2012 Tokyo Program

2012 Tokyo Program

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sunday, June 17: Day 2 of the Cross Cultural Workshop in Tokyo 2012 at Daito Bunka University

On day two, we returned to the Daito Bunka University for group discussions about what we had done the previous day. We got together in various groups to talk about the realizations and concepts (kizuki) that we have become aware of as a result of our interactions. We alternated giving presentations of our overall findings to the group. The students of Daito Bunka gave their impression first, stating that they felt that USD students showed a sense of hope for the future, whereas Daito Bunka students seemed to hold a lot of anxiety for the future. When the USD students questioned this by stating that we too have anxieties with going into the workplace, the Daito students mentioned that we showed a consideration towards a "back-up plan", which they did not.

As the conversation continued, it was evident that for the Daito students, going into the workplace seemed to be considered an "end" and college was simply a means to that end. In contrast, USD students argued that college was an avenue for students to discover their identity and truly consider the options they have for career choice. It was clear that for the Japanese students, entering their career was their last step before they could begin to experience personal growth in that carrer. However, many of the USD students talked about the fact that they already had work experience and were now taking steps to make career changes and/or career advances-- something that the Japanese students did not discuss as a future option or avenue. With this, it seemed that both groups experienced some anxiety regarding entering the workforce, however the levels of anxiety were slightly different given this idea that USD students saw the possibility for other options in the future, where as the Daito students considered the job search and final hiring as the ultimate step.

Towards the end of the night, Mrs. Inoue made a point that was very eye-opening for me. She began to discuss her experiences in American Faculty meetings at her work, discussing how it is very difficult for her to get a word in considering many of the Americans have their hand raised before a question or discussion is complete. She related this to a key cultural difference between American and Japanese culture. She said: in the Japanese language, the verb comes at the end of the sentence. However, in english, the verb comes directly after the subject. With this, in Japanese one must listen until the end of sentence to know what the sentence is about. In english, one knows the point of the sentence from the beginning. She explained that this made it difficult for her to communicate with her colleagues as many of them ask her to get to the "point"-- as she leaves the point until the very end. This really solidified the whole experience at Daito Bunka University for me.

I have come to the realization that Americans generally develop a goal, shown through the constant questioning since youth of "what do you want to be when you grow up?" and thus often develop a linear progression of tasks to get them to attaining that goal. Through our interactions with the Japanese students, we noticed a tendency to leave white spaces in their pictures and their speech. I argue that perhaps the Japanese students feel this overwhelming sense of anxiety for entering the workplace because they are more present in the moment and the "now" that they do not think in the same linear manner as their US counterparts. For the Daito Bunka students, it is not until their reach their job and career that they "get to the point" as Mrs. Inoue stated, that they find their true place and begin to grow. In contrast, for the US students, it was clear that we started with the point and goal and worked our way to fulfilling that goal-- just as our sentence structure reflects.

Overall, I took away an important lesson from this experience. It is important to be present in the "now" of what is happening in our lives. So many times, we tend to be so caught up worrying about how we are going to reach our goals and what we need to do to get there, that we forget to enjoy the lessons that we can learn in every moment. Uchiyama-sensai explained that the Japanese value this sense of now, and feel that taking full advantage of each moment will lead to prosperity in the end. I feel that because I was so present in the "now" of this workshop, last night, I finally realized the point of the whole experience. Dr. Inoue did not start out by telling us the purpose of point of visiting the Daito Bunka University, but just like the Japanese language, I learned the purpose in the very end and do not think I would have had the same eye-opening experience had he told me what his goals were in the beginning. I learned that both the USD students and the student of Daito Bunka share many feelings and struggles, and yet we both have room to grow and learn from each on how our differences can teach us something about ourselves and others.

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