Tokyo Diary Day 1: Ancient Temples and Traditions ...
In the morning we meet up again with Hisashi Katsuya, from IBM Japan Venture Capital Group, and meet his colleague Tsutomu Kodama. These two will be our constant companions and guides throughout our entire trip.
They used term Deep Dive into Tokyo to describe our trip because it was designed to immerse us in the old and modern cultures, in and around, Tokyo.
This morning our first stop is the Asakusa (old town) district to visit one of the oldest temples Sensoji, built more than 1,000 years ago. At the entrance gate is a huge lantern.
[Kristen Nicole and Tsutomu Kodama in photo.]
Leading up to the Senoji temple is Nakamise shopping street, about 50 small stores selling Japanese sweet cakes and souvenirs. It is traditional to see small shops around temples. Japanese high school kids throng along the promenade to the temple.
Large stone monster dogs guard the entrance to the temple. But they don't scare away a cat, which seems very comfortable sleeping between the legs of one of the temple guardians.
We walk around the neighborhood sampling Japanese baked confectionary such as Ningyoyaki, which has a center filled with a sweet bean jam. Then we have lunch at a restaurant that serves Okonomiyaki.
Okonomi means "what you like" and yaki means "grilled." It is sometimes called Japanese pizza because it consists of flour, cabbage, various toppings, and is inexpensive. It is cooked by the customers on large flat plate tables heated with gas burners. We were surrounded by high school kids having lunch.
Yakuza 2.0 . . .
During lunch "Kodaman" (Tsutomu Kodama) tells me he used to work for NASDAQ when it came over to try and establish itself in the Japanese market in mid-2000. NASDAQ managed to quickly capture about 25 per cent of the IPO market but ran into problems, which included Japanese mafia (Yakuza) tainted investments. The Yakuza had invested in high tech startups and other companies but when their involvement was discovered, several IPOs had to be halted.
These days there is a lot of what Kodama says is "grey money" being invested in companies and it is not clear if this may become a problem.
Tea ceremony . . .
Next, we head to the Imperial Hotel a modern high rise Tokyo building, for a traditional tea ceremony. We take the elevator to the fourth floor and enter a room that leads into a corridor and a garden.
We walk along stepping stones that have been sprinkled with water. The atmosphere is immediately calming and cool. It's an instant portal into a quiet, contemplative world. Interestingly, this is only the second time our hosts have been to a tea ceremony. Kodoman's wife teaches the tea ceremony.
Up Next on SVW Tokyo Diary: From ancient Japan we plunge into Tokyo's most expensive shopping district where they say a square meter of sidewalk is worth $1m. Then we ride to the top of Tokyo's tallest building for views and dinner at the exclusive Roppongi Hills Club with Japan's top VC: Tohru Akaura - who never grants media interviews - until now.
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[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.]
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