31 Months in Japan

31 months

by Larry K. Collins and Lorna Collins

Larry and Lorna are two Californians who became part of the Universal Studio team to oversees the construction of the theme park in Osaka, Japan.

Anybody who has traveled or stayed in Japan will resonates with the authors’ experience:  the inconvenience of changing slippers inside the houses, the complicated recycling and trash schedule, the confusing street layouts, the friendliness and honesty of Japanese, the overcrowded subway, the miniature size of everything, and the various food items.  Anybody who has done business with the Japanese will also nod sagely about all that tatemae, nemawashi, meshi exchange, saving faces and keiretsu that requires business handbooks to decipher…

The stay happened in the 90’s, so by now, most of those experiences have been written a million times over and sound a bit old.  The authors were able to develop close relationship with some of their Japanese friends and coworkers, so some chapters provide in depth looks into Japanese lives usually not captured by a gaijin’s eyes.

What fascinates me most, in this book, is the story about the construction of a theme park.  Little did I know so much goes on behind everything when I visited a theme park!  Who knew that they need water quality control for all the pools and lakes, includes the water that may splash on you in a ride?  How they have to measure the water level every 1/10 second?  What the crew went through to get the right look of a setting?  The construction project is complex enough without the complication of translation and cultural difference.  The incident of Jurassic Bonsai makes me smile.  As a project engineer, Larry provided a lot of interesting anecdotes that will surely make me look at the rides anew the next time I visit Orlando.

There are laughs and tears, sweet moments of friendship and exhilaration of a job completed.  As the authors group their experience under topic rather than timeline, once in a while things get a bit confusing.  The writing at times feels like a journalistic reporting and mildly impersonal.  Some editing would make the book more enjoyable.  Overall, it’s a good read for the unique experience the authors present.

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Published in: on March 2, 2012 at 11:46 am  Comments (1)