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Japan Renewed: A Journey Beyond the Tourist, a Transformation that Goes Beyond Expectations

In October of this year I had the opportunity to visit Japan, thanks to the Non-Nikkei Supporter Scholarship offered by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, where I went to learn about social business models and Nikkei associations in Latin America. To participate in this scholarship I had to start a process from Colombia where I had to clearly justify why I was the right candidate to participate in this program and how I was going to apply this knowledge in the Colombo Japanese Chamber and in the Nikkei community in Colombia, through the support of the Colombo Japanese Association of Cali who kindly gave me their recommendation to start this process, I had to go through some filters at JICA where they evaluated me if I was the appropriate candidate, after a month of waiting and a lot of nerves I received the acceptance letter to participate in the course “Sustainable Management for Nikkei Organizations”

By: Seleny Santamaria, CCJCI Research Assistant

The moment I boarded the plane, I experienced a mix of excitement and nervousness, as I was about to embark on a new and exciting adventure in my life and from the moment I stepped on this land, I immersed myself in a world that combined the traditional with the modern. Honestly, it was the first time I had visited such a distant place and I did it alone, since I was afraid of the uncertainty of facing the challenges that this trip would bring me. However, the trip went positively and I greatly enjoyed the kindness and service of the Japanese who welcomed me. Upon arriving in Japan I landed at Narita airport, an imposing and modern facility that left me amazed. From there, I took a bus to my next destination, the city of Yokohama, in Kanagawa Prefecture. Upon arriving in this city, I was shocked and fell in love with its beauty, especially its proximity to the sea and the charming aesthetic that characterizes it.

The objective of the course was the development of new business plans for the revitalization of Nikkei organizations through the application of Social Business methodologies and knowledge of the management of non-profit organizations. The topics that were addressed were the management of organizations. non-profit, learn more about the history of Japanese immigration and the transition in cooperation with the Nikkei community, learn more about the culture of Japan, and learn techniques and knowledge related to the development of plans and projects.

During my participation in the activities of the “Sustainable Management for Nikkei Organizations” training program by JICA, I had the pleasure of meeting many Japanese descendants from Latin America. The opportunity to exchange ideas with people from different countries such as Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Paraguay, among others, was a truly unforgettable experience. Through these interactions, I not only expanded my understanding of Japan, but also deepened my knowledge about Japanese migration in Latin America and Colombia. I am grateful for this opportunity, as it has allowed me to immerse myself in understanding not only traditional Japan, but also modern Japan, young and full of new opportunities. This program not only represented a learning opportunity about Japanese culture, but also a window into the dynamic and vibrant contemporary Japan.

Within the training I learned about new challenges and solutions that could present themselves. The training not only focused on creating long-term sustainable organizations, but also on ensuring that these entities could leave a lasting positive impact on their local communities. It is crucial to take into account the different environmental and social challenges that we face in today's world and that we must address. The opportunity to learn how different companies that generously opened their doors to us operate was invaluable. Learn about their operation, their origin and the problems they are currently addressing to make the world a better place. This knowledge not only enriched my understanding, but also inspired me to continue applying these ideas in the future.

I would like to mention the class on What is Social Business? from Mr. Suzuki, where I learned how companies, through their economic activity, can help the communities that participate in their production chain, giving fair prices to growers and teaching them how they can be more productive so that they improve their quality of life in the long term, learn about the Koganecho Area Management Center initiative, a district that was positively transformed through art, where they changed the use of some buildings to benefit the community, learn about the city of Hiratsuka through the visit Anko (Bean Paste) Factory, the "Wagashi" (Japanese sweets) store and the strawberry greenhouse, where entrepreneurs explained to us how they managed to boost their city through continuous work and support to deliver high quality products, giving an excuse to boost tourism in the city.

However, there were more classes within the training that were very important and innovative for me. How to explore companies committed to hiring often marginalized populations, such as people with disabilities or refugees; was revealing, as well as discovering initiatives that rethink the recycling business, giving it a new dimension that involves the community and fosters the belief that these companies are here to contribute to the well-being of the planet and improve our quality of life. What impacted me most on this trip was observing how people, by identifying needs, can establish small sustainable organizations that provide services that genuinely improve quality of life.

I am sure that I will take this knowledge to my country and apply it in the various areas in which I work. Furthermore, I am committed to using them as additional support to strengthen the Nikkei community in my country, providing them with new ideas and perspectives that they can take advantage of for their development. Within the functions that I perform in the Colombo Japanese Chamber I can provide solutions on how our organization can be more sustainable over time, how to integrate ourselves like the other actors that participate in the promotion of Japan in Colombia to carry out activities for the Nikkei community and not Nikkei, and share my knowledge with entrepreneurs so that they know more about Japan and the opportunities it can offer. In my professional life I was truly inspired by the topic of “Social Business” that in the medium term I would like to study this topic in depth, through a master's degree and participate in projects that seek to improve the communities of my country.

The only thing I can mention that I didn't like about the trip was not having mastered the Japanese language before arriving as it really significantly limited my ability to communicate with the local people. I would have loved to learn more from them, understand their perspectives and discover new places. However, I understand that this responsibility falls on me and I am determined to carry it out in Colombia to improve and deepen my knowledge of this wonderful language.

I would like to close by sharing my experience in Japan. This country is constantly changing, and I highly recommend it as a destination to visit. Although I know it may seem far away, once you get there, you realize it's not that different. Japan is a unique fusion of the traditional and the futuristic, where advanced technologies coexist with traditional practices in history. For example, you can still find stores that offer discs and Blu-ray, but also restaurants where robots serve you and hotels where you are served by holograms and robots.

Finally, I want to express my sincere gratitude for the opportunity that JICA gave me to study and learn about the different social business models that this country has, as well as to get to know Japan. I also thank my teachers and all the people involved in the completion of this course. I really feel like I have learned many positive things about Japan, its culture, and its role in the business world. I firmly believe that we must understand and adopt these new techniques to continue learning and growing in the future.

Furthermore, I intend to share my experience along with useful tips for those who plan to travel to Japan in the future, with the aim of making their stay more enjoyable. I will address this aspect in a future article, where I will provide valuable information for those who want to explore Japan more easily. I invite you to stay tuned and look forward to that next post!

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