外国人の日本体験 Experiences in Japan
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A business trip to Japan
by Davide Baraldi
In February 2003, my husband and two of his work
colleagues went on a business trip to Japan. My husband works at the Italian
production site of a large multinational company which has sites all over
the world, including Japan. The purpose of the business trip was to solve
some production and supply problems that the Italian and Japanese sites
Q. What were your first impressions of Tokyo?
I arrived at Narita Airport, I felt like I was in a Japanese video game!
I was very conscious that I wasn't in Europe anymore. There was Japanese
writing everywhere but it was easy to find our way to Tokyo station where
we caught the "bullet train" to Utsunomiya.
Q. What did you think about the "bullet train"?
Davide: It was fantastic! First of all, it was very, very clean - much cleaner than Italian trains. Second, it was very fast! And third, it was very expensive!!
Also, we travelled a distance of 120 km out of Tokyo but during the journey
we didn't see any countryside - only houses and other buildings.
Q. What did you notice about the way in which the Japanese do business?
Davide: I noticed many interesting things. They have an unusual procedure for exchanging business cards. The Japanese presented their cards individually - this took a very long time and it was done with much ceremony.
I also noticed that my Japanese colleagues showed great respect towards their site director. They never interrupted him when he spoke and they never questioned his wisdom.
Further, I was very impressed with the level of concentration that the
factory workers applied to their work. They were hard-working and well-disciplined
and they rarely chatted . My workers in Italy chat too much while they
Q. What differences did you notice between Japanese factories and Italian factories?
Davide: I was very impressed with the sophisticated technology in the Japanese factories. They had some fantastic video cameras that helped to monitor production.
Also, on the last day of the business trip, we visited a factory which our company is thinking about using as a supplier. When we arrived, all of the employees bowed to us. This was an overwhelming experience for my Italian colleagues and I. After the bowing had finished, we had the opportunity to watch the factory in operation. Again, we were very impressed with the diligence of the workers but we were concerned about their disregard for safety. I saw some workers handling some dangerous products in a very unsafe manner. In Europe there are very strict laws about workplace safety. Perhaps it is not the same in Japan.
Another thing, during our meeting with the company that we are thinking
about using as a supplier, the Japanese used a translator, even though
their English was very good. This was a good business tactic for them
because while the translator translated our English into Japanese, our
Japanese colleagues had time to think carefully about how to answer our
Q. What did you eat in Japan?
Davide: One evening, our Japanese colleagues invited us to an Italian restaurant. I could see that our Japanese colleagues really appreciated the dinner and I learnt that the chef had studied in Rome. But for me, the dishes were not authentically Italian - the spices were different but I enjoyed the meal all the same.
At lunch time, we ate in the company cafeteria where there was a very pleasant atmosphere and a good selection of lunch dishes. I have to say, the food was much fresher than the food in our cafeteria in Italy.
On another occasion, we went to dinner at a beautiful sushi restaurant at the top of a department store. I was surprised to see a lot of other restaurants on the top floor. I liked the way that seats were provided outside of the restaurant so that customers could sit down and wait if the restaurant was full or if their friends hadn't arrived yet. The interior of this sushi restaurant was made entirely of wood. It was very attractive. I saw some women sitting on the floor, taking their meal in the traditional Japanese style. This was the first time that I had ever seen anyone eating in this way. I was also able to see the chef preparing sushi. The fast and skillful movements of his hands were incredible!
I should also mention that I appreciated the service in Japanese restaurants.
I had an embarrassing experience during a meal with a bowl of soup: it
was too hot and I spilt it everywhere. The waitress took care of the situation
immediately: She cleaned up the mess I had made and gave me another bowl
of soup. I was very grateful for her professionalism.
Q. Did you have any free time in Tokyo?
Davide: Yes. In our free time we went shopping. What a great experience! I saw a lot of beautiful women while I was shopping - some of them were working, others were shopping.
On the day before St Valentine's Day, I saw a long line of people on the ground floor of a department store. They were buying a very cute, miniature Valentine's Day cake. I couldn't imagine how these tiny cakes had been made. In the same department store, I bought a present for my parents of some Japanese tea cups. The saleslady packaged the cups in a very secure way so that they wouldn't break during my journey back to Italy and then she wrapped the package in a very beautiful style. It was a work of art! I have never received such wonderful service before in my life!
Q. Was it a successful business trip?
was a very successful business trip. There is a much greater understanding
between the Italian site and the Japanese site now. We are able to communicate
much more effectively during our video conferences. It was successful
at a personal level too because I came to appreciate Japan and its unique
culture. It is difficult for Italian people to imagine Japan because it
is completely different to our country. I'm very happy that I had the
opportunity to go there and I have a very strong desire to go back!