LINC Tokyo | Student Blog
Reminiscing Tokyo

Well, it’s been both an exciting and difficult experience, but most of all  refreshing and meaningful to be part of the LINC program that gave me much insight on how certain businesses run which depended not only on its national culture, but also on each company’s philosophy and collective vision. The trip went much more smoothly then I thought it would, because right before the trip, I was slightly worried (just slightly) about getting lost, getting into an unforeseen accident, or some other kind of disaster that would have given me major stress and distract me from enjoying myself in Tokyo. Okay, I did get lost once right before the sumo match. I distracted myself and did not look up. If only I did, I would have noticed the group was leaving and could have seen the match on time without any inconvenience. I don’t know what I felt during that time; it must have been a little amusement at my own situation, annoyance at my own carelessness and the mess I was dealing with, and frustration at the possibility of not watching sumo live. While I was dealing with this unexpected problem I learned that I had to stay alert at all times both mentally and physically with my whole heart and aching feet. Nevertheless, I was still able to enjoy the sumo match; how  I made it is a long story (which I definitely cannot explain because I didn’t know I’d be writing this much already).   

Despite some difficulties I had during the trip such as getting lost and occasionally (or was it frequently?) having trouble communicating with the Japanese, I still enjoyed the people there for their hospitality and willingness to help even foreign strangers like me. I felt during the whole trip that people in Japan were generally cooperative and that their mindset is a little more focused on depending on others or being helpful because of the importance of bond, which is part of Japan’s cultural value. I felt this not only while interacting with people on the streets or in shops and restaurants, but also in business meetings we had with the companies. One cultural value or principle for example was the simplicity of Uniqlo’s casual clothes and how the shirts with different colors were ordered based on the brightness of the colors. There were also other things such as the quiet working atmosphere and importance of effort, which seems to be implemented in all of the companies in that the workers must have strong ambition to succeed. I also liked how each company used part of the positive side of Japanese culture while also applying some of their own values as a company, which led to unique business approaches. Rakuten, for example, has this unique model B2B2C in order to create a more convenient and exciting experience for users, believing that this would make a stronger mutual  bond between the company and its customers, leading to more loyalty. Pasona has its own value of creating a happy work environment and being eco-friendly, which suits its main goal of contributing to society by helping not only strangers but people in the company.

Overall, I definitely think that joining LINC Tokyo was worth it, and that there were much more to gain than lose from the trip. The experience had much more value than the time and money I spent preparing for Tokyo.

-Yesol

Final Thoughts

Hello from Hong Kong! After traveling to Nagoya with one of my good friends, I am so excited to be in another great Asian city, Hong Kong.

LINC Tokyo has been an unforgettable experience, filled with food, laughter, friends, bonding, and learning. I definitely am in love with ramen now. All in all, LINC Tokyo was a great experience that I ABSOLUTELY would recommend to anyone. I learned so much about doing business and had a wonderful experience meeting with various executives.

So what exactly are my plans now? I will be interning in Hong Kong for the rest of my summer basically and working in the audit devision of Moore Stephens, a mid-tier global firm. I am super excited for this experience because I will actually be gaining some real-world experience and applying what I learned from LINC and other classes to my internship.

I appreciate the fact that I got a chance to participate in LINC, something that no other business school offers for freshmen. It has been a journey for sure. さいようなら! Goodbye and have a great summer!

-Russell

I SLAYED TOKYO! I am the chic and refined version of Godzilla. Call me Claudzilla, please. During my time in this wonderful and iconic city, I did so many things I never thought I would do. The only thing that I knew going in was that I would not sleep, and rightly so because there is no time to sleep in a place that has so much to offer (and no time to sleep when I should be gracing Tokyo and its residents with my presence). The lights, the people, and the experiences waiting to happen were calling out to me. 
I would like to point out how amazing this trip was going through the LINC program and getting the chance to represent the Marshall School of Business. Our group was presented with so many wonderful learning opportunities and provided with such great exposure that I do not feel we could have gotten from anywhere else. Hearing the president of Coca-Cola Japan, for example, discuss his journey and his passion for his work was absolutely inspiring, and seeing the most beautiful work environment and ecosystem at Pasona (covered with growing vegetation in every possible place, literally even under the very seats the employees did their work on) was extremely intriguing and provides reassurance that there is always something new to see and learn even when one thinks there is not much more that can cause an impression like that.
*Random interjection and BIGGEST TIP:  do A LOT of research before going to Japan. Make sure that you have some idea of what you want to do and print out maps and charts ahead of time. Have some grasp on key phrases that will allow you to survive in Japan, and I am suggesting that you not only know how to speak them, but that you know how to read them. I, thankfully, had friends that knew enough Japanese to help our group survive, but if you like to explore independently and do your own thing like me, it is imperative you know how to talk the walk and walk the talk (mhm, that’s right!).
Tokyo and its nightlife outside of the office and workplace was such a beautiful thing to discover with friends. Most of the time I didn’t have to worry about photos because there was always one photographer who would selflessly help take care of saving my memories for me and then tagging me in them later on Facebook.(HUGE THANK YOU TO THOSE OF YOU, BY THE WAY). That does not mean I wasn’t the biggest tourist around. I was taking videos left and right, exclaiming “OOH!” and “AHH!” with every little distraction, and being way too loud from excitement. I already raved about Karaoke in my last post, but I could go on and on. One of the coolest things to get excited about is getting to experience the Japanese culture, specifically those of young adults, first hand. I cannot stress enough how cool it was to see them interact, hold conversations, shop, enjoy meals quietly (at rare times loudly) and sometimes barefoot at restaurants, and especially party.
On to the topic of food, I had shabu-shabu and conveyor belt sushi for the first time which is where I first tried sea urchin. I would say that I have never been discouraged from trying new things, but I have also never been so nauseous in my life. All of these new textures and flavors sure took me by surprise, and while it was so fun to think that I was being highly adventurous, I found myself losing my appetite more than once. This honesty is not at all meant to discourage the reader, but rather give advice and point out that being prepared with a large sum of snacks from home is probably one of the most critical things I could suggest. Though Japan has its convenience stores filled with tons of snacks, wasabi popcorn and fish-mayo flavored chips are not my go-to items. HOWEVER, all of the candy is the definition of yummy (HINT: Another awesome tip)
I could definitely write a book about my adventures with countless footnotes of suggestions on this post, but to do all of that work for free is not an efficient use of time. I mean, I am a business student after all. I said “Sayonara” sadly to Tokyo and now I say ” Sayonara” to this blog post and this experience. *turns page
-Claudia

I SLAYED TOKYO! I am the chic and refined version of Godzilla. Call me Claudzilla, please. During my time in this wonderful and iconic city, I did so many things I never thought I would do. The only thing that I knew going in was that I would not sleep, and rightly so because there is no time to sleep in a place that has so much to offer (and no time to sleep when I should be gracing Tokyo and its residents with my presence). The lights, the people, and the experiences waiting to happen were calling out to me. 

I would like to point out how amazing this trip was going through the LINC program and getting the chance to represent the Marshall School of Business. Our group was presented with so many wonderful learning opportunities and provided with such great exposure that I do not feel we could have gotten from anywhere else. Hearing the president of Coca-Cola Japan, for example, discuss his journey and his passion for his work was absolutely inspiring, and seeing the most beautiful work environment and ecosystem at Pasona (covered with growing vegetation in every possible place, literally even under the very seats the employees did their work on) was extremely intriguing and provides reassurance that there is always something new to see and learn even when one thinks there is not much more that can cause an impression like that.

*Random interjection and BIGGEST TIP:  do A LOT of research before going to Japan. Make sure that you have some idea of what you want to do and print out maps and charts ahead of time. Have some grasp on key phrases that will allow you to survive in Japan, and I am suggesting that you not only know how to speak them, but that you know how to read them. I, thankfully, had friends that knew enough Japanese to help our group survive, but if you like to explore independently and do your own thing like me, it is imperative you know how to talk the walk and walk the talk (mhm, that’s right!).

Tokyo and its nightlife outside of the office and workplace was such a beautiful thing to discover with friends. Most of the time I didn’t have to worry about photos because there was always one photographer who would selflessly help take care of saving my memories for me and then tagging me in them later on Facebook.(HUGE THANK YOU TO THOSE OF YOU, BY THE WAY). That does not mean I wasn’t the biggest tourist around. I was taking videos left and right, exclaiming “OOH!” and “AHH!” with every little distraction, and being way too loud from excitement. I already raved about Karaoke in my last post, but I could go on and on. One of the coolest things to get excited about is getting to experience the Japanese culture, specifically those of young adults, first hand. I cannot stress enough how cool it was to see them interact, hold conversations, shop, enjoy meals quietly (at rare times loudly) and sometimes barefoot at restaurants, and especially party.

On to the topic of food, I had shabu-shabu and conveyor belt sushi for the first time which is where I first tried sea urchin. I would say that I have never been discouraged from trying new things, but I have also never been so nauseous in my life. All of these new textures and flavors sure took me by surprise, and while it was so fun to think that I was being highly adventurous, I found myself losing my appetite more than once. This honesty is not at all meant to discourage the reader, but rather give advice and point out that being prepared with a large sum of snacks from home is probably one of the most critical things I could suggest. Though Japan has its convenience stores filled with tons of snacks, wasabi popcorn and fish-mayo flavored chips are not my go-to items. HOWEVER, all of the candy is the definition of yummy (HINT: Another awesome tip)

I could definitely write a book about my adventures with countless footnotes of suggestions on this post, but to do all of that work for free is not an efficient use of time. I mean, I am a business student after all. I said “Sayonara” sadly to Tokyo and now I say ” Sayonara” to this blog post and this experience. *turns page

-Claudia

Before I add my finishing thoughts on Tokyo, I must dedicate an entire post to Karaoke. Though this may not be the best quality video, it holds a lot of precious memories, and it’s the kind that I am sure others would want to make. That is why I selflessly took it upon myself to raise Karaoke awareness. You cannot go to Japan, specifically Tokyo, and expect to live the full experience without engaging in some カラオケ. The compound- Karaoke- is made of the word kara meaning empty and oke[sutora]- meaning orchestra.  According to Wikipedia it ” is a form of interactive entertainment in which amateur singers sing along with recorded music using a microphone.” And while I agree with most of it, I disagree that it is only for amateur singers. As you can see from the video above, we were a band of professionals, and quite frankly, the term “amateurs” is insulting to our persona what with our refined talent and abilities.

I was super close to being a singing Sailor Moon. The karaoke place that I went to with my group offered costumes for rent, like many others. But that day I had just bought an outfit in Harajuku that was too “Kawaii”/ cute to not perform in. Which brings me to my next point. The karaoke experience that Japan provides is based on a private room basis and provides the most comfortable and appropriate singing environment for people to-perform-in. There is no need to worry unlike here in the states where one has to awkwardly sing in front of random strangers at say a karaoke machine in a bowling alley or skating rink. Lastly, the song selections is perfect on all levels, having the most current of music with the hottest artists, to the cheesiest and most classic song selections *cough cough* like the one in the video.

"If I could fall into the sky" and go back to Tokyo to have a fun night of karaoke I would do this without a moment’s hesitation. I think that it’s pretty obvious "I’d walk a thousand miles" to do it.

-Claudia

Final Reflection

It’s time to reflect on my Tokyo experience as a whole…

To put it simply, this was the best trip I could have ever hoped for. It will be hard to make any one week experience as packed with learning, connecting, fun, and adventure as I had experienced in one week in Tokyo. Each and every company visit gave me insight into how business worked better than I have ever experienced first hand even in the United States. I felt like I was running with the big dogs, and I’m grateful I have my foot in the door at some of those places. Just running around the city and absorbing the culture and society visually made every second of my time in Tokyo stimulating. That constant stimulation, along with a principle that the group had deemed Keiko’s Law (the opposite of Murphy’s Law), made the one week have a lifetime’s worth of experience packed within. Everything that could have gone right did go right. The trip was seamless.

I could go through each company and give a takeaway, but that’s more information for the report the other bloggers and I will be turning in as a report together. So I will mention more of the things that are unique to my experience.

There were several experiences I had with about 11 people in our LINC group that kept each of the weeknights interesting. We had all gone out to experience Shibuya and Roppongi, to see some of the nightlife scene. But it wasn’t until Friday that I started having some adventures away from the group. Another student and I went to Tokyo University to check it out. We were interested in how the universities in Japan looked, and since it wasn’t on our itinerary for the week, we took initiative. Tokyo University had a beautiful campus. The buildings were on par with the surrounding city, they were impressively tall. The architecture gave off a similar vibe to the university architecture at some U.S. universities. The people there spoke better English there than an average person on the streets, but it was still pretty hard to hold a meaningful conversation. Also, we looked especially out of place there. Not only were we clearly foreigners, we were dressed in street clothes when everyone on campus was dressed nicely and looked similar to how the business people did on the streets of Tokyo: always on a mission. After that I went back to Harajuku, which was my favorite place out of any district I visited in Tokyo. It embodied the Japanese culture that was the most youthful and fantastical that I had been searching for. People with colored hair and dressed in costumes were very common. I spent a lot of time in Harajuku that day and the next day. I guess I have to mention that the other student and I also got the chance to go on a couple of dates with local Japanese girls which was an experience that seemed like it was straight out of a movie. We had to communicate through Google translate most of the time, and since we had local guides from the area, we experienced more of the true cultural/societal life that a typical Japanese person would experience.

It’s hard to express the gratitude I have for this experience, and the amazement I am in after reflecting on how perfectly it went. I would like to at least give thanks to all of the staff and professors that made the trip possible and that kept our LINC group safe while also giving us the chance to have the week of our lives. I want to give special thanks to Jerry Giaquinta, who has been a strong influence to all of our group on a personal level, on top of his hard work to make the most of all of our professional experiences and cultural experiences. Job very well done, and you have my sincerest respect and gratitude and I envy that you get to do this year after year.

I want to thank my classmates for making this an amazing experience as well. I didn’t know anyone before we got on the plane, really. I hadn’t really connected to anyone in the few class sessions before the trip, but after only a day, I felt strongly connected with the group. I liked everyone on the trip but a group of 11 was especially friendly to me and included me in some experiences that I would have missed, so I am very grateful for that opportunity. I hope I positively impacted the lives of my group like they have done for my life as well.

I am thankful for the professors and my classmates and the city and my experience (and for my parents for paying for it of course). And I would recommend this program to anyone I can. I would recommend going to USC over another school just because of how amazing that trip was.

I think I have said about all I can find the words to express about this trip. I will cherish it for my entire life and I hope I can mimic its pure perfection on my future trips abroad.

LINC Tokyo 2014. The one week I will remember until I die.

- Aaron

Goodbye Tokyo

It’s hard to believe this week is over already. Now that it’s all over I am looking back and it seems like a fairytale, I don’t believe that was all real. I last reported on Thursday and it feels like a lifetime’s worth of memories have been made even since then.

It’s sad, almost terrifying at this point even, to think that I’m leaving Japan. I have already made it clear, but let me say it again, I love Tokyo. I am absolutely certain that I will be back to this country to visit the northern island where it snows and the southernmost end of the main island, known for its beaches, to see the natural side of Japan rather than just the cities.

I don’t want to wrap things up too much; I want to leave an overall reflection for my final blog when I get home. So what I will say now is that I will hold this once in a lifetime trip close to my heart for my entire life, and it has fueled a fire to travel more of the rest of world. I will return to give thanks to those who made this trip what it was, and to reflect on the trip as a whole in a couple days’ time.

- Aaron

Last Thoughts in Tokyo..

After packing all my items and clothes, and making sure I have gathered all my documents, I am finally ready to check-out and say good bye to Tokyo. The days went by too quickly, probably because of all the company visits and city tour which kept me busy the whole trip. Still, it didn’t really occur to me that I would be leaving Tokyo so soon and even now I don’t feel much different from yesterday. After staying here for a whole week, I feel as if I had just began to adapt to Japan and its culture, so I feel a little empty? (the more accurate description would be 아쉬움, only that this word is hard to translate into English, thinking that I would already be leaving Tokyo and going back to California).

Even at the end of my trip I still feel that there are way too many more good places in Japan I haven’t visited and regret not going out on every chance I got during my free time, even if it meant getting less sleep and rest. I blame my laziness and lack of enthusiasm for that. Looking back I think I was crazy for not doing any of the crazy things I could have done, especially in a place like Tokyo. 

All things aside, I still feel this trip was a valuable experience that gave me an insight on various types of people and approaches that businesses can take. I will focus on each of the companies I have visited and what I specifically liked about Japanese culture in my upcoming blog, so stay tuned.  

-Yesol

Tokyo: Day 5, 6, 7, and 8

Day 5 (Thursday)

Today we visited Rakuten, a Japanese online shopping company. It was really interesting to learn that this company was in the process of “Englishizing” and trying to make employees learn how to speak English. We also went to the Edo Tokyo Museum and watched a Sumo Wrestling match. Overall, it was an intellectually stimulating and entertaining day.

Day 6 (Friday)

We visited our last company today, Uniqulo. It was interesting to learn that Uniqulo uses a mass marketing targeting strategy that appeals to everyone rather than just a specific market segment. As such a strong and globalized company in the retailing industry, I also found it interesting that each store manager had the autonomy of designing their own store layout while weekly auditors came to check up on the stores.

Day 7 (Saturday)

Today, I went early in the morning to the Tsukiji fish market with a couple of friends. It was a fascinating experience and even though it meant getting there at 3:30am in the morning, it was well worth it. I also went to Harajuku with another friend for lunch and shopping. At night, we had our final LINC presentations and then a wonderful dinner to wrap up our LINC class. Overall, it was a wonderful experience, and I loved being in Tokyo.

Day 8 (Sunday)

Leaving Tokyo today for Nagoya! I cannot wait for my next adventure!

-Russell

Places in Tokyo

Tokyo has been great so far. The stores and dining places I have visited were interesting/strange/refreshing. I really recommend Daiso, a kind of Japanese dollar store (or 100 yen shop) where a variety of products are sold in an extremely low price. The one I visited was in Shinjuku, and bought a large amount of snacks and a bowl for just 437 yen. I find it very convenient because it has almost everything that’s necessary for our lifestyles such as some household appliances, cooking supplies, slippers, first aid kit, snacks you can eat on the bus, you name it. You can also find Daiso somewhere in LA, except the cashiers there aren’t as friendly and polite as the cashiers in Tokyo.

As for the food, I did some experimenting just for the sake of experience in Japanese culture. Abura Sora was refreshing, and it was also a pleasant surprise because I really enjoyed it, even though I couldn’t finish the whole bowl. Instead of having the usual noodles in the soup I was accustomed to, I had to dip noodles in the soup and place the noodles on my spoon before I actually get to eat it. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but I know it was somewhere in Shibuya. That was also the place where I had to buy a meal ticket from a vending machine. I also got to eat Ramen burger in a fast food place called Lotteria, which tasted pretty unique but I doubt if I ever want to eat it again. The ramen was sticky but soft and squishy, and I had to dip the burger into the soup where the meat and vegetables were in. It sounds unflattering when I describe it in words, but it’s actually not as bad as it sounds. I liked the sauce inside the burger (I think it was mustard and mayonnaise). My general impression of buying items, food and clothes at stores, restaurants and shops is that most of the Japanese are orderly, organized and polite. I liked how I had to place my Japanese cash on a tray every time I pay, and how clean the places I visited were. It really reflects how detailed and organized Japanese culture is. It felt as if everything was running smoothly overall.

-Yesol

Sumooooo! I can officially say that I love a sport now! Being Japan’s national sport, it is easily the fastest way to get everyone in the room pumped up. What I suggest for future LINC people to keep in mind are the rules for the game.

The loser is determined by :
1. The first person to step outside of the circle
OR
2. The first person who’s body parts other than feet touch the floor.

I’m going to be honest, I used to associate sumo wrestling as ridiculous men fighting in thongs/ diapers, but it is so much more than that. There is strategy, symbolism and routine involved that make the sport honorable and worthwhile. It had its origins as entertainment for the shintos and its established rituals are of a religious background (i.e. the purification of the ring with salt). Lastly, try chanko, which is the ancient traditional food of the sumo wrestlers. Changes in the recipe over the years makes it low calorie and promise to not make you look like a sumo wrestler.

-Claudia