LINC Tokyo | Student Blog
What a beautiful place

Tokyo, Japan was an amazing place where I learned a lot of great things about globalization, business strategy and culture that will forever inspire me.

This trip has helped me to think about everything in a much more global sense. Every industry today is impacted by this world community that is growing and becoming more and more connected every day. Businesses in particular must take this into account when dealing with their business strategy. The key part of becoming a global business is catering to the global consumer and competing in the global market. This entails paying attention to differences in demographics and their needs, market demands, cultures, creating unique business models/strategies, etc. The companies we visited have either been successful in this endeavor or are growing in this direction of going global. For example, in trying to compete in a global market, Rakuten has come up with the very unique strategy of the “Rakuten Eco-system”. They integrate their name into other markets, like credit cards and a baseball team. Their baseball team is not very successful, but they explained that the point of the eco-system is not to increase their avenues for revenue, but to have more outlets to gain consumers through. I thought this was a very creative business strategy to broaden/increase their customer base and this is something I feel isn’t really done with their American competitors. 

Not only in a business sense, but this trip has also broadened my horizon just in terms of culture. Japan is very different from the US in too many ways that can’t all be explained. If I were to choose one word to encompass it all, I would choose “community”. Rather than being individualistic, the Japanese think as a collective society. This makes them more respectful of their environments, fellow people, and religious deities. The city is so clean, even though there are no trash cans! And when you bring your trash in to a convenience store they thank you for handing them your trash! Also, every person I asked for help from or met was so kind and friendly- even when we couldn’t speak the same language. And when you visit a buddhist or shinto temple, there are procedures you must take to “cleanse” yourself before entering. Not to mention, people always remove their shoes before entering the sacred space- but this is also how entering a home is treated! I wish this element of more community-driven thinking and decision making could be brought in to the US.

Over all, I thought Japan was a beautiful place with beautiful people and a beautiful culture. I cant wait to return again someday.

-Alex 

 

Post-Japan Syndrome? [Micaela]

I am back in the USA. This is uncanny. That week went by so fast. I arrived at my house on Sunday around 2 pm and was received with a giant hug from my father. After telling him about Japan and showing him everything I bought, I went to bed. I woke up at 10pm! I felt like it was early in the morning. Oh, jet lag…it is hitting me hard. I have become nocturnal. I woke up that day wanting to go out and just walk and look at the scenery but realized that I was no longer in Japan, and there was no more tall buildings everywhere with pretty bright lights. Yup, I miss Tokyo and the people already.

Today, I took the bus to come visit my friend at USC and give her a souvenir. I might not have known how the train worked over at Tokyo very well, but I do miss how fast they are! I missed my first bus coming to USC and had to wait 20 minutes for the next one. Yeah, I’m back in Los Angeles. There are some things that I missed from home though. The food for one. I am allergic to fish so I could eat virtually nothing whenever we went out to eat together. Luckily, I still got to eat Japanese food! Ramen, curry, non-fish sushi. :D

Look at this menu from the first sushi place we went together as a group. It was made just for me ! Everything crossed out I could not order. ;<

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Back at home I could eat anything, and everything is back to “normal” portions. Yum~

Still, I do miss Japan and I am glad I got the opportunity to meet so many people on the trip. I will definitely be visiting again soon and hopefully make new memories and learn new things. I’m sure I did not learn or see everything in Japan in just one week!

Till then, it was nice writing these blogs. Can’t wait to read what next year’s students will write!

All the best to everyone!

Back in America

After having lived Sunday twice (seeing the sun set both over the Pacific near Japan and back in California), I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on the trip and what I can take away from a week that was over as quickly as it got going.

I’m glad to be back and not. The food portions finally aren’t all appetizer-sized anymore so I’m not constantly hungry, I can get places by car and not have to use public transportation or walking, and being able to use English in all situations. However, there are definitely things I already miss: the politeness of everyone, the cleanliness of the city, and the feeling of efficiency throughout the culture. However, this is simply evidence that this trip has shown me another perspective to compare our society to. On the business side, we definitely got to see a broad range of companies, some of which had essentially opposite takes on how to succeed, yet they have both done it. They provided some seriously applicable knowledge not only for working in Japan, but in business in general.

After telling my family about all the things we packed into our trip, I’ve realized that somehow there is still so much to do in Japan. I love a trip back in a few years with them to explore other parts of the country as well.

Sayoonara —Chris

Back at Home and Reminiscing- Kim

I can’t believe that just yesterday I was in Tokyo eating udon and shopping at UNIQLO for the umpteenth time. Aside from the leisurely activities, I also am very thankful for the opportunity to visit nine great companies during our trip. As I look forward to my entrepreneurial pursuits in the hospitality industry, particularly opening my own bakery, I have learned a lot of important skills and necessities for a successful business. Fusion Systems was really great because through Mr. Alfant’s presentation and his position as founder it was interesting to see how his values and expectations of his company are lived out in all his branches worldwide. At Costco learning about merchandise distribution and marketing opened my eyes to the challenge of satisfying different customer bases due to cultural differences, so as I translate this to trying to expand my baking pursuits worldwide I may have to adjust some of my pastries to satisfy different tastes.

Being able to travel to visit cities like Shinjuku, Harajuku, Roppongi, Ginza, and Akihabara was amazing and I was really glad that we were able to figure out the metro lines. :) Also, trying different foods was one of the greatest experiences ever because it isn’t everyday that you get fresh sushi and real ramen. Being able to travel with my fellow Marshall classmates made this experience even better and I have made new friendships and learned a lot from them as well.

I am so grateful for this trip and I want to thank everyone at Marshall for making this LINC program possible and to the 2013 LINC Tokyo group for a fun and new experience. I hope to visit Tokyo again very soon and now I can’t wait to relax for little while this summer and I hope that you all have a wonderful summer too! Until next time, Fight On! :)

Finished All Our Company Trips [Micaela]

Yesterday was our last company visit, AIST and JAXA.

Until yesterday, Rakuten had been my favorite company so far. Rakuten was the first company we visited and the environment was very casual even with our business formal suits. Ha~ I also liked their idea of being the number one in what they do. They do so much! From e-commerce to a baseball team to weddings. A person can literally live their lives around Rakuten. Get a credit card from them, buy things from shops in Rakuten’s site with the card, find a spouse, plan your wedding, book a honeymoon flight, go see a baseball game together, and just so much more. I just think that was so cool. :D

But then AIST happened.

I don’t know where to start. Ok, let’s start with Paro because it was just TOO cute. We had already been informed about Paro before we came on the trip, but seeing it in person was just too overwhelming. I was about to cry over how cute it was and how senior citizens interacted with it. Paro is a harp seal robot. It moves around, blinks, and makes harp seal noises when you pet it. Paro is used for senior citizens and for those with dementia. Older people who are lonely have Paro as a companion. People with dementia and other illnesses will usually if not always stop taking medication because Paro is able to cure them in some way. The seal calms the people from having random fits. This is great since it lowers the bills on senior citizen centers and cures the person naturally.

Seeing all the videos of Paro with senior citizens made me very happy because the idea behind the robot is successful and the people with Paro are smiling. I think giving a person a smile is a beautiful goal. :)

Nature in a city ?!?

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Tokyo is by far one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever experienced. I can NOT get over how much nature there is everywhere despite it being such a huge city. Even when you’re in an area that is filled with sky scrapers, there is still so much green around.

The first picture in this post is a park outside of our Uniqlo company visit. There were so many beautiful trees, flowers, grass, and ponds- right outside of a corporate building! I cant imagine anything like this in Los Angeles. It was the most peaceful and zen place. I couldn’t believe it when we stumbled upon it. 

The second picture is from a random Buddhist temple some of my friends and I found when we were just walking around the streets. We ventured down one sub street away from the main streets and stumbled upon this small temple/shrine area. It was so beautiful. We couldn’t believe that this was just a street down from such a main street area. A temple in the middle of a city? Again, a feature that makes Tokyo so much more different than Los Angeles. 

Basically, Tokyo never fails to amaze me. I am a person that enjoys the city life but also loves nature and zen. Tokyo is the perfect balance for me and is easily my favorite place ever. 

-Alex

AIST, JAXA, and Harajuku! -Kim

At the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) we learned about the six different fields of technology research they do, some of which include, Information Technology & Electronics, Environment & Energy, and Life Science & Biotechnology. The Life Science & Biotechnology field of research is where Paro, a therapeutic seal robot invented by Dr. Takanori Shibata in 1993, falls into. Dr. Shibata explained to us the story behind Paro and how he actively did research on baby harp seals in the wild to perfectly capture the essence of these animals. Being able to actually hold and interact with Paro was really mind-blowing because it quickly responds to both touch and sound. This cute and technologically advanced robot technology proves to be a strong therapeutic aid for people with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, and Down’s syndrome all around the world, proving that advances in technology are key to furthering our abilities in providing care for our society.

A short bus ride later we arrived at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Tskuba Space Center, which I was excited about as I have always had a fascination with outer space. We watched a video explaining the history of how JAXA came to be and the hard work and dedication of every individual who works there day and night. Then we toured the Astronaut Training Zone where we saw the tools utilized in preparing astronauts for their upcoming missions. The training is rigorous and test the astronauts on their ability to handle non-gravity and outer space conditions, like being in an Isolation Chamber for a week where the confines are small with limited activities. It was really cool to tour JAXA because back in the US all we hear about is NASA, so seeing the developments in aerospace technologies from a different perspective was eye-opening.

Sadly, JAXA was our last business presentation. Looking back at all the presentations we had, I can remember each one distinctly as each one offered great insight and advice that I can use during my career as a student at USC and later as I enter the workforce, possibly even internationally as this LINC trip has taught me to really enjoy the Japanese business work life.

Tonight, my friends and I went on an adventure in Harajuku, which is one of the big fashion districts in Tokyo. Two places stood out in particular for me. Kiddyland and McDonalds. Kiddyland is really amazing because there are about four floors of the cutest toys and trinkets you will ever encounter ranging from Disney to Hello Kitty. It’s a great place to buy cute souvenirs for yourself or family and friends. The McDonald’s was particularly special because I thought it was cool that you had to walk up a flight of stairs to reach it. (You have to work to get your fast food) With the recommendation of Ms. Leonard, I tried the Shaka Shaka french fries, which are french fries that have seasoning on them that you get to shake yourselves and they were absolutely delicious. I also had a chicken burger, which actually tasted a lot different from the one back in the US, and I had a Babycino from McCafe, it was so cute and tiny! I was thoroughly happy with my dinner and I am a huge fan of the McDonalds in Japan for sure.

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Costco, Secured Capital, and Tokyu Hands! -Kim

Costco in Japan is awesome!!!! The one we visited today was a multi-level style Costco, so the sales floor is on the bottom with two levels of parking on top, which is a strategic move made by Costco in response to the real estate market of Japan. I learned a lot about the real estate and merchandising for Costco, which was really cool because I got to learn about what goes on behind the scenes of one of my favorite stores ever. It was really cool to see the special food items they had for the Japanese market, including Bulgogi, fresh sushi, and CHOCOLATE CROISSANTS!!! (I should let you all know that I am in love with chocolate croissants.. they are literally the best pastry in the world.) I am hoping that in the very near future Costco’s chocolate croissants will be available nationwide in the US. Also, their food court selection has a Bulgogi Bake instead of a Chicken Bake and they have a pineapple drink that is incredible!!

Then, at Secured Capital we learned about investment management and it was really neat to learn about the intricacies and decision making for the real estate market in Japan. Upon arriving back at the hotel, a group of friends and I made the journey towards Tokyu Hands which is a really huge store that sells a variety of everyday items for a good price. I ended up buying a really cute sticker and was really overwhelmed by the amount of and variety of items available. We also ate at a delicious udon restaurant and then I went to an arcade and actually won something! It made my night.

Where to even start…

The trip has been incredible so far. For me to include everything that has happened would be impossible, and seeing as others have already talked about the different districts that we’ve been to (Shibuya, Roppongi, Akihabara, etc.), I’ll give my take on the unique things I’ve noticed about this city.

This city is immaculate. Everything is extremely efficient, clean, and convenient. The first two days it rained profusely, and the first morning it didn’t, I woke up and looked out my window to see a man cleaning up every leaf and petal that had been knocked to the ground by the wind. The subway/Metro system is incredible. It’s never late and is so vast, having a car seems entirely unnecessary. Fortunately we have not been on it at a time of day that necessitated the security having to push people into the cars like sardines.

First off, the greater Tokyo area is massive. There’s literally no end to it. No matter what floor of the skyscrapers I’ve been to, the horizon seems to curve before I can find where the metropolis ends. Yet it’s not a concrete jungle; on the contrary it’s quite easy on the eyes. There’s green everywhere in the form of trees lining the streets, random parks dispersed among the streets and on top of buildings, and vines and bushes in almost every available spot. I’ve never felt far from nature here even though I’m surrounded by huge metal structures. The fact that there are huge rivers running through the city in certain spots helps that feeling. Speaking of the buildings, the architecture here is so unique and attractive, partly as a result of the lack of space and creative response to it. From the street, entrances to buildings can come in the form of traditional sliding wood doors or claustrophobic stairwells to basements. 

 Another contrast similar to the green and grey of the city has been the old culture among the new. Squished between the beautiful towers and offices are quaint restaurants and shops that sell traditional items and food. We’ve visited multiple temples in Tokyo and an old-school market in the heart of the city and oddly, they don’t seem out of place. 

—Chris

Technical Difficulties Won’t Stop Me! [Micaela]

So I forgot my camera’s charger and my phone kept running out of battery. My life is woe. Luckily my roommate has a camera and I finally fully charged my phone. This is how I know I am no longer back at home. I can’t just go back home and get my charger. This means no videos. ;-;

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Look at all those lights. I love them even though I can’t read half of them. Anyway, just doing some wondering around in the streets and I’m finally getting my sense of direction in this place. Everything used to look like just lights and tall buildings, so I would get lost easily. Everyone I’ve encountered has been very nice so far. They are patient in explaining where things are. I’ve also noticed that people go that extra mile in doing their job without expecting anything in return! For example, I saw a man putting cement on the road. He was on his knees completely concentrated on his work. He would take the smallest amount of cement and make sure it was even with everything else. Yeah, that’s dedication. Love it.

Anyway, guess my favorite place so far in Japan? Here I’ll help you out:

THE CLAAAAW. I can spend $10 here easy. Goodness gracious everything is so cute. SUPER KAWAII! And I leave you with this cuteness and more photos of the city. Later I’ll post about my time at the different businesses that were actually quite interesting.