Awesome Japanese experience

Well, the iSummit is over and I am contemplating my long trip home to Johannesburg, South Africa. I haven’t blogged all that much for a little while now and certainly not much since I left for Japan about a week ago. Although my Japanese experience was limited to the City of Sapporo, it was an amazing experience. I have always wanted to visit Japan and I am really grateful to Heather and the iCommons team for making this possible. Even though I worked at the iSummit producing articles for the iSummit blog and conducting a couple short interviews with people like David Orban, Catharina Maracke and Natasha Primo, I still had an opportunity to attend some awesome sessions and experience a little bit of Japan.

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 …).

Another fantastic experience was working with and meeting some amazing people from all over the world. I am not even going to try name them, there are just too many. I do want to mention what an utterly amazing job the iCommons/City of Sapporo and CC Japan team/s did in organising and running the iSummit. Lauren from the City of Sapporo may as well have had wings, she was that amazing. Kerryn, Rosanne, Hettie, Stephanie, James, Anna, Chris, Simon, Daniela and Rebecca worked really hard and produced a summit that had a profound impact on Japan and which is regarded as a tremendous success. In fact, to say the team worked hard is an understatement. They worked almost around the clock before the iSummit kicked off to have Rebecca’s beautiful annuals ready in time and to make sure that everything was perfect for the delegates when the iSummit kicked off. Of course I can’t understate Heather Ford’s leadership. Heather put together a fantastic team and led that team to produce what could be the best iSummit yet. Thank you Heather.

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.

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