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!

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