Japan – A Reflection

It’s been several weeks since I got back from Japan, and I cannot believe how fast the time has flown.  Life is hectic as we start to wrap up the semester and head towards our summer internships and full time jobs.  But many, like me, will kick off Summer with some more traveling.  But before I do, it wouldn’t be right to not first reflect on Japan.

I had an amazing experience on my Chazen Japan trip.

I talked earlier about how Kyoto was breathtaking…The gardens and temples were serene.  Walking through the Geisha district felt like you were stepping back in time, or walking onto a movie set.  It was so picturesque I would gladly visit again.

You could tell by my gushing that I have a love affair with Toyota.  I can’t help it.  Not only was my first car I purchased a Toyota (her name was Betty, and she was sooo bad a#$!), but the operations blow my mind.  The floor of the machine shop was flawless.  Production ran smoothly and seemlessly.  A lesson in how Kaizen and a focus on continuous improvement can yield amazing results.  Now if only I’d adopt Kaizen in my own life and get my butt to the gym!!!

After Kyoto and Toyota city we visited Tokyo for a few days.  First stop was Uniqlo where we learned how they use volume to produce your closet basics cheaply, but with high quality.  It was such a different business model than what you think about when fashion first comes to mind, but clearly it is working for them.  It goes to show that there are many different ways to service a market, and it pays to think differently.

A visit to CITI left me with a life lesson I hope I never forget.  In managing your career, think of it like a sport.  In order for you to win, you need to solicit the top players for your team regardless of background, race, and gender.  Surround yourself with top players and career opportunities will come.  I have seen this in my own experience, but to hear about how CITI uses this philosophy in such a large bank and corporate setting was inspiring to me.

DeNA was another company visit, and they blew me away.  If you are a gamer, and like to play games on your phone, check them out now!  They offer freemium games that you can download and play for free, but you can pay to accessorize your game if you want to.  They have a gaming community to let you connect with other people gamers, and challenge each other to…say an epic ninja battle…?  It was really interesting to hear how DeNA adapts their games for style preferences in different markets (did you know that a Japanese ninja eats rice in seaweed, but an American ninja eats sushi?).

With each company visit I learned something new about operations or globalization.  Lessons from those who have learned/are learning first hand what it is like to work for an expanding company across multiple boarders.

Outside of company visits, I could not speak more highly of my “free time” in Japan.  Everywhere I went everyone was exceptionally nice, and went out of their way to accommodate me and my fellow classmates.  It was interesting to see how many people did not speak English, but where very willing to communicate by other means.

Walking around the city of Tokyo I was in awe of the beautiful gardens.  They are everywhere, and the Japanese do a great job of pulling in nature into even the most urban of areas.  I think NYC could learn a thing or two!  To top it off, Japan is exceptionally clean. I saw once piece of litter on the street the entire time I was there!  And it stood out because I thought it wasn’t normal.  This is true even on the subway.  In addition to a spotless train station, you walk on a train and it is silent.  It is silent most places.  Noise is an invasion of people’s space, and I have to say, there is something to be said for a little bit of quiet time every now and again.

In culmination, Japan is amazingly peaceful.  The people are exceptionally helpful and nice. Both the old parts of the city, and the new, are just breathtaking…It was the first trip I had in a long time where I just didn’t want to go home.  I would jump at the chance to go back if offered.  Japan was life changing…

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