28
May
2008
|
05:01 PM
America/Los_Angeles

Japan Notes: My first trip to Japan . . .

[I'm on my first trip to Japan as a guest of Lunarr - a Portland based tech start-up founded by two Japanese entrepreneurs Toru Takasuka and Hideshi Hamaguchi. On the trip with me is Marshall Kirkpatrick from Read Write Web, Bob Walsh from 47Hats, and, Kristen Nicole from Mashable.]

I barely slept the night before leaving for Tokyo so it wasn't a problem sleeping through much of the flight. I woke a little groggy as were coming into land. As I opened up the window shutter all I saw was a bright field of blue and a couple of tiny ships way below.

As we flew lower we were over land that was divided into neat fields of squares and rectangles, all of it laying close and flat to the water, from the ocean and from a broad river delta. Here and there among the fields and rice paddies, were islands of manicured golf courses and verdant woods.

When the aircraft door opened I could feel the warmth and humidity of the outside rush in--a welcome change from the dry, chill air of the cabin. I soon regrouped with Hideshi, Kristen, Bob, and Marshall as we walked to immigration and then picked up our bags. We had about an hour to kill before our bus ride to the Tokyo Dome Hotel, which we did at a Starbucks.

I found a Herald Tribune newspaper. It's always a pleasure to read a newspaper - especially a traditional broadsheet. It was massive when unfolded, much larger than the tiny coffee table I was sitting at.

We boarded the bus and 40 minutes later we were at the hotel. After a quick shower we were back in the lobby where we met Hisashi Katsuya, an executive with IBM Japan. Hideshi had briefed us on Mr Katsuya, a human social network, a central connector for the Japanese VC and startup communities. He works with IBM venture capital group and is the most connected person in the Japanese VC community. He knows all the startups that are worth knowing, he writes a blog on CNET Japan, and meets with 5 or 6 startups a day.

Hisashi grew up in Tokyo and knows its labyrinth of streets and tiny alleys very well. We walk through one of the oldest districts in Tokyo, past a temple and down a cobblestone-lined alley to a tiny restaurant that feels like someone's front room. We sit on the floor and eat and talk about the plan for the rest of the week.

Hideshi and Hisashi explain what they have dubbed Deep Dive Tokyo - an immersive cultural experience plunging us into the history and traditions of Japan and back into modern Tokyo and the tech and startup culture.

Along the way we will see ancient Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, and the stunning 360 degree view from the top of Tokyo's tallest building. We will meet Japan's most successful venture capitalist, top Japanese government officials, and Japanese startups. We will experience and see some of the many sub-cultures that flourish in Japan. It's a very full schedule with not much time for blogging or Twittering -- but I can't wait.

[Check back for some images and video from my arrival.]