Project helps business students develop a greater understanding of the Japanese culture and economy

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Dolly Omiya, (808) 956-5645
Public Information Officer, College of Business-External Relations Office
Posted: Dec 5, 2016

Undergraduate business student Ruth Enriquez visits Senso-ji Temple in Tokyo, Japan.
Undergraduate business student Ruth Enriquez visits Senso-ji Temple in Tokyo, Japan.

The Kakehashi Project provided an amazing field study experience for 23 graduate and undergraduate students from the UH Mānoa Shidler College of Business. Within a month of being selected, students were quickly briefed on Japanese etiquette, culture and language before departing to Tokyo and Hokkaido, Japan, in October. The 10-day, fully funded trip to Japan was coordinated by the Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship (PACE) and the Japan International Cooperation Center.

According to business undergraduate student Ruth Enriquez, the Kakehashi Project, which translates to bridge, lived up to its name in many ways. “This project has allowed me to experience the Japanese culture, its people and economy," she said.  "We interacted with business professionals during a dinner reception, toured several Japanese companies and participated in cultural activities. The program also helped me improve my presentation skills.”

In an assignment, students had to collaborate with each other and deliver a 10-minute presentation to Japanese government officials on what was learned on the trip.

Being from Hawaiʻi, Enriquez felt she was more familiar with Japanese food and culture than most of the other students. Yet, was pleasantly surprised by the Japanese’s attention to detail in preparing foods and their politeness.

In a lecture by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Enriquez learned that washoku, wa meaning harmony and shoku meaning food, is more than just a nice presentation of a meal. Washoku, which consists of rice, pickled vegetable, soup and three other small dishes, provide a balanced diet using traditional, high-quality, indigenous ingredients and is deeply rooted in the Japanese culture.

Enriquez was also surprised by the everyday politeness in Japan: “They would always bow to you when they said thank you and bowed again when you said thank you. You were always greeted when you walked into a store or restaurant.  During company visits, they would walk us back to our shuttle and wave to us until we couldn’t see them anymore. My love and interest of Japan only intensified and I cannot wait to go back.”

The trip included stops in Hokkaido, Northern Island of Japan, and Tokyo, the capital of Japan. In Hokkaido, the students visited J-Farm Tomakomai, an agriculture facility using modern technology; Tanaka Shuzo Brewery, a high-quality sake brewery; Indigo Dye Factory, a traditional textile company; and Ainu Museum, a history of Japan’s indigenous people. The group also visited several cultural sites and companies in Tokyo including Senso-ji Temple, Yokosuka Research Park and Docomo R&D Center.

The Kakehashi Project is a large-scale student exchange program between Japan and the United States. Sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, Kakehashi aims to heighten potential interest in Japan and increase the number of overseas visitors to the country, as well as enhance international understanding of Japan’s strengths, culture and values.

The objective of this program is to promote deeper mutual understanding among the people of Japan and the U.S., enable future leaders of Japan-U.S. exchanges to form networks, and encourage young people to develop a broader perspective and become active participants at the global level.

To view more photos from the 2016 Kakehashi Project.