2 weeks at Mitsui & Co. Japan ✨🎐

This July I participated in the Mitsui Immersion Program run by Mitsui & Co., a huuuge Japanese sogo shosha (global comprehensive solution provider) with connections around the world – including (most importantly) Australia!

I and 13 other students (6 UTS, 7 UWA, 1 UoN) spent 2 weeks in the heart of Tokyo – a pleasant 10 min walk from Mitsui’s headquarters. During that time, we attended various seminars run by Mitsui employees and managers, allowing us to gain insight into the inner-workings of the company. It was fascinating (particularly from a science-IT background) to learn about how a large company like Mitsui is able to manage its many business units, ranging from natural resources and mining, to lifestyle/health and startup business development. And at the heart of it all are Mitsui’s core values:

  • Challenge and Innovation
  • Open-mindedness
  • Mitsui is people 🙂

Prior to this program, I was admittedly unaware of Mitsui’s involvement in Australia. However, my perspective quickly changed following the seminars which specifically detailed Mitsui’s various business ventures in Australia, such as Shark Bay Salt Mine (100% Mitsui owned).

In addition to the seminars, we also…. visited the Edo Museum in Tokyo, where we learnt about former Mitsui’s beginnings as a family-run kimono store (Mitsui’s logo is in fact the original family emblem or kamon); visited Mitsui’s new incubation hub, Moon Creative Lab, which aims to create and develop new innovative business ideas; and, had the chance to meet-up with students from Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, learning about each other over some fun team-building activities and lunch!

At the Edo Museum – a replica of former Mitsui’s textiles store which revolutionised how kimono was sold, making it more affordable and thus accessible.

At Moon Creative Lab located near Harajuku, where we got to meet some very inspiring people!

Group photo with some students from TUFS, featuring our (toppled-over) spaghetti/marshmallow tower in the bottom right.

After some intense learning the first week (including a group presentation), the majority of our second week involved site visits! There were quite a few, so here’s a photo summary:

At the Australian Embassy in Tokyo with the Ambassador to Japan, Mr. Court.
We learnt about Mitsui and Japan’s ties with Australia, and got to network with Embassy members whilst drinking tea/coffee out of super fancy teacups!

At Kashima Port, a little north of Tokyo. We were given a ferry ride around the port filled with massive ships and processing facilities – in particular, a salt processing facility with tonnes and tonnes of salt all the way from Shark Bay! (below)



At Kimitsu Steel Mill – this is a photo of one of the blast furnaces in operation (it was unbelievably huge). It was fascinating to see how iron ore is turned into steel, and a very intense experience watching red-hot steel charge down a conveyor belt.

The view from Umihotaru, an over-engineered rest stop on the Tokyo Bay Aqua-line Expressway, with multiple restaurants, a food court, an arcade and of course, a 7-Eleven.

Early morning buying ‘ekiben’ for our trip to Nagoya via Shinkansen!

Posing at the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology after a fun time exploring the museum’s plethora of exhibits. Prior to this, we visited the Toyota Exhibition Hall where we received a tour of the nearby Toyota Factory, seeing the production line for Lexus and other high-end Toyota models.

In true Japanese-businessman style, we ended one of our site visits with after-work drinks at an Izakaya.

But then it was back to work. For the last two days of the program we were split into 2 groups and tasked with creating a presentation showcasing what we had learnt, as well as pitching a potential business venture Mitsui could take that would also benefit Australia. It was a stressful 2 days, between the trials and tribulations of coming up with a business idea, and the pressure of having to speak in front of senior Mitsui executives and Australian/Japanese government officials.

Hard at work >:|

Luckily, everyone was impressed with our presentations and the program ended with smiles all around 🙂 – as well as tears, once we realised it was coming to an end.

At the closing reception – group photo with one of our HRD supervisors, Kaz.

Thank you to everyone at Mitsui and UTS, as well as the Japanese and Australian governments for making this program possible! It was an amazing experience that resulted in life-long relationships, valuable connections and unforgettable memories. It has undoubtedly helped me develop as a business professional through teaching me about Japanese business philosophy – knowledge which will definitely come in handy should I decide to work in Japan one day!

With that said, I encourage anyone who is interested in Japan to apply for this program if you get the chance! 🙂


Extras:

We were given free time on the weekends to explore Tokyo. Here are some snippets of what we got up to…

Summer in Japan means festivals! This was at Yasukuni Shrine during the Mitama Festival, where people go to honour their ancestors and the spirits of the dead, lighting hundreds of lanterns.

Tanabata Festival at Zojoji Temple in Tokyo.

Shinkyo Bridge in Nikko, which is home to a collection of World Heritage listed Shrines dating back to the 17th century. 

A massive Sakura tree within the Imperial Villa Memorial Park (also in Nikko). Just imagine how it would look in spring..!!

Not the food photo you were expecting, huh? 😏
This was a Magicarp-themed ‘taiyaki’ from Akihabara.


— Sofia Oldman, Bachelor of Forensic Science (Digital Forensics) / BA in International Studies (Japan)

Tokyo: An experience I’ll never forget

Asa Li

Over the winter I went on exchange to Senshu University in Japan and it’s a trip that I’ll never forget! From the friends that I made, to all the new challenges and experiences I faced, I learned so much from this opportunity to study abroad.

Night wanderings in Shinjuku and Harajuku

The first thing that struck me when I arrived alone in Tokyo, was how foreign everything was and how alienated I felt. Having never been overseas alone before, I’m not gonna lie, I definitely wanted to go home in the first couple of days. It was hard adjusting to not being able to understand or read anything, to not have anyone by my side that I could rely on, from being pushed so far out of my comfort zone.

However, the students at the dorm I was staying at were friendly and encouraging and I’d made some friends within the first few days. The way the dorm was structured was that an international student would room with a local student to encourage us to converse in Japanese and get to know the local students better.

Trip with friends to FUJI-Q Highland Amusement Park

The program that I attended was a 7-week intensive language course at Senshu University, Ikuta Campus in Kawasaki – about a 20-minute train trip from Shinjuku, Tokyo. The first thing I did was take a placement test, then we were placed into the appropriate class level and began our classes! With a small class of 5 people, we had classes every weekday from 9am-1pm with a 10-minute break every hour. In the afternoon, we were left to our own devices, to explore, eat, or study. It was challenging and fast-paced, however I enjoyed the teaching style and learnt so much in that immersive environment. At the end of the 7 weeks, we had to make a 6-minute presentation on a theme that we’d chosen ourselves, and I felt that my confidence and fluency in Japanese speaking had improved significantly.

Weekend trip to Kyoto

I enjoyed the lessons we had and the field trips that they took us to – to the Ghibli Museum, to Kamakura, to a tea ceremony and Kabuki performance, it was incredibly fun and eye-opening! These experiences furthered my understanding of Japanese culture and society, as well as exploring nearby neighbourhoods, night trips to Shinjuku, Shibuya, Kawasaki and so many other places, visiting temples and parks, riding public transport – it was all so overwhelming (in a positive way), and I wish I could have stayed longer. I gained so much more confidence from this experience abroad, from learning how to overcome challenges using my own initiative, communicating with a diverse range of people and continuing to challenge myself to venture outside of my comfort zone. It was a dream come true to have studied in Tokyo for those 7 weeks and I would recommend every student to take the opportunity to study abroad 🙂  

Class field trip to the Ghibli Museum!

A moment in Tokyo

On the 29th of January 2019, I set off for 14-hour long journey to a place I was somewhat familiar with, others teased that it was my second home. I have travelled several times over my lifetime to the bustling capital of Japan known as Tokyo, but this time it was different.

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– a street with many snack stores in Kawagoe

What lured me to this trip in the first place was the opportunity to practice my three years of Japanese language study, which I have struggled continuously to use in conversation in my past travels. I had received an email advertising the Meiji University Language Program which gave the opportunity for me to study and practice the language while receiving credit points towards my Diploma of Languages.

Meiji University’s Japanese Language Program is a UTS BUILD Abroad endorsed course, which is a three-week intensive language course located within central Tokyo. There are four levels which you can apply for: introductory, beginners, pre-intermediate or intermediate. However, you are not guaranteed the level you have chosen because you will be allocated based on the result of the test given to you on the first day. (This is just a heads up for those who’d want to prepare and brush up a little on their language skills).

The classes are mostly taught in Japanese, but more complex concepts were explained in English. My first realisation in these classes was how lucky it was for English to be my first language. The course consisted of people from all around the world, many from countries where English was not the primary language. I watched as some of my classmates struggled to grasp the concept in both Japanese and English, but after persistent efforts, they had managed to gain an understanding in the end. I grew to admire them and noticed how they overcame these communication issues with other forms of communication.

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At a shrine near Meiji University’s Ochanomizu campus.

The program not only provides language classes but also offered an opportunity to experience its culture in another perspective. For this session, we had a chance to participate in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony and to wear a traditional Japanese Kimono. Although I had checked off most of the ‘What to do when you’re in Tokyo’ checklist in my previous trips, this was my very first time experiencing these things.

The Japanese tea ceremony was an informative and reflective experience. Although the ceremony was not performed under traditional circumstances, the demonstration was inspiring, and the instructors had provided thorough explanations for each step and the meaning behind it. In the end, everyone was welcome to try their hand at performing the ceremony within small groups. All I can say is that I did not have the arm strength for it, but it was an enjoyable experience.

The following week was the Kimono wearing class, and with knowledge of the traditional wear, I was dreading it a little knowing it’ll be the most uncomfortable thing I would have to wear. On the day we had our language class as usual, and after we were split into changing rooms where a trained staff helped you put on the kimono of your choice (It was first come, first serve basis). Overall it took about 20 minutes to get the garment on and was about 3 hours of restricted movement (and lungs) to go out and enjoy being dolled up. On this day, it was my very first experience wearing such a beautiful piece of clothing and also the day I decided that I would never wear such a thing again.

The view I shared with my host family of Mt Fuji.

Finally, The last thing on this trip which I will never forget is the relationship I had built with my host family. This program offered three options in regards to accommodations, and in order to maximise my time in practising my Japanese skills; I had chosen the homestay option over the hotel option provided by the university. They were a lovely family, who welcomed me to their home and gave me a lot of good memories and experience.

So I guess this isn’t a very good conclusion to this blog, but I would like to show how grateful I am to the host family who took me in for those three weeks (Even though they would probably never see this). To the host mother, who made me delicious meals for breakfast and dinner. Who had helped me practice my Japanese while showing me a different perspective of Japan. Thank you for patiently listening to me and helping me ease into this lifestyle. To the host father who I didn’t get many chances to interact with, thank you for driving us on the weekends and all the small conversations you tried to keep up in English. And to the kids who were extremely loud and full of energy, thank you for keeping my days positive with your smiles and high energy every day. If you ever have the chance to undergo a homestay option, I highly recommend it was one of the most memorable experiences in this trip.

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An empty train in Tokyo. It was the last train of the day.

This wasn’t my first trip to Tokyo, Japan and it isn’t going to be my last but at those moments, it’s the experience that make it something special to remember (Okay that was cheesy and it’s way past my bed time but I finally got this done).

Summer in Japan

Going to Tokyo, Japan this summer was one of the best decisions I have ever made. No warning could have prepared me enough for the for the humid and muggy heat, but the exploration of the experience that I was able to do independently gave me some new insight and perspective.

During my three weeks in Tokyo, I had the opportunity to visit the countryside with my Japanese friends to see the sunflower blooms, visit the cute, themed cafe’s that are popular in Harajuku, Tokyo. I also had an incredible time during the Meiji University Summer Program. During the two weeks studying, I was able to meet many people from all over the world, where we had many differences in culture but all shared the commonality of studying Japanese Language. We learnt a lot during our classes but also had fun while studying (WHAAAT?!) A highlight would have to be the kimono dressing experience. I would recommend this program for anyone who is studying Japanese at UTS. Now I feel prepared to take on my one year In Country Study for 2019.

Yamanashi Summer Program

The Yamanashi Summer Program for Japanese Language and Culture was an amazing experience which allowed me to learn and make friends while being away on a holiday! I applied for the course because I wanted to further improve my Japanese language skills first-hand, be absorbed in the Japanese culture and have a productive holiday. The program ran for 20 days at the University of Yamanashi in the city of Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture. It provided a wonderful opportunity for me to experience everyday life in Japan in a smaller city, away from all the tourist attractions.

The program put us up in hotel accommodation by the main station in Kofu, which was a 20-minute walk away from the university. At first I was annoyed that our accommodation was so far away from the university, however after living there I began to appreciate the fact that our accommodation was so close to central Kofu, allowing us to conveniently enjoy the city during our free time.

The course also put us in a buddy system, assigning each of the foreign students with 2 Japanese buddies to become acquainted with. This was a mutually beneficial arrangement which saw the improvement of my Japanese conversation as well as the English conversation of my buddies by the end of the course. I also often met up with my Japanese buddies outside of university time for meals or karaoke, where I was exposed to elements of the Japanese lifestyle and entertainment.

Although, I am usually the opposite of a morning person, the schedule of the course however had fixed my sleeping pattern for the better for the duration of the 3 weeks. The course generally consisted of Japanese language class from 9am to midday, a lunch break at midday where we mostly met up with our Japanese buddies for lunch in the cafeteria and a culture class after lunch. The culture classes consisted of a range of traditional and modern activities such as ikebana (flower arrangement), tea ceremony, tofu making and judo. Furthermore, the course also took us on multiple exciting and scenic excursions by bus to Mount Fuji, lavender fields by the lake, peach picking and more. The range of Japanese cultural activities allowed me to truly understand and value the depth and complexities of the Japanese culture.

The course was a truly magnificent experience and I had a lot more fun than I expected. I was enjoyably busy for the entire 3-week period with the schedule of the course keeping me busy during the days, and hanging out with the other students and exploring Kofu city and its activities during the nights.

 

– Alice Guo

Saga University 2017

 

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This was a short three week program at Saga University in Japan. Although it was a short period of time we still learnt a lot and made many unforgettable memories. The first day involved meeting all of the group members. As everyone came from different backgrounds and spoke different languages, it was very interesting for our first few conversations.

For the three weeks we explored the surrounding areas including Saga Castle and Saga Shrine, traveled to Ogi and Ureshino, took Ofuro (a special type of Japanese bath), joined a Japanese tea ceremony and traditional Yosakoi dance, and of course we attended Saga University for some study.

We became friends with our Japanese partners and other university students. At the farewell party, we did not want out trip to end, so we organised to meet each other either in Australia or Japan. This trip was so special as it was definitely a once in a life time experience.

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–  Hsin-Lun Chan

Check out some more short-term Language and Culture programs

SUAP 2017

Just recently I have spent an incredible 3 weeks in Japan as part of the Saga University Autumn Program 2017. Saga is a quieter area of Japan, located near the countryside, which allowed me to experience a different side of Japan.

Aussie SUAP 2017 participants.

Joined by four other UTS students we participated in many aspects of traditional Japanese culture such as tea ceremony, yosakoi and nishikiori. We also got to explore nearby shrines and castles.

I was fortunate enough to participate in a one-night homestay experience with a lovely family of 7. Initially it was difficult to communicate, however this enabled me to truly practice my Japanese speaking and listening ability and I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

My greatest take away from this experience would be the friendships I made in this program, both with the Japanese students and the other Australian participants. I have formed relationships not only on the basis of friendship but also with the intention of improving our language skills.

Me and my Japanese buddy!

I would highly recommend anyone to get involved with this program as you can learn a lot about traditional Japan and form lasting relationships.

Jessa Mae Balayboa

Saga University Autumn Program

From the 20th of November to the 7th of December, I was given the opportunity to partake in a three-week overseas study program at Japan’s Saga University, courtesy of UTS BUILD. Despite its beautiful architecture and scenery, it is true that the area that the program was held at was quite rural which limited its recreational potential. However, I have attained something far more in this trip, and that is life-long relationships. I have ‘built’ friendships and created memories with the amazing people that I have been blessed to meet in this program, and I cannot wait to visit again.

John Magno

Bachelor of Biomedical Science

Saga University Summer Program 2016

 

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I never expected to fall in love with traveling so easily! This study trip to the countryside of Japan offered not only valuable knowledge that i can use in my study as well as future career, but also unforgettable memories and experiences with strangers who i can now proudly call friends.

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Saga University Summer Program (SUSP 2016), or Creating Innovation for Sustainability in Young Leaders was a short term study program that helped a group of students from various countries understand about a diverse range of contemporary issues. The aim was to develop our leadership skills in tackling sustainability challenges, locally and internationally.

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We started most days with a Japanese language class in the morning. Even though the content was simple and basic due to the limited amount of time, it was enough for us to appreciate some of the intricacies and beauty of Japanese language. Thanks to the classes, our daily lives during the trip were much more convenient, and we also got a good glimpse into the Japanese mindset.

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In the afternoons were excursions to many places, such as Saga historical tour, Institute of Ocean Energy (IOE), Arita Ceramic Museum… We learned so much about Saga and Japanese culture, energy, environment, and technologies through these very hands on case studies. To preserve these heritages, sustain current ways of life and develop solutions for current and future issues, a basic level of understanding of what we have built and achieved is the start. In this regard, the excursions enlightened me and made me become appreciative of what we have accomplished, as well as my responsibilities as the young generation. One particular example was IOE’s innovation on using temperature differences in the ocean to generate energy, which truly impressed me and is something that i would love to work on in the future.

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The learning experience was much more beyond what was planned in the program. We had a lot of time outside the schedule to freely explore, and to try living like the locals. Plans and ideas that us as a group came up allowed us to try amazing cuisines, visit unique locations, and experience lively local events (such as the biggest firework show i have ever seen!). As usual the unexpected also joined in the fun, as we stumbled across a wonderful Sake shop while getting lost in the city at night! More than just being insightful regarding the Japanese way of life, these experiences to us were incredibly exhilarating and brilliant.

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Often, the people you meet matter even more than what you do or see on a trip. Except one unfortunate misunderstanding incident (taken as another learning experience), the local people we met were brilliantly welcoming and friendly. They were accommodating and patient despite our apparent culture gap and language barrier, especially considering a culture so unique such as Japan’s. Finally last but not least, the students from Thailand, Cambodia, Taiwan, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia and Vietnam who came together to make a big melting pot of culture. Different backgrounds, different personalities, but somehow we just meshed so well together. We could learn from each other, share our different perspectives, thanks to which every moment was so much more rich and memorable. If i could travel to anywhere in the world with the same people again, it would always be worth it given all the joy and fun we had!

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All the doubts i had before the trip were completely blown away, now replaced with new knowledge and mentality. These experiences have ignited me, as I’m eager to go out there again to challenge myself in a new environment. Returning to the beautiful far east country and seeing the friends i have made again are no doubt high on the priority list though!

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Jaa, mata!

Nghiem Xuan Hieu

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Mitsui & Co. Ltd. NCP Program UTS 2015 February Blog

By Neil Li
I, together with 11 other aspiring UTS students were fortunate enough to be selected as the first group of students to visit Mitsui & Co. Ltd. in Japan on a 2 week immersion internship under the Federal Government’s New Colombo Plan. The aim of the plan is to further Australian students’ understanding of and links with the Indo Pacific region.

Mitsui is one of the largest companies in Japan; the 10th largest Japanese company on the Forbes 2000 list. Known as a sogo shosha (general trading company), its business areas covers Energy, Metals/Minerals, Machinery & Infrastructure, Chemicals, Lifestyle, and Innovation & Corporate Development, with a sizable global reach of offices in 65 countries

As a trading (import/export) company, and with a strong presence and long history (since 1901, Federation) in Australia, Mitsui is keen to deepen relationships and enhance knowledge between Japan and Australia. This is one of the reasons why Mitsui has been so generous, together with the Federal Government and UTS, in supporting this study tour of Japan.

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1 – First Day of Program
For the 2 week program, we learned about Mitsui’s history and values, overall business structure, and its main Australian operations in the first week. The roots of the business stretch back to 1673 when Takatoshi Mitsui opened a textile (kimino) store called Echigoya in Edo (present day Tokyo). Through innovative business practices, Echigoya became the largest textile store in the Edo period, and thanks to sound business decisions over many generations, eventually developed into the modern day Mitsui Group. The modern Mitsui company is composed of trading activities in each of its main business areas, which are also complimented by investments in each business area.
Mitsui has four main project areas in Australia – salt, wood chip, LNG and iron ore.

Mitsui’s salt farms in Shark Bay and Onslow WA, is noteworthy for its 100% ownership by Mitsui, which also means that Mitsui is responsible for the management of its operations.
Mitsui’s treefarms and woodchip production facilities in WA and Victoria facilitate the eventual production of paper, satisfying our everyday need for this commodity.

Mitsui is an investor in the North West Shelf project in WA, which is responsible for more than 40% of Australia’s oil & gas production. The oil and gas is mainly exported to major Japanese utility companies.

Mitsui has joint venture partnerships with BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto iron ore mines in the Pilbara region of WA. The iron ore is then exported to Chinese and Japanese steel mills, for processing into steel products.

I had not known about most of Mitsui’s Australian operations until the briefing sessions. It really showed me how much Mitsui’s operations were contributing to the stable supply of raw materials that are eventually used for the production of everyday goods that we all enjoy.

In addition to learning about Mitsui in their Tokyo offices, we were fortunate to learn about Japan in general during our planned field trips. These included the TEPIA museum visit, the Toyota factory and museum visit, the QVCJ TV shopping factory and TV studio visit, and the Kimitsu steel mill visit. We were also invited to the Australian Embassy in Tokyo for a networking lunch. The highlight of these visits for me was the Toyota car assembly factory tour. I was amazed at the sheer speed and synchronised flow of the robotic arms used on the car body frame; with around 8 arms operating on one car in such a tight and constricting area of space. It was very special to have visited the production facilities of a world class company such Toyota.

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2- Kimitsu Steel Mill Visit

But in addition to the briefing sessions and site visits, we were tasked with 2 groupwork projects to process what we had learned into presentations. The 1st presentation of graphically portraying Mitsui’s history and Australian operations was good training for the 2nd larger presentation we had to present on the final day of the internship. That involved identifying a business opportunity that Mitsui could take part in, which would best support Australia into the future. We felt even more relaxed when we were told Mr. Takahashi, CEO of Mitsui Australia, senior Mitsui, Australian Embassy and Japanese government representatives would all be witnessing our presentation. Despite the other team gaining an edge for the 1st task, we came up with an impressive 2nd presentation which recommended Mitsui to invest in a solar powered electricity generation farm in Australia, which would also see Mitsui playing a leadership role in dealing with climate change.

13 – Final Presentation

Fittingly, the finale to the 2 week program, the closing reception dinner, immediately followed the final presentation, where we could all celebrate the two weeks that we spent together and what we had achieved with our groupwork collaboration in this short space of time. I believe it was a successful 2 weeks for the pilot New Colombo Plan undertaken by UTS and Mitsui, and has helped establish many new and meaningful relationships between members from each country.

24 – Getting our Certificates

Apart from the schedule organised by Mitsui, we also had free time ourselves during the public holiday and weekends to explore Tokyo. What I came away mostly was just how courteous and civil the general population was in all aspects of life. From lining up, to walking on the street, to waiting for the pedestrian lights, everything was done in such an orderly and responsible manner, with the impact of one’s action on others always on the mind of each Japanese citizen.

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Lastly I would just like to thank Mitsui, the Australian Government, UTS and all other stakeholders in supporting this amazing program. I would also like to thank Ippei and Chie, our Mitsui internship staff who was with us all the time in these 2 weeks and who were so helpful and supportive all the way through. I got to learn and experience so much of Japan that I could not have done just by reading and watching articles and media about it. What I had expected Japan to be beforehand were many times, different to what I had witnessed. It was such a wonderful experience that I will remember for a very long time.