Class: Business and Society in Japan

One of the most intelligent people that I have had the opportunity to learn from taught this class. His name was… well we called him Professor Davis (probably has his PhD, so Dr. Davis may also work in this case). He owns shares in many large, popular companies in Japan and also has worked with some major CEOs in the area. He is not a native Japanese speaker, but from what I hear from the Japanese students that take his class, his Japanese is nearly perfect and he even knows words that some of the Japanese students do not. He is very charismatic and entertaining in class, enjoys to joke with the students, and always gives people the opportunity to participate in class. The downfall, its hard to participate in class. This specific class revolves around a set of cases; each case is given to group of 10-12 people (6 total cases I believe). These groups will analyze the case and create a 15-20 minute presentation in which they present information about the case and in which they answer questions regarding the case. After the presentation, the class will ask questions, most of which are really difficult to answer on the spot, and get points (1-however much he thinks your questino or answer is worth). The group will try to answer it to the best of their capabilities. After the presentation, the class will grade the project (by grade I mean the class will vote on the grade they believe the project should receive, but this vote does not have an effect on your grade). The following class will include discussions about the case presented in the previous class. This discussion is where you will receive the majority of your points for the class (meaning, the class relies heavily on participation points); this discussion, however, is usually controlled by the exchange students. There are a few Japanese students, towards the middle of the semester, that will start to speak out every now-and-then. The reason why participating is difficult is because the one picking the students is the teacher and he only has two sets of eyes, so you may have your hand raised for tens of minutes, but may not get called on. The answer to this issue is: sit in the middle column towards the middle row by the aisle. Why? He usually is looking at the middle of the room and is, quite often, walking up and down the aisle.  So make sure to participate and speak up, especially if you want a good grade. There are also random writing assignments at the end of each discussion that relates to the case; these are usually one page papers that will be used as participation points for those who are not able to speak up in class.

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Class: International Marketing Strategy

This classes focuses mainly on fundlemental marketing strategies that can be used internationally. It explains segmentation, positioning, brand strength, standardization vs. localization, and expansion or adaption of the four marketing p’s. Most of the examples in the class will deal with fashion, luxury, and a comparison of promotion in the host country and in Japan. For those interested in Marketing and international business, this class may be of interest to you. One of the assignments in this class is a group project where the exchange student in the group (it’s usually one exchange student per group of 5 people) chooses a product from their home country to promote to a specific target market in Japan. The target market will be chosen by the professor during class with about two to three weeks before your groups presentation (to allow for each group to have an equal, fair amount of time to prepare and present the project). For the project, there will be a presentation and a proposal that must be turned in. PowerPoint slides must be turned in on blackboard (similar to Carmen at OSU, a site used to post/turn-in assignments and to make announcements) by 8am the day of the presentation. Also, a rough draft of the full proposal must also be submitted to the professor. The presentation is a timed presentation and should last at most 15 minutes. Questions and answers will follow the presentation; the questions you ask in the class (during presentation weeks) will count as participation point, which is important for the class, so be sure to speak up and participate some. A final exam is given at the end of the semester. Early returners will receive an online final essay exam which they must complete in 4 hours. Other students will most likely take an in-class, multiple choice exam.

If you were wondering what my target group was and what my project entailed: My group had to find a product from the United States to sell/promote in Japan for the Silver Market (50+ year old people); funny thing, the person who choose the product was actually a Japanese Native who lived in Guam for a large portion of his life (so he knows American products and speaks English fluently, shout out to Tetsuya). Since the Silver Market focuses on their health, the group decided to use Vitamin World, an American only, nutritional supplement company, to sell products to the Silver Market in Japan. I won’t bore you with the details of what we wrote and presented, but I had a great group and it went, overall, really well.

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Fashion and Finances Part 2

Hello everyone! Previous post I stated that I am taking a break from explaining classes to give you information on what I perceive to be important. The previous section I explained about the fashion of those attending Rikkyo and what you should bring. This blog will focus more on the finances and how much I may have spent monthly.

Finances

So one of the biggest unanswered questions I had was dealing with finances in Japan (e.g., how much will “rent” cost, how much will I spend on food, how much is transportation, etc.). In bullet form, I shall explain a little bit about finances and what you can expect to spend in one month. Note: American debit cards do allow you to withdraw money at 7/11 ATMS, however, you must draw 10,000 yen at one time (in 2012, it was roughly 125 USD) plus the service/conversion charge. Plan ahead and becareful. I highly recommend opening a bank account and placing a large amount of money in there since you will be able to take out smaller bills from them.

  • FOOD: In order to survive, you must consume food. Pricing of food is relatively expensive, especially in the Tokyo area. Fast food restaurants like McDonalds and Burger King will be slightly similar to pricing in the United States; however, pricing at restaurants, especially traditional ones, will seem a bit expensive. Furthermore, if you enjoy going out at night, the prices seem to radically increase and may cause you to spend more than you though. In this case, it will be best to limit the amount of times you go out to eat and cook more often. If you do this and budget correctly, you will be able to enjoy Japan more. If you are living in teh dorms, you can get a meal plan; the meal plan will cost you a little under 17,000 Japanese Yen (nearly 250USD) a month. Those of you in the dorm will have kitchen’s in your room, so you will be able to cook there. Buying groceries varies depedning on how much you buy per month, but on average, I think I spent maybe 2000 Japanese Yen every two weeks on groceries.
  • DORMITORY: The good thing about the dormitory is that you get to meet so many people from around the world. I met some of my bestest friends while staying there (Shout out to Jonathan, Matt, Matthew, Ina, Christelle, Annabelle, Thomas, and Julian). The downside is the expensiveness of the initial payments and the utilities (which I, at first, did not know about). You will have to pay a fixed “rent” for the entire semester (yes, the ENTIRE Rikkyo University Semester, which is approximately 6-7 months), even if you are not staying there for the whole semester. There is no refund, so the two to three months I did not stay there I did not get my money back. Can you petition for it? Possibly, but it states, when you pay it, that there will be no refund. This you must pay by the deadline given to you from the university. Once you move into the dorm, you will be given an orientation in which they explain the approximate costs of the utilities (which include electricity and internet/phone). These usually total up to be nearly 10,000 Japanese Yen (roughly 115USD at the time). Internet and phone bill is a fixed price while the electiricty is measured every month. The way you pay for these utilities is that you will receive a bill for the previous month on the 20th day of the current month (e.g., on November 20, you will receive the bill for the month of October). You will take this bill to the nearest conbini (convenient store) and they will scan it, stamp it, give you one piece of it along with the receipt (after you pay for it of course). Keep these receipts and stamped piece of paper in case the dormitory says you did not pay for it when you did. One other thing to take note of is that if you are an early returner, you must pay for the current month’s usage and any previous bills you have not paid yet. For example, I left Japan on January 4th, so before I left, the manager came up to me and gave me an invoice with the month of December’s utilities on it along with the amount I used from December 20th-January 4th. It came out to be a little over 20,000 Japanese Yen. Don’t forget this is ontop of the November bill of approximately 10,000 Japanese Yen that I received on the 20th of December. Plan ahead of time and make sure to manage your money well.
  • TRANSPORTATION: Transportation costs in Japan may seem inexpensive at first, but it adds up. Only take Taxis if it is absolutely necessary. They are over priced and will cost you tons of money to get from one area to another.  Trains and buses are the most inexpensive modes of transportation in Japan, but note that even though they are inexpensive, if you constantly use them on a daily basis, they will soon be creating a hole in your bank account. The first month you are in Japan, all the traveling expenses will be yours to pay. For those living in Asakadai dorms or Shiki dorms, you will need to take the train from the respective trainstations by the dorms to Ikebukuro, where the Univeristy is located. From September 6th to September 22nd (roughly), you will pay 600 Japanese yen (over 6 USD) round trip (from Shiki/Asakadai to Ikeburo: 300 Japanese Yen, and from Ikebukuro to Shiki/Asakadai: another 300 Japanese Yen). After you receive your student ID from the University (which, for some reason, takes about 3 weeks), you will be able to go to the station and get a commuters pass. I explained this pass a bit before: you will use a Suica or Pasomo (depending where you stay and what line you use), pay a fixed price (varies depending if you want it for one month, three months, or for the whole year), and then use it to get to school and home without having to pay every time. This commuter pass also allows you to go to any stop inbetween your two destinations (in my case, I could stop at any station between Ikebukuro and Shiki on the Tobu-Tojo line).

Well, I hope this helps you a bit. If there are anymore questions about costs or anything, please feel free to ask!

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Fashion and Finances Part 1

So I decided to take a break from explaining the classes (it’s all rather dry anyways) to tell you a bit about the fashion of Japan (well, more like what the people at Rikkyo University wear) and a bit about the cost of living in the area so that you can be more prepared while you stay there. This blog post will focus on fashion and the next about finances. Let’s get this party started!~

Fashion

Most awkward thing is going to a foreign country carrying clothes that makes you stand out a lot more than usual. Before I went to Japan, I asked one of the exchange students from Rikkyo who was studying at the Ohio State at the time what the people in Rikkyo wear. He told me “The usually wear polo’s and dress pants most of the time. Business casual stuff.” Hearing this, I ran out and bought tons of dress pants and dress shirts to be prepared for when I began classes in Rikkyo. I did bring casual clothes (three pairs of jeans and a few t-shirts), but I mainly packed business casual outfits. I woke up early for the first day of class, put on my wonderful kahki pants and a nice button up t-shirt. I slipped on my old, yet comfy dress shoes and made my way to the University I was going to study at for four months. As I got off the train and made my way to the University, I began to see multiple college students walking in the same direction. I saw that they were not wearing business casual clothes, but I didn’t think much of it. I went the whole week wearing business casual clothes before realizing that Rikkyo is actually one of the most fashionable universities in the Tokyo region (thanks to one of my European friends telling). I then started to awkwardly walk around every day for the first month with the same ol’ business clothes I had before receiving newer clothes from my mom in the mail. So here is what you need to know:

  • They love luxuries, fashionable items of clothing, especially if they are foreign, so it is possible that the majority of them will imitate European styles, especially the women. Does this mean you need to be up-to-date with European fashion? No, I just thought I’d include this little fact that I learned while I was over there.
  • Bring AT LEAST two pairs of business casual clothing (dress shirts and khaki pants) along with AT LEAST one pair of business formal clothing (especially if you are a business student). The business formal clothing will be used if you decide to take BBP, for you will make a big presentation to at least one business.
  • Bring clothes that you can use to work out in (you must get a gym pass from Rikkyo; details will be given to  you at the orientation in Japan).
  • Bring the same clothes that you would wear at Ohio State (or at your home University). There isn’t a need to conform or be super fashionable. What you wear on a daily basis will be just fine in Japan; do make sure, however, that it is culturally appropriate and will not offend anyone.
  • My host family also told my parents, before I arrived there, that socks with holes in them are considered rude and offensive to people in Japan so make sure to bring as many nice socks as you can (without holes) just in case.
  • Japanese restrooms do not have paper towel dispensers or the nice machines that dry your hands, so make sure to carry around handkerchiefs that you can use to dry yourself. Also carry around a small towel that you can use to wipe off sweat since it is the norm there.

I think that will be it for the fashion section. If you have any questions on that, please let me know and I shall respond to them as soon as I can. [And if I don’t know the answer, then I shall ask one of my friends who does]

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Class: Japanese – J1S

As I wrote before, in order to take Japanese classes, you must take an entrance exam. This entrance exam will test your grammar, reading ability, writing ability, and speaking ability. Once you do that, they shall place you in the level they believe you belong. Some people may know tons of Kanji, but can’t speak it properly or write grammatically correct, so they may be placed at a level lower than they believe they are. I knew I was going to be placed at a lower level and didn’t try my hardest on the exam, however, I was content at where I was placed. The levels are J0-J8 (I believe). I was placed in J1S, just slightly higher than the J1 group of people. In J1S, you will be learning a lot of vocabulary, how to write essays properly, and important grammar points. Now most of the grammar points taught were those I have already learned through Ohio State’s Japanese department, but the OSU Japanese department uses a book that is heavily filled with linguistical terminology and can be quite hard to follow, even after teacher’s explain it. Through the books and explanations used and given from the teachers in Japan, I think I was able to understand important grammar a lot more easily, especially the differences and usage of the phrase particles (ni, wa, wo, de, ga, to, etc). This course also focuses on vocabulary. I learned so many new words through this course than I did at JSL, especially everyday words (laundry, cleaning, swimming, fruit, the seasons, etc). The workesheets seem a bit childish and all, but they do a great job at allowing you to practice the vocubulary and helps you memorize them. The writing portion was well organized too; you would be asked to make an outline of what you wanted to write in the essay in class so that the teacher can help you decide on what exactly you wanted to write about and help you with grammar and vocabulary issues. Reading also was given there, but wasn’t focused on too much. If you are studying Japanese and want to improve it, you should definitely look into taking a Japanese course there, even if you think you are placed at a lower level than what you actually are (you may be surprised at what you learn). If you are not but want to take some Japanese so that you can communicate with the Japanese people (what they would call “survival Japanese”), J0 will be the one for you. It will teach you katakana and hirogana and help you order food, introduce yourself, etc. Either way, the Japanese teachers are extremely nice and caring and definitely will help you with any problems or issues you may have regarding Japanese language and culture.

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Class: International Accounting

For those who have taken accounting at Ohio State, you would be surprised at how easy this class will be compared to Mark Smith’s. The good news is, everything that you learned with Mark Smith in the first accounting class (or any accounting class) will be what you would learn about by the midterm. You will learn about: Financial Statements, ratios, and a few other calculations as well as the difference between the accounting standards tthat he U.S. use and the accounting standards Europe and other countries use. This class, overall, was a bit interesting, but for the most part, it was just review of the very basics and fundamentals of accounting. Students who dislike accounting or who are not “good” with numbers still should take this class, especially if they need it to reach the mandatory credit hours required from Rikkyo. The students who return early will be given an early final exam; this exam is quite short, but should be taken seriously. If you have Professor Garcia, her exams include short answers and extended responses, so you should know and understand the terminology presented to you within the class. As long as you study and practice, you should be able to receive a good grade in it. Professor Garcia is kind person and very helpful. If you have any questions or concerns, she will definitely help you with any of them, so feel free to ask questions in the class and participate.

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And let it begin… again!

Hello everyone! I need to apologize for taking a LONG absence from this blog. Once November hit, everything just started to get overwhelming and stressful. One of the biggest parts of school work at Rikkyo are the group projects there. As I may have stated in a previous blog, I had about 7 group projects and they all began, and some ended, in November. So my typical day in that month would be: Wake up 8am, get ready for school, go to class from 10am-6pm, go to group meetings either in between classes or after classes usually until 8:30pm, leave Ikebukuro and get home around 9:30pm, prepare for classes for the next day until midnight and then sleep. There’s also all the stress of a new area and atmosphere mixed with homesickness and everything. Nonetheless, I shall be writing and posting a string of stories and experiences onto this blog until I think I have written everything I possibly could of this experience. I shall start off where I left off from my previous blogs and explain the rest of the classes I had taken while I was in Japan. Then I shall write of some random stories and experiences, talk about the tearful goodbyes, and what lies ahead of the early returners after they get back to their home universities. Let the adventures begin… again!

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Rikkyo University: Sports Fair

During one of the various welcome parties thrown by the university for international students, you will hear a person or two talk about the sports festival that occurs every year. In my case, COBBY (the college of business buddy program) invited all the international business exchange students to participate in the Sports fair. So, they created a Facebook group and added each international student (I believe it was made before we even arrived, the Facebook group that is) and then posted contact information of a person who was in charge of putting the teams together. You were to send an email listing the sports you were interested in and then after a month or so, you will receive an email or facebook message telling you which sports you were put in (sports played depended on the amount of people that signed up for that particular sport). I signed up for basketball, volleyball, and minigames; I got into volleyball and minigames since not many people signed up for basketball. Here is how the day went:

8:30am: Met at the entrance of Shiki Station. The sports festival was held in Niiza campus, which is located in Shiki, Saitama. We walked as a group to Niiza campus (took about 20 minutes).

9:00am: Stood outside of the building while one of the Japanese students registered our group. After a few minutes, we all went inside and participated in a short opening ceremony in the gym. We all then rushed out to the turf fields to support fellow exchange students as they participated in a soccer-like game (just on a smaller field). Unfortunately, they did not win the game, but they did do well for not having a chance to warm up.

10:45am: A group of us then went back into the gym to watch more exchange students and Rikkyo students participate in badminton. Unfortunately, we were told that they started at 10:45am (we did get there early) and the volleyball team that was present decided to practice a bit, so we left to a different gym. When we returned, the game was already over and the Cobby team lost by 2 or 3 points (the other OSU student was playing in the game; apparently, the rules were not explained well and they didn’t know that the game was to 11 points instead of 15 points). I was a bit upset I didn’t get to watch them, but they seemed to have a bit of fun.

11:30am: We decided to eat lunch at this time; this gave the volleyball team some time to digest food and get energy. For the sports festival, there were some foods that were sold for 100 yen (approx 1 USD); this included three set dishes at the university dining hall and subway that was being sold at some locations on Niiza campus. I didn’t know about the subway, so I bought a meal from the dining hall. It was a bit heavy, but quite delicious (steamed vegetables, french fries, miso soup, burger patty with sauce).

12:30pm: The volleyball team decided to practice a bit more, so we played 3 on 3 for about an hour to warm up. It was a fun practice game, but I did twist my ankle a little. That scared me for a second because I thought it was bad at first (but it wasn’t).

1:30pm:  Our first game started. There were a bit of nerves from everyone, and I did mess up on my first serve, but after going back and forth on points, we were able to rally in the end and win with a decent margin. This gave the Cobby group their first win of the festival! We all then went to the field for the minigames, however, since the minigames were to occur during the second match for the volleyball tournament, I had to give my spot to someone else (which I was fine with; the volleyball game drained a bit of my energy).

2:30pm: Our second game started and I could tell we were going to have a difficult time with our opponent. They had very strong spikers and we did not have a person on our time tall enough to block them. The first few minutes passed and we were already down by ten points or so. Trying to rally back, we made a substitution with a member of Cobby who was exceptionally good at volleyball (he was just playing on a different team and schedule, so he couldn’t join us until now). Even with him playing in the front, we still couldn’t seem to stop the spikes. However, (time for me to brag, haha) with two points away from a loss, I was able to position myself in the front and give us a bit of defense. When the other group tried to spike, I, somehow, was able to block some of them. I call this beginners luck because I never blocked a spike before until that day. The last two possessions lasted for a minute or two and made the ending of the game seem more competitive. We still loss by a large margin, but I still think that game was fun.

In the end, none of the Cobby teams won first prize; but, we all did get complimentary pens… however, I think one of the members took them all home with them on accident. Oh well. If you have a chance to participate in the Sports Fair with Rikkyo, I say you do it! You get two days off of school (one for the sports fair and one for a holiday) and its a great way to connect with the Japanese culture and Japanese students. It’s also quite fun!

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Free Time Fun: スポッチャ – Round 1 –

Decided to take a break from writing about classes to give you all an idea of where to spend your free time. No tons of students here love to go out to dance and party, but I’m not one of those students. Clubs and drinks in Japan, especially in the Tokyo region, are really expensive, and since most of the students may be underage, I figured it would be smart to give a place or two that you can go to have fun in a healthy, fun way. About two weeks ago, I went to an overnight sports-filled building called Round 1. This building is known as スポッチャ and includes lots of different sports and arcade games. For a fixed fee, you can enjoy all the activities that they have there (for this evening, since we had a large group, it only costed 1,550 Yen, but we did have to take taxi’s to and from the station, so it came out to a total of 2000 yen, not including food or drinks you may end up buying there). There are three total floors.

The first floor has an arcade (which is open for the first hour of the night; after that, it is closed. However, there are a few arcade games outside of the arcade section that you can play), a half-court basketball court (but the basketballs are not of high quality), a badminton court (which you can also play volleyball in), a shooting range (not real guns or bullets, just paintball guns), a rolling rink (which is quite big; it takes up most of the floor), a children play area, a room where you can fall asleep in if you want to take a nap (filled with comfortable chairs and manga), a tennis game area (where you have to hit the tennis ball into a specific target), a ping pong game area (similar to that of the tennis one), a soccer game area (similar to that of the tennis one), a food court area filled with slot machines of various types (that you get to play for free just like the arcade games), a fishing pool, bowling, etc.

The second floor has billiards (aka pool), darts, karaoke rooms, an electric bull (that doesn’t move fast), and lockers for your items (that costs 100 yen, but you receive the money back when you leave).

The third floor is actually located on the roof of the building, so you can see the stars while you are out there. In this area, there is a full-court basketball court (split in half so that two games can go at once), about four badminton courts, one soccer court, two tennis courts, two archery areas, two areas to play catch, and a batting cages. Before being able to enter this room, you must take off your shoes and wear one of the shoes supplied by the business (since the floor of the rooftop is turf and they do not want to get it dirty/messed up).

If you are worried about the amount of people that will be at the スポッチャ, don’t worry because there is not much people there during the night. A few may be there early on in the night, but most will leave half way through. Since trains do not run until 6:00am and you cannot enter the dormitory again until 6:30am, you will have to stay there for quite a long time. I advise you to buy drinks and snacks before entering because food and beverages at the スポッチャ is quite expensive.

So here you go; if you find yourself missing sports or just want to have fun without going to expensive clubs, this place is for you. If you live in Shiki, it is two stops before Shiki (take either the Local train or the Semi-Express train) and one stop from Asakadai (take same train). If you live in Ikebukuro, I advise you to take the Semi-Express train to Asaka (where the スポッチャ is located). Hope you find this helpful in some way!🙂

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Class: Language and Culture: Women’s Political History

The next class I shall discuss is one of the Limited Enrollment classes. There are two Language and Culture classes done through the College of Business: one is more oriented towards culture and business in general and the other one is more towards a specific area of culture. In my case, one of the language courses focused on Women’s political history. This was actually one of my top choices, but I put the general Language and Culture course as my first choice. Luckily, I got into both and was able to choose between the two, and I am glad I choose the course that I did. This course is similar to a literature course and focuses primarily on historical, nonfiction pieces. As part of the class, the students were divided into small groups of two to three people; each group will then choose a specific story/excerpt that was given to the class by the instructor. The students will then lead a 45 min presentation/discussion about their piece; each student in the group will have to speak for at least ten minutes to get full credit. There is an essay to be written as well as various quizzes; the important thing is that if you are leaving early, like I am, you will not have to take any quizzes after the date you leave, BUT you will have to turn in the essay either before you leave or via email by the original due date.  You will also have to choose an early date to present your project. Participation points are also important for this class, but since you will know English very well, the teacher may tell you to allow the Japanese students to participate in discussions as well (meaning, the teacher may not want you to control the conversation in class and/or “hog” up the speaking time). All in all, this class is quite interesting and a definite class that those who plan to study in Rikkyo should take!

On a side note, thanks to me joining this class, I was able to receive a job as a student assistant (similar to a teacher assistant) for another business class. As a student assistant (which you do not need any special workers permit to apply for the job), I attend the classes and help with discussion of the text and with organization of arguments/thoughts. The teacher for my Language and Culture class is also my boss. The teacher’s name is Melanie Czarneckie (spelling may be off) and she is from Wisconsin; her Japanese speaking ability and reading ability is amazing! (とても上手)I was shocked to see that we came from similar backgrounds and felt the same about how foreigners from some universities completely ignore social status when speaking Japanese and tend to speak in a casual format  to the teachers (which annoys us both for some reason).

And so that is all for this post. Again, any questions, feel free to leave the m in the comments. I shall answer any that appear. Thank you for reading!

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