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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Tokyo with the dimmer switch on

Tokyo with the dimmer switch on

By Tyler Brûlé
FT.com / Life & Arts -

Published: March 18 2011 17:19 | Last updated: March 18 2011 17:19
This isn’t the column I wanted to write this week – or ever. It’s late Thursday afternoon in Tokyo, I’m sitting in the JAL lounge at Haneda airport and I’ll soon board a Cathay Pacific flight for Hong Kong and then carry on to Milan. The airport isn’t chaotic, the queues aren’t anything out of the ordinary and I really don’t want to go. I was originally supposed to fly on Friday but all the flight changes forced an early departure and I’m staring out across the bay to Tokyo and taking stock of the past few days.
I arrived in Tokyo on Tuesday. The 4.35pm ANA flight from Seoul’s Gimpo airport to Tokyo Haneda usually operates at close to 100 per cent capacity – with business class frequently wait-listed. When I walked up to the counter at Gimpo on Tuesday afternoon, there wasn’t a passenger in sight in the ANA check-in zone and as I approached the desk a manager eagerly popped out from behind to assist his staff with the check-in procedure. While boarding passes and bag tags were being printed, I asked how full the flight was. For a brief moment he instinctively smiled and then shifted his lips to a frown and said flight NH1164 was “empty”.
For the better part of 96 hours I’d been corresponding with staff in our Tokyo office to gauge their moods while also monitoring the behaviour of the five London-based colleagues with me in Seoul. Originally, four of us were due to travel on to Tokyo but by mid-afternoon on Monday a photo-shoot scheduled for Wednesday had been shelved, there were frequent questions about the necessity for the trip by others, the Tokyo team was continuously updating and assessing the viability of the schedule, and all along I was getting a strong sense that my cohorts weren’t keen on making the trip to Japan. Between meetings I took the opportunity to fire off a quick e-mail explaining the situation and advised that anyone uncomfortable about travelling to Japan could return to London but that we also had a moral and professional responsibility to support our colleagues in Japan if they were still going about their normal business and working as usual. By the time I reached the gate, I was alone.

Read the rest here: FT.com / Life & Arts - Tokyo with the dimmer switch on


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