1. First, who are you? What are your dreams and why the interest in Japan?

22 years ago, I was named Vinod, and I never bothered to change it since. I am perfectly described by the phrase: “Jack of all trades, master of none”. I love telling a good story and that means I am always up to make one as well.

Videography keeps me sane, and the big dream is to make larger narrative experiences. Right now I am interested in making all sorts of videos from basement music videos to feature length films.

Japan was an area of particular appeal because I simply hadn’t met anyone else who seemed to be greatly interested towards it when I was growing up in the suburbs of a small town in Kerala. Even when I moved to the big city for college, everyone I knew wanted to learn European languages, and me being the extremist I am, decided to take up the language no one else wanted to. It feels nice to know you are part of a smaller, tight knit community in that sense. As I looked into Japanese language, I looked into Japanese culture, media, and history, and it was different enough to warrant more interest and investment into it.

2. What made you decide you wanted to do an internship in Japan?

About two years ago, I was selected for a Japanese scholarship program called JENESYS 2.0, and I could see that there were clear initiatives from the Japanese government to promote the language and culture outside of Japan, and I knew it would be easier to get into Japan if there was a conscious effort from the government.

Coming into Japan, personally, was more different than I could imagine. While there are certain spheres of similarity between India and Japan from a cultural perspective, everything had stark contrasts to it at times. This was my first time living in a fully developed country, with a different language, a different culture, and different ways to approach the same or differing concerns.

I believe that an internship would be best if it were different from a holistic point of view. I would learn a whole lot more from interning in Japan at a young age, than I could in a more familiar Western culture, or had I planned to come after a few years, rather than immediately after college (finished in December, came to Japan in January).

3. Tell us about the planning and process.

I always read the ‘AAA’ tactic, and it is a very good guide for daily life as well: “Always Actively Approach”. I did not view Internship Japan as a job-listing site; it was a networking opportunity, and a way to understand how to approach businesses in a brave new world and the international environment.

Initially, I did go through several job-listing sites such as GaijinPot, Justa, and even Craigslist. And, I do recommend that everyone constantly check these sites (and more). A significant proportion of jobs listed were to teach English. While I was not against it, in order to apply for such postings, I had to pass external examinations to “certify” that, ‘Yes, I do know enough English’, even though my entire schooling and college education was in English (I am a native English speaker by practice, but not by citizenship).

In addition to applying through traditional sites, I explored the possibility of coming to Japan through AIESEC (I had worked for them before, so I was familiar with them). And, although I was able to find a company wanting to take me, they stopped responding after a few exchanges. I would recommend trying through AIESEC if you are into business fields or graphic designing, and are still in university (Please note that the AIESEC experience will vary from country to country).

Going back, teaching English is a great entry point to Japan generally. It pays well, you can find jobs easily, and it does not require a specific teaching background. However, if you intend on staying here for the longer run, you might start being dragged into the job and find it hard to separate from a certain stigma that comes with it. However, I kept going after companies who were featured on Internship Japan, and I would always dig deeper to find every single person who was ever featured on the site and contact them. Then I would look at their competitors or related companies and contact them too. I would also go through their profiles on LinkedIn, see their YouTube videos, and explore any and all articles published about them or the business.

Overall, I probably manually emailed around 40+ companies (and applied for more on job sites). From all that effort, only about two replied, and only one took an interview. And you can guess what happened with that one. Although I did get another offer from a company through Justa after my selection at Kenja, I had to decline it since I was not looking for a full time position at the time.

4. What were the prerequisites for your internships? Any special conditions from your university? Personal?

I wanted to have a role where I could make videos and I could leverage my experience with Social Media and Digital Marketing, but I was open to all types of companies as long as there was a videography angle. My university had no restrictions, except that I had to come back to write the final exams. This restriction ended up causing much delay; making me re-schedule my trip to Japan and leave after my university course had ended.

5. Tell us about the internship at Kenja. What do you do? How is your daily work? How is the work environment? And, how is your boss? (Referring to the interview with Ted)

Kenja is a small team, and is a remote-working environment. This means that the Tokyo office only has two members full-time (and now me as well). The smaller nature of the team is ideal for me since I preferred being able to interact with everyone in the company and working in smaller groups. Daily work takes a lot of flexibility and different roles; making it ideal as an internship position, really, encompassing business development, marketing, sales, research, networking, and more. There really wasn’t a time when I felt like I was not adapting to something new or learning something I wasn’t familiar with. Working with an international team sometimes means meetings might happen outside of the ‘normal’ 9 to 5 work schedule, however, that also means you can join remotely from anywhere. We are currently working out of the co-working space at Roppongi Hills. Which means I get to run into and meet all sorts of entrepreneurs and businesses as part of daily life. Networking never feels stalled, as long as you keep a cheerful and open attitude.

Ted is extremely passionate and I often seem him start his day at 8 and still working into midnight. He’s also well qualified and has a long string of big name companies behind him, from IBM to Vodafone. Ted also introduced me to Wayne Shaw; probably the most animated, passionate, and energetic person I know in my life. Wayne has his own cyber security company, CORE, and he spends a lot of time at Roppongi Hills with me. Working at Kenja has given me connections and opportunities which would be extremely difficult to reach. This is something I am eternally grateful for. Verena and Wayne have connected me to more people than I could ever have imagined.

6. Did you have any chance to study Japanese while in Japan or before coming? Will you come again?

I did study Japanese as a small credit requirement when I was in University, but this was a very basic level, and I am more or less closer to an N5 proficiency level. I wanted to do another course in Japanese when I was still in India, but I figured coming to Japan would be better for me to learn Japanese anyway.

Since coming to Japan two months ago, I’ve been busy with work, but typically I do get a chance to practice my broken Japanese daily as I stay a sharehouse (and I recommend everyone do this at least for the first month or two). The sharehouse has mostly Japanese people, and they are very friendly. And the good thing is they also knew enough English to make conversation work with both languages, while also helping you become familiar with the city.

At work, we speak English since we have a global team, but sometimes we’ll force ourselves to use Japanese at the office (there’s only one native Japanese speaker here so we tend to get lazy). Apart from that, there is never a shortage of opportunities to practice and learn Japanese; from the convenience store to the bar, to the officials, to the pedestrians, etc.

I would certainly want to stay longer, and would love to do so with the right opportunity.

7. How is Japan? Any message for young people thinking about coming to Japan?

Japan will be different from any other place you probably have experienced. Different parts of Japan will also have a different appeal. In Tokyo, you get to meet mostly a lot of foreigners as well, and you could get away with English at times. But in the rural areas you probably wouldn’t be able to use any English at all, and might also attract a lot of attention as you’d be one of a few group of foreigners.

It’s helpful to get on Language exchange sites and apps and try to make some friends in the area you are going to, before going to Japan. This will help a lot in figuring out what to do and where to go, and will also give you a good social life. If you’re coming from a developing country, the prices in Japan can seem incredibly high (especially in Tokyo), but you should receive a relatively high stipend too, so don’t shy away from enjoying yourself.

A couple of things to prioritize: figuring out health insurance, taxes, and learning how to cook. Observe as much as you can. A lot of things you take for granted, or would be able to do/not do in other places are different in Japan. The best thing to keep in mind is how incredibly safe a big city like Tokyo is. I have been outside at a lot of odd hours and across several places, and I’ve never seen or run into any issues (not that it’s impossible to find trouble).

8. How can we as Internship Japan do better?

Considering how Internship Japan is an effort by professionals in their spare time, I think the kind of work put into it is truly incredible. If there was one thing I would love to see more of, it’s to have more participation through different kinds of events, if possible. It is a great networking opportunity and helps build connections professionally (and in Tokyo, a lot of business is done on the basis of who knows whom).

9. Any message to the people reading this?

If the first 20 emails don’t work, send another 20. The point is to keep trying. After all, it only takes one to make a meaningful difference.
When it comes to speaking for yourself, don’t sell yourself short. I am always told this and I think it’s important for you to believe in your abilities and your willingness to adapt. Tokyo won’t really let you go calmly, it’s always alive. Keep yourself busy with events, projects, or simply learning anew skill.

Our latest intern Simon Ruhé shares his experiences in Japan's agricultural sector. Currently in his final year of study, Simon will graduate with a Bachelor of International Development Management with a specialization in “Sustainable Value chains” at the Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands.

1. What inspired you to pursue an internship in Japan?

Three years ago, I heard a lot about Japan and wanted to experience it myself. This was a primary driving force when considering my internship placement. Since then I decided I wanted to live there, so the second and third internships had various goals:
- to improve my Japanese,
- to learn about the (working) culture,
- to learn more about the agricultural market,
- to find potential places to work/live.

Why Japan? Because I love the nature, and the culture in which food quality is precedent to quantity. One of my ambitions is to move and live in Japan and start an organic farming business which produces and sells according to market expectations.

2. Tell us about the planning and processes you undertook for a successful internship in Japan.

As the internship was part of my curriculum of my course at university, I was well prepared. I started searching for a company six months prior to the internship start date. This allowed me time to find the right company. This also allowed enough time for the visa application process, which took a lot of time and communication.

3. What were the prerequisites for your internships? Any special conditions from your university? Any personal considerations?

The internship was listed a requirement in for university credits, so there were certain conditions which had to be met. For example, the duration of the internship, workload, company tasks, and there had to be enough time for me to do my internship assignments. Furthermore, I had various personal conditions which revolved around: financial reimbursement, sector, work activities, and location of the company.

4. Tell us about the internship at Richfield Vegetables. What did you do? What were your day-to-day work commitments? How was the work environment?

At Richfield Vegetables in Yokohama & Kanagawa, I worked three days a week in a greenhouse facility where I assisted the farm manager, exchanged ideas and shared farming techniques from the Netherlands. I also spent two days a week participating in the sales activities of the account manager who is in charge of selling the paprika and tomato produced at the various production locations. Additionally, I also worked on the several  reports I wrote for both my university and the company.

Thus, my daily work had a lot of variation, one day I would be in charge of quality control, and visiting various customers the next. It was a busy, collaborative working environment - everybody knew what they had to do. Although there was regular overwork, there was no pressure.

Opening party of GPEC exhibition with employees and international suppliers.
Me together with two employees at a product promotion event of 'Crown' supermarkets. Here we promoted our produce and answered questions. it was a great opportunity to get into contact with the consumers.

5. Did you have any chance to study Japanese while in Japan or before coming? Any plans to return to Japan?

Throughout my internships I was surrounded by native speakers so I could study listening and speaking every day. Of course I will come again! This April I will be doing my graduation thesis at a company in Japan.

I will be doing my thesis at Yokohati Farm in Saku, Nagano. Besides being an organic farm of 4ha, they are also part of an organic farmer group in Saku which consists of about 10 farmers. I found this company through the Nagano Prefecture Agricultural and Rural Development Division Rural Promotion Division, a government division which focuses on agricultural education, promotion and marketing. One of their activities is introducing prospective farmers to existing farmers for training. Thus after having had a lot of contact with this division and having gained their support/approved they introduced me to the company owner. Although it is a thesis I will still be participating in the activities of the farm and the organisation. This in itself was a big reason why they accepted my proposal. The research results would also benefit the the farmers.

6. How was Japan? Any message for young people thinking about coming to Japan?

It is a good experience, although I had to get used to speaking Japanese most of the time, I managed to achieve the goals I had set before going to Japan. I can offer one piece of advice; prepare well, and know what you sign up for.

7. How can we as Internship Japan do better?

That is a difficult question to answer. Perhaps it might be an idea to encourage the internship seekers to take a more active approach in the LinkedIn Group?

8. Any message to the people reading this?

I have published an article that presents 6 tips on how to find internships in Japan, perhaps it can motivate/guide you. Hope this helps you in anyway, even if only a little. And if you really want an internship in Japan, have an Always Active Approach (AAA).

Thank you so much Simon! From all the team at Internship Japan, Good luck!

Hey guys! We sat down with Yokohama Theatre Group and their latest intern. Henry discusses his role and the waves he's making in the new cultural sphere of Kanagawa.

Andrew teaching Henry

IJ: Please tell us who you are and about Touch Me Not.

Tania: I am Tania Coke and I am the director of “Touch Me Not”. I have worked many times before with YTG, but this is the longest project I have done so far. So therefore it is the most fulfilling. We started rehearsing in March and since then rehearsals have increased to twice a week and this here is our team.

IJ: Tania’s main work is tarinainanika.

Tania at tarinainanika

IJ: Naoe, tell us about your part *Naoe’s mouth full of food*. OK then, Andrew, You are not eating yet. Tell us more!

Andrew: I’m not eating yet!? That is the business part of it…. I am Andrew Woolner, I am the Artistic Director of Yokohama Theatre Group and I am in the show. I am a performer, so I have been rehearsing 2 days a week since March, plus doing a lot of the production technical stuff. Well, yeah, what else do you need to know?

IJ: Please tell us more about Touch Me Not.

Andrew: Well, Tania is really the person who should be talking about the show. This is her Baby.

Tania: I’d love to hear your views though...

Andrew: My views change weekly *laughs*. It’s not the show I thought it was at the beginning. And It’s not the show I thought it was 4 weeks ago. Well, that’s the thing. You’re making your show in rehearsal. It is constantly evolving. I am just kind of trying to go with the process. Which is also hard because I am approaching it as a performer as well as a co-creator as we are all on this.  On most projects I am much more in the driver’s seat than on this one...so, I’m just trying to relax about that. I just need to worry not to worry about not being in the driver’s seat, while being in the driver's’ seat a lot about the production stuff. While Tania is a hands on director, she does a lot of the production stuff, but I am more at the backend like advertisement, publicity and so on: the boring stuff. I have got other helpers such as John Matthews who is not here today.

He is not coming to most rehearsals but he is a board member and does loooooads of stuff on the backend. Photographs and stuff like that. He does a lot of the work and I am in charge of coordinating everything, on top of being a performer who doesn’t leave the stage for the entire show. Giving this to Naoe now. Is her mouth empty yet?!

Naoe: My name is Kawamoto Naoe (川本直枝) and I am a dancer. I started dancing when I was 6 years of age and until now I have been on stage in Ballet and dance performances. 2 years ago, performed in my first musical “CHESS”, but that is pretty much it. I came into contact with YTG and became part of the performing team now. I also teach Pilates at a chiropractic clinic.

IJ: Are you nervous?

Naoe: I am not great at speaking in front of the audience and during the show, I haven’t had a single line. My talents lie in expressing myself through my body movements.

IJ: Absolutely. You are amazing!

Naoe: I am challenging myself. I am not yet at all where I want to be. Expressing the feelings exactly as supposed to be, I feel, is extremely difficult. With your hand or just one finger, you are completely exposed … that is certainly a big deal - and if you are not constantly working on it, it will not improve. For me, this learning process is really enjoyable. I can’t speak for the premiere day yet… *laughs*... pretty nervous indeed, but I will do my best! *laughs*

IJ: So, Tania, please tell us a bit more about the show itself.

Tania: First of all, when Andrew came to me and asked: "can you direct a show for me and Naoe?" I looked at them and thought you couldn’t get two more different people. One tall, Canadian male talkative person; one tiny Japanese dancer *laughing* I thought “Wow, this is great!” That’s exactly what you need for a show, its contrast. And it reminded me of the story of my grandparents in the Philippines. My grandfather was an American, my grandmother was a Filipino. And they had an extraordinary story. My grandfather was the first person to make movies in the Philippines. He made movies about the Philippine national hero José Rizal. His classics were born from tales of idealism, political revolution, death and destruction.

He made movies with his first wife who was an actress. And they had this idyllic life of art and love transcending nationalities and cultures. When she suddenly died, he retreated into himself and that is where “Touch Me Not” takes off. This man is buried in his little world of memories and lost dreams and he is trying to remember his poems from the past. He is looking at his notebooks from the past. He looks back at his photos. And around him is this silent woman who is cleaning the house around him and he doesn’t pay any attention to her. But little by little they start to interact more. He starts to show her his movies. There are only clips and fragments of his movies. None of the real movies have survived. Due to the second world war everything was destroyed. So we try to reconstruct, using a lot of artistic imagination. Showing how those scenes might have looked like.

And we show this 4-way relationship between a man and woman on stage (loosely based on my grandfather Edward Gross and my grandmother Suzie Gross) and a man and woman on the screen (the characters in Edward's movies - including his first wife) And those characters appear on the stage as well towards the end.

Like Andrew said, it is always the case for me that when I make shows I don’t know what it is until it’s done. That’s the magic of the process. The story is telling itself, we just have to listen through it and work out what it’s gonna be. It is beyond what our rational brain could have worked out.

IJ: And that is the magic we see. You are co-creating. Our wonderful intern Henry is there too and he is learning while creating with you also. We love it very much. Henry, your turn.

Henry (Intern): My name is Henry Morse, I come from the UK and I am currently on my placement year at the University Of Huddersfield. I am studying “Music Technology and Audio Systems”, a subject which covers a wide range of topics related to sound engineering. I decided to come to Japan about a year ago, in September, and worked a lot with Internship Japan. We exchanged emails back and forth until we were able to sort out a suitable chance. I kind of thought of coming to Japan as a bit of a fantasy, but luckily I was able to hook up with the Yokohama Theatre Group and then met Andrew. We had a Skype interview at 1 in the morning, and then I stayed awake all through the night because I was so excited.

Andrew: YTG, we make dreams come true!
Andrew: As long as they are very small dreams.
*More laughter*
Andrew: And inexpensive!

Henry (Intern): So, that is how I met Andrew, and how I got involved with YTG. Also pretty much why I am here now. I will be living in Japan for one year which is still kinda crazy to think about. I still wake up some days really dazed and confused. Like, “Woah, I am in Japan now!? Why is everyone speaking Japanese?! It is really good though, and I enjoy it a lot here. It’s really making me understand the importance of internships, especially in this kind of industry where the experience you have and the people you know are pretty much everything.

IJ: What have you learned so far? Anything specific jump to mind?

Henry (Intern): Ahhhm, specific....Again, I think a lot of it is being aggressive about how you put yourself out there. You have to keep yourself upfront and keep yourself open for opportunities, and always seek new ways of getting connected with people in the industry. Constantly looking for new part-time work (Henry is on a Working Holiday Visa, he may do paid work in Japan as well, not only internships.) and hopefully, you meet a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who can get you a job. The worst thing to do is nothing. If you don’t do anything and you don’t put the work in then nothing will happen.

IJ: Exactly! Get out on the market, right?

Henry (Intern): Yessss. I have only been here a month so, ask me that again in 10 months! We’ll see what happens.

IJ: We will! Looking forward to keeping up to date!

Henry (Intern): Yeah, so this is about all I have for now.

IJ: Alright, so Andrew, back to you. Tell us about more internship possibilities at Yokohama Theatre Group.

Andrew: YTG is always looking for interns, especially those with skills related to sound, light, video, photography etc. We don’t need so many people for the office. We could use someone who has really good organizational skills on the non-technical side. We are less looking for performers because, people are usually here for too short of a period of time to be part of a show. It has worked out a few times by accident. But the chance of fitting into a rehearsal period from the beginning to the end is not so great.

IJ: How long would that be?

Andrew: It depends on the show. This show is 6 months. The last show was 6 weeks. It depends but I usually do not have so much control over it. We can’t arrange it for somebody to fit into the school year. So, technical skills you would not think a theater company is looking for, like in this case sound engineer, those are people who we can use. Such skills are also transferrable, right? You can transfer sound skills into pushing buttons of a lighting board, learning new skills like lighting and stuff like that. It might not be possible to say yeah, come to Japan and get a job, diving right into the music industry, but you will be at least using your skills.

Henry (intern): I think this is what I have enjoyed the most about YTG. This wide range of things that I can get involved with every week. One day I am here working the lighting board, the next day I’m hunkered up in a dark room composing some sound design stuff, scraping my hand against metal boxes and making that into some weird sound scape for a scene in the performance. I find I’m using my skills a lot more than I ever did back home, it’s really taken me out my comfort zone.

IJ: Being open is a key ingredient.

Henry (Intern): Yeah, especially if you are looking for something specific in Japan. I think maybe just take a step back and broaden what you are looking for a little bit so you don’t overlook potential opportunities.

IJ: That’s what internships are all about we think!

Henry (Intern): Yes. And it is a safe environment.

Andrew: You haven’t been injured yet!

Henry (Intern): Yeah. I think an internship is a nice way to discover what you really like doing and opening yourself up to new things you might not have had the chance to do otherwise.

IJ: Indeed. How would you know what is possible without trying it out, right?

*The whole team agrees*

IJ: Henry, you are also playing instruments, right?

Henry (Intern): Yesss. Yes!

IJ: We saw those cool photos on your Facebook wall with the guitar, on stage...

Henry (intern): I am a guitarist, music producer. I sit in my room and record entire songs on my own. I release it on the internet and people seem to like it.
But I am also in Japan to get involved with the music scene over here. I have a cover band for a 90’s Japanese Rock band called “Thee Michelle Gun Elephant”, and we are playing in Ooyama on the 16th of October 2016. Kind of a Halloween Show. That is one of my other hobbies, I like Pro Wrestling as well *laughter* (more about Henry here)

IJ: And you will intern in a few other places too, right?

Henry (intern): Yes but there are still some things in the works so I will report back on those later. I also have a part-time job with starts in two weeks as an English tutor at a Kindergarten. We’ll see how that goes but I mean, whatever. I mean you never know.

Andrew: He taught me all the English I know!

IJ: It’s all learning!

Henry (intern): Yes. I see it like that too.

IJ: A BIG thank you to our partners Yokohama Theatre Group for supporting us, we are happy to see such great work and a very happy intern!

To support Yokohama Theatre Group, please be sure to see the show!

Tickets for the show can be purchased online here.

More information about YTG:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ytgjp
Bilingual website: http://ytg.jp/en/
Interview with Andrew from December 2014
Success Story of former Intern Carolina
Article on YTG’s membership @ Internship Japan, including the video of Carolina

Photo credits: John Matthews (except tarinainanika)

1. First, who are you? What are your dreams and why the interest in Japan?

Hey! My name is Thibault Messemacre, I am born in France and plan to get my double degree in Design and Creative Project Management from Rennes School of Business and the European School of Fine Arts in Brittany in 2018.
Regarding my current internship in Japan I am currently an International Brand Development Manager at Castalia Co., Ltd. a Japanese company specialized in Education Technology and IT Consulting.
My dreams are pretty simple I guess. I just want to be accomplished and in an environment that inspires me every day. I think that’s the key if I want to be happy and focused.

2. What made you decide you wanted to do an internship in Japan?

I came to Japan as part of my curriculum at Rennes Business School in joining Akita International University as a study abroad student in April 2016.
Japan has always had this kind of magic and mystery that I really wanted to experience. Surprisingly, I wasn’t really a huge fan of Japanese pop-culture. I was just curious about what was happening 10,000km from France I guess.
I quickly fell in love with this environment and its business culture is what made me really curious. I remember the first day I arrived in Tokyo I saw how Japan was different and directly pictured myself working here.

3. Tell us about the planning and process.

I was really interested in finding an internship abroad even before coming to Japan. Staying here for four months as an international student before starting my internship definitely helped me a lot. During this time, I managed to develop my network enough to get some interesting opportunities in Tokyo.
Actually, being to Akita International University was the greatest asset I could use since many Japanese companies are familiar with this institution and its graduates.
Furthermore, I think finding an internship is not that difficult if you’re really involved in the process and are making a good use of your time and energy. I applied to many open positions worldwide for companies I already admired and as long as you consider their expectations and what profile they need it’s relatively easy.
I managed to get some interviews with Google and Warner Bros. Entertainment in Paris but finally I preferred to stay in Japan and work for Castalia Co., Ltd. I thought it was just a one-time opportunity to work in Tokyo in such a flexible corporate environment.

4. What were the prerequisites for your internships? Any special conditions from your university? Personal?

Both personal and from my business school in France. As part of my curriculum at Rennes Business School I decided to carry out a placement year. In France, this is an option for business students who want to get some experience before the final year of their Master’s degree. So I basically had 1 year to fill with one or two long-time internships.
Though, having a long-time experience abroad within a multicultural context is mandatory to be graduated from Rennes School of Business. Staying in Japan was just the insurance of getting a really complete and interesting experience.
On a personal level, I really wanted to work in a field that inspires me and in a modern environment that can make me realize how important my job is for the society. I wanted something linked to an international context and with a unique corporate culture.

5. Tell us about the internship at Castalia. What did you do? How is your daily work? How is the work environment?

At Castalia, I focus in bringing our educational innovations to emerging markets such as Uganda or Kenya (and many others). We are mainly focused on mobile learning and distance learning for social and development purposes. For instance, think about a farmer in a remote area in Kenya that just want to learn more about agronomy and environmental studies, Castalia tries its best to bring this knowledge to him.
There’s a huge social aspect that makes my work meaningful. We work with institutions such as the United Nations, the Japanese External Trade Organization and many universities worldwide so it’s really motivating.
I also help on other projects linked to education in Japan. By 2020, programming education will be mandatory in Japan so we partner with code academies, programming associations and robot manufacturers to bring some innovation in the Japanese education system.
Also, my job is really wide, it includes marketing, sales, public relations, communication, web design, market research, translation, programming, video editing… I love it.
The work environment is way different than the usual Japanese corporate environment. It’s really flexible and the CEO imported some kind of Silicon Valley working style from its previous experiences in the US. Which makes such a unique work atmosphere where everyone is really autonomous and takes pride in being driven but where you can take a nap whenever you’re tired, Japanese way.

6. Did you have any chance to study Japanese while in Japan or before coming? Will you come again?

Unfortunately, I did not get any chance to study Japanese seriously until now. I was just too busy with my internship research and my business classes. I am learning on my own and it’s taking time but I like it. Also, all my colleagues are native Japanese speakers so I couldn’t dream of any better learning environment.
Japan will be my home for more than one year so I’m definitely not done with this beautiful island.

7. How is Japan? Any message for young people thinking about coming to Japan?

Japan is incredible. It’s full of many surprises and I never felt disappointed. Though it’s not easy to figure how things work here sometimes. Japanese people love processes and paperwork for example, but you get over it pretty fast.
I would recommend them to get as many information as they can before coming, make some research about Japanese culture so that they know how to fit in quickly.

8. How can we as Internship Japan do better?

I think you’re already doing pretty well! Looking forward to your networking events which I think can really help you to make a better job.

9. Any message to the people reading this?

Thanks for reading and I hope this will help you at least a tiny bit!

Fabian Wolf1. First, who are you? What are your dreams and why the interest in Japan?

I am Fabian, a student of chemical engineering for a Master of Science degree in Stuttgart, Germany. Wow, my dreams, straight to the easy questions. My dream is to live happy, see the world, help people and do my best to improve the world for a better future. That’s why I am interested in battery technology. My interest probably originates from my first trip to Japan during high school and my high interest for anime during that time. I am not that big of a hardcore anime fan anymore but my fascination for Japan persists.

2. Tell us about the planning and process.

After the initial 2 week trip during high-school I knew I had to come back to Japan for an extended period. During my bachelor studies I researched about the different possibilities to stay in Japan. I didn’t want to do a semester abroad because I would spend the most time with international students. What I wanted was getting to know the Japanese work culture and everyday life in a real Japanese company. So my quest began to search for an internship. And this quest wasn’t an easy one. E-Mails would mostly never be answered and if they were it seemed like the HR department didn’t really know what I wanted. Moreover, most Japanese companies didn’t seem to have a career page so getting contact information was difficult and often I could just send my “application” via the generic contact form. I switched to job fairs, where I approached all Japanese (engineering related) company or companies that I knew had business with Japan. Most of them told me, they don’t offer internships straight up or that I should contact Mr./Ms. XYZ… which resulted in the same response as ever before. Luckily for me, I finally came across a guy from Sumitomo Chemical who had a little bit more authority in the application process. He forwarded my resumé to the Japanese HR department and 2 months later I got the internship of 6 months. It was really anti-climatic since I didn’t hear anything from them initially and then suddenly got the confirmation.

3. What were the prerequisites for your internships? Any special conditions from your university? Personal?

I had to do an internship in connection with my master studies and therefore had a list of different topics which should be part of my internship. However, since it was such a hassle to find an internship in Japan, the administrator of the university wasn’t as strict about the list of topics. Of course, I had to write a report about the internship. The company on the other hand needed me to be enrolled as a student the whole time of my internship. I had to get a recommendation of my professor for the internship, which was really silly since I already got the internship at that time. Moreover, I had to appoint a contact in case of emergency but only at the university.

4. Tell us about the internship at Sumitomo Chemical. What did you do? How was your daily work? How was your boss?

During my internship I was placed in the Plastics Technical Center of Sumitomo Chemical at the Chiba Plant near Tokyo. I worked in the Product Development team for agricultural business. More specifically, I was designated to improve the coatings of PE-films used for greenhouses on various properties. During my internship I was assigned to a Technical Advisor who guided me in the development process and who I worked with on a daily basis. Additionally, a Personal Advisor was assigned to me whom I could approach with any organizational and personal problems. In general, I expected the work place to have more international employees there. Instead, from the 40 people working in the office only 4-5 were able to speak any English. That meant that I learned Japanese quite fast!… no, not really. In the beginning I just talked English and only after 3-4 months were brave enough to speak infant-Japanese with my colleagues. At some point I just thought, “oh what the hell, I’ll just need them to understand me in Japanese.”, which was the time were my Japanese really started to improve. There were morning meetings every morning where every employee of the 5-6 member group had to give a summary of the previous day and the upcoming tasks of today in Japanese. This was no problem since I had 30 minutes every morning to prepare my speech and could just read it from my PC screen ;) My Technical Supervisor was very helpful and knowledgeable in his field of work. However, there were communication difficulties from time to time and it was difficult to discuss topics from time to time. If he said something had to be done a certain way, it had to be done that way. I stayed in the company dorms near the plant which saved me a lot of money. The dorm and the plant itself however were located far in the countryside which is why I didn’t have too much to do during the weekday evenings.

5. Did you have any chance to study Japanese while in Japan or before coming? Will you come again?

During my stay I didn’t have the chance to participate in a Japanese class. I wrote down a lot of vocabulary in my notebook but never really brought myself to study. However, I studied Japanese for 3 semesters before I came to Japan at my university which sadly didn’t help me at all. Of course, I had some benefits of knowing basic vocabulary, hiragana, katakana and a few Kanji but normal conversations were over pretty fast. Only when I started to not care about what others would think and just started talking, my Japanese improved a lot (at least that’s how I felt because I could spend the evening talking Japanese while everybody understood me). I will definitely return to Japan (see 6. For the explanation), and the next time will be longer.

6. How was Japan? Any message for young people thinking about coming to Japan?

The internship in Japan was the best time of my life. There wasn’t much to do during the week at the dorm but the weekends in Tokyo made more than up to it. I still get goosebumps whenever I think about my awesome time in Tokyo, the things I saw and experienced, the people I met, the vibrant city, the craziness, the peaceful parks, the food, the Izakayas, the festivals,… this is the time were I miss Japan and especially Tokyo the most and where I can’t wait to return to this city. I can honestly say that everybody who thinks about staying in Japan for some time, should do so. You will be glad you have done it and will remember it for the rest of your life. Even if you realize that Japan doesn’t seem to be the right country for you, you still got so much experience in all aspects of life. Of course, such a plan must be carried out wisely. You shouldn’t just leave everything behind and “try your luck in Japan”, but with the help of Internship Japan the whole process is made a lot smoother and easier.

7. How can we as Internship Japan do better?

I can’t say much about this, since I didn’t get involved with your organization too much, yet. In general, I am very grateful for the job you are doing and for the mission you are set to accomplish.

8. How would you describe or evaluate the difference between internships, kenshuu or part-time jobs?

In my understanding internships are great for students to get work experience, learn new things, use the theoretical knowledge from the university on real life problems and build a network. For companies, interns are great to bring new life and a new perspective to the company. Recent graduates learnt about the newest teachings and research and are motivated to create and improve something. Moreover for internships abroad, it’s a great way to teach their employees about intercultural work. To be honest, I don’t know about kenshuu. It seems like it is the normal training a Japanese graduate receives after starting work in a company? On the other hand, part-time jobs are most often only used to earn money. Often it’s not related to your subject of study and the tasks are repetitive, not learning many new things in the process.

9. What changes would you think are in need or helpful to those who are seeking internships in Japan?

In general, companies in Japan need to be made aware of the concept of internships. Japan’s flagging market is a sign that it needs to open itself more to the global market. Taking interns is a big step to becoming a more international company. A big hurdle in this process is the lack of many Japanese speaking English. An intern therefore would also improve this situation, giving the Japanese employees the chance to enhance their English skills with the interns.


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