A week spent in Tokyo

Last week, three of our advertising colleagues – MD Mike Leeson, Creative Director Dave Abbot, and Senior Account Manager Sophie Young – all spent the week in Tokyo, Japan.

The reason for their trip? To pitch for a global advertising campaign (the details of which we can’t reveal) but here, Mike shares his experience of spending a week at work in the most populous city on Earth.

To see all of his instagram updates from the week, search #GolleysDoesJapan.

Monday & Tuesday

On Monday morning, we flew out with Japan Airlines, and our 12-hour flight arrived at Haneda International Airport at 6.30am on Tuesday.

With our body clocks in chaos (we’d lost 12 hours), our first task was to navigate the Monorail and then the Metro (in the Tokyo rush-hour) to get to our hotel in the Shibuya district. Thankfully some Aussie skiers came to our rescue and we arrived at our hotel around an hour later.

The particularly bad news was that check-in wasn’t for another 7 hours, so sleep was going to be a while away.

But the good news was that the time difference between the UK and Japan put us 9 hours ahead of our UK colleagues back at the Cardiff office. This meant that while we were flying, the team were still working on the pitch documents, so had sent through a pile of work for us to review.

So, before we collapsed on Tuesday evening, we were able to get a stack of work completed and sent back to the UK, and they were able to work on it whilst we slept. This was the pattern of work for the next 3 days, meaning that our team were effectively working 24 hours a day.

Golley Slater Cardiff Japan


Our hosts on Wednesday were Hakuodo, the second largest agency in Japan – they had generously provided us with an office together with all the facilities we needed for the duration of our stay. Hakuodo employ a staggering 3000 people in one office over 22 floors, making even the largest UK agency look tiny by comparison!

We were introduced to the Takehiko Moriguchi their Global MD, Risa ‘Lisa’ Matsumoto, Head of Translation (important for global campaigns), Morihiko ‘Mori’ Hasebe, Executive Creative Director, and Koichiro Kawai, the Client Service lead, who by the time we were to leave, had all become firm friends.

We spent the morning working on the presentation for the pitch. Kawai-san treated us to lunch, a protein rich affair with large platters of various cuts of raw beef which we could then prepare ourselves in the Yakiniku style (or barbeque) on the table in front of us. This was all washed down with cold tea, and at just Y1500 each (or £9.60), it was a real bargain.

Before leaving in the evening, having completed another round of work on the presentation, Kawai booked us in to one of Tokyo’s finest Sashimi restaurants, Gonpachi, on the 14th Floor of the Space Tower, where we tucked in to various delights including raw Barracuda and Sea Urchin, all prepared in front of us by spectacularly skilled chefs. Fun fact: this is the restaurant that inspired the setting for that fight scene in the cult Tarantino film ‘Kill Bill’ (see the Bride vs the Crazy 88s).

As we left the restaurant we chatted to a few Japanese guys, and Dave asked where he could buy some Japanese whiskey. In an unbelievable co-incidence, one of the guys was Jota Tanaka, the Master Whiskey Blender from the Kirin Brewery, one of Japan’s leading distillers. He kindly emailed us the next day with all of the information we needed!



Pitch day! Once again, our team back in Cardiff had done us proud, working through the day to get the final pitch documents to us when we woke up, complete with mood videos and storyboards that were ready to impress.

At 5pm we were driven to the client’s offices in the Business District of Tokyo (a bit like the City of London – only bigger). We can’t say too much about it but the pitch went well; everyone presented brilliantly, and we felt that any questions were answered confidently and clearly.

It is custom in Japan to provide gifts (or souvenirs) for hosts and business associates – so we left ours with 12 bottles of the finest Penderyn Whiskey and some gift boxes of Welsh cakes. We hope they liked them!


Our hosts from Hakuodo once again did us proud, and we had lunch with Risa and Kawai at a traditional Japanese restaurant, where we removed our shoes and sat on the floor around a table. In the evening, Mr Moriguchi treated us to a traditional Korean restaurant, which had a fascinating menu including raw horse, raw chicken and offal, all washed down with Japanese beer, and sweet potato wine which was a bit like gin!

After this we headed out-out to Shibuya, one of Tokyo’s most lively areas, ending up in the Bridge Bar overlooking the famous Shibuya-crossing. This is the busiest road crossing in the world, where brave Japanese pedestrians have one minute to cross before the traffic from five roads converges upon them.

Standing at the crossing it struck me that for a country with such a rich and cultured heritage, their advertising and promotion draws upon little of it. The approach seems to be to show any product with an image attractive woman, or just shout at the audience! In many of the shops, inside and out,  we were bombarded with audible and visual ‘noise’, making any interpretation virtually impossible.


Saturday & Sunday

A day off – so we spent it soaking up some culture. Japan has what can only be described as a respectful culture, with people bowing when they meet and presenting receipts or information with both hands.

To understand a bit more about the country’s history, we visited the Imperial Palace, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the National Archive and finished the day at the war shrine at Yasukuni, which was very peaceful and humbling.

Then, after an amazing week, it was back to the airport, for 12 hours of chasing the sun across the globe.

Working from Japan for a week was a fantastic experience. In a business environment, there is a fascinating ritual of presenting business cards – handing them over with both hands, and then studiously studying the detail on them. Once done, they are laid out on the table in order of importance. But we also learned that there is a definite ‘work hard; play hard’ culture – for instance, Kawai from Hakuodo, works from 9.30 until midnight everyday, except Friday when he finishes at 8pm. Then, his Friday nights are about getting completely smashed, going from being quiet and understated to excited and over-enthusiastic (in a really good way).

Getting to experience some of the Japan’s customs and culture first-hand was a real privilege for us – we hope we get to visit again soon!

Mike Leeson, Advertising MD