By Lauren Wallace and Trisha Hongcharti

Forty-eight students arrived in Kyoto on 11 May to begin their Darden.Worldwide Course led by professors Yael Grushka-Cockayne and Bob Conroy. This course is one of the newest DWCs offered by the Center for Global Initiatives. This course, focused on project management and innovation, takes place in both Kyoto and Tokyo over the span of eight days during which the group is touring cultural sites, visiting companies, and meeting with local Darden alumni. Take a look into the first few days of the inaugural Japan DWC below!

Day 1 of the inaugural Darden Worldwide Course to Japan went very smoothly.  See pictures below of our Welcome Dinner at Fortune Garden (located next to Kyoto City Hall and formerly a Shimadzu Corporation building – a company we will visit Monday!).

Double Hoo Helen Hwang (pictured with faculty leaders Yael Grushka-Cockayne and Bob Conroy) serves as the Principal Commercial Consul of the U.S. Consulate General in Osaka-Kobe. During the Welcome Dinner, she briefed the students with an overview of the business and commercial environment in Kansai (the region that contains the trifecta of Kyoto, Kobe, and Osaka), provided background on trade between the US and Japan, and gave pointers on how to do business in Japan.

Day 2 has shown us fun contrasts in traditional and modern Japanese businesses!

We began the morning by visiting a family-owned textile factory in the traditional weaving district of Nishijin where the nontraditional owner kept the students entertained and engaged. A proprietor of 16 businesses, he also hosted the Darden students at his restaurant, Roku-Bori for lunch. Yohei Izutsu is a prolific Japanese entrepreneur who is vibrant and creative and has a passion for breaking the standard mold of the Japanese business scene. He offered students a unique perspective in his creative thought process and regaled the group with many stories and artifacts from his successful career.   The visits to his textiles factories showed the design and creation of beautiful fabrics that are used for Japanese Buddhist priest robes and shrine decorations.

In the afternoon, the Darden students visited the Kyocera Inamori Library, where they learned about the founder of Kyocera, Kazuo Inamori, the history of Kyocera, a leading multinational electronics and ceramics manufacturer, and the development of Inamori’s business administration method, amoeba management. The students appreciated the opportunity to learn about a company that has run a profit since its founding over 40 years ago, a testament to its successful management philosophy: Respect the Divine and Love People.

Day 3:  In the morning, we visited the Kyoto College of Graduate Studies for Informatics (KCGI), Japan’s first IT professional school, where we heard from the CEO, Professor Wataru Hasegawa, about the landscape of higher education in Japan as well as KCGI’s particular structure, with a focus on eLearning as a vehicle for expansion. We also heard from Professor Hideaki Kashihara on the topic of IT Project Management in Japan.

In the afternoon, we visited Kyoto University, where we ate in their cafeteria and participated in three different engagements. The afternoon was a collaboration between the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan Kansai Chapter, Darden, and Kyoto University. First, we heard from Dr. Motoh Shimizu on Strategic Program Management. Following the presentation, he awarded copies of his books to the first three Darden students to ask questions. Second, we heard from Hidenori “Dino” Suzuki, Senior Director of Ticketing of the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, on the current plan and issues arising in preparation for 2020. He also awarded an Olympic pin to the first Darden student to ask a question, appropriately, Heather Marrison, DSA’s incoming VP for Athletics. Lastly, Professor Will Baber of Kyoto University facilitated a case study role play between small groups of Darden and local students to learn how to work with stakeholders from different cultures with different motivations. Afterwards, the Darden and local students networked with the speakers.

Day 4: Darden students enjoyed a day of cultural visits in Kyoto, including the Fushimi Inari Shrine, Golden Pavilion, Bamboo Forest and Sake Museum tour and tasting.

Day 5: Today we had our last company visit in Kyoto before transferring to Tokyo. In the morning, Darden students visited Shimandzu, a manufacturer of precision instruments. Students were able to see Shimadzu’s products and how they contribute to society through science and technology.

After the train ride to Tokyo, we enjoyed a reception with alumni (see below) and are now looking forward to more company visits and speakers in Tokyo.