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Sapporo, from the peak of Sapporo Prince Hotel, Japan

 JAPAN AFTER 30 YEARS
By: Neneng Tarigan.

It was 30 years ago since I visited Japan in February 1980 for the first time; then I left the country, had a wonderful memory, till I visited this country again in May 2010.
The reason for my first visit was because I attended the Seminar on “Trade Promotion for ASEAN (the Association of South East Asian Nations) Countries” sponsored by JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) and JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization).
The participants attended in the seminar were from 4 countries, since members of the ASEAN at that time only 5, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. There was no participant from the Philippines, I forgot why.
February is winter in Japan. The first time I saw snow was in this country. At that time I pity myself of being unable to bring along my parents and family to enjoy the snow, because we were not that rich to travel across the sea to see countries.
The seminar was invaluable. Nevertheless, because we were all relatively young, our preferences more to the field visit programs rather than listening to the lecturers although they were all good professors from prestigious universities and CEOs from Japanese Multi Nationals Corporations.
However, the story that I am going to share here is not about the field visit neither about the lecturers and the materials of the seminar, because of course I forgot the whole substances they had given, since it was taken place decades ago. What I want to share here is how a culture or human behavior in any particular group or nation could survive in the middle of western influence the so called ala westernized modernization.
It was a bit drizzle at that time (30 years ago) and the road a bit slippery. I walked around, looking for some food as the hotel’s food was too expensive for students under fellowship. And….. There I was a little lost on the way. I couldn’t find the restaurant that sells “yatsui food” (low price food).
Starving and tired, I saw a pregnant lady (I think her pregnancy was already about a week or two to delivery), carrying a baby boy (about 2 or 3 years old baby) in her back and a big bag full with groceries in front, heading to the same direction I did. She was in a rush, may be afraid of the drizzle might not stop but turn to heavily raining whereas nothing thick enough had covered the baby boy.
In despair, seeing nobody around except her to ask for direction; so selfishly, I dare myself to stop the lady and with a little Japanese word I knew, mix up with English and support by a leaflet, I asked her the address of the restaurant I intended to go to.
Surprisingly, she pointed out the opposite direction and guided me to walk together. I thought that would only be a block or two from the point we met, but in fact it was more than 5 blocks away and the road was unlevel, a bit hilly I must say.
I asked her not to walk me to the restaurant considering of the distance, however, watching me as a stranger in trouble, she just smile and walked me to the restaurant right up to the front door. After that, with a beautiful smile she bowed, and in Japanese language she said: “This is the restaurant please, thank you very much”.
She said "thank you" to me and “sorry” several times, maybe she was disappointed for being unable and had no time to guide me further. Half run, she rushed back to the point we met, I didn’t have any idea how further more she must walk home.
That smile and sincerity showing on her face, I would never ever be able to forget!!!..... And I would treasure this experience till I die…..also the memory of meeting so many nice and kindly people in 1980 in Japan. There I met my brother Noboru and the three boys of Nagasaki and their family. We exchange letters a lot, and from the correspondences, I became acquaintance with Keiko (Noboru’s wife) to whom I shared so many secret of my life and she becomes my own respectable eldest sister, the one that  I had never have in life before.
30 years elapsed, I was able to visit Japan again in May 2010. Arriving in Narrita at 07.30 am, I haven’t seen much changes, the airport seems old and a bit quiet now*. I sense that the world economic crises had hit this country significantly. As it proved, unlike the old days, Japan Airline (JAL) nowadays provides very simple meal on board and just a glass of drinks for one hour and 45 minutes flight from Tokyo to Sapporo where the APEC meeting held.
Nevertheless, what can we expect to see from a country that had already been developed and already in the peak since some decades ago? When they build Naritta and served it as an international air port it was a modern futuristic airport for what we can enjoy up to these days maybe until sometime in the future when human beings have international public outer space airports one day.

What further development and change we would see for a country like Japan and Russia as another example if they already have the technology to dig down the five stories subways underground of Tokyo or Moscow that goes to many points in the cities?
As for Japan, what they always thinking are durability and the up-to-date products that meet their customers’ demands, however this is costly, that is why most of Japanese products are expensive. But, we hardly find an out of order old Japanese goods right? Many of our out of date Japanese made electronics that we bought several years back still work up to these days.
Wow, I am now talking as if it were about marketing campaign whereas it was totally not what I am aiming at, so let’s go back to see about the people; and how is the Japanese people change in this modern society?
The second days of my visit in Sapporo, I was running out of Yen. Surprisingly, not all banks in Japan are allowed to exchanging money. I don’t know when this system has started but it is the fact today, or even from the beginning? Frankly speaking I don’t know the answer.
The hotel’s receptionist marked in the map the location of the bank where I should go and change my money. Ghosts…, it seems far away, so, instead of taking her advice, I stubbornly took the advice of the other lady from the supermarket to go to the nearest bank to the hotel I stay.
So I walked there three blocks away, just to find out that the bank was unauthorized to exchange foreign currencies. (Well, actually I can change my money with a little different rate in the hotel and I can do it either in cash or in credit card, no problem at all, I had more than enough for that, but the idea at the first place was why not trying a little adventure and enjoys walking around the city? Well, sometimes some irrational deeds will kill us, wouldn’t we, as it proves to me?)
It was already 14.30 and I stuck in the street not knowing where else to go. So, I stop a taxi, and ask the driver to bring me to the nearest bank he knows.
The driver an old man of about 60 years old has hardly speak English (neither did the lady I met 30 years ago in Tokyo), however, he stopped his taxi, contact his headquarter and ask about the nearest bank around. It was 5 minutes before office close. Rather risky and I had almost no Yen in my pocket to pay him if anything happened.
The driver, rushed me to the bank, joined me inside and talk to the bank staff to understand the situation, and beg them to help me change my money.
We were both success, although it was 15.00 o clock sharp, thanks God because of this very helpful driver, I was able to change my money and drove to the hotel with him.
The driver charged me nothing for the hectic he must endure, neither for the running agro meter of the taxi when we start driving from the first bank to the second bank, which is actually far enough and must cost me I think at least another USD 10. He charged me only for the transport cost from the second bank to the hotel and didn’t accept tips. (We hardly find people who accept tips in Japan, including in the restaurants or hotels!)
Upon arrival in the hotel, he talked to the receptionist; I guessed it was about informing the hotel staff the correct bank to go if someone in the future asks them for the same information again. (He is so caring and polite. Well, actually I was the one to blame, because I took different direction than the hotel staff had advice.)
30 years!!!! And the politeness of Japanese people, have never ever changed, they tradition in bowing and respect people even among themselves most importantly to their guests has never ever changed and will never be!!! It is running in their blood and remains solid in their culture!!!!

The taxi driver, who gives a great help to me**


The cleanliness of almost all places in Japan, the disciplines, the obedience to rules and regulations embedded as a culture and lives among the people. In every meeting their attended at home or abroad, they always dress well in a formal attire and ready for any substances to discuss. These are all make Japan always number one in my heart. I fall in love with this country 30 years ago and will always love this country besides of Indonesia forever.
I always ask myself: “How would it possible for a country to maintain its tradition in the world that becoming so closely connected? Is it because of the religion or Buddhism? Is it because of the fact that Japanese market is actually very much closed and highly protected, so that no western influence could get in; but they dress like Westerners?
To my view, Japanese is very distinctive in every here and there. It shows in the making of their products and in keeping up their tradition. I think Japan is the only country in the world that dare to withdraw their products massively from the market (remember Toyota case?), because of quality defect! They are the real gentlemen in their way. Remember “hara-kiri”? For Japanese men, better die than life bearing the shame!!! It is running in their blood since thousands of year ago and remained solid up to this modern world society until then…………..
Japan and Japanese people is the same as I knew 30 years ago……………… Nothing has changed in their value of life and behavior.
Well, I was about closing this note; however another accident happened to me again. Today 28 of May 2010, I went alone to a traditional market in Sapporo named Tanukukoji Shopping Arcade not far from the APEC conference venue, to have lunch and buy some souvenirs. As usual, I chose Sashimi a traditional Japanese tasty raw fish cuisine for lunch (well, I am the real Sashimi lover). Then shortly after that, in full enthusiasm, I took pictures of the market, made some of mine too and bought some Japanese traditional souvenirs.
The weather was around 13 C degree and I just walk and walk and forget that I was not used to walk that far, carrying my heavy weight body and bags!
Suddenly, I got cramp; I hardly can sit or walk. I feel so much pain and murmuring to stand the pain. Some people just passed, because except for my cry, they have seen nothing happened to me. Well, I must confess that I have a fresh look and a bit younger maybe than my real age, but this look sometimes misleading and give no benefits, because then I am too old to behave young and too young in mind to be my real age.
Luckily, a family and a young man on a bike stopped by and asked me in Japanese language whether they could do something to help. I didn’t know how to respond, because I don’t speak Japanese. Then they tried to speak English and the daughter a good looking young lady asked me: “Do you speak English?” “Yes I do”: I said. But she turned to laughter loudly; finally I found that they hardly speak the language.
After they saw my badge, which I simply forgot to take off, they said: “She is from APEC, from Indonesia” and they busily calling the hospital asking for some help.
“Well, is there any drugstore around, or else, please just help me call a taxi, I have to go back to my hotel and drink some medicines”: I begged.
Five meters like hell to me to walk to the taxi. The young boy on bike said: “Please let me carry you to the taxi” He really would like to voluntarily carrying me, but I said:”Thank you, I can walk slowly”.
Not allowing me to be alone, the mother of the girl and the taxi driver, accompanying me to the hotel. Upon arrival, they asked the hotel staff to bring along a wheel chair and draw me to my room and remind the hotel staff to immediately call the hospital afterwards.
I said to the hotel staff: “Please just call me a massageur, what I need now is a little massage and drink my medicine”. (Although I am fully covered by three insurance companies one of Canadian/Manulife and of course by the Japanese government as the host of APEC, but I am more comfortable with the medicines I bring from home, because I am highly allergic to some kind of medicines and one kind had almost even taken my life)
Again, I don’t know how to thanks these people who are totally strangers to me and yet very helpful. Again, I just paid for a taxi from the market to my hotel, because the lady refused me to pay for her transport back to the market.
I feel so much ashamed to myself to be a burden for those strangers I met in Japan. Although they are helpful, I don’t think they deserve to carry out the responsibilities which I actually should bear, even how small it was. It was not the value of the money that I count, but the value of their countless friendly gestures.
God knows how grateful I am to these people.
Yes, there is nothing change in Japanese culture after 30 years ……………….. They are a lovingly special people. The country and the people have made me falling and falling in love again and again to Japan. The country and the people that I will always keep in my memory and my heart………….
Thank you Japan ……………………………..

Sapporo, May 28, 2010.
Neneng Tarigan

This writing is dedicated to my brother Noboru Tasaki and my sister his beloved wife Keiko and my nephew Shinja Tasaki as well as the three boys (Kazutoshi Yamashita, Yoichiro Yamaguchi, Mashanori Kawakami) and their beloved family in Nagasaki. I love you all.

Note:
* On the way back from Sapporo to Indonesia, I realized that I had never stopped in Narita 30 years ago, because this air port at that time was still under construction. No wonder if I got the impression that the building rather quiet because Narita is located about 60 km outside of Tokyo, whereas the one I stopped some 30 years ago was Haneda, which is still beautiful until now. Wow, I really have to check the data correctly, not only guessing.
** I found as well, that the taxi driver name is Naoki Sawada from Daiichikoutsu Kitahiroshima Company. I thank you Naoki. Domo arigato gosaimashu.

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"What is wise? He/she that learns from everyone" - Benjamin Franklin




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OUR SPECIAL THANKS TO UNCTAD AND CEVTC AND MOST PARTICULARLY TO MOFCOM/THE PEOPLE REPUBLIC OF CHINA:


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IT WAS A GREAT MEMORY WE HAD IN WUHAN, CHINA, OCTOBER TO NOVEMBER 2008. 50 LOVINGLY AND BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE FROM 26 DEVELOPING COUNTRIES GATHERED TOGETHER TO THOROUGHLY DISCUSSED AND SHARED THEIR COUNTRIES' EXPERIENCES IN GLOBALIZATION AND INDUSTRIAL TRANSFER. IT IS TRUE AS THE PROVERB SAYS, “NO PAIN NO GAIN”; WE ALL HAVE TO ENDURE THE AFFECTS OF THE SO CALLED “NEW ECONOMIC COLONIALIZATION FORMS OF THE WEALTH”.
WE NEVER PITY OURSELVES OF BEING POOR AND LESS KNOWLEDGE. WE HAVE THE SPIRIT TO COMPETE IN THIS WORLD ECONOMIC GLOBAL COMPETITION. WE ARE THE NATIONS OF UPRISING FUTURE. WE ARE THE COUNTRIES THAT FULL WITH FUTURE BRIGHTS. WITH STRONG NETWORKING, THE SPIRIT TO FIGHT AND TO GAIN FROM EVERY MOMENTUM, WE WILL BE THE WINNERS OF THIS GLOBAL ECONOMIC GAMES. THANK YOU TO CEVTC AND UNCTAD TO BRING US ALL SO CLOSE TOGETHER. THE RELATED SLIDES AVAILABLE HERE IN THIS BLOG IS THE EXPRESSION OF OUR SINCERE THANKS TO YOU.



A SIESTA TIME IN WUHAN, CHINA 2008

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THE FOLLOWING IS MY JOURNAL ABOUT THE WUHAN GROUP, AND WHAT I FEEL ABOUT THEM AND WHAT REALLY CONCERN ME IN LIFE. I HOPE THIS JOURNAL IS A GOOD TIP TO ALL OF YOU GUYS!!! HAPPY READING AND HAPPY BROWSING, YOU MAY FIND SOMETHING MORE FANCY AND FUNNY IN THE OTHER PAGES OF THIS BLOG.

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