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22/06/2006 - par Mark Tungate

I've just returned from a few days in Tokyo. People had told me Japan is like another planet, and I have to admit they were right. I spent most of my time at the headquarters of Dentsu, the giant advertising agency. A vertical city of 6 000 people, the Dentsu HQ looks like something out of the film Metropolis. It was designed by Jean Nouvel, and resembles a giant switch­blade slicing through the cotton wool Tokyo stratosphere. Other buildings stretch on their tiptoes, but they can't even begin to touch it. Walkways and roads and metro lines loop and curl around its base like waves swirling against a cliff.

The manners at Dentsu were certainly out of this world. Before my arrival, I was presented with an Excel spreadsheet of all the people I was due to interview, and when. It included mealtimes : an exquisite lunch in one of the many internal Dentsu restaurants, and a more raucous dinner in Ginza. (I was pleased to find that there's more to the food than sushi.) My hosts, ­Oguchi-San and Nami-San, were models of civility and elegance (especially Nami, who resembled a cross between a Manga heroine and Lucy Liu). And they went to all this trouble for a book that won't be published for at least a year.

Traditionally, Japanese ad breaks are crammed with garish 15-second spots. At Dentsu, I learned that a 15 second film can be as creative as a haiku. But in Tokyo, a city of temples and skyscrapers, I discovered that modernity does not have to equal inhumanity.

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