An Endless Discovery

Tokyo is still a constant surprise to Italian manager Tiziana Alamprese, Marketing Director of Fiat Chrysler Japan and happily living in Japan since 2005

  • An Endless Discovery
  • An Endless Discovery

Tiziana Alamprese's love for Tokyo was born well before she decided to move permanently to the Japanese capital twelve years ago, when she took on the role of Marketing Director at Fiat Auto Japan.
Born in Potenza, Italy, and currently the Marketing Director of Fiat Chrysler Japan, Tiziana told us that she has been fascinated by Japanese Zen culture since high school, when she first read Heidegger's dialogue with a Japanese disciple from the collection of philosophical essays On The Way To Language. She later graduated at Naples’ University of Oriental Languages specializing in Japanese history, language, economy and law, earned a master's degree in economics at Kyushu University, in Fukuoka, and decided she would someday go back to Japan.
As a European woman manager, how do you feel you are perceived in the Japanese work environment?
TA: Just like in Italy, the work environment in Japan can sometimes be hostile to women, especially to a "foreigner”. Emancipation requires creativity, professionalism, a clarity of vision and mission, knowledge of the local culture and language, and ideally a shoulder to cry on, someone as “foreign” as yourself to encourage you. Although I had to face many difficulties and challenges through my 13-year-long path, I think I managed to make my own difference a strong pointat work.
Do you ever find yourself in trouble juggling with the complex rules of Japanese etiquette either at work or in social contexts?
TA: My solid knowledge of the local culture and language makes it easier for me to follow the rules and convivial rituals of Japan, but occasionally I do make mistakes too! Truth be told, the Japanese forgive easilyand they even have fun watching us clumsy Westerners. I actually believe it’s a shame that they pretend they not to notice our shortcomings, because being told would help us learn from mistakes. Anyway, the best strategy is to apologize with a deep bow and to join in the hopefully benevolent laughter that your mistake aroused. In case your Japanese interlocutor looks offended and does not smile, escape is the only option!
Why, in your opinion, do the Japanese love Italy so much?
TA: I have my own personal theory about it: I believe the Japanese are "inherently Italian". You can see it for yourself by entering any place where friends, colleagues or strangers gather to sing, laugh, hug and dance without inhibitions. Alcohol is only the “conductive medium” of this expansiveness, which the Japanese love to attribute to the Italians but which is actually also inherent in their DNA! In short, the true reason of their love for Italy is not to be found only in their profound appreciation for our food, fashion, style, design, art and beauty (all of which also abound in Japan), nor does it reside solely in the obvious similarities between our territories (the volcanoes, the earthquakes, the four seasons), but it lies mostly in the same "joie de vivre"that we Italians express freely and the Japanese tend to keep more controlled to comply with the local rules of social behavior.
What do you particularly like about Japanese culture and the national character?
TA: Their curiosity and the ability to be amazedlike little children by any new discovery, even the smallest one, expressing this amazement without shame, at any age and in every context, even in front of complete strangers. Another thing that always strikes me is how they can always tell those little details that reveal true beauty, which sometimes we Italians completely miss.
Can you outline your sentimental map of the city?
TA: The neighborhood of Hiroo, which is the area where I saw my daughter grow up from six to eighteen. Our walks in Arisugawa park, which is beautiful in every season, and of our beloved sushi restaurant. Sunday mornings in Harajuku along the famous Takeshita street, shopping for clothes or accessories inspired by metropolitan subcultures with my teenage daughter, and always ending up finding something for me too! The outstanding contemporary art exhibits at Mori Museum, on the 52nd floor of the Roppongi Hills complex, combined with a breathtaking view of Tokyo that never fails to amaze. 
The occasional visits to the beautiful Nezu museum of ancient art in Minami Aoyama, and the contemplation of the changing seasons in its magical garden.
Celebrating the new year at the impressive Meiji Shinto templeor at the magnificent Zojo-ji Buddhist temple. Spending gloomy winter Sundays at one of the fantastic city spaswith thermal water pools and restaurants. And finally, my Tokyo nights in Shinjuku, the city’s most exciting neighborhood, vibrating with excesses and contradictions, neon lights, and a unique mix of transgression, kitsch, beauty and ugliness, perfectly bended like its massively consumed cocktails. A perfect evening in Shinjuku always ends with a walk in the Golden Gai, a maze of alleys and tiny clubs where you can drink a sake offered in a small bar by a mama-sanand feel at home in the company of perfect strangers.
Which non-touristy places should we absolutely visit when in Tokyo?
TA: I love the Yamanote, the legendary 35-kilometer railway line that runs through all the 23 Tokyo districts in a circular path around the untouchable and sacred space of the Imperial Gardens. A proper tour of Tokyo tour should include all of its 23 "cities in the city". In the shade of the glittering skyscrapers that continue to rise and bring the city closer to the sky, every neighborhood has preserved its identityin the alleys, in the old houses and cafes run by old ladies, in the markets and in the temples, in the amazing gardens, in the traditional food and sake culture. Walking from one district to another is also a very pleasant experience. I recommend strolling from Ueno Park to Nippori through the ancient district of Yanaka, which looks very much like Kyoto! To see the city from a different point of view, I suggest boarding the boat that connects Asakusa to Odaiba, the modern district literally built on reclaimed land, and stopping at Hamarikyu gardens, a green oasis on the backdrop of the Shiodome skyscrapers, for a cup of matchain the old tea house.
Is the excitement for the 2020 Olympics tangible? Do you think it will be a good opportunity for the city?
TA:There has already been a very positive effect on all business areas, but I think it will be even more interesting to see how the event impacts society. This is a great opportunity for Japan, as it could foster the adoption of more advanced policies in terms of equal opportunities and same-sex marriage. After all, diversity is the theme of the 2020 Olympics!
Tell us a bit about your relationship with Japanese cuisine.
TA:Even after 12 years of living here and intensely exploring the city, Tokyo continues to amaze me and has me caught in a spell of continuous discoveries of every kind, but above all gastronomic ones! I simply love Japanese cuisine, which I consider the best one in the world along with the Italian one. I recommend trying everything - sushi, soba, teppanyaki, tempura, yakitori, robatayaki, kushiaki, and of course the vegetarian cuisine of the Zen temples. 

Author : The Slowear Journal


Tokyo  | an Italian in Tokyo  | Tiziana Alamprese  |

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