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A large group of people is gathered indoors, posing for a photo behind a sign that reads "Welcome to OPPAMA PLANT, NISSAN MOTOR CO., LTD., MAR. 12, 2015." The group includes men and women of diverse backgrounds, all smiling and dressed in business or business casual attire. Behind them, there is a white car and a bright, modern interior, indicating they are at a Nissan facility.

Making Memories: International Experience in Japan

I’m writing this blog waiting for my flight from Osaka back to New York, feeling in awe of a beautiful country and so happy to have shared the Japan International Experience (IE) trip with my fellow SOM students.

When I think of Japan, it will forever be tied to the many memories I’ve made on this fantastic trip. I knew before I even started at Yale that Japan was the place I wanted to visit. In my first job, I had a great boss, Dr. Ming Ang, who introduced me to his colleague Thomas whose wife is Japanese. Every March, Thomas would travel with his wife and son to Japan and return to work with interesting tasting treats (think green tea flavored kit kats) and many stories of the wonders to be found there (think cherry blossoms). When I left my job, I stayed in touch with my boss and he told me all about his business trips to Japan when the company was bought by Hitachi.

Yale SOM visiting the Nissan Oppama Plant in Japan.

So I wanted to visit Japan, but not just as a tourist, I also wanted to see what my boss had seen when he visited companies there and the differences in corporate culture and business practices in the country. IE Japan was the perfect opportunity for me to visit many amazing companies, learn about Japanese culture, and fit in a little bit of sightseeing. On top of all this, I got to do it with my friends.

Professor Art Swersey and Professor Eizo Takai took us to see companies such as JFE Steel, Panasonic, Inax (High-tech toilets), Nissan, Uniqlo, and quite a few more interesting talks. Every host was incredibly welcoming and totally frank about the successes and challenges facing their business. I have to admit, that my German heritage probably added to my love of Japan. The trains run on time, people are punctual, politeness is of the utmost importance, and the Japanese show a lot of respect to their work colleagues. There was still an impressive amount of humor as is evidenced by many of the hilarious photos we took on the visits!

Ms. Reiko Kanari showing us around Tokyo, and being the best guide we could’ve hoped for!

So what will be my fondest memories? Here’s the shortlist:

  • Karaoke – Renditions of such classics by Snoop Dogg, Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls to name a few
  • Gordon Schoenfeld ’15
    Shobu Shobu – So much meat, just so much…
  • Visiting Yamaha – As a pianist, I took special delight in seeing grand pianos being made and then played. It was truly fascinating and the craftsmanship was incredible.
  • Asakusa Temple in Tokyo – I spent a few hours shopping for gifts and seeing the variety of history in each and every object, from beckoning cats to landscapes pictures of Mount Fuji, the beauty of these treasures and the temple were enchanting.
  • Kimonos – Getting them on is probably more effort than I’ve ever put into my daily dressing routine. Dressing truly is art, just like the kimonos themselves.
  • The day trip to the Spa in Hakkone – Venturing into nature with hot springs, outdoor pools and fresh air.
  • Momo-san – A nickname given to a member of our class whose name apparently was difficult to pronounce. Also he left his bag on the bullet train when we got off at Osaka. Only in Japan could he get it returned in less than 3 hours, and a good reminder to always keep your passport on you when travelling!
  • Harajuku – Going to fashion quarter with a fashion expert (Erin Kelly ’16) led to the acquisition of some truly hilarious cat glasses. As in, glasses that make me look like a kitty cat! I will be wearing them very soon and will definitely put up the pictures.
  • Sumo Wrestling – Those guys are more flexible than me and I’ve been doing yoga for a few years now… perhaps time for a new hobby? Also, we were filmed on Osaka TV because even though Sumo is the one place Japanese people are allowed to be loud, Yale SOM were still the loudest people there!

So goodbye Japan, and by the time you are reading this, I will be back in New Haven. Hello Spring 2 and the final quarter of first year!

Hilde Dahmer ’16 relaxing at Hakkone Spa