Eight young foreigners shared their unique take on Japanese society and memories of a month-long visit to the country during a symposium Saturday in Tokyo.
The gathering was the final event of a nearly one-month-long program called the Nihongo Summit co-organized by the nonprofit organization Japan Return Program and Nikkei Inc.
This year marked the final year of the annual program, which was launched in 1999 to nurture young global talent keen to study the Japanese language and help their career ambitions.
Over the past 14 years, 233 young people from 61 countries have been invited to Japan. The eight who took part this year were selected from the past participants.
Hailing from the U.S., Poland, Mexico, Brazil, Germany, Romania, Kazakhstan and China, each gave a short speech in Japanese under the theme of peace and communication.
Renata Braia of Romania said she was scandalized when a visiting Japanese university student was raped and murdered by a Romanian man in August 2012. The news, she said, understandably instilled many Japanese with the fear that her country is unsafe and dangerous.
“My mission is to let people in Japan know my home country isn’t all bad, and it has some good aspects, too,” she said, adding that doing so will go a long way toward “ridding them of unfounded prejudice against Romanians and building international peace.”
The speeches were followed by a panel discussion with popular freelance journalist Akira Ikegami as chief moderator. He asked each panelist to give a Japanese word that they think best encapsulates Japan’s corporate climate.
Wojciech Nowak, 29, of Poland came up with “kichinto” (meticulously), citing Japanese workers’ painstaking compliance with rules.
“In my country, rules are sometimes meant to be broken,” Nowak said, noting that Poles have a lot to learn from Japan’s rule-abiding nature.
German Rosa Amann, 24, pointed out that Japanese people’s characteristic reticence often prevents them from venting their anger publicly.
“People here tend to take it for granted everything will go exactly as planned. So they make a huge fuss about even the most trivial accident, like a couple of minutes of delay in trains,” she said, suggesting that learning to complain more may reduce stress and irritability.
During their stay in Japan, they visited several globally well-known firms such as Toyota Motor Corp. and All Nippon Airways Co. They also visited Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, and joined volunteer workers in cleaning beaches and met with local high school students.