Archives for posts with tag: Tokyo

On my way back from Japan, I stopped over in Hong Kong earlier this month. It was my first visit in ages. The main objective was to visit the Disneyland. This was the first visit to Disneyland for my youngest son and I; my wife and other children have been to Tokyo Disneyland before.  Why did I choose Hong Kong Disneyland for my debut?  Well, I felt that the lines for the attractions would be less; it has easy access from the downtown area, and the size would be manageable.

However, on reaching there, my first reaction was that the airport has moved further away from the downtown area. The taxi ride in now costs over 250 HKD. There are two downtown areas for visitors, Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. We chose to stay in Kowloon at The Kimberley Hotel (about 900 HKD a night for twin occupancy, inclusive of taxes but excluding breakfast. That’s okay because there are a number of restaurants serving breakfast for about 40 HKD across the street).

The Disneyland:

In all respects, Hong Kong Disneyland met my expectations, and my family and I had a wonderful time.  The tour desk at our hotel would have arranged to get there at about 11, but we did not wish to lose even a single precious minute. So, we went there by taxi, which cost us about 200 HKD from Kowloon.

The advantage of a June visit is that it is the low season.  Additionally going on a weekday meant that the lines were manageable and we didn’t have to wait more than 12 minutes anywhere.  Starting anti-clockwise we visited Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Toy Story Land and Adventureland in order – managing 11 attractions by 3pm, at which point I had to take my daughter to the airport.

For me, the most memorable was the space mountain ride, which I repeated with my daughter and second son – although a bit scary for my youngest son. The other repeated ride was RC Racer at Toy Story Land.  I also remember the Mad Hatter Tea Cups and the Jungle River Cruise.

Though the food menu at Disneyland is extremely tempting, the actual food doesn’t live up to the expectations as created by the other attractions. I must admit though that I enjoyed a rubbery textured ice-cream for the first time in my life.  I guess you’ll just have to taste it – I can’t express it in words, except to say that it is worth it.

My wife and two sons remained till 8pm and managed to finish scaling the entire park. In the five hours that I wasn’t there, my son bumped fists with Buzz Lightyear as he walked by, enjoyed the Lion King musical and Mickey’s magic which was more than a 3D adventure.

My Sons with Buzz LightYear

Coming back was easy. There is a train (metro, subway whichever you prefer to call it) connection that gets you back to Kowloon rather quickly and at a more reasonable cost. Memories of this enjoyable visit shall remain with me for some time to come. I guess the adrenaline rush from the space mountain ride is just too addictive.

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Earlier this month I had the chance to travel back to Japan on home leave. My youngest son is very keen about Ninjas and on his insistence we went to Ninja Mura (= Ninja Village) in central Japan. Though initially I went along as the chauffer, but gradually I became more and more engaged as a learner in this beautiful journey.

It seems there are a couple of Ninja Muras in central Japan. The one we went to was in Iga city in Mie Prefecture, known more for its beef than Ninjas. It is less than two hours’ drive from Nagoya, the home of Toyota and Mitsubishi’s manufacturing.

Ninja and ninjutsu (the art of the ninja, which is not a martial art)have become a part of the English lexicon. Appearing all the time on TV, in movies and cartoons, they are an established part of Japanese imagery now. I realized how little I knew about this element of Japan, and now I am able to share much more.

The Ninja Mura is a museum about the ninjas, with live demonstrations of their art, ninjutsu. The Ninja were agents of espionage and stealth hired by warring factions to gain intelligence about the activities of their enemies, and sometimes to assassinate them.

The interesting thing for me though was the fact that apparently ninjutsu originated in India. Yes, that is right. According to the museum, “those roots are found in the art of warfare that began around 4000 B.C. in Indian culture, was passed to the Chinese mainland, and around the 6th century, passed through the Korean peninsula and crossed over to Japan.”

The other interesting fact about the ninjas that also corroborates this India origin theory is the fact that ninjas were vegetarian. Yes, they were the vegetarian exceptions in the land of exceptional beef. For health, ninja avoided meat, fish, dairy foods and sugars in favor of a diet centered on whole-grain rice and vegetables. It seems they avoided meat and other foods that might lead to body odor to avoid being detected when sneaking or hiding.

There are so many more interesting pieces of information that are far better experienced than reduced to the written world, for example, my sons enjoyed throwing the shurikens (ninja stars). The younger one dressed up as a ninja and was even inspired to design his own ninja house once he grows up! We also saw revolving walls, trick doors, safe compartments, etc.

My second son and youngest son with a Ninja at the demonstration ground – The wood wall shows embedded Ninja Stars

The inspirational Ninja Mura can be enjoyed as a day trip from Nagoya or Osaka, though from Tokyo, I would combine it on a journey on the way to Kyoto, etc.

A recent IMF report placed India as the third largest economy, overtaking Japan. When I heard this, I was shocked. It reminded me about what they say: there are lies, damn lies and then there are statistics. When I probed further, I understood that the size was being measured in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP).

Why was I shocked? Well, I recently spent three months in Japan, living in Tokyo. There is no way that anything in Japan, compares with India. During my stay, I had the opportunity to travel to within Japan as well as to Singapore, China and Thailand. As far as infrastructure goes, India is a long way away from Shanghai, Bangkok or Singapore, let alone Tokyo. So, this IMF report should best remain buried, until India reaches the same league as it peers in Asia.

However, there is a caveat. India is in the same league as other Asian countries in terms of its business potential with high requirements for infrastructure. Still lacking in high speed rail connectivity, India can be compared to Japan in the early sixties. That means there is a tremendous amount of investment potential in social infrastructure like roads, ports, power and water, lasting at least another 50 years. At the same time, to avoid the problems that Japan of the sixties and seventies faced and that Shanghai faces now, Clean Technology is the need of the times. European companies like, Siemens from Germany in renewable energy and Veolia from France in water are already leading the way. With 20GW of solar power targeted under the National Solar Mission, the total value of this sector alone is expected to be USD 35 billion. International business would do well to add India to its portfolio.

In anticipation of improved infrastructure, frontline automobile companies from Europe such as Renault, Volkswagen and BMW have followed Asian giants such as Toyota, Honda and Suzuki, starting manufacturing plants here to develop new markets. Companies like Bosch and Valeo, automobile components suppliers in Tier 1 are already active, and Tier 2 should also follow shortly. The auto components industry is expected to grow to over USD 110 billion by 2020, exporting up to USD 30 billion. Then to help these, auxiliary services firms such as those in IT systems developments would follow.

With a weakening market for infrastructure and automobiles at home in Europe, Western businesses would do well to have a tri-pronged Asian business strategy: India, Japan and China.

A half century of business opportunity waits.

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