“So… what did you actually do at work?”

One obvious question I’ve been getting from family and friends is… “So, what are you actually doing at Mizuno everyday?” I decided to wait until the end of my internship to provide a more encompassing description of my past six weeks, but now my six weeks have come to an end as I prepare to leave tomorrow. ☹

Well, I was working in the Corporate Communication Department and my official title was Brand Marketing Assistant.

My first day in the office was spent learning all about Mizuno’s Communication department as well as lessons on things like the official guidelines for the use of the Mizuno Runbird logo and the company’s suggested font. Since I have a weird, nerdy

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Sean and I on our first day in the office at the Mizuno Headquarters building in Osaka.

interest in logo design and fonts, (I used to drive everyone crazy over font usage for the yearbook and newspaper in high school) I was thriving.

Throughout my internship, I was able to use the experience I had in Adobe Illustrator to help produce some promotional materials. I was also asked to help create a press conference photo backdrop for the release of a new Mizuno Pro Golf club and then got to go to the release in Tokyo. The only issue was that the programs like Illustrator, since I am in Japan, are all in Japanese. Who would’ve thought?  It became a really fun test of how well I knew the keyboard shortcuts (for some things like saving, it was better to just ask my supervisor for her help. Thank god for my supervisor, Hiroe.)

I also worked on a project to begin the process of archiving old Mizuno advertisements as well as a project concerning Mizuno’s Facebook presence. Being a college aged student, this was really interesting to see where Mizuno was with their Social Media presence now and what steps they were taking next.

Another interesting thing I was involved in while I was here was the MVC, which is Mizuno’s weekly video update program that all employees watch to remain updated on what’s happening in the company. When we arrived, we were filmed giving a short introduction that was played to all of the Japanese employees. I also hosted one of the global MVCs played to employees all over the world and we helped film at the Mizuno Pro Golf Event footage that could be used for the MVC.

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I accidentally stood in a shadow and ruined the picture, but after helping film the Mizuno Pro Golf Event, we had some fun taking pictures with Taichi-san, a member of the PR team in the Tokyo office.

Yesterday, Sean and I gave a final presentation. Since we were the first Mizuno Interns for many years, it was unclear at first exactly what sort of presentation this would end up being. However, with a lot of guidance from our supervisors, we ended up creating a proposal for a new shoe that would target the young American consumer along with a marketing campaign and strategy to sell it to the targeted market.

The presentation was originally only supposed to be for about ten people. One day, however, when we met with our supervisors to review our progress and they decided to invite pretty much anyone who spoke some English on their floors and tried to move it to the biggest meeting room. That was booked, so instead we settled for the not-at-all-intimidating board room (it was intimidating). Even though the stakes were raised, I felt it went well and was happy with what we were able to do in such a short time! It was great getting presentation experience outside of the classroom and in front of people in an industry that knew their stuff and could rip up apart if they wanted (no one did, thankfully, they took pity on the interns and what holes were inevitably in the presentation- we were only here for six weeks, after all) We did get a lot of positive feedback, and people even asked to have the presentation sent to them.

There were many other amazing things we did over the course of the six weeks for work, too, like traveling to Tokyo twice to work at two different Mizuno events, getting a tour of the Yoro factory, and going on market visits with our supervisors. Along the way, we met countless people who were so incredibly nice and helpful. I can’t give enough thanks to everyone we met.

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Another one of the incredible employees that made the experience so great was Su-san. She took us to Tokyo to have us help work a Mizuno running competition. Not seen in this picture: the Japanese summer heat and humidity.

Overall, this internship was an absolutely incredible experience. I was able to learn so much in a short period of time and gain knowledge in a real (Japanese) work environment. I also received positive reinforcement that working towards a career in marketing is the right move for me and will be something I really enjoy.

A Lunch with President Mizuno

Way back in 1903, Rihachi Mizuno witnessed a game of baseball and made it his mission to spread the game to all of Japan. The company was grown,  globalized,  and leadership was passed down through generations. Currently, Akito Mizuno, a fellow Titan, holds the title of President.

Mr. Mizuno,  wishing to improve his English skills, decided to go to university in the United States. He decided that the Midwest would be the best place to do so and thus ended up at Illinois Wesleyan University. He had never seen the campus before his first day at IWU and had a low level of English. It would take him hours to read just one page of his English textbooks. He admitted he did not sleep much since he had to work so much harder than all of the native English speakers.

Mr. Mizuno shared this and many other stories with Sean, me, and our supervisors last week over lunch in the Mizuno Headquarters. We shared stories of Illinois Wesleyan and compared our experiences across time. We talked about Wesleyan athletics and the various building that have been built and knocked down since his graduation. We talked about Bloomington-Normal and how it has grown and changed (did you known that Normal used to be a dry city? I didn’t either.) He still wears his Sigma Pi ring. The conversation went beyond just Wesleyan and the surrounding area. He told us stories from his adventures backpacking around Europe as a young adult and we even got the Japanese view on the current American political situation.

It was pretty amazing that the president of a global company even took the time to have lunch with two college students interning with his company, let alone have very genuine and interesting conversation with us. The nervousness I felt going into lunch quickly faded away as I realized that he was a very down to earth man that has some great stories to tell.

It is interesting to think about the string of events that had to happen for me to get the oppurtunity to live and intern in Japan for six weeks. I am very grateful that Rihachi Mizuno witnessed that baseball game, Akito Mizuno happened to attend Illinois Wesleyan, Professor Teddy Amaloza decided to be an amazing person and orchestrate the IWU Freeman Asia Internship program and convince Mr. Mizuno to allow two interns to come to his company.

17706 Lunch with Illinois Wesleyan Univ.

Oh Deer

About an hour train ride from Osaka is Nara, a place renowned for a couple really cool things including its free roaming deer population and the Todaiji Temple. This was the destination Sean and I chose for a little day trip this past weekend. I was incredibly excited. Animals and huge statues of the Buddha, how could it not be awesome?


The temple and deer were amazing, but one of my favorite parts of the day was not something we had planned. While we were sitting eating shaved ice (I opted for the lemon flavor figuring it was a safe bet. Wrong. It was one of the first times I was truly disappointed in my food choice) Sean proposed that we go explore a well maintained grass hill. I didn’t see why exactly he was so intrigued by the hill, but I went along with it since I had my fun feeding deer and exploring the temple already.


We walked up the steep hill and upon turning around, realized that there was a magnificent view of all of Nara as well as the green foothills flanking the city. As I sat on a log at the top of the hill, I had one of those “Oh wow, I’m actually in a different country getting to experience things I never thought I would” moments. I sat in silence for a while, feeling that unique sense of peace that only comes around every so often, usually inspired by some sort of wondrous moment. AND I had some good cookies to eat, which made it an even better view.

Finally, we decided to take a path at random hoping it would give us an even better view and also because when has taking random paths ever not been a great idea? Well, we were right and even though the steep climb and humid weather was not kind to my inhaler-less asthmatic lungs, the view was totally worth it. At the viewpoint, there was a guy who managed to get a butterfly to land on him as his friend took pictures of the scene. Later, we started talking to them. They were college aged travelers from England with whom we went to go grab some food. They were good conversationalists who had interesting stories, but what I found even more interesting was their drinking. They were getting more rounds before I had more than an 3 sips of my drink. It was amazing. 

 In other news, Ive eaten a lot of weird stuff in Japan I thought I should let you all know about. The list includes: Octopus,  squid,  beef tongue, and chicken cartilage. Yay for trying new things! 


 

A Saturday in Kyoto

In Kyoto, there is a tiny little bar* on the third floor of commercial building packed with small businesses suffocatingly close to one another. The maximum capacity is probably about 30 people, shoulder to shoulder. It is dark and dingy, with a drum kit, guitars, and a beat up skateboard in one corner and shelves of well-loved books in the opposite corner (this was part of a donation effort to raise money for books in children in developing countries). In between these corners are scratched up old hardwood floors, walls plastered in various knick-knacks from countless cultures, and of course the patrons and the bar owner, a French man with a long beard who seamlessly transitions from speaking French to Japanese to English.
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I found myself in this random, amazing little bar on Saturday night. Over drinks, Sean and I laughed with two other Americans, Sam and Ian, about how funny it was that earlier that morning we happened to meet on a bus and went on to spend the entire rest of the day with people who used to be perfect strangers.

We met as Sean and I stared at Kyoto city bus map that was written in English, but was so confusing it might as well have been a different language. Eventually, conversation started and Sean and I decided to head to the same bamboo forest as Sam and Ian. It wasn’t a very hard decision since we had just hopped on a bus with no plans and no clue where that bus was actually headed.

The bamboo forest was amazing and, trusting that our new American allies knew much more than us, we creepily asked if we could tag along with them. Surprisingly, they weren’t too put off by two college kids following them around all day. It turned out to be an amazing decision and the day was filled with exploring bamboo forests, temples, zen rock gardens, and marveling at the five story Toji temple through a fence and trees (turns out Japanese temples have closing hours- would knew?)

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Throughout the day, we came to know Sam and Ian through stories of funny young antics, their engagement, wedding, and travels as a married couple. They introduced me to sushi for the first time and told me what I should eat as a first time sushi eater and what I might want to avoid at first (they suggested I let Sean eat the salt water Eel. I did not complain.)

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We had some things in common, but for the most part, Sam and Ian had lives very different from mine. We would have never crossed paths in America and if we did, our interaction would probably cease very quickly. But somehow, four random Americans grabbing a beer in a weird French/Japanese/American type bar after a long day of exploration has become a really cool memory that I will cherish.

*Don’t worry the drinking age in Japan is 20

 

 

 

 

Review of Week 1

07/01/2017 2:00 P.M. Osaka, Japan. Starbucks.

Right now, I am sitting in Starbucks watching Japanese passersby, a week into my experience in their home and culture. And I know, “I’m sitting in Starbucks” was probably not the best way to start a blog post about the cool foreign culture I’m experiencing, but an unfortunate part of Japanese culture is that free Wi-Fi is harder to come by than you would think, so yes, I am a cliché American right now. Deal with it.

As soon as I boarded the plane on Saturday night, I became an outsider, and plunged into a culture so different from the only one I have ever known. Culture shock is a commonly referenced phenomenon that I never understood. A week ago, I would have said that it carries a strictly negative connotation. However,

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The Mizuno Headquarters building in Osaka, Japan
I have come to a much different understanding. While being thrown into a different culture is obviously difficult and overwhelming, it is a great kind of overwhelming. I have been exposed to so much and have learned and grown more in a week than I could have in an entire summer at home.

On Monday, upon arrival in Osaka, a Mizuno employee, Yuriko, picked us up from the airport and took us to the Mizuno dorms. She had an energy that I have come to recognize is a quality special to the Japanese. Every one I have come into contact with has been so purposeful. When at a store, the cashiers treat every interaction with attention and care I have rarely seen in America.

After taking the rest of Monday to get settled (staying awake until 8:30 P.M. was a struggle that Yuriko and Sean enjoyed laughing at), we went to the Mizuno headquarters office on Tuesday where we were introduced to another culture, the Mizuno business culture. While Mizuno is  more relaxed than other Japanese businesses, there are definitely certain formalities that wouldn’t be found in a Western work place. One of the first things we did upon our arrival was meet the supervisor of the HR department, who had everyone on the floor stand up as introductions were made and we bowed to everyone and everyone returned the bowing gesture very respectfully and clapped for us. It was nerve wracking. The day from there was filled with various orientation type meetings and tours of the building.

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During the rest of the week, we toured various Mizuno factories, retail stores, and gym facilities. Again, I felt a weird sort of guilt because everyone treated us with such kindness and care that, as a lowly intern for America, I did not deserve. There was a lot of really cool things, but one thing that stood out to me the most is how passionate Mizuno employees were about sports and the products they were selling. Rihachi Mizuno started the company because he wanted to spread baseball to all of Japan, and that sort of passion in sports and being active is still prevalent in the company today.

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On Thursday, one of our superiors treated us to ice cream on some mysterious warm, buttery bun. I have no idea what it was, but it was amazing. 
I could go on and on about the funny and amazing experiences I have had so far and all the amazing people I  have met, but I will leave you with one last anecdote. On Friday we were touring different athletic facilities Mizuno owns or runs and we stopped in at a table tennis facility. All of a sudden, they were having us put on table tennis shoes and a professional Japanese table tennis player was motioning to us how to stand and hit the ball. She didn’t speak any English and at one point was saying “knee” when she meant “elbow,” but somehow she succeeded in teaching me how you are actually supposed to hit a table tennis ball, spin and all, in about three minutes with no English. It was incredible.

table tennis

 

 

 

Preparing for Takeoff

I am a big fan of making lists, especially to-do lists. I came to terms long ago that the only way to combat my absentmindedness is to write every thing down. Some time during the 2016 fall semester, I wrote in the to-do section of my planner the following:

  • look into IWU Freeman Asia Internships.

When I crossed off that, I added things like:

  • Ask for recommendation letter
  • Write Freeman application essays
  • Complete and send application

After I was notified that I was lucky enough be one of the Freeman Grant recipients placed with Mizuno Corp., my to-do lists became populated with a constant flow of bullet points in order to prepare:

  • Apply for Passport
  • Study Abroad Pre-Departure packet
  • Internship credit paperwork
  • Other paperwork
  • Even more paperwork
  • First Japanese crash course class
  • Study for Japanese crash course class
  • Discuss turning Japanese short crash course class into longer elementary Japanese class
  • Skype into Japanese class
  • Study Japanese
  • Start blog
  • Go shopping- need business attire
  • Call and notify bank of travel
  • Pack

And many, many more. My to-do lists have kept me on task and excited for my trip. However, they were always just little tasks on a list. I had to physically complete them, sure, but somehow all the preparation has continued to feel like the trip is some far-off trip that someone else is taking. Even now, a day before I leave, it somehow doesn’t feel real. Granted, no matter how many bullets I can tick off, I don’t think anything can fully prepare me for the list of “firsts” I’ll be able to cross off in the next six weeks:

  • First time flying internationally
  • First flight over 4 hours (18 total hours in the air with a layover in Taiwan)
  • First time going to Japan
  • First time being a true outsider in a culture I don’t really understand
  • First time getting to try struggling through speaking some Japanese
  • First time experiencing what it is like to work for a large international corporation
  • All of the other things I will get to experience for the first time that I don’t even know about yet.

I am both extremely nervous and extremely excited to get to cross these items off my new list and cannot wait to share my thoughts and feelings with you as I do so.

P.S. One more list that I have (I warned you earlier- big fan of lists) is the list most dear to my heart. It’s my list of people who have helped me. It is a long list, and I am sure it will continue to grow as I arrive in Japan and meet more people. I am very excited to get to cross off “write thank-you cards” from my to-do list.

P.P.S. If you don’t want to suffer through reading my writing, (I wouldn’t blame you) but still want to get an idea of what I’m up to, check out https://lifeoflarkin.wordpress.com/ Sean will be my counterpart and plans to upload weekly vlogs documenting his experiences.