Japan: Land of the Rising Sun (or Heavy Rain), Kaizen and Amazing Toilettes


Well, the first leg of our four city Asia Trip is almost over and I have determined that Tokyo is one amazing town!!! My first impression of Tokyo and the Japanese culture was: clean, quiet and incredibly polite! For example, the most frequented subway station in the world is Shinjuku. On average, 2 million people transfer through this station every day. I was there during rush hour (8pm) and there were no cigarette buts on the ground, the only noise you heard was the low hum of thousands of people walking through like water flowing from tributaries to a river and every person I made eye contact with or spoke to went out of their way to make me feel comfortable. Incredible!

Our program began with two lectures about managing international teams from the Japanese perspective and about the Toyota manufacturing system of Kaizen. Kaizen means continual improvement and elimination of non value adding waste. This leads to JIT (Just in Time) or Lean manufacturing. (We learned about all these concepts in the Global Operations Class last term). Then, we went to Hino Truck factory and saw all these concepts in action. Hino also had some sci-fi like welding and supply stocking Robots that can see and sense/react to tact time or the speed of production. I was waiting to see Terminator.

We also toured a Kewpei factory. Kewpei is the most famous mayonnaise brand in Japan, and believe me the Japanese love their mayonnaise. It was fascinating. We saw everything from a machine that cracks and separates 600 eggs/minute to how a Japanese company has become 100% carbon neutral by implementing a closed loop system. The Mayo, by the way, is delicious and since I’ve seen this factory I am confident that it is probably the most sanitary mass produced food item in the world.

During our free time, our only Japanese student, Masaaki, generously took us around the town to eat Sushi at the Tokyo Fish Market, walk through the most famous Buddhist temples in Tokyo and to see the Imperial Palace. We also had a grand night at Izakaya (a restaurant where you have two hours of all you can drink and eat for a $20 USD), then KARAOKE! I also had a chance to network with the Tokyo Chapter of Net Impact an environmental business group where I met and exchanged business cards with Japanese employees of Toshiba and Kawasaki.

Fabulous Experiences

1. The Japanese Toilette: warm seat, bidet, automatic deodorizer…ohh so nice!
2. Food: Sushi Train = $9 USD for 10 plates of Sushi, Ramen Noodle = Broth that has been fermenting for 3 days, Red Bean Paste Dumplings (SWEET), and yes…raw beef and horse meat. (BTW, sometimes you just have to eat it before you know what it is. Horse meat texture is like elk and it tastes a bit like beef…pretty good)
3. Shopping: OH SO MUCH! I found many stores that have eco-friendly products!
4. Arcade Photo Booths: You all know the photo booths in the mall that you can get Polaroid pictures at… well imagine that but as a timed game where you can edit the pictures as you take them and in a room which holds 20 people.
5. Disney Tokyo: Truly the most friendliest place IN THE WORLD!

I would like to give a special Arigato Gozaimasu to all of the MIM students who speak Japanese and showed the rest of us a wonderful time!

Next stop is Seoul, so I’ll say Sayonara for now.



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Filed under Asia Trip, Common Questions, Student Life

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