My first foray into Japan happened in the summer of 2008, as I interned at a very traditional Japanese company in Sapporo, Hokkaido. Back then, I had the time of my life. The culture was vibrant, living was fast paced, and people were hard working – exactly how I would have liked to describe my ideal home. Every day, I would wake up at 5am, be at the office before 7:30, and chat up some of the staff trying to prepare the office with tea, coffee, and other treats for the superiors arriving at 8. I was probably more of a nuisance than anything, but I didn’t care because I was learning.
Being an intern, I got to witness and experience the ‘good life’ of Japanese business without bearing any of the responsibilities. The fancy clubs, meetings with other executives, company events and trips, I got a front row seat to the all inner workings while being able to completely ignore the hierarchy structure. It was heaven and I never wanted it to end.
Fast forward a few years later, I was back in Japan. Vivid memories of dancing down the street with ex-colleagues while heading to Susukino to go club-hopping filled my head, and I set up my first business in Japan. Overflowing with confidence and eager to do business now as partners rather than an intern (aka slave grunt) I bust in through those old office doors unannounced.
Things couldn’t have been more different. What was wrong? It was the same people, same country, same me, except now I had something to contribute. Or so I thought.