On the morning of day five, we woke up and got dressed in our best clothes, ready to represent Ohio State University in the ending meeting with Japan International Cooperation Center (JICE) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). Evan sat down on the bus wearing a half-windsor knot on his necktie, and was quickly verbally accosted by the other males on the trip as well as Dr. Prud’homme. One of his peers tied Evan’s necktie with a full-windsor knot, and then we were ready to go. Our bus took us to the Oita airport and we had a short flight back into Tokyo. This was our fourth flight of the trip, so the excitement and nerves that typically come with flying had completely left us. Jacob and Cindy were both fixated on their phones throughout the entire flight, looking at the presentation making sure it would be perfect. As soon as we landed back in Tokyo, we went to lunch at an ‘American’ restaurant downtown. The meal was baked fish, potatoes, vegetables, rice, and some sort of corn chowder. We were all stunned to find silverware on our tables instead of chopsticks; it seemed sacrilegious to use forks and knives on a culturally immersive trip to Japan, and we actually started to enjoy using chopsticks by this point.
We headed to the JICE reporting session and rejoined with the groups from University of Kentucky, Rutgers, and UNC – Chapel Hill. Our group presented third after Rutgers and UNC. These first two presentations were very well done and offered a lot of insight into what their takeaways were. Instead of going to Oita, Rutgers and UNC traveled to Tochigi, a prefecture very near to Tokyo, so it was interesting to hear how their experience differed from ours. For instance, they met with the Tochigi prefectural government for a lecture on local industry and trade, and they made a visit to a local farm for strawberry picking. The UNC group put together a short video of small clips from their experience, which had a very thoughtful and professional feel to it.
Conversely, the OSU presentation focused on sincerity, authenticity, and gratitude towards JICE for giving us the opportunity to travel to Japan and have such a wonderful experience. They stressed how we came into the trip with very limited knowledge on Japan, and how much we had learned about the Japanese economy (including the jobs Japan were creating in the United States), the cleanliness of Japan, the regional diversity we saw through our time in Tokyo and Oita, Japanese hospitality, and the concept of ichi-go ichi-e (“Once in a lifetime”, taught to us by the tea master in Oita). They also outlined our action plan to continue learning the Japanese language, maintain communication with the people we met on our trip, post content about our trip on social media and the Fisher website (e.g. this blog), presenting to the investment clubs on campus about Japanese markets, and share our experiences with our friends and families. They closed with quotes from two members of our group that we thought had really taken in the experience and made the most of the trip. First, they talked about how Dennis had been learning the language in school, and how rewarding it was for him to be able to come to Japan and get to apply his knowledge of the language. Second, they outlined Lily’s reflection on how she was able to make a significant amount of authentic connections in Japan without sharing a common language. The larger OSU group, Lorraine, Dr. Prud’homme, and Miho were all extremely proud of how they represented us, Fisher, and Ohio State University.
After Kentucky gave their presentation, two representatives from JICE spoke expressing their thanks for our participation in the Kakehashi Project and hope that this would encourage and strengthen the ties between Japan and the United States. Then, one representative from each school went to the front of the room to receive a certificate. We had chosen Austin to represent us and receive the certificate; he was all smiles and gave a very deep bow to the JICE representatives.
After the session concluded, we went to Odaiba, a very large mall just outside of downtown Tokyo. We were given a significant amount of free time to shop and explore. Most of the stores were western brand stores, such as Adidas and Nike. We found the equivalent of a dollar store (which Kevin aptly called “the Yen store”) called Daiso. A good amount of the products they carried had some element representative of the culture of Japan, so it made for a great place to buy souvenirs and gifts inexpensively. Each item cost ¥108 (roughly $1), so we appreciated it as college students with little disposable income. In addition to a lot of snacks, we were able to find carp-streamers (called koinobori), hand fans, and training chopsticks for children (which we thought would be funny to buy and give to our roommates back in Columbus). Outside, there were several great spots to take pictures of downtown Tokyo, which we all took advantage of.
For dinner, we were told to meet outside of a restaurant in the mall called “The Oven” which we found out was an American-style buffet. We joked that the previous night we went to the Japanese Golden Corral, and now we were at the actual Golden Corral. It was more or less what we had expected, offering fried chicken, tacos, macaroni and cheese, meatballs, and a large chocolate fountain.
After dinner as we started to walk to meet the bus, we noticed that Jacob was carrying a bag that had been torn, so Christine D kindly offered him a plastic bag to use. Jacob explained that he had bought a shirt from the mall and then went outside to take pictures of Tokyo. While outside, he went to show some friends from the group his new shirt, and he accidentally dropped it into a muddy spot on the ground, so he took the shirt back inside and tried his best to wash the mud out in the bathroom of the mall. Thus, the shirt was wet, which made the bag disintegrate in the corners. After he was finished explaining what happened, someone asked if it was ruining his usual happy mood. His answer was so positive that it made us all take a minute to reflect: “I mean, we’re in Tokyo! This is the coolest city ever, it has everything! Evan and I are going to Chicago next weekend, and it won’t have half of the cool stuff Tokyo has. Once we get back to Columbus, we’re going to miss Tokyo so much.” His phenomenal attitude and focus on the positive really made an impression on us; some of the people on this trip were excellent picks to go on the Kakehashi Project because of how much it meant to them and how much they appreciated it. The students on the trip like Jacob who made the most of this trip through their openness to the experience and great attitudes are the heart of Fisher and make us all proud to attend Ohio State University. We went back to the hotel ready to take on Tokyo for sightseeing the next day.
Read the next post! Kakehashi Project 7: Big Day Out in Tokyo
Or read from the start! Kakehashi Project 1: Pre-departure and Travel Day