Get your KIX on route 56 (84)

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If you ever plan to fly out west
Travel my way
Take the skyway that’s the best
Get your KIXs onto Flight 56 (54)

– With apologies to Bobby Troup, Route 66

I’m on Xiamen Airlines 5654 from Kansai International Airport bound for Chongqing International Airport, gateway to the vast city of Chongqing, the largest municipality in southwest China and the country’s fourth-biggest after Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin.

Chongqing will be my third foreign city in three days, following all too fleeting visits to Tokyo and Osaka in Japan.

I’m headed to the inauguration of phase II of DFS Group’s Fashion, Watches and Jewellery concession and the simultaneous official opening of the multi-brand, multi-retailer Starry Galleria shopping zone at the Chongqing gateway.

This is a seminal moment in DFS’s 63-year history, the first concession the travel retailer has won on the Chinese Mainland in a domestic terminal. More, much more, to follow on our main website.

It’s fortunate that I am flying there from Japan rather than my home of Hong Kong as super typhoon Saola would have rendered that impossible. Not only did Saola prompt the temporary shutdown of Hong Kong International Airport but it has wreaked havoc across the Special Administrative Region.

I am just hoping it hasn’t wreaked too much similar havoc at home. With my wife Yulim currently away in Busan, South Korea, I am extremely wary of what I will be walking back into when I return to Hong Kong tomorrow night. Certainly, as the dramatic photos below show from outside our Discovery Bay apartment, it’s not going to be too pretty.

I’m looking forward to my first visit to Chongqing, the majestic ‘Mountain City’, famous for its combination of natural wonders, spicy Sichuan cuisine, night markets and the sheer majesty of its position on the upper reaches of the mighty Yangtze River, where it joins with its tributary the Jialing River.

My time in Japan was spent memorably with two contrasting companies, Kose Corporation and Choya, both in highly capable third-generation hands. You’ll be able to read my interviews with Kose Corporation President & CEO Kazutoshi Kobayashi and Choya CEO Shigehiro Kondo in coming weeks and I can promise you they will both make entertaining and enlightening reading.

I spent an engaging 90 minutes with Kose Corporation President & CEO Kazutoshi Kobayashi, a moderniser and an innovator but also a proud third-generation flagbearer of family values

I had the pleasure of great food and fine company at Tofuya Ukai, an outstanding traditional Japanese restaurant located at the foot of Tokyo Tower
Here I am pictured (left to right) with Kosé Travel Retail Marketing Planner Anahata Harikumar, Kosé Travel Retail Director Marketing Division Hiroto Kitaki and Kosé Travel Retail President Shu Shibue

As a first-generation family company owner (with the second generation in the form of my daughter Sinead and son Declan working in it), I marvel at companies that have managed to thrive through the fluctuating fortunes of three generations. Kose and Choya may be contrasting enterprises offering very different products (beauty vs fruit-flavoured alcohol) but they share a common bond in being obsessed with quality, innovation and values. Family values.

What a fantastic day spent not only in an engaging conversation with the legendary Shigehiro Kondo (left) but also discovering the extraordinary craft and heritage that underpins The Choya Umeshu, made from the finest ume fruit. Pictured wearing white in the right hand photo is Choya Master Blender Masahiro Iida alongside me and Choya General Manager Masahiko Kondo.
I enjoyed a splendid dinner in downtown Osaka with (left to right) Choya Overseas Department Deputy General Manager Sieji Susuki, Shigehiro Kondo and Masahiko Kondo. Days and evenings like this remind me of what a privilege and joy my job is.

Kansai International Airport was a delight in terms of speed and grace of service though check-in, security and immigration. All that efficiency is a boon to the retailers and food & beverage operators – of which there are many – on the other side. As my photos show, plenty of business was being done, particularly in the food and destination merchandise stores, much of it with Chinese passengers.

Hopefully that will remain the case. Japan’s decision to discharge nuclear-contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea may seriously dent a previously anticipated surge in Chinese travellers during the upcoming National Day holidays (29 September to 6 October).  China added Japan to the list of approved group tour destinations on 10 August, leading to rocketing online searches for trips to what was historically a top choice for Chinese travellers.

Let us hope tourism will not be too drastically affected. My flight is packed with Chinese passengers carrying KIX shopping bags, with the overhead compartments crammed to bursting, a welcome testimony to the enduring appeal of airport shopping.

In fact the greatest threat to air safety on this flight might be being hit by a shopping bag as the passengers alight. Still, look on the bright side. It would be an appropriate way for me to go. Plenty of KIX on route 56… (84).

They might need to adjust the inflight warning to this: “Be careful when you open the overhead compartments as duty free items bought during a burst of post-pandemic revenge spending may have moved during the flight and could fall on your noggin.”

Nearly free of duty at last (from The Moodie Blog May 2013)

Duly he opened the overhead compartment. What followed was like a duty free rainstorm. Down came the packs of Mild 7; down came the Chanel beauty items; and down came the Rémy Martin VSOP.

Down on me, that is, with the exception of the boxed bottle of Rémy which bounced off my shoulder (a case of when Rémy met Martin) onto the head of a hapless old lady sat behind me. For a moment VSOP seemed to signify ‘visibly stunned old pensioner’ but she took the blow with remarkable calm.

“Sorry, very sorry,” the passenger said to her, seemingly oblivious to the sizable Mild 7-driven impression in my forehead (admittedly a good-sized target).

Click here to read more from The Moodie Blog.