Nitisha Baronia is student at UC Berkeley's Haas School of business and travelled to Japan as part of the 2017 Kakehashi Program.
With each car I counted as our flight landed in Tokyo, my imagination drove faster — I had never been to Japan before, and having attended multiple lecture sessions and written several papers on the country, I came to Japan with more than just the luggage in my overhead compartment. Along with it were a thousand questions about the country, its people, and its government. Japan and America are, in many ways, all too similar — both countries underwent rapid phases of industrialization, and both are host to some of the largest economies of the world. Yet in many ways, Japan is unique from the western world, and its historical, political, and geographic context make the country like no other. Nine days and three cities later, I learned not only about the intricate way of life of the Japanese people, but also about the unique craftsmanship and labour-focused industries that define the Japanese economy. Through the 2017 Kakehashi program, my 21 classmates from the University of California, Berkeley Haas School of Business learned about Japan’s political structure, its history, and even its anime. And while those nine days in Japan could fill an entire novel, the most important experience that I brought back home to Berkeley was a connection with the Japanese people that no souvenir or postcard could ever capture. Our class was truly captivated by the unique Japanese focus on artisanship and penchant for adaptability that we observed throughout the program. These qualities provided us with a cultural lens with which to better understand the nuances behind the Japanese economy, its politics, and its people.
Monozukuri: The Japanese Art of Craftsmanship
As our Kakehashi group learned through multiple business tours, Japanese companies place a unique emphasis on quality and craftsmanship. From the Arima bamboo basket weaver who demonstrated artisan craftsmanship handed down over centuries of family practice to the Kanetetsu kamaboko factory manager who told our group about the care that his workers take to ensure the freshness of their fish cakes, every single Japanese business that we visited demonstrated the same attention to detail.