When I walked through the front door of my new Tokyo apartment, I knew that I was going to be in for an interesting six months.
The first thing that made me realise this was the digital panel outside of my bathroom with more buttons than a Boeing 747 cockpit – one to heat the bathroom, one to ventilate the bathroom, one to cool the bathroom, one to dry the bathroom…the list goes on. I can honestly say that every single day of my six months in Tokyo provided something weird, wonderful, or more often than not – both.
Working in Tokyo was just as fascinating. The Japanese working culture is very different to the UK which meant that I certainly had to adapt and push myself beyond my comfort zone. Whether it was attending client meetings, where bowing and business card exchanging etiquette is paramount, or simply communicating with clients via email, work life in Japan presented great challenges and opportunities, which I never thought I would experience in my working life.
Working with the Japanese Megabanks and Trading Companies also presented challenges due to the hierarchical nature of these institutions, which reflects Japanese culture more generally. However, learning to adapt my style and methods of communication is something which I believe has assisted greatly with my professional development.
One of the things I enjoyed most about the Ashurst office in Tokyo was the focus placed on business development. Whilst all clients in the legal industry want to build a relationship of trust between themselves and their lawyers, Japanese clients place trust and relationship building above all else. This means that regular client meetings and drinks to work on these relationships are part and parcel of being a lawyer in Japan. As a trainee on secondment, it was great to get exposure to this at such an early stage in my career.
For anyone who wants a challenge and adventure both personally and at work, Tokyo could not be a better option.
Harvey Kaye is a trainee at Ashurst