By Cat Crane
Full Time MBA Student 2014-5
As part of our elective, we were given the opportunity to travel to Japan to experience first-hand sustainability in context. This experience was clearly not to be missed and a lucky handful of us departed for Yokohama, Japan in mid April 2015.
We were welcomed in Yokohama city on the outskirts of Tokyo, by Yokohama University and were presented with a delicious Japanese buffet lunch. The executive students were then ushered to Roundtable discussions and full-time MBA students from Exeter, Yokohama and Audencia University were invited for a bus tour of Yokohama city and the University itself. We visited typical Japanese style Zen gardens and experienced a formal Japanese tea ceremony where we learned the correct Japanese tea manners!
After a professional photo shoot organised by our hosts, we gathered for a delicious Japanese buffet styled dinner and social event to get to know our hosts and roundtable participants. We were all impressed and grateful to our hosts for their generous hospitality.
The following morning we assembled bright and early to arrive at the famous “Bullet Train station”, otherwise known by the Japanese as “Shinkansen”. This impressive mode of Japanese transport travels up to maximum speeds of 320KM per hour! The network has expanded to currently consist of 2, 615 Km of lines, linking most major cities.
We arrived two and a half hours later north of Tokyo in a rural area near to the town Tono, where we were driven through mountainous terrain to a rural farm.
The farm owner explained how he has reintroduced horse-logging as a means of sustainable forest management. Using horse-power in this way is very rare in Japan, despite the sustainable benefits of using horses in the environment. After a walk, our hosts provided us with a delicious lunch box of sushi and Japanese pickles.
From there we departed to the town Tono and congregated at the ex-primary school where we were given interesting presentations by our host the horse-logger, Fuji Xerox on community and Tono Tourism. The national press were there to take photos and document the meetings as our presence as an MBA cohort exploring sustainability in this region of Japan was very rare.
Soon after the meetings we were introduced to our host families. This was an incredible experience in which we were welcomed in pairs by Japanese families and hosted for the night. Our hosts were a wonderful couple who lived in a rural village just outside of Tono. They took us to visit an ancient Japanese temple and then welcomed us into their home with Japanese tea. We were asked to dress traditionally in Kimonos and were served Japanese style sitting on the floor and ate with chopsticks!
Our hosts then proceeded to sing and entertain us and invited us to play Japanese instruments. Afterwards we retired to the living area and we played Japanese Mahjong!
We were very impressed by the hospitality of the families and after a very busy and informative first day, retired to our Japanese rooms to sleep.