One thing that strikes me about the Japanese people I met is how polite, helpful and accommodating they are. It is probably safe to say there are quite a lot of social taboos foreigners like me are blissfully unaware of and I probably dented or outright broke a significant number of those no-nos just walking down the street. At the same time every person I spoke to listened attentively and tried his/her level best to assist me just as I mangled some basic Japanese phrases thinking they bore a resemblance to “hello” or “thank you”. The citizens of Sapporo showed me what service really is and that is going to be one of the biggest things I am going to miss when I return home. Besides shop assistants greeting and thanking customers both individually and as a group, I also experienced almost embarrassingly good service from individuals. I was struggling to print my travel confirmations for my trip home and a bellhop came to assist me with the hotel’s ancient Windows 2000 machines. He stood beside me while I tried to navigate Japanese language Windows menus, installed Adobe Acrobat Reader 9 and figured out how to print the documents on the networked printer and then basically refused to allow me to thank him for his help because it took 20 minutes to figure the old setup out and print the documents. The poor guy was so embarrassed about the slow PC he seemed to be on the verge of committing some act of ritual mutilation. At the end I got a number of pretty deep bows and more gratitude and apologies. And this is not unusual. It just blew my mind (almost as much as how pretty Japanese women are … not that I was looking or anything …).
The only unfortunate thing about the iSummit was the lack of respect the community showed the deputy mayor of Sapporo and prominent Japanese businessmen at the first two social functions arranged for the delegates. I don’t think delegates appreciated how much the City contributed towards the iSummit’s success. The City was a vital partner in arranging and conducting the iSummit and a large part of the iSummit’s success is thanks to the City’s team led by Inoue-san.
Highlights for me were the Taiko drumming at the Ski Jump; hanging out with Simon Dingle and Rich…! and attending the Open Education sessions. I have uploaded a stack of photos to Flickr and will add the last set in the next few days. Feel free to check them out together with other content tagged with the isummit08 tag.