At least our hero had one real shot. It is often who you know, not what you know. As part of a special football exhibition game in Japan, he runs into a fellow Princeton alumni now working in finance, doing "derivatives" in Tokyo. "Give me a call if you football journey does not work out". A year later, after graduation, that call takes place. How is "Friday for you?" As it was Wednesday in New York, he said "fine". Great, there will be a plane ticket waiting for you at JFK airport. Just like that, no real harcore interview, he was on his way to Osaka, not Tokyo, for a career in financial derivatives. If only it were that easy for all.
Tokyo & Osaka back then, were pretty wild and fueled by bubble times money. Jason Akari, a fellow graduate from Princeton, meets John at Itami airport, and shows him the ways of Index Arbitrage for Nikkei 225. This is before high frequency trading and the cloud. If you wanted to deal, you got on the phone. Margins were "truck wide" and the biggest price differences between Osaka and Singapore which also ran Nikkei futures, were a gold mine for traders arounds the world. The futures pit however, was hardly easy, even in Osaka. He needed his athletic background to make it in the Nikkei pit, just to survive. Concentration and focus from his football days came very handy indeed.
The fun never ends after market where big deals, big bonuses, and big hangovers are all usual daily hurdles. This is the same timing of Nick Leeson, formerly of Barings Securities, made famous when the Nikkei was a major market mover and few wanted to get in the way of any major move. The first day on the job, has our hero putting on a USD4 million dollar trade on his first time out. More money than he could ever need, enough money to retire on, he thinks. That was the thought of a newcomer to the markets.
The market continues to change and evolve. Today's traders in 2017 may find the software changed and faster, but the basics remain the same. The story goes on to amazing opportunities in an amazing market of financial excess. All is realistic and all sounds so attractive, if you share that cowboy mentality of a young dealer willing to take on the world as it was then.The learning curve is steep and full of difficult to understand twists that make no sense to those used to a New York mind set. Such is life far away in a land called Japan. All of these stories are in large part true, with the names changed to protect the innocent or many more less so.
The Top 3 Takeaways from this book that really impact any reader are:
1) There is a lot of economic history in Japan when it comes to commerce. Osaka, not just Tokyo, has had a long history of businesses making a lot of money over time
2) The value of the Japanese yen is high for many countries. The nightlife in major cities is a large portion of the economic GNP of any nation like Japan.
3) The gangster element of Japan has many tentacles in many businesses. This was more the case in the past but still the case now. It may not be seen, but is still clearly there.
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