Sumo wrestling, intriguing ‘Harajuku girls’, the latest technology, delicious cuisine, peaceful Shinto Shrines and Buddhist Temples, beautiful gardens and relaxing hot springs - it is easy to see why I jumped at the opportunity to spend six months in Linklaters’ Tokyo office.
Tokyo, long seen as a major world city, is of course at the heart of the world’s second largest economy. It is simultaneously a place of strong tradition and somewhere that individuals can express themselves (perhaps outrageously) without criticism. It’s a city which has everything you need, and everything you didn’t know you needed.
I have now been in Tokyo for almost three months, and have seen much of this at first hand. It fascinates me that I can spend an afternoon in the middle of a vast crowd watching a parade at one of the many religious festivals (or Matsuri), be sitting eating sushi and tempura in one of the many popular pubs (orizakayas) by early evening and then be singing (or shouting?) the night away at one of the hundreds of Karaoke bars.
In the office, where I have a breathtaking view of the sunset over the Imperial Palace Gardensfrom my desk, I’ve been made to feel welcome. I am part the Structured Finance and Derivatives team, which forms part of Linklaters’ Finance practice. Linklaters has had a presence in Tokyo since the late 80s, merging with a leading Japanese firm in 2005. The office consists of English, New York and Japanese qualified lawyers (bengoshi). At work, I have begun to appreciate the huge advantage of being able to immediately integrate Japanese and international legal advice in the service we provide to our clients and have gained an insight into how Japanese companies operate. Outside the office, our bengoshi colleagues have been an invaluable source of discovering “true Tokyo”.
Japan is emerging from a lengthy recession and there is cautious talk of a strong recovery over the next few years. The Yen continues to be strong against the Pound – good news for investors, no doubt, but it’s no wonder that Tokyo has been named the most expensive city in the World for expats!
I am now approaching the half-way point in my secondment – time has gone by far too quickly! Every day there is a new shrine to visit, a new type of food to try or another place to dance ‘til dawn. I know that, by the time I leave, I will only have scratched the surface of Tokyo – not to mention the rest of Japan.