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Vandals in Japan

Miso soup. Manufacturing. Mountainous hikes. A group of 21 University of Idaho business students put their classroom experiences to work on a business and culture trip to Japan.

Aiming to make it a true cultural experience, students stayed in traditional Japanese rooms, ate Japanese food and were paired with college students from Japan throughout the trip. Many of the Japanese students they visited have attended the University of Idaho on exchange or plan to do so soon.

“Seeing the contrast of life in Japan – where recycling is the only option, drive-thrus are nonexistent and greeting customers is more important than the bottom line – will help me better understand international business and succeed in the workforce," said Andrea Walker, a 2007 finance graduate from Spokane, Wash.

The group visited Fukuoka, Unzen, Nagasaki, Kyoto and Osaka during the two-week trip.

The trip, led by Idaho faculty members Michele O’Neill, Sean O’Neill and Jan Rauk, exposed students to global business and enhanced world perspectives through hands-on work with manufacturing partners, international students and immersion in Japanese culture.

The students toured various corporations, including the Toyota factory, where they learned how the leading automaker revolutionized the assembly line. They also watched firsthand as two of Toyota’s most popular vehicles were produced in both U.S. and European models.

“To be able to see Toyota at its roots in Japan is an experience that few people from America get to do and something that provides perspective to what we learn in class,” said Courtney Sorensen, a production and operations management major from Shoshone.

Students also visited the Asahi Brewery, the Nihonshiki Factory and attended classes at Nagasaki University on Japanese business, culture and customs.

Students served tea“This trip has provided many real world examples for the classroom and shows our students that the practices and global perspectives we teach are real and can be seen in everyday global enterprise,” said Michele O’Neill, associate professor of finance at the University of Idaho.

Throughout their stay, the group compared and contrasted business in Japan from a perspective of how they would apply the things they learned when conducting business in a global setting. They also discussed taking American companies international and how corporations such as Starbucks and McDonalds have adapted their menus and stores to fit Japanese culture.

According to Management and Human Resources Instructor Jan Rauk, the business culture in Japan places great importance on harmony, loyalty, respect and trust.

“Relationships are clear in this vertical society," she said.

Rauk found it encouraging that many American companies are implementing the relations-based principles and participatory management style.

“Firsthand exposure to the culture, business and economics of Japan will truly help our students as they enter the increasingly global business world,” she said.