Market View

Two Days in Sendai

2011/11/29 Tuesday
fromTTIntern ? Sean Grotkowski
Sendai Before the Tōhoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March, many foreigners were unfamiliar with the city of Sendai, and some had not even heard of it at all. Once media reports and photos of the disaster began to emerge, however, Sendai (being the most significant city in the area) quickly became a household name. One of the things in particular that caught my attention was the footage taken from a security camera at Sendai airport showing the tsunami gradually engulfing the runway, tarmac, and finally reaching the terminal. However, I had also heard that several areas of Sendai had not suffered a lot of damage, so when I was told I would be visiting Sendai on an overnight business trip I was not sure what to expect. Would I see a city crippled by the devastating effects of the earthquake, or would things have returned to normal by now?

As a company, TrainTracks felt obligated to show support for the Tohoku region and those affected by the earthquake, so when the opportunity to promote a charity concert being held to raise money for relief efforts came up we saw this as a fantastic opportunity to contribute to the rebuilding efforts. The event would be taking place in Sendai, so it was necessary to reach out to the city`s local newspapers, radio stations, and TV stations in order to get the best coverage. I was sent to Sendai with a colleague, and while he met with representatives from these media organizations I was to observe and learn the intricacies of Japanese business meetings.

Two days and over a dozen meetings later, I had figured out how to bow properly, learned the art of exchanging business cards, and mastered phrases like “chodai itashimasu”. I also learned the importance of establishing personal connections with the media; rather than simply distributing an electronic copy of the press release and other information to our contacts, we felt it was essential to travel to Sendai and meet with them in person, as having face-to-face meetings would allow for much easier communication between parties and establish a personal connection which could help to facilitate future cooperation. My less-than-stellar Japanese meant that I could not understand much of what was being said during the meetings, but they were still interesting nonetheless. In between the meetings, we managed to find time to enjoy an extra large meal of gyuutan (cow tongue), a Sendai specialty. It was an extremely busy trip though, and two long days of traipsing up and down the city had taken its toll on my feet; by the end of the second day I was yearning to get on the shinkansen back to Tokyo simply so I could sit down and relax for a while!

During my short time in Sendai I kept an eye out for signs of the earthquake and tsunami. Many nearby towns and villages had suffered long-lasting damage, but in Sendai itself there was very little evidence that an earthquake had taken place. Considering how normal everything about the city seemed to be, it was hard to believe that such a terrible disaster had occurred only six months earlier. Even looking out the window on the train to Sendai, the countryside close to the city showed no signs of damage. Maybe it was impossible to see the evidence when rushing from meeting to meeting, or maybe I simply was not looking hard enough. I like to think, however, that perhaps the fact I saw nothing is a testament to the resilience of the people who live there.

All in all, my first business trip in Japan, as well as visiting somewhere so close to the heart of the disaster, was an interesting experience. Sendai is a lovely city, and I hope to return in the near future for a more leisurely visit!