Tuesday, 14 July 2009

It's off to work I go

My first day at work was pretty exciting. When I left to take the subway in the morning, I was so surprised by the number of people walking in my nieghbourhood - when I arrived on Sunday there was hardly anyone to be seen. Then, there were even more people crowded underground, getting the trains to work. Where had they all been at the weekend?! Thankfully, it wasn't as hectic as I had imagined - I didn't have to be pushed onto the train and I made it to work in one piece after dodging past all the fast-walking fast-talking salarymen.

The building I'm in (the Shin-Marunouchi Centre Building) is fantastic - I'm working on the 20th floor (RBS has the 9th, 19th, 20th and 21st floors) and on one side of the front office there is a fantastic view across the Imperial Palace gardens towards Shinjuku. I spent most of the morning being shown around the offices and introduced to everyone. I then got taken out for lunch and ate my first authentic sushi :)

Sushi in the UK doesn't even come close to the real deal - this was absolutely oishi (delicious). My boss ordered us a platter each that had tuna, some sort of white fish, squid, crab, eel, mackerel, see urchin and fish roe sushi. The crab was definitely the best one (the tuna came a very close second), the squid was an odd mix of crunchy and chewy, and the sea urchin was definitely an aquired taste... It also came with green tea and miso soup, with a wee square of black sesame pudding to finish. It was at this point that it really dawned on me that I was living in Japan and I couldn't stop grinning like an idiot for a good half hour.

I spent yesterday afternoon and most of today trying to learn as much as possible from the sales guys and the traders about bonds, swaps, derivatives and futures (I still have a lot to learn...) and generally getting some fantastic advice about the industry. I'm finding learning the intricacies of the markets really interesting and often very surprising. I've only been with RBS for two days, but already I've had a great insight to a completely new, and very exciting, world.

This morning I got to go to the Tokyo Stock Exchange. I was completely underwhelmed. The whole trading floor with men in suits shouting and gesticulating wildly at screens and each other has been replaced with a bank of twenty or so computers occupied by a handfull of people sitting calmly and quitely infront of the screens. The 'tour' was really just a bird's eye view of a glorified office.

It just made me wonder what happened to all the shouting men. Where have they gone? What do they shout at now? Hopefully I should fare better with tomorrow's tour of the Bloomberg building and my subsequent Bloomberg training.

Went out with a colleague after work and had yakitori for tea tonight. Apparently the Japanese aren't a fan of cooking anything; it's not just fish they eat raw. I had wasabi chicken breast that had only just been seared (hello salmonella), chicken neck, chicken shoulder, barely-seared chicken liver (which has a consistency not dissimilar to butter), chicken wing, chicken thigh (I think...), meatballs made from chicken meat and cartillage (that's what the crunchy bits were anyway) and courgette. All on sticks and prepared infront of you by a chef in traditional Japanese garb. It all came with a bowl of grated daikon that was topped with a raw egg - the aim is to mix the two together and use as a pallet cleanser between the different 'sticks'. Again, all of it was absolutely delicious, if a little different from the food I'm used to at home!

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