Sunday, May 31, 2009

Where in the world is BobOnARoll?

Kyoto, Sunday PM local time

This Asia trip has been one of those "if it's Sunday, this must be Kyoto"-type journeys. Bouncing from place to place, spanning 2 countries and three cities in 10 days.

Well, it IS Sunday over here and, yep, Jase and I are in Kyoto. Last stop before the return to Tokyo and then home. A beautiful sunny warm dry spring day after quite a bit of low clouds and rain since Thursday, which is, we're told, normal spring conditions for Japan.

Nothing but blue skies, though, in terms of what I have enjoyed and accomplished during this journey. Good fun with my fave traveling companion and good biz.

Hong Kong was mostly business. The first wave of what I plan to be several trips there over the next six months to introduce myself to the East Asian media community. Thanks to friends and media contacts in NY, I was able to arrange a productive set of meetings, several of which may lead to consulting or seminar/training opportunities. We shall see.....

The world turns and churns as I have been gallivanting abroad. The two big news items here are swine flu and the North Korean nuclear threat. Neither exactly upbeat leisure travel items. The 'lemonade' is that Kyoto is way less crowded than I had expected for a spring weekend. Hotels restaurants shrines temples etc a 50-60 % capacity. Nice and relaxed for us tourists. And interestingly far fewer face masks here vs. Tokyo, despite the recent swine flu outbreak in neighboring Osaka.

The Korean nuclear missile threat has particular resonance here, of course. Are the Koreans mad enough to bring us all to the brink, or will we finally learn what it is that they seek from this frightening atomic saber rattling? In the meantime I guess we go to DefCon 3.

The military and political issues around regional defense came to mind as Jase and I were zipping along at 200+ mph on the Tokyo-Kyoto bullet train on Saturday morning. Love the Shinkansen--smooth, quiet, and of course exactly and precisely on schedule. I am constantly amazed at the quality of the transportation infrastructure here. And chagrined when comparing ours to theirs. Granted, Japan is about 1/30th the size of the US land mass, with an average population density 10 times ours. That helps, immensely, in the public transport arena.

Yet, another interesting and possibly explanatory metric came to light when I looked up stats on defense spending as a percent of GDP and learned that whereas we spend 4% of ours on the military, Japan spends 0.8%.

The mind boggles at the infrastructure improvements we could have had if only 1% of GDP during each of the last 10 years had been diverted to roads bridges and railways instead of ships bombers and weaponry.

Better yet, maybe it's time that countries like Germany Japan Korea and others, where post WWII prosperity has been achieved in part under the cover of American military protection, start to pay for the costs of this service. Or, here's an idea---let's ask the Japanese to invest in and run the subway and commuter rail lines in our top 10 metro areas for the next 10 years and then call it an even trade. We can throw in our auto companies as sweeteners for agreeing to the deal. Kampai !!

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