Konnichiwa from Tokyo! It’s great to be here. My name is Izzie, and I’m one of six QUT students currently in Japan interning with one of the world’s most historical trading companies – Mitsui & Co. Headquartered in Tokyo, the company likes to joke that they trade in everything from ramen to steel; and it’s completely true. In terms of Western corporations, we simply have nothing like it.
Part of our internship has included a lot of intercultural talks and discussions – what were our expectations of Japan? What were our preconceived thoughts about Japanese businesspeople?
Unsurprisingly, the answers from all six of us (and the other six students we’re travelling with from Deakin University in Melbourne) were fairly similar. We all expected Japan to be clean, neat, and orderly – with the Japanese being very polite and respectful.
However, there’s an interesting dichotomy at play here (watch out – I’m about to go full Marketing student nerd on you). In a place that is so organised in layout, where people are almost overwhelmingly considerate, the overall aspect and design of inner city aesthetics are crazy.
Take, for example, Shibuya crossing. An iconic part of Tokyo, the crossing sees hundreds of thousands pass through its streets every single day. On our first visit one night after work, we all scrambled up on some benches at the crossing and simply ‘people watched’ for about 20 minutes. For a place that’s so systematic, it’s intriguing to see the tidy streets flood with a beautiful mess of people, all headed for completely different destinations, deeds, and dreams.
Another example is the advertising here. Blasted over speakerphones and displayed on electronic screens, ads are bright, colourful, and incredibly animated. The overall look and feel here takes a swift departure from Western realism and enters the Japanese realm of caricature (anime, or manga, anyone?) It’s not uncommon to see characters from Nintendo’s ‘Animal Crossing’ plastered on train advertisements, or Ghibli’s ‘Totoro’ used in a street poster. At first, it can be a lot to take in – but it’s incredibly interesting to reflect on when thinking about the perceived Japanese tidiness and collective introversion.
Personally, I’m trying to welcome it all with open arms. So far, Tokyo is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced – so I’ll be sure to keep you posted on any other musings or experiences. Stay tuned!