Sunday, May 24, 2009
Sadly this "once-in-a-lifetime" experience has ended. Im sitting in Chicago's O'Hare Airport waiting for my short flight to Detroit. The flight from Japan was long of course, and it was strange because we actually outran the sun, and it's morning again. But I'm so excited to see my family of course, and I've had some time to recollect on this amazing journey. I couldn't have picked better group members to travel with. There wasn't a single person that I couldn't sit down with and carry on a pleasant conversation. I got to become good friends with my classmates, better understand my professors, and meet many great international students and teachers along the way. We feel that every student's personality brought something to the table to make the trip that much more exciting and fun! I learned SO much about international commerce and the rapid speed of globalization. As well as a crash course in the differences between our cultures. Every place of business I went to in Taiwan and Japan treated me like they were honored for me to be in their store. But the first two English speaking voices I heard when returning to the states were a customs agent screaming at me to advance in line, and a girl at a sub shop that didn't even look me in the eye or thank me for anything. The manners and values in America seemed to be "optional". None the less, I love my country and I'm glad to be back. I feel this trip has forever changed who I am as a person, and as a student. I hope that I can one day bring my family to Taiwan or Japan to show them these beautiful cultures.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Today the group had our last lunch in Japan together. It was at a nice restaurant that included a complete meal of beef and noodles, along with some soup and tea. But anyway, Dr. Peng asked us when we sat down if we all could spend some time while we eat to think of their "defining moment" or favorite moment of this adventure. I spent some time to narrow my list because there were so many good ones. At the end of the meal, it came to be my turn to share to the group. I said my favorite experience was when Fatima, Brian, Levi and myself were feeling gutsy and basically climbed a mountain that had steps paved into the side of it, which led to a breath-taking view and temple (nice work if one of the forementioned is reading this). But I really wish that I would've talked about how amazing it was to meet the indeginous college students of Taiwan and Japan. They were definetly the best part. They all were so friendly and hospitable, not to mention happy that we were there. It was great to exchange ideas both academically and socially with someone my own age, that was raised half way around the world. As many differences as our cultures have, there are really so many things that we have in common, like a passion for movies, music, travel, and learning. It was extremely interesting and enlighting to have been afforded this experience.
I enjoyed the sushi that I had in the states when I was there, but I wanted to eat some authentic and fresh Japanese sushi. So Catherine, one of the JCMU students took a few students and myself to a sushi bar that she claimed to be very good. And the place we went to did not disappoint! It was a traditional restaurant setting with booths, but the catch was that there were conveyor belts going through the whole restaurant with the sushi on it! You can sit down and watch the sushi as it comes directly from the kitchen and passes you. And it is all on very small plates with two pieces of sushi on each one. Each piece is not that big, which is great for trying new things that you have never had before. Each plate costs 90 yen, which is just under 1 USD- so it was very reasonably priced as well. And fresh?!? It tasted like they were catching the fish in the back, and filleting them seconds before placing it on the conveyer belt! My favorites were tuna, salmon, and crab meat. But I really did not enjoy the fish eggs, sea weed, or fermented beans (really stinky!) All things considered, it was an experience that I'll never forget. And I think this is a type of business that could go very well in Michigan.
Yesterday we attended a guided tour of a manufacturing plant owned by Toyota Motor Corp. It was very insightful and I learned a lot of company information from the tour guide. She discussed the Toyota Production System (TPS) that is implemented, and apparently has been somewhat copied by the Big 3 in the U.S. It is a very efficient model of mass production that focuses on time and quality. We actually got to walk through the plant on a catwalk while the employees were working. Sadly we were not allowed to take pictures inside the plant, because it was impressive how the employees worked with robots that were programmed to bring them materials needed to perform their job on the line. The robots were also used to administer the adhesive on the front and rear windsheilds because the had the ability to be very percise and consistent. Even before we went to the plant, I noticed that MANY vehicles being driven are Toyota. It was similar to seeing a car made by General Motors in Michigan. And it is obvious that the vehicles that they produce here are small and not only fuel efficent, but they are perfect for the city driving that these cars are used for.
Since we've arrived in Japan, I've noticed many similarities and differences between the Japanese and American cultures. First, the term "give respect to receive it" is a strong value that every Japanese citizen takes very seriously. In every store that I've gone into, the employees treated me like I was the most important person in the room. They bow virtually after every sentence, and are happy to be of any assistance. And any time you bump into a person on a train station or on the street, they apologize and bow to you. Compared to the United States, bumping into someone can turn into dirty looks or even harsh words. We as a society are in such a rush at all times, and the Japanese people take their time, and are very easy going. But they do show their irritation to ignorance even if you are a tourist. Forgetting to take your shoes off inside a building is very disrespectful to them, as well as failing to return a bow.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Today was really fun for all of the group members. We traveled by bus, train, and bicycle to the city of Kyoto. It seemed to be an upper class type of area, because the stores were very expensive and the locals were very well dressed. But we didn't spend much time at the station/mall. We visited cultural landmarks such as a castle and BEAUTIFUL temple. The architecture was really the highlight of my day. I never knew that the Japanese people were so complicated in their design of monuments. The scenery is one aspect that embellishes the beauty, then they have excellent curling roofs on the buildings. Each landmark is also decorated with a wide assortment of decorations of statues like dragons or phoenixes. And the most interesting structural design to me is the creaking floorboards in the castle that we visited. They designed the boards to make noise in case their enemies entered the building unannounced. It is obvious that they put a great amount of energy into preserving these buildings for many years to come as well. We were not able to touch many objects, take pictures, and there was also heavy surveillance to ensure that nobody defaces the artifacts. One major problem has occurred on the trip though. It seems that the swine flu made its way into Japan. It didn't come from us by the way :) So we have had to alter our plans for this week because the college that we were planning on visiting has been closed to ensure that the infection doesn't spread any more.
Monday, May 18, 2009
The trip to Japan was strenuous and felt like it lasted forever, but the patience has been paying-off. JCMU is a beautiful campus, and I feel like the location does nothing but torture the students that take classes here because they are right on the lake shore. The fact that we can only travel by bicycle helps magnify the true beauty of the Shiga Prefecture. I say this because traveling by car, airplane, or train includes traveling too fast to take in the beauty; and walking can be such work that it is easy to get tired. It was impressive to see so many Michigan Universities represented at the JCMU anniversary. All representatives looked very professional and were friendly as well. I must say, the food here is much better than that of Taiwan. Every meal that I’ve had so far has been excellent, and makes my mouth water just thinking about it. I bought an extra large platter of sushi and rice, and then I just devoured it because it was so tasty. Something else that I noticed is that most products in Taiwan either had some English or a descriptive picture on the packaging. But in Japan, there is no English what so ever and there aren’t many with pictures as well. I really wish that the weather in Michigan would be what we have in Japan everyday. It is the first time that I’ve ever been anywhere that two days in a row, I can’t possibly hope for any change in the weather no matter how minuet. I’m very excited to learn more about the business practices and methods of the Japanese people. The main reason I attended this program is to use some methods and practices for my own business in the United States. It’s possible that I will learn something that hasn’t been seen before by some people in the states, thus making a niche in a market.