It’s sometimes easy to forget how exotic and mysterious the Internet seemed just a few years ago.

Rummaging through the archives I found this little beauty from a 1997 issue of the Yorkshire Post business supplement, quoting me on my searching prowess.

Judging by the amount of fax-related ads in the issue, the YP were obviously a little behind the curve when coming up with this story. It came about when trying to get a bit of extra coverage for my old friends at Toyota, but the journalist was more interested in the magic box that allowed me to find a set of public accounts.

My reaction now, and probably then too, was something like “The Yorkshire Post! They actually ran this?! Wait a minute, ‘tech-head’?!”

Now I don’t know which comment to be impressed about the most, my sweeping generalisation about all of Japan (which I doubt I actually said), the ordinariness / between-the-lines amazement of it all, or the little mention of ‘friendly Yorkshire’.

Ah mysterious, happy days…

Web Untangles Japanese Mystery

Advisers and their clients may be on first-name terms in friendly Yorkshire but there’s no reason to assume this cosy informality obtains all over the world.

So when the top brass from Japan dropped in at Toyota Industrial Equipment (UK), Leeds, it was strictly “Mister”, both during the customary bout of bowing, card-swapping and handshaking and thereafter.

This presented a challenge for Charles Walls, the company charged with publishing the tour- how to find out the visitors first names.

No problem for tech-head account manager Tony Benson. He surfed the Internet and found that the men he had met days earlier were called Kanji Kurioka, worldwide head of Toyota’s forklift business, Takashi Matsuura and Toshiro Ishihara.

“Nobody is on first name terms in Japan, so we didn’t know what to call them,” said Mr Benson.

“I found Toyota’s annual report and accounts and assorted publicity material on the Web and accessed the English-Language version.”