One funny day: I was out with a client near Motomachi Yokohama, at a warehouse that was a prospect for the client’s logistics operations in Japan. The contract was a fairly nice chunk of business, valuing a couple hundred thousand USD per month.

The meeting was a hysterical failure. It was August, super hot and humid as usual for Japan, but the warehouse meeting room had no AC and they insisted we wear construction helmets, and to add insult to injury, would not give us any water. The sweat was rolling off us as we tried to keep from collapsing, while we waited for it to start.

It was typical for meetings of this type in Japan: on the foreigner side there was myself and three C-Level types from the US. On the vendor side, it was something like 20 people. Their team were supposed to present in English, but started in on a presentation in Japanese with no sign of any interpretation. After a few minutes and no sign of English, I reminded them of their promise to present in English, and after a very uncomfortable few minutes and whispered discussion, they tried to corral me into doing it.

My stance was, “Yeah, no, that’s not happening. I’m here on the client’s behalf, not yours. You mean to tell me of all 20 of you, nobody actually read the email between your Tanaka san and us over the last month? We were clear on what our requirements were…”

Long story short, they were unprepared to present in English, and finally dragged a junior marketing person in, who “speaks perfect English” to do ad hoc interpreting. It was just, comically bad, so much so that I felt like I should assist to try to salvage the meeting, but our team was just wanting to cut it short and go on the tour of the facility. I think their minds were already made up, and we were sweating and parched and wanting to get out of there.

The tour was also bad, because the vendor was insisting on questions in writing during the tour (I mean, what?!), not verbally, and continued to blithely present everything in Japanese. Anyway, the whole thing kind of fizzled once we saw how generally incompetent they were from top to bottom. (The winner of the business by contrast, was really, really good, but, it makes for a less funny story, for sure!)

But it’s after this disaster ended and we left, that the fun started. There’s a beer factory near Motomachi, so two of us went there and did a tour. Had a couple beers on the tour before dinner, then went to dinner had some more. We went to JR Motomachi, and were standing there trying to decide what sort of Strong Zero and snacks to get for the train ride, and this dude saunters up to us.

He looked like one of those movie Yakuza, with full-on white kimono, white shoes, missing digits, deep tan. He was probably in his 50s, about 10 years older than us at the time. He started talking to us in drunk, broken-but-good-enough English: “welcome Japan. I buy drink present for you.”

He looked so scary we were starting to freak out a bit, but he bought us some shochu type drinks and snacks from the Kiosk, gave them to us in a bag and was asking us questions about where we are from and so on.

Then he started to retch, and cough-vomited up a ramen noodle, that lobbed end-over-end until it landed splat on my client’s lapel! Thing is, he was so drunk he didn’t even really notice, so we just said thanks, stifling disgust and laughter, brushing the vomitus off my friend’s lapel, grabbed our shochu’s and snacks and retreated into the station through the turnstile.

When I see my client friend, we always recount the “flying ramen vomit incident” with gestures and SFX. It was an unforgettable experience. 🍜🤢

Not the same ramen:

Photo of yarou ramen at night in Shimbashi