From 7 to 12 January, with much enthusiasm and excitement, 20 students embarked on a trek which had not taken place from Cambridge in several years: the Japan Trek. Seven Japanese students held weekly meetings from the summer of 2017, discussing how to best showcase both the historical and business cultures of Japan – and we’re happy to report that the trek turned out to be a phenomenal cultural experience for both the participants and organisers!

We started our trip in Kyoto and experienced a Japanese tea ceremony in addition to visiting historical temples and shrines. We also visited Professor Takashi Kubota, a CJBS alumnus who was previously Deputy Mayor of Rikuzentakata (a city that was severely affected by the 2011 tsunami that hit north-eastern Japan) and who now teaches at Ritsumeikan University Graduate School of Public Policy. He gave us a lecture on disaster management based on his experience.

From Kyoto, the trek split into two groups: one group doing a whirlwind tour of Kanazawa, Takayama, and Shirakawa-go, and one group staying in Kyoto. The group that went to Takayama (an rural area with heavy snowfall) stayed at Iori Stay, traditional Japanese houses managed by Shingo Matsuba (CJBS alumnus), and had a great time hearing about his entrepreneurial journey to revitalise depopulated areas and trying the delicious local food.

Midway through the trek, the groups met again and we took the Toyota factory tour.  There we saw concepts like Kanban in practice, and the whole group was captivated by the efficiency of the assembling processes.

From there we headed to Tokyo for company visits. In Tokyo we had the opportunity to visit various organisations of varying sizes (in alphabetical order): Fast Retailing (the group company that oversees UNIQLO), Lightnix, Rakuten, SENSY, SoftBank, and the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Lightnix and SENSY are both Japanese start-ups. At SENSY we heard from Tomoko Minagawa (a CJBS alumna) about their utilisation of AI to make personal recommendations, and from Lightnix we heard about their uniquely-designed, painless needles which were modelled after mosquitos.

Fast Retailing, Rakuten, and SoftBank are all multi-national organisations with headquarters based in Tokyo, and we got to visit these companies’ new offices and to hear about the potential career opportunities available within these growing organisations.

At the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, thanks to donations from staff and students at Judge, we were able to donate 27 cell phones and digital cameras, which will be recycled into medals for the Olympic and Paralympic Games to be held in Tokyo in 2020.

For some of the trek participants it was their first time visiting Asia, and it was great to see everyone experiencing a slice of life in Japan.

Some comments from participants:

“I can’t recommend participating in treks highly enough.  Travelling with classmates around their home country was a phenomenal experience and takes travel to a totally different level. I learnt things about Japanese culture, business and history that I likely wouldn’t have otherwise and the experience solidified my desire to spend more time in Japan in the future. Thank you again for a wonderful trip, I can’t wait to go back to Japan (though my waistline will probably need some time to recover!).”

Julia Abouaf – Australia/France

“ I had never visited Asia prior to the Japan Trek, but had heard great reviews about the country; its cultural heritage, technological advancements and the delicious variety of food. So I expected nothing short of being blown away… My expectations were exceeded! It was truly special to experience Kyoto, Kanazawa, Shirakawa-go, Takayama and Tokyo through the eyes of our Japanese classmates, and to bond with them while touring their country. The friendships and memories made on this trip will last a long time. This trek has enriched my MBA experience!”

Sinenhlanhla Zulu – South Africa

The organisers of the Japan trek were (in alphabetical order by first name): Kenji Uchimoto, Nanako Takasuka, Sakura Nitta, Sayuri Soejima-Kajiyama, Tadashi Kubo, Takehiro Aoki, and Tomo Hamano.