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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ – 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! πŸ™‚


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)

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,Β 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).