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Paulo Debenest

Co-founder, executive officer
HiBot
www.hibot.co.jp

Date of birth: Sept. 30, 1975

Hometown: Sao Paulo

Number of years in Japan (cumulative): 20 (as of February 2020)

Paulo Debenest
Q1: What was your first encounter with Japan?

In elementary school, I had several friends from Japanese families. This is quite common in Sao Paulo. They would bring Japanese snacks and stationery, and talk about Japanese festivals and TV. But what brought me to Japan was technology; more specifically, graduate school in robotics. When I arrived in Japan, literally on the opposite side of the planet, I felt very foreign, but things also felt strangely familiar.

Q2: Please state your motto in life and why you have chosen it.

“In Mountains We Trust.” It started as a joke among a group of friends who used to spend the weekends hiking in the mountains in Japan, but little by little I understood how much wisdom and serenity can be found in nature. After starting HiBot, I sometimes find myself overwhelmed by work, and the mountains help me to find balance between spiritual and material aspects, and keep on moving.

Q3 : Over your career, what achievement are you the proudest of?

I would say it was getting my master’s degree, after coming from the opposite side of the planet and taking lectures in a language that I could barely speak. But that feeling of achievement was eclipsed by a mixture of satisfaction and humility years later, when we could see one of our robots in operation inside the remains of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture, surveying a place where no human beings can enter.

Q4 : What are your goals during your time in Japan, your current position or in life?

To make something useful for others with technology. This has always been my goal since I started studying engineering, and probably comes from my grandfather, who loved to fix or create things for others. At HiBot, I think we are in a unique position to achieve this goal, by making robots that can help people in dangerous environments.

Q5 : What wisdom, advice or tips can you give to people living and working in Japan?

After 20 years in Japan, I find that among the people living and working in Japan, those who try to integrate to some extent seem to be the happiest. I think that not trying to integrate and absorb the culture from the beginning, assuming that it is “too different” or “too difficult” could be a mistake. Japan has lots to offer in terms of culture, history, geography, things culinary … and most of those discoveries require at least some level of knowledge of the language and culture. Any time spent learning the language and culture in Japan is time well spent! On the other hand, going full throttle and trying to become Japanese, to the point of even avoiding friends who are not Japanese, might be frustrating. Foreigners will always be perceived as foreigners, no matter how well one masters the language. It may be better to simply embrace diversity!

Last updated: Feb 3, 2020