So I arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday evening (after more airplane delays!) and headed straight for my apartment. It was funny that despite being away for 2.5 months, I was instantly reminded how much I like this apartment. Of course, due to the way my personality operates, I also very quickly started to pack everything up in my mind. I knew pretty quickly that I was going to be in good shape to bring everything home with the luggage I’ve got. Dinner was a bit late and simple – Michal and I walked up to Coco Curry.
Thursday morning I headed to my old office – the one that I was first assigned to and worked at the longest. I had not been in any ‘official’ contact with them since March when I transferred offices. Due to political circumstances and the fact that I wanted my replacement to being able to establish himself, I didn’t / couldn’t reach out much.
It was strange even just walking to that office. At first I didn’t even go the right direction because I was on autopilot for the more recent office. Once I corrected my course, a flood of memories came to me. This was a path that I’d taken for nearly 2 years. A 2 year period that contained things like the first apartment, Susan and Olivia living in Japan, and their leaving Japan. It had all sorts of ‘ghosts’ along the way – people I would see regularly, places I would stop, and buildings I was familiar with. Then there were the things that were missing. They’ve taken down a set of 4 or 5 buildings that had been there since I moved to Tokyo, including the one containing the pet store that was always an interesting attraction to walk past twice a day.
Backing up in time a hair, the train ride to the office was an amazing wake-up call. I had gotten used to walking to the offices in Hong Kong and Manila, so returning to the morning commute via train was quite strange. I hit a pretty heavy rush hour time and was smashed into my fellow riders for the trip. I realized that I did not like this experience. The heat was on in the car and that combined with a few hundred people, I was uncomfortably warm. It was very, very nice to get out at my stop 10 minutes later.
It was pretty nice to go back into the old office because there were so many smiling faces and happy greetings directed toward me. It was strange to see a lot of new faces in the desks where the former staff had been. I spent a lot of time answering the same couple of questions – are you coming back? Where are you based? Do you enjoy this travel arrangement? How does your daughter handle it? Is she going to move with you? I bet you’ve got a lot of frequent flyer miles, don’t you?
Both of the days in the office went by quickly, with hours on end spent in meetings to catch up with their latest developments. I got to start doing my job, helping to extract feedback about the global team and to point out places where the team in Japan can improve their engagement to benefit them. It seemed pretty clear that everyone was excited to have me and my role in their environment.
After work time was also pretty fun. I got back into the old routine, albeit with some additional faces since I hadn’t seen everyone in quite some time. We had beers at the bar in the ground floor of the building. We ate curry ramen (Hemant – we missed you!). We went to Yocho’s bar. On the second night, I ate yakitori at the place near Yocho’s, too. It’s been a very fun couple of days and nights, even if they were a little late.
Saturday, today, had me up at 5:15A to be on the first train out so I could catch a shinkansen (bullet train) up north. I had to travel to Aomori to finish up my tattoo. The artist had been regularly traveling to Tokyo, but stopped late last year when he opened a bar / studio in his home town. The trip up gave me an opportunity to sleep off the previous night’s activities and the tattoo work went smoothly. I was able to catch a train 2 hours earlier so I wouldn’t have to get back home at 11PM.
I’ve got a week and a half left to go in this trip. Next week I visit another two offices for two days each – one that I had been assigned to and one that is new. Of the three remaining weekdays, 2 are for follow-ups and 1 happens to be a holiday! A week from Monday I’ll be attending my ‘farewell’ party, conveniently scheduled the night before the holiday.