It’s Wednesday of what seems like an awfully long week, packed with meetings, demonstrations, presentations and much discussion. It’s fruitful and energizing, and pretty much takes up every waking hour.

And in some of those waking hours, when one’s mind drifts a little due to too little physical movement and a 13-hour time difference, one gets to ponder some interesting cultural differences.

For example, the wonderful omnipresent vending machines that dispense everything from hot coffee, ready-to-eat noodles and ice cream, to a fabulous array of drinks.

It didn’t take me too long to find my favourite: a Coca-Cola produced product called Qoo. (Watch out my Atlanta-based Coke friends, a special request might be coming your way if I suffer withdrawal symptoms!)

I’m not sure what was more pleasing: the yummy fruity taste and refreshing coolness, the wonderfully ergonomic aluminium bottle design, or the irresistably cute cat pictured in various athletic endeavours. (Jay claims it is the latter, as I also became quite partial to the chocolate-covered wheat puffs delivered in a container sporting a delightful cartoonlike creature.)

Among the drink spectrum are also an astounding array of isotonic drinks, you know, the equivalents of South Africa’s Game, Britain’s Lucozade (which has to be the worst tasting of the lot!) and America’s Propel Fitness Water or Gatorade.

But perhaps a little more thought would help the marketing. A perennial favourite among the meeting delegates was one, Pocari Sweat. Coupled with the slightly saline taste, it makes for a curious experience! One we dared each other to try.

Another topic for consideration: the ubiquitous and civilized umbrella stands outside large buildings like offices and hotels. Here, it seems, you deposit your umbrella, locking it into place and take the key or tag with you. That way your brolly is waiting for you when needed.

And speaking of drifting, we also got to take a cruise of Tokyo Bay, the final evening event before the closing day. It was fun, if a little less exciting than cruising around Manhattan. But we got an excellent view of sights ranging from container ships and new construction, to the Rainbow Bridge and various ferris wheels.


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