Off the Hook – Why didn’t he go there before? Part II


 Marysville Councilman Henk Berbee and four other Marysville and Union County officials, Union County Commissioner Chris Schmenk, Economic Development Director Eric Phillips, City Manager Terry Emery, and Mayor J.R. Rausch recently returned from a trip to Japan. The trip was to promote our Innovation Park geared toward autonomous vehicle production and other engineering businesses. They spent three days each in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Yorii, traveling by train. Last week was part l. This is part ll.
 Population of the city of Tokyo is 19.8 million people. In greater Tokyo, it is 30 million. The Olympics will be held there in the summer of 2020. The group was able to see that many of the stadiums are already set to go.
 When they went to the airport in Tokyo, it was an interesting trip. First, they were still getting used to riding in a car on the left side of the road. There, the steering wheel is on the right. I was surprised to hear that since it seems so British. Traffic is understandably heavy and sometimes delays are long.
 That’s why it was important to use the 20-mile underground tunnel for the airport trip. It’s the most efficient way. It goes under the city buildings of Tokyo. Henk estimated the trip was about 30 minutes. (For claustrophobic me that’s a long time in a tunnel.) He was OK with it thinking that an above ground trip for the same distance in a cab might have taken hours. He added traffic is handled well, but there is so much of it.
 As a person who enjoys shopping in a foreign country, I asked what he bought. Nothing, he said, a reply I might have expected from a guy. But then he showed me pictures of clothing worn by people on the street. They wear mostly black or white and some gray. Hmmm … no real color there. He saw nothing he needed. I get that.
 When traveling around the cities in a taxi, they quickly learned that they needed to be specific concerning their destination. That is because the exact name of the street is repeated in each quadrant of the city and you could end up on the wrong side of town. Returning to the hotel was easier. They just showed them the card of the hotel and all went well.
 As you might expect, customs are important in a country with thousands of years of history. In any parking lot they noticed that most cars backed into parking spaces. Drivers rarely pulled in forward. That would eliminate backing into someone. They are always considered ready to go.
 Henk said that when you meet someone in business, as they did in all the cities, representatives would hand you their business cards with two hands, one thumb on each side. When you take it, you hold it with both thumbs on each side and pronounce the name that’s on the card. Then, when you finally have the card in your possession, you never put it in your hip pocket because they say you are now sitting on their face. It’s important to put that card in the shirt pocket.
 Different cities have different traditions about handling escalators. There are a lot of people to move around and so in Tokyo (which has been the capital since 1868) when you’re on an escalator and you’re just riding, you are expected to stand on the left and the people who are going to climb those steps and move faster will be on the right. That’s so you stay out of their way. But then they moved on to Osaka (described as a very touristy city) where the absolute opposite is in effect. The riders stand on the right and the people who are going to climb while it’s moving, are on the left.
 A tradition of eating dinner late (ish) is common, especially In Tokyo. Most dinners begin around eight and last about three hours. Most restaurants are non-smoking. Everything was very clean, including the streets. Henk could not figure out how they stayed so clean, because there was hardly ever a trashcan visible. (Maybe someone is taking trash home with them or is following behind people to clean up.)
 The group also noticed repeatedly, the importance of honoring and being devoted to your company. The man who started Panasonic with a 250-year plan said you must transmit your enthusiasm to your employees who work with you daily.
Henk could also see that the Japanese respected our history of 200 years of Marysville as a city and that we are something the companies want to be part of.
 In Japan, the metric system is used and the currency is the yen. They have coins and paper money that has both Japanese and English writing on it. The exchange rate is almost even. One yen is approximately one cent and it took 106 to get an American dollar. 
 Breakfast in the hotel was about $27 and it was $200 a night for a room in Tokyo. They learned quickly that they could go to the 7-Eleven just down the street and get a cold breakfast sandwich and coffee for $4.50.
 Crossing the street in Tokyo can be an adventure with hundreds of people crossing every time the light changes. There’s a total of 20 seconds to get across. For 10 seconds it’s green, then it starts blinking green the next five seconds and in five more seconds it’s red and the cars are all going. You better have yourself safely across by then.
 Henk said it was a fantastic trip and an honor to represent Marysville in our ongoing search for business for the city and promotion of the Innovation Park.
(If you missed part I, just go to for last Friday’s story.)
(Melanie Behrens –

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