Over spring break, I traveled to Japan along with 22 other Yale SOM students on an invitation from the Japanese government. The program, called the Kakehashi Project (Japanese for “bridge”) or Friendship Ties program, took us on an all-expenses-paid trip to experience Japan to its fullest, with the goal of promoting friendship and cooperation between the U.S. and Japan and building a global understanding of Japan’s economy, society, history, culture, politics, and foreign policy.
Throughout the trip, we were able to meet with Japanese businesses to learn about their challenges, innovation, and traditions, and to learn from government officials and professors about the Japanese economy and foreign policy. We also experienced Japanese culture firsthand during a three-day, two-night homestay with a Japanese family.
This trip was different from other trips that I have participated in because I had no say in the itinerary and went into it completely blind. As a result, I saw some aspects of the country that I would have never run across otherwise. We heard from top executives in companies like Toyota, Brother, and DIC Corporation, interacted with local people in a sincere and quotidian way, and visited parts of the country not known for tourism. Many of my preconceptions about Japan were confirmed, like the beauty of its architecture and gardens, but many were dispelled, like the rigidity of its people. The knowledge we gained from this trip, like the memories and connections, will stay with us forever and we will carry our new knowledge forward and incorporate it into our lives and careers in the future.