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Erica Roe - Business and Culture in Japan

Published: Monday, 27 Jun 2016
Author: Cheryl Ann Benner
Department: Office for Education Abroad

Name: Erika Roe

Status: Senior

Major: Supply Chain Management

Hometown: Caro, MI

Program: Business and Culture Study Abroad in Japan


While studying abroad in Japan, a large portion of our program was spent visiting different Japanese companies, as well as non-Japanese companies. The focus of these visits was to compare them to how American companies operate, as well as compare their operations to other companies in Japan and see if they are parallel with Japanese customs and culture. Some of the companies that we visited included the Takanaka Corporation, Disney, Nestle, Fujitec, KRT, and many more. While learning about Japanese culture, we were told that a lot of company executives earn their role because it was passed down to them from another generation, rather than earned like it generally is in America. My first thought when hearing this was "how could that possibly work? How could a company succeed?" But it sure did work! Some of the most prestigious and well-known companies that we visited were on their 3rd or 4th generation in the family. Another thing that surprised me was that women do not play an important role in the workplace, or any role for that matter. I would basically be useless in Japan if I was a native. If I did see a woman in the workplace, it was usually in a part time, miniscule role such as a greeter who sits at the front of the entrance of buildings.


A couple things that were quite humbling in their workplaces was how much they value their employees and secondly how much they care about the quality of the product they are offering to consumers. These things were apparent in all of the companies we visited, and it really showed how much of a collectivist society they are and how they really do think that their people are their #1 asset.


Another thing that seemed to occur often, though not about a company, was that everywhere I went it smelled like fish. Whether it was just the aroma in the air or if there were a street food vendor next to me selling fish on a stick (this is normal), you'd think we were standing on the coast at all times. It was quite the experience to see the different kinds of food that street food vendors were selling, because in America when you think of street food vendors you think of tacos, deep fried Oreos or any other fatty American food on a stick. In Japan, you see an awful lot of octopus or crab on a stick, fruit on a stick that they can charge $5 for because it's such a rare commodity, and a ton of other foods that I still question what they were.


Overall, my experience while in Japan was like nothing I could ever imagine. It is one thing to travel abroad, but to study abroad means so much more, especially in the business world. It is very beneficial to learn about how different cultures and countries do their business, because it creates an open mind for an individual and for me personally, I am excited to start working in the real world and to be able to apply my new learning's and understandings when working with people of different cultures.