On the 21st July2007, I boarded AI 314 flight Delhi-Hong Kong-Osaka. I got seat number 1H in the executive class. But usher requested me to occupy seat number 2A as a husband-wife couple was separated hence I gave my seat to the husband. I did so but before take-off they changed to the fourth row and sent two girls to their seat instead.

The scheduled time of departure was 11.15 p.m. but due to air traffic congestion the flight took off at 11.45 p.m. The flying time between Delhi-Hong Kong is 5 hours and 5 minutes. Capt. Kapoor was in command.

An important event took place in India. Pratibha Patil was elected as first woman President of India. This news was mentioned in the English newspapers of Hong Kong.

During the flight the passengers were sleeping. We reached Hong Kong at 7.20 am.  I compared the changes in landscape I witnessed in 1995 when I visited Hong Kong for a week. There were more sky scrapper buildings. From the plane city looked giant, clean and systematically developed. The plane landed at the new airport which is much bigger than the earlier one. The runway has been made by reclamation of sea. The old airport had narrow runway constructed on reclaimed sea which used to look dangerous while landing.

The team of new pilots and cabin crew took over at Hong Kong. The flight distance of Hong Kong to Osaka is 2,624 kms. and flight time is 3 hours and 10 minutes. We fly over Taipei. On the way I saw the hilly mountains of Taiwan. There were some normal villages also. From Hong Kong there were more Japanese passengers going to Osaka. The plane landed at Kansai International airport at 1pm, local time (9.30 a.m. IST). The temperature at airport was 28 C. The new Kansai international airport has been constructed by large reclamation of sea. It is about 60 kms; from Osaka city centre. I took limousine bus service which took about 55 minutes to reach the bus stand at Hankyu hotel near JR railway station. The fare was reasonable. The drive showed me the calmness of airport and gradual thickening of population and township. The route was full of industrial enterprises. From the city centre I took a taxi which reached me at Super hotel. The taxi fare was Y 1700.

I met two officers of HHEC at their hotel City Plaza next to My Dome Osaka place of exhibition. Later we went to have dinner at Mirch Masala claimed to be first Indian restaurant in that part of Osaka. There I met resident director of ITPO KS Dabas and some others. I found that telephone call; domestic and international was free through special network arrangement. The lady manager of my hotel Chie Nakamura helped me there. She lived in Osaka whereas her boy friend had moved to Tokyo. She had advised her boyfriend to search a girl friend for himself and she would also search a boyfriend for herself in Osaka.

On the 23rd July 2007 I displayed various items of central cottage industries corporation of India at the India garment fair. The decorative parts of display were done by trained personnel.

In the evening I went to Tanimachi Chome 4 subway station, took ticket of Y 230 and boarded Chou-Ku line. After two stops I changed the metro line and took Midosuji line at Homachi. After two stops I got down at Namba station. From there starts one of the lively and  colourful 1 km. street of Shinsaibashi-Suji shopping centre having restaurants, pubs, music shops and other different types of shops. This street is crowded with young boys and girls roaming around in total abandonment. The girls were in western fashion garments, giggling and joking around. Naturally young boys were seen chasing them. It is a must visit place for any tourist. I boarded metro and reached hotel Mirch Masala, run by Inder Singh who originally hails from north India. He also runs a club Bollywood, the Indian hang out at Higashi, Shinsaibashi. He says this is an important joint for meeting of Indians living in Osaka and also those Indians who visit Osaka. After dinner I made preparation for next day’s inauguration of the fair.

On the 24th July ’07 I got up early at 6.30 a.m. and took Dalmiya tea. I got breakfast at the hotel.  It was difficult to locate items which I could consume. The maid was helpful in spite of the fact that there was a language barrier. I took a slice bread, fruits, and rice bowl. Also I took coffee without milk and sugar as the dispenser machine had directions in Japanese only. A group of school girls was also staying at the hotel. One of the girls who knew little English enquired from me as to how Indians view Japan. I replied that Indians admire Japan and its people. The second question was why Indians fight so much against each other. I did not have proper reply. I hope someday prominent leaders of India and people of India would change worldwide perception of a divided and conflictual India.

I came to the venue of the 28th India Garment Fair at My Dome Osaka. The fair was arranged at the 2nd floor of the building.

The inauguration ceremony was held at 9.30 am. The dignitaries who attended the ceremony were EVKS Elangovan, Minister of State for Textiles, Hemant Krishna Singh, Ambassador of India to Japan, IkyuoTakahata, Director General, International Affairs Department, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Kansai Bureau, Om Prakash Consul General of India, Osaka, Hiroshi Masaki, Director General, Department of Dynamic Osaka Promotion, Osaka Prefectural Government. The speakers spoke about growing Indo-Japan trade relations like proposed Delhi-Mumbai commercial corridors, etc. Japan has opened important trade and development offices in India. India has achieved about 9% GDP more due to success in software industries. Indian textiles contribute about 21% of total export and provide 50 million jobs in India. With traditional skills, modern technology and designs, there is bound to be higher achievements. Officials of the government of Osaka and business groups have visited Delhi and Chennai recently for mutual benefit. EVKS Elangovan, Minister of State for Textiles spoke about tradition of weaving by handlooms, which are unparallel. The variety of handlooms is fascinating. In the end he announced the proposal for opening of CCIC franchisee showroom anywhere in Japan.

The ribbon cutting ceremony must be unique in the world, at least to my knowledge. The chief guest and the other guests at dais were ushered to the ribbon site and lined up. Then they were given white gloves to wear and then scissors were given to them. Each of such guests was requested to cut the ribbon. Thus, such honoured guests could cut a ribbon into several pieces.

After the ceremony was over the Minister and other guests were taken to the fair. They visited a stall of CCIC and HHEC also. During tea session the Indian Ambassador Hemant Singh advised KS Dabas, resident director of ITPO to invite CCIC in next three fairs organized in Japan in which HHEC was also participating.

Before lunch I visited Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi where I encashed 500 Dollar traveller cheque at Y119.3 per dollar. There was language barrier but the staff was polite and friendly. In fact most of the staff were young and among them mostly young women. It appeared that they were not yet experienced in disposal of works like encashment of  traveller cheques. They even compared my traveller cheque with the list of photos of American Express traveller cheques issued from time to time.

At my stall at India garment fair several importers and buyers came. Some of them wanted to be commission agents.

Few months back delegation of Japan External Trade Organization had visited my cottage emporium in New Delhi. They took valuable fabrics from us as gift. They promised to give credit to CCIC during fashion show, which was to be held on 26th July. This function was held at Hotel Imperial, Osaka. I got an invitation to attend the same.

In the evening I walked down from my hotel at Tanimachi to the Osaka Castle. As I approached the castle I found many foreign tourists, most of them were young couple and some were family. Young tourists couple were mostly boy and girl who were friends or classmates. They were touring Japan as couple. I met such couples from Taiwan, China, South Korea and other countries. By the time I reached the castle entrance it was 7 p.m. I learnt that the last entry of visitor is allowed up to 7.30 p.m. And the visit inside the castle is closed at 8.00 p.m. I took ticket for Y 600 and went inside the castle.  At the eighth floor, which is top floor of the castle, I got panoramic view of Osaka city. There were several skyscrapers with colourful lighting all around. There were binoculars to get closer view of places. The castle exhibits the history of castle on electronic screens. There are electronic depictions of various historical incidents also. There are several golden lion in the castle. There is one huge piece of Lion also.

The 25th July was the main day for importers to visit India Garment fair at My Dome, Osaka. There were many Japanese importers who visited us. They had reference for women’s garments, more interested in fashion and glamorous garments. They were not much interested in traditional garments. In streets also I found that youngsters have adopted western attire, in case of women their preference is glamorous dress and at time provocative. There were few women in traditional Japanese dress, Kimono.

I met Bhagwan, a Sindhi businessman who came to Japan about 30 years ago. He retains Indian passport by choice. He is engaged in small imports of handicraft items besides other business. He has high appreciation for Japanese patriotism and discipline in life. In Japan there is emphasis on enjoying life. Now a day, many women do not want to give birth to children. Japanese are not much concerned about specific religion. They may not be atheist but do not conform to any religion in particular. Some observers say that a Japanese is born as Shintam, the oldest religion of Japan and also of Japanese royalty, at marriage he may be seen at any Church for performing ceremony and by death time he becomes a Buddhist. It is said that at age twenty young boy or girl becomes independent to take any decision. Both boys and girls leave their parent’s house and live separately. The law of the land gives total decision-making powers to adults at age twenty. Also old parents have no rights to be taken care of by their children. If they take care, mostly occasionally, it is purely by choice which society appreciates. However, inheritance is very costly as after death of the parents the children have to pay huge amounts to the government to inherit the property. At times children forego such claims of inheritance due to heavy cost involved. In such cases the property is taken over by the government.

In Japan, the work culture is very hard and punishing. It is said that till one is a student youngsters enjoy life. When they join any company or job or start their own business full-fledged hard work starts. Japanese reach their work place at least fifteen minutes before start of the working hour. They leave their work place much after the closer time. Junior staff may spend one to two more hours after the scheduled closing time but for senior managers it continues late in night. Senior managers do not take any holiday in entire year. They may go on short vacation of four days to a week in a year. They do not take even weekly holidays. There is reasonable parity in salary of employees. The salary of top management would not be more than five times of the junior most staff. In interactions there is much equality between various grades of employees. The employees are loyal to the company. The company also distributes share of profit of the company, which comes to about three months’ salary. After the retirement Japanese have full opportunity of vacation and to enjoy life.

On the political front Japan wants to be on right side of global power. After World War Two America reconstructed Japan through grants, aids and contracts. Japanese believe that it was due to America’s help that they have become economic and technological giant. They want to forget dropping of atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Recently a minister of Japan obliquely justified dropping of atom bomb by America to end world war. There was strong public resentment on his utterance and the minister had to resign. In Japan charge of any indiscipline, corruption, and shortcoming in fulfilment of responsibility evokes prompt and harsh action.

I had dinner at hotel Ashok, an Indian restaurant in a shopping plaza near Osaka Railway station. A Nepali waiter served us, me and Bhagwan. He was a student of engineering and he worked part time to meet his tutionand living expenses. After two years when he completes his studies he would prefer to get a job in Japan. As expected there was a huge photo of Taj Mahal beside statue of Ganesha and other Indian paintings. There were Japanese girls managing the restaurant. After dinner we went to see boat festival celebration. The Japanese youngsters ride on boats and perform dance and music. Their groups represent various localities of the city and nearby areas. I was told about five lakh persons witnessed the celebration which ended with fireworks.

The 26th July was the final day of India Garment fair. The Japanese importers were interested in various types of fabrics. They would prepare the garments at factories of their choice some of them even have opened factories in China.

By 6 p.m. we closed our stalls. I rushed to attend JETRO organized India–Japan fashion show and dinner. Ms. HorikoKoshino, Japanese designer had used fabrics supplied by CCIC to Jetro delegation. As I had spoken to Ms. Momoko Sugiyama of trade fair department of JETRO there was announcement of credit to CCIC which sponsored the fabrics for Japanese designers. I also met the designer and the models who wore those garments.

The fashion show was on grand scale. India’s Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Ashwani Kumar, India’s Ambassador to Japan  Hemant Singh, other top officials of Indian embassy and government of Osaka and Japan were present on the occasion. Most of the top JETRO officers, businessmen and professionals of garment and textile industries of Japan were also present. The Indian community of Japan was also present in strength. Besides top Japanese designer Ms. HorikoKoshino the top Indian designer Manish Arora was also present.

On the 27th July morning I took a taxi and reached Shin-Osaka railway station to catch ‘Shinkansen’ bullet train from Osaka to Tokyo. ‘Shinkansen’ the world’s first invented high-speed railway system, is designed to operate at speeds over 200 kms. per hour. Now, these trains operate at a top speed of 300 kms. per hour. My train ‘Nozomi’ left exactly on time at 10.16 a.m. During journey whenever the train ticket examiner entered the compartment he used to bow before the passengers.  Similarly the lady vendor also used to bow before entering the bogey. The speed of the train was about 200 kms. per hour though the maximum prescribed speed limit is 225 kms. per hour and commercial speed is 270 kms. per hour. The distance between Shin-Osaka and Tokyo is 552.6 kms. On the way to Tokyo the train stopped at Kyoto, Nagoya and Shinagawa stations before it reached Tokyo station.

By 1 p.m. I reached Tokyo station. I took a taxi to reach my hotel Toyoko – Inn at Nihonbashi Ningyo–cho, Tokyo. The hotel staff took the rent of the room for two days in advance in cash. I expected hotel staff to know some English. But here nobody speaks or understands English. Few times the front staff used to bring computer printout of message written in both Japanese and English. Thus I learnt about automatic translation of Japanese into English and vice-versa.

I met the Chief Executive Director of Japan Textile Mills Association Tsuneo Komura and held discussions about bilateral trade relations between CCIC and the Japanese importers of Indian fabrics. I emphasized about the highest quality of Indian fabrics. After the meeting he took me to the nearest metro station Mitsukoshi-Mae and purchased a ticket for me, though I wanted to pay for it. It was Ginza metro lines ticket. As per his advice I visited Omote-Sando, Harajuku area, etc. It is the fashion street of Tokyo. There are big exclusive stores of international brands. Here the environment is western. This area is full of restaurants and pubs. The youngsters, boys and girls were strolling the street or rushing to the restaurants with their friends. The pairs were visible everywhere. Youngsters spend time with their boy or girl friend in this fashion area. I even saw a film being shot in the street.

I reached Nihonbashi metro station in time but lost the way to reach either Nawab, an Indian restaurant or my hotel Toyoko-Inn.where I was staying. After locating hotel Villa Fontaine, a landmark observed and remembered earlier I could reach Nawab restaurant at 11 p.m. The restaurant was closed at 10.30 p.m. However, the owner arranged rice and chicken curry for me for which he refused to take money. After dinner I reached my hotel andimmersed my legs in hot water in the bathroom tub. It lessened the tiredness of feet. I went to the bed at 12.30 p.m.

On the 28th July I got up at 5.30 a.m. and became ready by 6.30 a.m. The breakfast served at this hotel was not an elaborate one. There was nothing vegetarian except coffee, which I took.

After that I took a taxi to reach Hamamatsu–cho bus terminal near world trade centre building. There I purchased Hato sightseeing bus tour for half a day (9 am-12 pm) at Y 500. It covered Imperial Palace, Tokyo Tower, Asakusa and Tozaki Shinju.

I took tour no. A 301. It started at 9.00 a.m. The English-speaking and friendly guide was Mai. First the guided tour stopped at Tokyo Tower. I went to the 11th and 12th floor of the tower. There I got a panoramic view of Tokyo.  There is main observatory also. The Tokyo Tower, opened in 1958, is 333 metre high where as Eiffel Tower in Paris is 320 metre high. Like any other big city climbing the city tower gives good glimpse of the city. Tokyo has high rise buildings all over the city. I even spotted two helicopters parked at the top of buildings.

The next stop was Imperial Place Plaza. We could have a view of The Palace campus from outside. The imperial palace has only ground floor. There was only one security guard at the main gate. Japan’s king is head of the State and the prime minister is the head of the government who wield all the powers. The royalty does not interfere in day today running of the government but commands immense respect of the people. The religion of the royalty is Shinto, the oldest religion of Japan.

The tour drove through Akihabara electronics goods sales centre, which I again visited in the evening.

The tour stopped at Asakusa Kannon Temple and Nakamise shopping arcade. There are few old Buddhist temples. The oldest Buddhist temple of Japan is also here. I did someshopping of inexpensive souvenirs at the local Tokyo bazaar. We also drove through Ginza shopping area. This is a famous shopping and amusement area. National Diet building, the Parliament House, reminded me of the architecture of the Capitol of Washington. Big size yellow beer glass was prominently displayed emphasizing the importance of beer industry in Japan.

The tour terminated at Tasaki Pearl Gallery. How pearl is cultured was demonstrated in a very lively manner. One lucky visitor got a prize of a pearl.

I came back to hotel after taking lunch at Nawab. At noon when rooms are cleaned, guests are not allowed to stay in their rooms in Japan. Somehow I took a small nap and got up at 3 p.m. I took the metro and reached Akihabara which is the biggest sale centre of electronics goods in Japan. I spent the evening in Akihabara though I did not purchase any electronics goods. Even in case of Sony products the salesmen were trying to impress that Sony products manufactured in Japan are superior in quality and hence costlier than its products produced anywhere else in the world. I hope someday big companies like Sony and National, etc; would like to enlighten about price structure to its customers throughout the world.

At the shopping centre I also got the opportunity to hear the speeches of some politicians on the eve of election to some seats of upper house of Diet, the Parliament. The election was to be held next day. Later, I learnt that Japanese ruling party lost few seats in the election.

On the 29th July I got up at 5o’clock though there was dawn break earlier. I got ready and left my room at 6o’clock. I requested the front desk lady to arrange a taxi for me. She phoned the taxi system and the taxi came after ten minutes of phone call. The taxi metre should have read Y660 the starting meter but it showed Y 740. It appears the driver came from a long distance and charged me for that. Actually, I should have gone out of the hotel door and could have got a taxi and got the metre down at Y 660. I reached Tokyo City Air Terminal Hakozaki Bus stand near Royal Park hotel after paying  Y106  more than the actual fare. It would have been maximum 660 yen for this short distance. The lack of knowledge of English gives Japanese an advantage in dealing with foreign tourists. Otherwise, Japanese are friendly people. Immediately after reaching the bus stand I got ticket for Narita International Airport limousine bus at Y2000. I got the bus which departed at 6.30 a.m. After one hour drive of about 84 kms. I reached Narita International Airport. On the way after city area there is hardly any gap. The high way is lined with industrial premises and residential colonies. There are a few small hotels also on the way. There were several tracts of agriculture land, most of them artistically maintained.

Just before entering into the premises of the Narita New International Airport I saw check barriers where all vehicles were stopped. Our conductor announced that we should be ready with our passports for verification. This is unique in the world. I found that actually the check post is actual entry point of the airport as nobody checked our ticket or passport at the gate of the airport building. I wanted to check-in right then after entering into the building. But I was told that the check–in time would start at 9.30 a.m. only just two and a half hours before time of departure of the plane.

I sat down in a row chair and relaxed. Next to me was a family of                                  middle aged couple along with their two sons, one of them was physically disabled. He was sitting in a special chair made for such persons. It was nice feeling to see that the family was taking great care of him by bringing various types of eatables, etc. He got full care of his family. After an announcement about their flight, the family hurriedly went towards the immigration hall.

I also met a garment exporter from Jaipur who regularly visits Japan. He told me that earlier the profit margin in export was high. But now it has drastically reduced thus preventing profitable export of Indian garments to Japan.

Later I checked in at Air India counter number 22 managed by JAL staff. I got my own choice seat no. 58 K in business class, which was on the upper deck.

There was enough time to board the plane, so I decided to purchase few inexpensive souvenirs so that I could spend remaining yen cash and coins. I purchased items like key rings and Japanese hand umbrella. After small purchase at Aile Plaza and Narita Airport Shop I could finish all remaining yen with myself.

Still there was enough time to board the plane. I completed immigration formality and went to Sakura Lounge annex located at the fourth floor of the main building as I was travelling in business class. I expected to find some snack suitable for me but except crackers there was nothing I could consume. However, I took small glasses of various juices, grape fruit, apple, pineapple and tomato. I also enjoyed blended coffee. I left the lounge and proceeded to board the shuttle. On the way I saw several duty free shops of international brands, visibly highly expensive. Actually, in Japan the sales tax is just 5%. Thus it is not very relevant to purchase from duty free shops. It was not confirmed whether the prices were same as that of the items available in the city. Understanding the predicament of international air passengers such duty free shops increase the prices of their products. Otherwise how can they survive at the international airport.

After some travel on the escalators I boarded the shuttle, which took me to gate no. 88 where Air India flight no. AI 307 was waiting. I met two young engineers working in Maruti car factory of India who were returning to India after spending few weeks with Suzuki Motor Company who had sponsored their visit to their factory. Suzuki organizes such regular programme to upgrade the skills.

Though the scheduled time of departure of flight AI 307 was 12 noon but the actual time of departure was 12.25 p.m. local time. The distance between Tokyo and New Delhi is 6,690 kms, which was covered in 7 hours and 20 minutes. The scheduled time of arrival at New Delhi was 4.55 p.m.

In Japan I was travelling a lot on foot in order to have better view of the places. My feet got tiring pain. Every night when I used to return to the hotel room I regularly used to immerse my feet in hot water of bathroom tub. After immersing feet for at least fifteen minutes it reduced the pain a lot. This procedure I always resort to when doing long walks whether in India or abroad. If I get more than half an hour to immerse my feet in hot water then entire pain is taken away and feet becomes soft. But while abroad I do not get enough time after returning late in the night when I have to get up early next morning to continue my work and travel. The previous night in order to do meticulous packing I could get only about fifteen minutes time to immerse my feet in hot water.

That morning I had to walk in the big hall of the airport. The pain in my feet revived. After boarding the flight I took off my shoes but the pain did not come down. The stewardess Amrita helped me by providing hot water bag and few small towels and two glasses of hot waters at regular intervals. I kept my feet on hot water bags with hot towels round the toes. After about two hours of hot water therapy my pain was largely reduced. It gave me comfort.

On board Air India shows some selected items on the screen. I found the selection not up to mark for international travellers. I found one small documentary on village life of a particular region. While coming to Osaka from New Delhi and on return from Tokyo to New Delhi I found the same film. Perhaps there is dearth of good items in Air India.

A cabin staff told me that when Air India would purchase new aircrafts there would be computerized display of the route of the plane. There was no TV set fittings even in business class. I wish Air India competed with other airlines in standard. But for an Indian boarding Air India flight or any other Indian origin airlines flight gives emotional satisfaction as if he has already returned to India.

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