Business travel tips from Rakuten road warriors

Working at a global company like Rakuten means you sometimes have to travel at a moment’s notice. While Rakuten Crimson House and all our global offices are equipped with the latest in video communications, sometimes there’s no substitute for a true face-to-face meeting, where a handshake can seal a deal.

We asked some of our most well-traveled executives and staff to offer their best travel tips for 2017.

Masatada Kobayashi, Managing Executive Officer, Director, Asia RHO (and super-road-warrior)

“Over the years, I’ve often found myself off on another business trip with very little time to prepare, so lately I always carry my backpack with everything I need to go just about anywhere,” Seichu-san (as he’s affectionately known) explained, before obligingly unpacking said backpack for our perusal. We couldn’t help pull out a camera…


Travel tipsSo what’s inside? As well as the usual suspects – phone charger (“with multiple USB jacks”), USB battery pack, noise-cancelling headphones (“a life-changing invention.”), multi-plug (“essential when you need to share a power source at a crowded airport”), international driver’s license, lip cream, moisturizer, nail clippers, toothbrush, medicine (“lots of types..”), business shirt, underpants and socks – Seichu-san also had some bona fide secret weapons, and he kindly agreed to let us share them:

  • Cigarette lighter charger (“No matter what country you’re in, you can always get a charge in the taxi!”)
  • Chopsticks (“Often need to just use your own.”)
  • 17 types of foreign currency (“It’s just easier to have it with you already.”)
  • ID photos of several different sizes (“In case I lose my passport or suddenly need to apply for a visa”.)
  • Serious-looking glasses (“Unlike my usual specs, these make me look really conscientious, which is useful when clearing immigration.”)
  • Electric shaver (“With my haircut, this is all I need an all-round shape-up.”)
  • Collapsible hand fan (“Useful when in older airports that don’t have air conditioning.”)
  • Bag hook (“Very important – means I can hang my bag on the edge of a table when I don’t want it on the floor.”)
  • Breath-freshener mints (“For when you don’t have time to refresh before a meeting.”)
  • Sewing kit (“I’ve lost count of how many buttons I’ve mended.”)
  • Brush pen (“It’s always a hit when I use it in foreign countries to write people’s names with Japanese characters.”)
  • Copy of Rakuten Shugi and our ethics guide (“Our corporate bible.”)
  • Personal seal (“I often need it for stamping documents when traveling around Japan.”)
  • Amulets, or lucky charms (“I don’t leave home without these. One is for good luck, from my daughter.”)

And, last of all, there is one other item that unambiguously betrays globe-trotting Seichu-san’s omotenashi Japanese roots: a folding fan – not for keeping himself cool, but for using as a spur-of-the-moment gift. “Folding fans are really compact, unmistakably Japanese presents and are always received well!” he says.

Djamel Agaoua, CEO, Viber

“I try to learn a little lingo. You’d be surprised how much difference a few words can make. Local people tend to be nicer to people who make an effort to know their language, even if just a bit. And besides, is there any reason not to do it?”

Mark Haviland, Managing Director, EVP of Global Development, Rakuten Marketing

“When I’m traveling on an overnight long-haul flight, I pack some PJs in my hand luggage! There’s nothing like changing as soon as you board and tucking up with a glass of red and a good book. Knowing that the overnight flight means enclosed space and recycled air, I always travel with a tube of Berocca tablets. The vitamin C rush is sure to put up a fight against any sneaky bugs!”

Melissa Kuwahara, Senior Manager, Recruiting Section, Global Human Resources Department

“I like to travel light. The thing that most stresses me out is hand luggage. So I keep that to one handbag that fits my laptop, Rakuten mobile with a Kobo app, ziploc bags for currencies, receipts and cords. My motto is that if I have these essentials on hand, even if they lose my check-in baggage, everything else will work itself out.”

Stephen McNamara, CTO, Rakuten Blockchain Lab

“I’ve flown about 250,000 miles in the last three and a bit years. That’s been mostly uneventful and safe travel by following a few simple rules:

  • Never check luggage! This is a basic. Get a good case that can hold all your stuff and always have it with you. I guarantee the airline will lose it at some point if you check it in. And after 13 hours in the air do you really want to queue up for another 45 minutes waiting for your bag?
  • Hydrate. Sure, have a beer or a glass of wine with your food on the flight but drink water, water, water. It makes all the difference in the world.
  • Kayak. A lesser known feature of the free kayak account is you can forward your travel email receipts (flights, car parks, hotels – anything). They parse it and you get a simple, usable itinerary all in one place on your mobile phone. No more digging around for that confirmation email, reference number or hotel address!
  • Comforts. Have your creature comforts sorted. For me that’s a book, good headphones and a decent neck pillow.”

Tammy Nam, CEO, Viki

“There are a few things I always have with me when traveling. I keep a small zipper bag in my computer case that holds my mobile phone battery charger, hand sanitizer, tissues, gum, a zip drive, chapstick, travel-sized ibuprofen and a sewing kit. The separate bag keeps everything organized and compact. I keep a photo of my passport ID page saved on my phone in case I lose it. I also always have a stash of ebooks downloaded to my phone in case of delays, no access to Wi-Fi, or video malfunctions on the plane.”

Michael Tamblyn, CEO, Kobo

“Kobo executives over the past four years have perfected the exact arrival procedure for avoiding Toronto-Tokyo jetlag. We call it ‘The Tokyo Landing,’ starting with wearing Lululemon on the plane for comfort, having a post-landing coffee at 4:45 p.m. before taking the Narita Express, hitting the gym immediately after checking into the hotel, then not getting lured out for drinks with Rakuten colleagues on Night 1, but still staying awake until at least 9 p.m. Next day, you’re up and ready for Asakai (Rakuten’s weekly all-company meeting)!”

Arjen van de Vall, CCO, Rakuten Europe

“There are two items I’m always certain to pack. I always bring a track suit in my carry-on luggage to maximize the inflight comfort. I also travel with emergency food. Energy bars and instant noodles will not spoil and just might help you in a pinch.

“I also try to make the most of my travels. So when going somewhere new, I always plan something non-work-related to feel like I’m doing more than just traveling.”

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