Thirteen days since we left home, 20+ hours of interviews, 100’s of pages of notes, dozens of new friends and countless “B” or better restaurants and we’re about half way through our trip. You’d wouldn’t think you could find a fine Italian restaurant in Japan, but with a recommendation from our friends in the City of Date, we did. The German restaurant we tried last week was pita-full and we had one “F” rated meal in Fukushima where the cook served everything but the meat end of the chicken. We’re by no means tired of Japanese food, we’ve had the best Sushi, dined Izakaya style in Tokyo & Fukushima, eaten Soba noodles multiple times and places, feasted on the finest Yakitori in Sendai, enjoyed the best bento box meal you could imagine under the Cherry Trees and toasted Sake with the Mayor. When all else failed we have filled up on Ramen and even tried the Korean barbeque when all other restaurants, to our surprise, were closed on Sunday night.
We started our day like most, breakfast on the 8th floor with a spectacular view of the distant snow capped mountains. Opting to stick to the western breakfast once again; coffee, cheese omelet, orange juice, salad, toast to kill for and bacon we’ve now convinced our Japanese hosts to serve extra crispy and we’re off to Date City on the train.
It’s time to make sense of all the notes we’ve taken, identify the gaps and weave all we have learned into a story and recommendations we can take back to the mayor and his many stakeholders.
With the help of our well connected colleagues and a chance meeting with a local media company at the Cherry Blossom Festival we scored an interview in their offices today with the president of the firm. His firm, C.I.A. Corporation has interests in printing, event production, Internet TV and computer system programming. I sensed through our discussion that they’re no stranger to marketing and brand identity services as well. We learned a great deal and you might say gained a perspective from yet another distinct point of view. Some of what we heard confirmed what we already knew, some caused us to pause and think about our early conclusions in a different way. It’s all part of the process of listening, decomposing, forming hypothesis and then validating as a team. In many respects we have a unique advantage over other Smarter Cities teams around the world, half of our team is Japanese and beyond the obvious benefit of direct interpretation they can quickly correct our misconceptions by explaining the often subtle cultural differences we would surely miss. On the other hand, we come with an unbiased and almost unforgiving critique of what we have seen and heard, thus between the two we end up where we need to be — in the middle.
Tomorrow promises to be another interesting day. We asked to see and feel first hand why so many of the processes the farmers describe can’t be mechanized. We’ll leave our suits at home for a day in the field, literally on the farm thinning buds on peach trees. We’ll let you know how that goes. I believe the local TV station will be there the capture this, so we’ll do our best to show IBM can roll our sleeves up with the best of them.