian bear “Maharaja” and enjoyed it a lot. Well the dinner was good, the best part was that our Japanese technical head Kimura-san liked the pudina chatni (mint sauce) and ate it as if its the main serving. It was ok for us, but too spicy for Japanese guys, still Kimura-san was having a good time. He was sweating like anything, but still he demanded more and more chatni. One of us just cracked a joke, that if Kimura-san continues like then he wont be in a position to come to office next day. Well it was just a joke, but it actually happened. next day Kimura-san could not come to office because of stomach upset 🙂 .

For Japanese people, Indian food is too spicy and its hard for them to have it. For us, I mean Indian, Japanese food is tasteless. Moreover I think most of the Indian can not have it because of things like pork , beef and other stuff which is commonly used in Japanese meals. Most of the Indian can at most eat the fish or chicken, but not other non-veg items. Japanese food is rich of sea food. I too tried the Japanese food few times. Once on new year night, I had dinner with my friends and my wife in some Japanese restaurant and there I had the Ramen, Japanese noodles floating in beef liquid and served with small pieces of octopus, fish and snail. Also had some snacks made of turkey and one other item that was just like spring-roll, but it was filled with snails rather than the vegetables. I enjoyed eating snail thing and turkey. Japanese eat a lot of raw non-veg food. by raw it mean, they do not cook much or fry much. For instance the most famous Japanese dish “Sushi” is a fish dish served in a raw form. I think the main reason for good health and average lifetime of Japanese is their food habit, eating raw things, and their habit of regular exercise. These guys remain fit even at the age of 80+. I have never seen any old person needing the help of anybody else. They move around as we do in our young age. I will try to write a separate blog entry on the health of Japanese people. That’s it for today 🙂 … take care.

Japan – Shinkansen (Bullet Train) Experience November 15, 2006

Posted by Gaurav Dhiman in Japan Experiences.
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Hello readers, this time I am writing after a long time. I wrote most of my earlier blogs in my free time, but as I was busy with my new tasks at work and was also getting used to new environment around me, so could not write blog for quite some time. Just to update you I have now landed in Japan. Yes I left Cadence to join NECHCL, a Noida based company. I am currently in Japan probably for long term, around 2 years or so. I hope I will have enough different experiences here which I can blog it on my this site.

It has been around one month now since I landed in Japan. I have been planning for some time to write about my Japan experiences till now.  I think, their are lot of things in Japan which are unique in itself and are lot different than rest of the world. In today’s blog entry, I am only going to talk about my initial experiences in Japan, like traveling through bullet train, generally interacting with Japanese people etc. I will keep on writting my other Japan experiences under tag “Japan Experiences” on my blog, so keep a watch on it. I hope they will be of interest to you.

I landed in Japan on 14th Oct, 2006 at Narita Airport, Tokyo from where I went to Kobe city in south of Japan. Kobe is actually 13 to 14 hour journey by normal speed connected trains. My travel was sponsored by my company, as I was on business trip, so I boarded Shinkansen (famously known as bullet train) for my journey from Tokyo to Kobe. Shinkansen approx took 2.5 hours to complete the 550 km journey, it runs at approx speed of 210 km/hr. Though the fare for Shinkansen is costly, but still lot of people (mainly business people) travel by it as it saves a lot of time. I would say, anybody who comes to Japan must travel once in Shinkansen as its an experience in itself to travel by Shinkansen train, you will remember for your whole life. The ride is so comfortable that you don’t even come to know that you are in a train. If people do not look outside, they will get an impression as if they are sitting in a room, as the train do not vibrate or make noise at all. Following is my picture at Tokyo station in front of Shinkansen 700 series train, ready to departure for Kobe.

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Traveling through Shinkansen was my first encounter to world renowned Japanese technology, used in their day to day life. I was in Kobe from Tokyo with in 2.5 hours of boarding the train. Although sitting in Shinkansen train is an experience in itself, but I must also say that its much better feeling to observe Shinkansen train running on track from outside rather than to sit in it. It really goes like a bullet, hence its informal name “Bulllet Train”.

I was accompanied by one of the managers of my company from India till Kobe. As the manager, who accompanied me had visited Japan earlier also and was much familiar with what to expect and what not to, I had a comfortable journey till Kobe. My manager and I separated at Kobe station and from there I boarded the taxi to m guest house, where my room was booked. I gave the slip to the taxi driver along with the map to reach the guest house. I planned my travel to some extent before taking a flight. I kenew that in Japan I would be facing a major language problem, so I got the address (in japanese) and map of my guest house ready by searching on the net. Driver dropped me to the guest house entrance and finally I was there at my destination.

I did not had much problem in traveling as I was accompanied by manager, who knew Japanese language to some extent. In case I would have come alone to Japan for the first time, it would have been really difficult for me to figure out things in a country where very less people speak English.

Regarding the language, I would like to say few more things before closing this blog entry. Although now Japan have a very good relations with US, but still English is no widely excepted here. I think language is not a taboo here as it is in India. In India, people generally have a perception somewhere in the back of their mind that English is much superior than any other language, as English is widely spoken worldwide and had a tag sophistication attached to it. This is the reason, that most of the parents in India want their children to study in English speaking convent schools. This is my observation that majority of upper middle and higher class people in India take much interest in English than their national language Hindi, but this is not the case in Japan. In Japan, the only mode of communication is Japanese. In all their schools, colleges and universities, the only medium of communication is Japanese, now days they are bit moving to English also. All their government offices, private and public companies use Japanese language as a medium of communication and I think they feel proud in it. They don’t find much limitation in using Japanese as a medium of communication. You might find English speaking young people in Tokyo are, as its a capital and moreover a business center of Japan, but its hard to find English speaking people in other parts o Japan.

I think there is a very strong reason behind very limited use of English in Japan. The reason is that Japan was not much open to the rest of the world till the beginning of20th century. It was an isolated island, where no foreigner used to visit much till 100 years back . As it was a closed economy, with not much business needs, it remained closed till the beginning of 20th century and hence there was not much need of foreign language. Now in a current scenario, where globalized businesses plays major roles, the need for learning English has bee recognized in Japan. Due to this need, now English is taught at a very early stage in schools here. I think within next two to three decades, Japan will have a lot of English speaking population.

Thats it for this blog entry, I will try to write more about Japanese Language in my future blog entries.

First day at my new job in Japan October 17, 2006

Posted by Gaurav Dhiman in Japan Experiences.
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I landed in Japan for business trip on 14th Oct, took good rest that day as I got lot tired with long flight and then Shinkansen journey to Kobe (will write about Shinkansen in seperate entry). Before leaving Delhi, I got one room booked in weekly mansion here in Minatogawa-koen, known as Miwaboushi. One of my colleagues, Manish, did all arrangements for me before my arrival. He got the room booked and helped me a lot to get settled

Yesterday was my first day in NEC office, my new office here in Japan. It was much different experience for me, meeting Japanese people in their own style. To start the day I woke up early at 7:00 am (well man its really early for me 🙂 ). Got ready and catches up with other two Indian guys, Himangshu and Arvind, of my office. Those two have been leaving here in Japan for last 8 to 9 months and are much settled here. As I was not aware about the location of office, so I accompanied them. We took up the train (Seishin-Yamate Line) from Minatogawa-koen station and it took us exactly 32 mins to reach Seshin-chuo, the last station on the track and the place where NEC office is located in Kobe. Japan runs with the clock, by this I mean in Japan everything happens with time. These guys value time a lot. Things will happen at exact scheduled time not early and not later. It was my experience with train in Japan, they are exactly on time and never get delayed, as my mates told me. Its not only trains everything here is binded to clock and that is why planning events are much easy and accurate. Well we reached office at 8:45 am. Yes 8:45 am, its very early for me to be in office 😉 , in Cadence, my earlier company, I my routine was totally different. I used to reach office somewhere between 10 to 11 AM and used to stay in office till around 1 AM in night. I know it was a bad routine, but I had my freedom there 🙂 .

After reaching office, I first met our team’s language coordinator, Gouranga. He is a pleasant and helpful guy. He helped me getting my new office laptop and also introduced to the NEC manager Tanabe-san. I exchanged business cards with Tanabe-san, in Japanese style. Before leaving for Japan, I was given a short Japanese culture sensitization class. In that I was told how to interact with Japanese, exchange business cards with them and other such small things. Before landing in Japan, I did not take the learning of that class seriously and thought that it would not be much different in Japan, but after meeting Japanese in office I realized that they are much different in every sense, the way they interact, give respect to each other etc. They are humble, soft spoken and too. I will write about Japanese culture after some days, let me first gather some experiences here 🙂 .

Just to give you a small insight, let me give you an example. You need to be extra careful while exchanging cards or introducing yourself to Japanese. You need to hold the card in your both hands, with cards facing towards the person you are introducing to. Also accept their card with due respect in both your hands. Look at the card, read it and pronounce their name if possible. Never keep the card directly in your purse or pocket, as lot of other cultures do. If you will directly keep the card without reading it or giving enough attention to its details, Japanese consider that you are no giving much respect to them and their details and really feel bad about it. Also never put the card casually in your pocket as we sometimes do, they do not take that as good. They prefer that you give respect to their card, read the details on it then place the card eitehr in card holder or in right place like card book.

Although things like exchanging cards is a small and very casual thing for any other culture, but it’s not the same for Japanese. It gives them the first impression about you. Although Japan is now much open towards world and they have started realizing that they need to adapt to the global working culture, but at the same time they still honor and practice their values and traditions both in their business and daily life.

Another thing, which was new to me is their “bow”. They bow to greet each other and they bow a lot. Being an Indian, I am not in a habit of bowing, but I think it will become my habit in few days. These guys bow to show their respect and humbleness towards the other person. Even if you are a stranger to them, they will still bow. Japanese are too humble and soft-spoken.

I will keep on writing about my Japanese experiences as I face them. This is all for today.