They do things differently in Japan.

It’s funny, some days when I drive the cab I feel as if I’m travelling the world. A ‘liquorice allsorts’ day I call it.

Like yesterday I had people in from America, India, Asia, Europe, South America, you name it I had someone from there.

The most interesting, though, was an Australian on his way back to Japan where he now works and lives.

He’s in advertising, a Creative Director to be exact, and he was telling me just how different Japan is from here.

Now I’d heard about most of the differences before but his story about working there had me intrigued.

It seems that recently he was headhunted from one major ad agency to another, for a lot more money and the chance to do, he thought, better work.

The one proviso he put on the move was that he could bring with him some of the people he was currently working with; it being their talent what was, in part, making him look so good to his new employer.

The speed with which his request was agreed somewhat surprised and he soon found out why his new employers agreed to it.

On returning to his existing agency and telling his troops of the new opportunities for him and them he was greeted not with the expected elation but a wall of silence.

 “Michael-san” one of them finally spoke up, “you do not understand, it is very kind of you to make such an offer but we cannot possibly leave here, we are here for life.”

They then all explained that they we company men; that they had gone to a certain primary school to get to a particular high school to get to a selected University to then join the company they were now working for.

Wow, can you imagine that happening here? I know people who have changed jobs just to get a better view; I even know one guy who swapped jobs ‘cos he heard the new company’s canteen served better food!

Michael, we were on first name terms by the time we got to the airport, also told me about the way the Japanese work force go out on strike. During their lunchtimes!

It was explained to him that if the workers went on strike during working time they would be hurting the company and thereby hurting themselves, which, of course, made no sense at all. By striking during their lunchtime they were registering their protest without anyone suffering.

Ha, I can just imagine the painters and dockers seeing the sense in that. “C’arn. Bruvers, let’s have a quiet sit in while we’re eating our pie and peas; can’t upset management, they’ve got enough on their plates already:”

And talking about pie and peas he told me a great tale about the first day he arrived at his new office in Japan.

Being one of the first Australians to work for the particular company, he was honoured with a huge celebratory lunch at one of Tokyo’s most famous sashimi restaurants situated in Tsukiji, the city’s main port.

Now this would have been all fine and dandy except that Michael had never eaten sashimi before and the sight of raw ligament and raw sea urchin had him heaving before they had reached his fingers let alone his mouth.

Fortunately, his newly met secretary was sitting next to him and immediately saw his discomfort. Without a word, and seemingly without anyone else realising it, she proceeded to eat everything on his plate, leaving him hungry but with a very saved face.

“Do you eat it now” I asked.

“Never” he told me “so when I’m asked to a sashimi restaurant and can’t refuse, I make sure my secretary goes with me. She doesn’t seem to mind but lately she asked for a couple of days notice so she can fast beforehand.”