I am really thankful for being selected for this award. The entire experience was wonderful and I learned a lot. It was very interesting learning how a multi-national corporation like Sojitz has a presence abroad. I was able to see how the research done in Washington, DC made it to Tokyo for inclusion in bigger projects. The Japanese business environment is very different from typical American corporations. For example, many of the Japanese employees would stay and work past the exit bell to finish up what they were working on. In contrast, most American businessmen are on a set schedule of 9AM-5PM and will just pick up where they left off the following day. I can honestly say this was the best experience of my collegiate career. I cannot wait to tap into these experiences as I finish up my undergraduate education.
Visiting Japan was a life-changing experience. The CEPEX Japan Studies Award was the first time I have ever left America. Tokyo was very warm and friendly and I definitely want to go back sometime. It is very hard to pinpoint a favorite part of the experience as everything was amazing. However, if I was forced to I would definitely say the food. The staff at the Sojitz Soken were very welcoming and helpful. They answered all of my questions and served as an amazing resource. During the Japan Portion of the Japan Studies Award I undertook a mini-research project, facilitated English-learning workshops, went to different educational events, and learned about working in a Japanese company.
Japan Portion: Research Project
For my research project I studied the attitudes and opinions about politics between Japanese people and Americans. I used datasets from The Comparative Studies of Electoral Systems online for quantitative data and interviewed Japanese people through the Salon de Eigo for qualitative data. In the end I found consistent themes that the Japanese followed political things more out of obligations to work rather than a personal interest. Additionally I found that although Americans are more vocal about politics, a higher percent of Japanese vote more. However, this can be attributed to numerous things that can be viewed as blocks to electoral participation (voting on Tuesdays, ID laws, etc.).
Japan Portion: Salon de Eigo
Facilitating the Salon de Eigo was my favorite part of the Japan Portion of the JSA. Salons de Eigo are classes where Sojitz employees that are studying English can practice their language skills once a week or so. As a substitute teacher I have taught Japanese to Americans before so it was interesting doing it the other way around. In addition to giving a one-point lesson on regional dialects in America (http://www.businessinsider.com/22-maps-that-show-the-deepest-linguistic-conflicts-in-america-2013-6#) I lead discussions about politics with the Salon attendees. These responses were used as qualitative data for my final research project for the JSA. In the above graphic you will see email feedback I have received from my “students” as the guest facilitator. It was a very rewarding experience being able to expose political discussions to these individuals in Japan.
Japan Portion: Tours, Trips, Etc.
In my second week in Japan I took a tour of the Upper House. It was great getting an inside look and being able to compare the US Capitol to the Kokkaigijidou. The Sojitz Tokyo Office was located in a prime location by a lot of the governmental buildings. It felt as if I was interning in a major organ of the Tokyo metropolitan area.
During the week I accompanied a colleague at the research branch to an event at Temple University’s Tokyo Campus about the US Pivot to Asia. This reminded me of the work I did in DC (except I did not have to write a report afterwards). The weekend allowed for more extensive travel throughout the Tokyo region. I traveled to various places like Asakusa, Akihabara, Roppongi, and Yokohama. Each area had its own individual feel. In Yokohama I visited the Cup Noodle Museum. There I was able to learn about Momofuku Ando and his contributions to the Instant Ramen industry. I also made my own custom Cup Noodle to take back home with me to America.
Last but not least an exciting expedition I went on was to Tokyo DisneySea. I felt the Disney magic transformed through the Japanese language. Although I didn’t stay for very long (the passes were highly discounted after 6PM) it was still an enjoyable nighttime excursion.
I am really thankful for the opportunity! It was really exciting and I learned a lot. It was great to see the inner-workings of Sojitz in both the DC and Tokyo Offices. I was able to see how a multinational company like Sojitz operates on a global scale. It is hard to pinpoint what my favorite part of the trip was because I enjoyed every single second of it. I hope future awardees have as much fun (if not more) as I had.