Greeted by an old friend—Takeshi Matsukata
After a very long day that started in Chiang Mai at 5 a.m., my flights took me to Bangkok, then Seoul, before finally arriving at Narita airport at 9 p.m. Here I quickly learned about the public transportation system and took the bus from Narita to Shibuya, where we were staying. I was met at the Tokyo station by Takeshi, got in an iconic old-school Toyota taxi, and headed to Cirulean Tower Tokyu Hotel to meet Alex.
Alex, myself, and Takeshi in the lobby at the Cirulean Tower Tokyu Hotel, in Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan
Our room on the 22nd floor had an incredible view of the city, including the landmark Tokyo Tower and Shibuya crossing, where a few scenes the movie Lost In Translation had been filmed.
Myself, Michael, and Alex waiting to enter a sea of people at the Shibuya Crossing
We had been gawking at the view for a while, so we headed to the 40th floor where there was an even more impressive vista of the skyline, out towards Shinjuku all the way to the brand new Sky Tree, currently the tallest building in Tokyo. Like many of the other major cities we had visited, it was an impressive light show, but the sheer size of Tokyo was somewhat hard to fathom.
Looking towards Shibuya’s train station from the 22nd floor at the Cirulean Tower Tokyu Hotel
After some snacks, we met up with Michael Scott our Director of Marketing, and a true lover of Japanese culture. We chatted for a while and all felt this was a strong group to have together here in Tokyo. We said goodnight to Takeshi and went out for a stroll towards the Shibuya crossing, which is most comparable to a Times Square—with masses of people, giant billboards, and a plethora of lights and sounds. Michael knew the surroundings and showed us around like a natural guide. It was a great introduction to this lively metropolis.
MOS Burger lunch, delicious sushi dinner, drinks at the Hub.
The morning brought a much deserve sleep in, and we met Michael the next day—he wanted to take us to MOS Burger, a favorite local chain of his, to try their famed teriyaki burger. It was quite the tasty burger! Following an afternoon exploring some of the stores around Shibuya, an area know for its world-class shops and being fashion-forward, we met up with Takeshi and his son Ren, who was in for the night after a surf trip down to Bali.
Subway Selfie—Michael, Ren, Takeshi, Alex, and me!
We ventured out for sushi at a very local place, taking the incredible subway system that serves essentially the entire city. The bar was actually featuring a 50% off special just for Sunday night, so all of us had our fill of fantastic nigiri and maki rolls. The chefs were exceptionally friendly and talented, the fish ultra fresh, and the company was even better—all the ingredients for an unforgettable first dinner in Japan!
At the sushi bar, watching the masters at work
Tuna three ways, tekka maki, maguro, and toro
At this pint it was clear, we had been enjoying enough toro, anago, uni, and hirame to fill an aquarium, and it was time to take a short stroll to a nearby coffee shop, where we began strategic planning for the next day when we had a meeting with RE/MAX Japan! As we finished our coffee, wouldn’t you know it, but the younger guys wanted to head back to Shibuya for a night out on the town—so we ventured to a British-style pub Ren knew well, called the Hub.
About to hit the town in Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan
It was a packed downstairs cellar full of both locals and foreigners, so we stayed, chatted for a bit more, and enjoyed a couple rounds. It was quickly time to say goodnight and aloha to Ren and Takeshi and headed back to the Cirulean Tower Tokyu Hotel to get a proper night’s sleep before the big day.
Meeting of the minds with RE/MAX Japan!
Waking up with the sunrise—you can see Tokyo Tower on the right hand side in the distance
I awoke with the sun the next morning full of excitement, ready to finalize our presentation strategy. Michael created a fantastic presentation package, that he actually had printed and bound at a near by Kinko’s, along with new business cards for Takeshi and Alex. This was very important because the initial exchange of cards is such a big part of doing business here in Japan. Michael had even brought more of our custom triple layered cards, just in case, as they had our Japanese names on them and were quite thick and impressive.
Michael, Alex, and me ready for the meeting and, might I say, looking especially dapper in our lobby
It was quickly time to put on our best suits and hop in a taxi towards the headquarters of RE/MAX Japan! This is the moment we’d all been waiting for. At 4 p.m. on the dot (this is a very punctual society after all) we were escorted to their conference room. After the aforementioned exchange of cards, and a quick introduction of ourselves, I presented the gifts we had brought to our hosts: Aki Nakamiya, Yoshi Yamazaki, Jun Okawara and Umi Miyahara. The highlight was a beautiful koa bowl, but there was also some Honolulu Cookie Company treats, and a box of Pu’er tea we had picked up in China.
Michael explaining the finer details of our koa bowl gift
Corporate Strategy Division General Manager of RE/MAX Japan, Aki Nakamiya, holding up their office gift
Takeshi mentioned beforehand that gift exchange was another big part of business, and since it was shortly after their grand opening, the timing couldn’t have been better. We then got down to business, and I explained what I was doing in Maui, plans for Honolulu and Thailand, and the possibility of starting a franchise in Japan. They also picked my brain about commission splits and other hard numbers they were in the process of ironing out for their company.
Going through the presentation with Yoshi, Umi, Aki, and Jun
Pancakes for dinner?!
It was a very successful meeting indeed!
After a lengthy and productive meeting, our hosts invited us out to a traditional style Japanese dinner, Osaka-style okonomiyaki, best described as savory pancakes prepared on a steel griddle. The flavors were all exceptional, as the soft pancakes were filled with a mixture of meats, veggies, noodles, and topped with a variety of different sauces. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced before, which made it all the more exciting.
Okonomiyaki with noodles, veggies, and beef—savory Osaka-style Japanese pancakes
Okonomiyaki featuring green onions and other veggies
Watching the chef create Okonomiyaki with noodles, veggies, and pork
This sitr-fried beef cheek with garlic stems was a smash hit!
Osaka style fried rice and noodles
There was lots of camaraderie shared around the table and we talked more about the possibities of creating some joint marketing efforts between Japan, Honolulu and possibly even Thailand. Before we knew it it was already past 10 p.m., so we bid a fond farewell to our friends after over 6 hours in their company. The meeting was highlighted by the bonding that took place and an overall good feeling. I think there is something big in store between RE/MAX Lifestyle and RE/MAX Japan!
Cheers, bottoms up, and kanpai!
Final thoughts on Asia
It’s still so fresh, that it’s a bit hard to wrap my mind around all that happened. It felt like the whole time was spent in meeting after meeting, enjoying meal after meal. Alex even commented that he had only enjoyed one day of site-seeing in over two weeks, but also said, that’s why it’s called a business trip! From the FIABCI USA delegation, to partnership with 5i5j in China, meeting with RE/MAX Thailand and agreeing upon a franchise in Chiang Mai, to our final gathering with RE/MAX Japan!, this will be a trip to remember for a lifetime.