By Linh PMP
We arrive at Narita Airport in the early morning, where I recognize that my coordinator is Hajime, a Japanese that my company has supported to have an internship in Vietnam recently. It is the chance for me to learn from him the way to take care a guest student in a Japanese way, or in a Hajime way in particular. Actually he has been one of the most demanding customers that I have worked with – now I understand why.
Then we quickly move to Olympic Center for the Orientation where JOCA representative explains to us some program features and the demand of our final report after the program. The main purpose of Jenesys is to attract people to Cool Japan, thus increasing tourists to Japan and boost global demands for Japanese products. They want us to find out what is the cool Japan in our eyes and how we can promote the cool Japan back home. That’s a very delicate (yet expensive) way to promote a national brand name that Vietnam somehow can learn from (and tailoring with a different message, of course with a different budget).
We meet two groups of Filipino students in the Olympic Center. I send them a friendly smile, which seems to break the ice. Some Filipino students actively asked to have photos with me after lunch. Tip number 1: Wanna have friends? Just smile!
In the afternoon, we visit Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. To be frank, the content of the visit is very hard to follow. I also hardly find the link between the course theme “Entrepreneurship” and the visit. However, the architecture and the investment in the building are quite impressive.
Then we visit a temple. Basically I think Japanese and Vietnamese share some similarities in terms of expected behaviors in the sacred places like that. We also pray there. There are a big trees where people usually pray for love, like in Ha Temple (Hanoi). The only different thing is the more complicated rule before entering the temple. They wash left hand, then right hand, then the mouth with temple water before going inside.
In the night time, we check in the rooms in Olympic Center where we are asked to take a bath in the common bathroom (of course of separate genders). Most Vietnamese students are afraid of the common bathroom where they have to stay naked in front of so many people, but I think it is fun. Firstly, it is our body that we need to love and be proud of. There is no reason to be afraid of showing our body to other people, provided that it is not against the law and ethics. Secondly, when taking bath together, people seem to be more equal, with no differences in terms of clothes and make-up. I think it is a good idea for schools to have common bathrooms in the dorm design. I believe it is part of the training for personal development and social engagement! Unfortunately there are only 2 other students going to the common bathroom with me. The others try to use the private bathroom of the teacher.
At night, my Vietnamese teammates invited me to play UNO (a card game). I am not a playful person, but still decide to join. Frankly, as the oldest student in the group, I want to get closer to other younger members, so as to make them feel the most comfortable with me as possible, then I can support them better during the program without making them feel weird. I want to be their real friends before making any influence in the group, in case needed. Then it turn out that we all really have a very fun night of card games and jokes. Some say that I am no longer a serious Capricorn in their eyes haha. By the way, it is a big note for any group traveling experience – do not let the night go away without team-building experience!
We visit Panasonic Center. They show off the latest technologies which generate amazing life experience for humans and sustainable future for the next generation. The Ultra high resolution 4K makes life more fun, Econavi makes energy use more efficient, Smart lifestyle brings greater comfort and security by connecting the entire home via the network. However, when we ask some detailed questions about the tentative duration or investment to build up a network of Smart lifestyle, the guide seems not to be sure about the answer. But no problem, dreams seem to be more beautiful if it is vague haha.
We also pay a visit to Panasonic Risupia where they normalize and visualize the complicated science theory for youngsters to experience. We also have Panasonic Risupia in Hanoi, so it seems to be the promotional feature of Panasonic everywhere. That is a winning point, because they simplify the complicated issues and create a fun access to science for the young generation. All educators should learn from such method to apply in their lectures, to creatively find a visualized way to explain and inspire students to research, investigate and seek for answers.
We visit Sumo Museum quickly after lunch. I am surprised to know that Sumos eat just once per day, but lots of rice. The lifespan, due to their anti-scientific eating habit, is very short. And there are female sumos! To be frank, I see no good reason for Sumo to be considered as a kind of sports (sorry to say that)! It seems to make health worse, life shorter and beauty less. Please share with me if you can understand why to call that sports.
Then we move to Edo Museum. Very nice architecture. They know the good way to design a lively museum, which reminds me of the Museum of Ethnicity in Hanoi that ranks very high as among the top museums in Asia. Though Edo Museum has no open space with green areas like our museum in Hanoi, they still offer the atmosphere of openness and lively history, by placing a big bridge in the center of the museum.
Besides, they use technology to provide automatic tour guide in a small portable “talking machine”. With such machine, people can play and replay the explanation recording of each site or display without being accompanied by a tour guide. In other words, we can personalize the lessons in the museum.
The main feature remaining in my mind about Edo History is the domestic focus of the era when Japanese said “no” to internationalization and concentrated on develop internal strength in terms of technology and culture. Such history period built up the very core things for Japanese style and value. My lesson to study from that is to grow myself strong before going out to compete.
Akihabara is the next destination. The coordinator decides to let us go shopping there for 1.5 hour. I am not interested in shopping (as ever!), but still try to buy some cosmetics home. I then regret my 1.5 hour there because I can see nothing rather than cosmetics shops, cashier desk and duty free bill! I should have gone out to feel the culture of Akihabara, the sacred place for otaku to get Japanese anime, comics, idols and visit maid cafes. But I run out of time after all. What the hell!
This night, several students are persuaded to try the common bathroom, which is awesome! Yeah, they get to be more open and free! Again, I spend night time playing card game with my fellows. It is more fun than the first night because people know one another better. And of course the penalty for the losers in the game is more toxic ;).
We go from Tokyo to Osaka by Shinkansen, a very expensive and convenient way of transportation in Japan. Actually, the image of the Shinkansen running in front of Fusi Mountain is a symbol of a developed Japan. The Shinkansen is very organized, clean, punctual and most impressively, much less noisy than the train in Vietnam.
I sit next to Hajime, the coordinator. We talk quite a lot. He shares with me about his intention to choose two young members in the group to be the leaders. He knows it will be very easy for him if he choose experienced members like me to be the leaders, but still wants to give the younger and less experienced people the chances to practice and take the initiatives. It is far more difficult for him to control the group because these leaders can hardly be effective due to their inexperience, but it is a good way for him to train them. He wants to help them learn by doing, and try more by being trusted. I definitely agree with the educational philosophy. Actually when the teacher of the group shares with me her worry when letting the two young students become the leaders of the group, I frankly tell her that “They can surely do that. Please just trust them.”
Hajime also shares with me Japanese viewpoint on the word “busy”. They never use the word “busy” as an excuse. They understand that everyone in the business world is busy working and living. So there is no need to explain such common thing. If he cannot answer an email, he will briefly reply as, for example, “I have a proposal to finish right now. I will reply to you after I finish such duty, before 11am tomorrow.” So being specific, showing commitment to connect and stating a deadline is much better than mentioning the nonsense word “busy”. Good lesson from a Japanese friend.
The Entrepreneurial Museum of Challenge and Innovation which we visit today seems to be the most close to the course theme. People here are proud to show that Osaka people got the DNA of being entrepreneurs. Actually their people have been doing great jobs in terms of creating new products, services and values to human. But Hajime then tells me that Osaka start-ups are the most to break down in Japan, because their people are very easy to lose temper, which sounds very ironic!
Anyway, innovation is everywhere, in every historic period, in every industry. This is the inspiration for our Final Report Presentation.
Another interesting feature is the life span of Japanese companies. They do not only have old population, but also old company. Among 40,000 companies of more than 100 years old, 22,000 are Japanese. Among 5,500 companies of more than 200 years old, 3,000 are Japanese. They are followed by Germany, France and UK. It is pretty clear that Japanese work for long term and sustain for long time. Their key point is to focus on the core business rather than diversification.
A typical example of Japanese innovation shown in the museum is Instant Ramen. Well, it did not derive from a big dream to save the world – actually it is just to help people to have more convenient food. It did not require high tech in the beginning – actually the idea comes up from the fried tempura in a normal kitchen. Besides, the innovator, Monofuku Ando is in his forties after lots of life crisis. But then we have a product that changes the whole world. From the beginning, Monofuku decided to choose chicken to be the flavor, because he wanted to develop it as an international food and promote to international markets. Now he definitely did it. Chinese, America, Indonesia, and also Vietnam -we are all influenced by the idea. This is also an inspiration for us in the Final Report Presentation slide.
In the night time, we have group discussion on the ideas for final report. We decide to let group 1 speak their own impression on cool Japan, then group 2 speak their own, then the common presentation on promotion for cool Japan. It is quite stressful for the whole group to work out the idea, but we come to conclusion finally.
We visit Instant Ramen Museum. Another example of how Japanese people simplify the complicated things and create friendly access to technology for normal people. I make my own instant ramen cup here.
In the afternoon, we visit Osaka Castle where I tried a yukata. I do not understand why there are only me and two other girls trying it. It is so fun. I just want to try everything I can in this country before time is up. And I know that our Japanese guides would love to see how excited I am. It costs only 300yen afer all – reasonably affordable.
We fail to have sightseeing at Shitennoji because we arrive the place too late. It is because JOCA organizers do not calculate the time correctly. I am a bit disappointed because I really want to see the beautiful garden inside. But it is ok, anyway. Everyone can make mistakes, including organizers. Now we have time to visit Harukas and enjoy the feelings like in Keangnam Landmark Tower. The only thing that impresses me there is the elevator’s amazing speed (Feel like flying up with a power ranger LOL!).
At night we work again on the structures and main ideas for the final report. After all, the first version of presentation slide is finished at around 4am. All data is stored in my laptop (remember this, because it will cause a trouble on day 5!).
Konpeito Museum (Candy Museum) is the next to visit. Very sweet museum, exactly as the name tells.
In the afternoon, we move to Osaka University. We do not know that the students there speak Vietnamese, so we prepare an English song, which is damn weird. But students there are so lovely. All of them have been to Vietnam for study or travel. One of them can play dan bau (one string Vietnamese musical instrument), which is freaking awesome. Dan bau is really difficult, even for Vietnamese people. Another student is teaching Vietnamese for Vietnamese immigrant children living in Osaka. Interestingly, we see a girl wearing Vietnamese costume and writing calligraphy (like a “bà đồ”) and think that she is a Vietnamese – but no – totally Japanese! So impressive. I have fun time with them, except for the fact that I left my laptop at the university after the meeting. But one of the students there is so kind to bring the laptop to the hotel for me in the late night. This is the big mistake that I will never ever forget. Still feel so sorry about that.
We quickly move to meet homestay family. I tell them about ao dai, dan bau, dan ty ba, o mai, Vietnam education. They tell me about oden, international students to their house, countries they have visited. TWe cannot end the conversation until 11:30pm. I get to know that the homestay father will go to work at 7am, so I decide to wake up at 6:30am the next day to say goodbye to him.
I wake up as planned, present the parents with a Dong Ho Painting of collecting coconuts. I know that coconuts are very rare and expensive in Japan. They love it a lot. Another tip: Do research, be prepare and make a surprise with full heart!
The homestay day is great with having western breakfast, going to shops, cooking lunch and joining Hawaii dancing class. That is a typical normal day of the homestay mother. She just does not have to change much schedule for the guest. I love it. I love authentic experience like that. I even love the way she uses instant ingredients to cook food. That’s the way the modern women live.
We have to say goodbye to them in the late afternoon. My homestay parents are the last to stay with our group. They are so warm and emotional.
We continue working on the Final Report when coming back to the hotel. Actually I decide to spend one hour walking out on busy street with one fellow before getting to work. The breezing wind and sparkling river at night make me feel another Tokyo.
The presentation slide is finished at 2am.
Back to Tokyo for final report.
Our final report is considered as being quite insightful, organized and sophisticated. Hajime is so proud of us. Not focusing on insights, Filipino students have very fun performance with attractive music. I just can’t help joining them in the dancing while still wearing ao dai. It may look weird but I have fun. I think the dance makes me so close to Filipino students that after the report, some of them actively approach to ask for my contact to keep in touch. It is always a good chance to show the enthusiasm, then we can have new friends, new opportunities and new fun! Again, tip number one: wanna have new friends? – just smile.
Our final report can be accessed here: http://www.slideshare.net/linhpmpl/our-cool-japan
At night, Hajime takes me out to see Tokyo at night. He shows me the little New York inside Tokyo and the huge anime robot. He is quite playful, no more serious as the normal image of a coordinator – a very fun buddy to hang out with.
- I see that all my fellows in the program are capable and have great potential, but it would be even better if they are trained with international working skills in advance to be active ambassadors. Therefore, I later propose to the program organizer to become the orient-er for outgoing Vietnamese students to programs like Jenesys. I would like to use my experience and enthusiasm to support more Vietnamese students to build up their confidence and knowledge for playing an active role in international environment (finally I did that in January 2015, thanks to the MOET support, yay!).
- Keep contacting with my fellows (Vietnamese participants) in the program. They would be great candidates to build up a network of students with international mindset to welcome international students to Vietnam
- Keep contacting with Japanese professors and students to understand more about Japanese education & international experience demand
- Remain bold, brave, fun, open and well prepared for any upcoming journeys