17th December 2019, scheduled as Ms. Nur Khalila binti Khairuddin’s last day of her internship in Far East Inc. Saitama (see story on QS WOWNEWS, 30th November 2019). When the author contacted her, she said she was a bit exhausted but was so ready to return to Malaysia. She was eager and ever willing to share her memorable moments throughout her internship period.
When the author asked her feeling towards the Japan Internship Program, she agreed the Program had given her invaluable insights into the Japanese work culture.
“I can see a big change between when I first got here and right now in Japan, in terms of understanding the work-culture and etiquette of two different countries for the globalization market. The knowledge I acquired in UiTM so far helped me to gather and organize information wisely, as well as utilizing the Social Networking System effectiveness to approach the targeted clients.
I worked in a Japan company, FAR EAST Inc., that manages a trading business, import, and export, manufacture, and sale of food and beverages, which involved various countries such as Turkey, Uganda, China, Greece, Egypt, and Spain. FAR EAST Inc. has three branches of (Arabic & Mediterranean theme) fine-dining restaurants in Japan, called as CARVAAN and eleven directly managed stores, which called, FAR EAST Bazaar.”
In the first month in Saitama Japan, the company assigned her to research Foreign Customers’ Reclamation at CARVAAN Fine-Dining Restaurant using Social Networking System (SNS). She needed to retrieve the details of targeted clients who came to Japan, their primary purpose of visit, and the type of experience they sought after. The time allocation for this research was tight and short.
The first phase of the internship aimed to introduce CARVAAN TOKYO to potential clients as a new fine-dining restaurant of such a theme. The location of the restaurant was at the bustling Shibuya Scramble Square, which targeted the non-Japanese fine-diner, mainly Europeans, Americans, Middle Easterners, and southeast Asians. She used Social Networking Systems (SNS) and Search Engines such as Instagram, Twitter, TripAdvisor, and Google My Business to reach out to the targeted clients and to keep informed clients of the new restaurant.
She was fortunate to be able to explore and strategize the information used in marketing via the Social Networking Systems (SNS) and Search Engine on her own. The company needed a Muslim foreign English-speaking intern who was able to negotiate in English to approach loads of high-end, non-Japanese clients. She prepared for the CARVAAN’s performance report, stats, and figures of TripAdvisor and Twitter, as well as managed to “Transfer Primary Ownership” of Google My Business directly to the FAR EAST Inc. CEO, Mr. Toshiyuki Sasaki.
To her, the experience was a challenging one. However, the opportunity to learn the Japanese language and gestures and the ability to adapt fast to the differences in the environment reduced the language barrier and succeeded in accomplishing various tasks efficiently.
Another astounding experience is that she began to realize the importance of content management in most of her tasks. She was responsible for building a brand identity and online presence of CARVAAN through the creation and dissemination of multimedia content online. This task involved developing content strategies, managing a content team, growing an online community, and tracking their growth. All information is digital content. Therefore, it is essential to maintain digital content well for durability.
When asked her about the working environment, she stated that she was beyond satisfied with the workplace.
” I would love to say that FAR EAST Inc. CEO, Mr. Toshiyuki Sasaki (I called him, Shachou), and his wife, Mrs. Miki Sasaki, the Human Resource Manager, are the nicest person I’ve ever met in my life. Somehow, both of them automatically made me realized the art of being humble even though both of them are in the highest top-management.”
She admires Mr. and Mrs. Sasaki hospitality. Since day one, they prepared her a comfortable, fully furnished apartment, including toiletries. They treated the guests with courteous and polite, regardless the race and religion. The gracious act continued in the office environment. Greet and meet among the employees were familiar. They were always in communication with each other.
She observed that the Japanese employees ‘dress code in big cities like Shibuya, Tokyo usually were more formal than that of her host company. Far East Inc. located in a suburb. Therefore, the employees wore smart casual, less formal dress code.
In a Japanese company, as she observed, every single decision must get approval from the superiors first. All interns were taught about “Ho-ren-sou,” which represents Houkoku (report), Renraku (contact), Soudan (consult). She required to update frequently and informed her superiors of what she was doing before she tried to solve specific problems.
Her working hours were from Monday to Friday, from 9.00 am to 6.00 pm. She did not work long hours. As an intern, they always remind me to go back at 6.00 pm. The office pantry was ready with snacks such as raisins, nuts, fig, prune, coffee, and tea for a short break.
Most Japanese company including FAR EAST Inc., really focus and embrace the company goals rather than individual goals. Top management and employees shared the company’s vision, mission, and corporate philosophy and worked hard to achieve them. They hold steadfastly to the company’s history and goals.
She also uncovers an unwritten rule about the selection process of an employee. The Japanese companies will first look at which university the employee or candidate graduated from, followed by the subject background of the candidate (major-minor). Graduates from top universities of a country are likely to be chosen as the employee. The company associates top university with the employee’s quality.
In terms of time management, she impressed with their super punctuality and respected other people’s time. Every day, the employees arrived at the office before 9.00 am. She shared her weekly business meeting in Tokyo. The meeting started sharp at 2.00 pm, and not even once delayed from the time scheduled.
The work culture and environment in this company were a mixture of traditional Japanese and Modern-Western styles. This company welcomed foreigners to work with them. They did hire an African to work with the company. Shachou, the CEO, was a good leader. He was willing to seek my opinion, even though I was an intern. He also exchanged views with the other employees and communicated with respect.
In terms of cleanliness, the Japanese company did not hire any cleaning service. Every level of employees, from the top management until the support staff, is responsible for the garbage and clean up each of the space daily. Even the CEO’s wife helped to wipe the staircase. Their toilets were dry, clean, and warm during autumn and winter. The employees themselves separated the food and non-food waste into different categories waste bags such as; plastics, cans, glass bottles, paper, clothes, and burnable and non-burnable, and perishable food waste. Different types of waste have different collection times. Thus, to stay clean and organized is part of the Japanese norms and culture.
The company did aware of the needs of the Muslims’ visitors. The company provided a convenient space for a Muslim to perform ablution and praying area.
Finally, yet importantly, she describes her enticing experience and highly recommends the next batches of UiTM interns to apply for Japan Internship Program. Here in Japan, the interns got the chance to learn new things every day, explore cultural diversity, historic places, and so much more. Initially, being a Muslim foreigner in this Program is challenging. Not long, she already fell in love with the culture, delicious food, beautiful seasons, cleanliness, and an extremely safe environment.