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.

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