vol.4 Rie, Completed graduate school while working



Milestones in her life


Move to the U.S. Age 19
Study abroad Age 19~ 24
Find a job  Age 25
Complete graduate school Age 34 Santa Clara University (The U.S.)

What made you decide to study abroad?


To make a long story short, I was young and naïve. Studying abroad seemed a cool thing to do and I thought that it would give me everything I wanted. Below, I would like to share one of my blog posts written back in 2000.


“Boring. Isn’t there anything interesting here?”

That was my (bad) mantra in high school. In fact, it had a negative influence on me. I couldn’t really adjust myself into the school where teachers actually taught and many students studied hard. (Things were pretty messed up in my junior high)?? and the environment was fairly different. It was a little too well-mannered for me, come to think of it.

I lost interest in school and wasn’t actively involved in school activities. I did part-time jobs and read books not related to school studies most of the time. My school grades were not impressive at all and I had a feeling that I wouldn’t be accepted into any university. I thought of taking a one-subject examination (there were a few universities that required only one-subject examination back then) and I took the STEP, test in practical English proficiency, but the odds were slim. On the other hand, my parents insisted that I should go to college, and I kind of agreed with them. It was selfish of me, and I’m not proud of that.

So what were my 3 years in high school for?

It was a long, let’s-face-myself period, I think. As I didn’t study and just did things I liked, I had time to think about who I was. (Sophie’s World was popular back then. I also tried to read Nietzsche).

I was a bit of a perfectionist in junior high. I powered through things because I wanted to be capable. I never thought about myself, like my talents, what I really enjoyed, and who I was.  All I was thinking about was becoming an elite/rich person. Then I finally realized that that’s not who I was or wanted to be.

At that point, I had a couple of things on my mind:
1.I want to go to college but will need another year to get in.
2.Advertising is interesting.
3.I easily get bored.
4.What should I do to make my life enjoyable?

-Pretty lame.
However, I somehow had this formula using the above items.

Like advertising = Let’s major in advertising! (I was interested in advertisement design). Study one more year to get into a college? = No, I probably don’t have patience for it. I’m bored with my life = I don’t know if there’s any fun in Japan.

! Ping!

-Doesn’t the U.S. offer a good media study program?

Sadly, I made up my mind that it had to be the U.S. I felt it was unfair that I couldn’t speak English, although I had been learning it since Junior High. (I was naïve).

– Besides, people say “American Dream”. I’m going to learn English and professional knowledge. (I guess I still dreamed about being an “elite” ).

What a great idea. This is a way to kill two birds with one stone.

My life was suddenly going to be rosy-colored. I became a complete dreamer in the summer age 18.

Thank you!  What do you do now?


I work at a Japanese game company and have a localization related job there. My main tasks are conducting  research of mobile games and translating communication between Japan and the U.S. production teams.


What made you decide to work in the US?


I’m not familiar with the current college system, but back in my time, foreign students could get a one-year work permit once they graduated from college. I wanted to try finding a job in the U.S., because I didn’t want to have any regrets about not trying later on. I was fortunate enough to be hired as a production assistant at a game developer in LA.

Have you thought to work abroad during studying abroad?


I was kind of interested, but I didn’t pick up English quickly and wasn’t confident about working in the U.S. I went to a couple job fairs for Japanese students in the U.S. and was hoping to get an offer there. (However, life wasn’t that easy and I ended up getting none. Then I thought I would look for a job in the U.S.)

Please tell us happiness, delight, and difficulty in working abroad.


I suppose that the hardest and most interesting thing is cultural differences. Common sense is not always common between Japan and the U.S. I find some parts quite different. My speech professor in graduate school once told the class that speakers are responsible in Western culture, while listeners are responsible in Asian culture. It totally made sense to me because here, in the US, speakers actively interact with their audience and make sure if they are understood or anyone has a question for them. However, where I grew up, especially in elementary and junior high school, asking a question was considered as a negative thing like you did not listen carefully.

And speakers did not seem to expect questions from their audience. It got me thinking that understanding a culture is really more than learning its’ language. I’m not familiar with other Asian languages, but at least Japanese is a higher context language than English.  There is so much non-verbal communication in Japanese.

I see it better through English and find that interesting. When translating from Japanese to English, some information is usually missing in the original text. On the other hand, there is usually some information that can be omitted when translating from English to Japanese. Aside from the language, everyday is filled with new discoveries and
I feel like I won’t get bored living here.

Do you feel any differences between living in the US and in Japan?


How people see you is very important in Japan and I feel like that mentality seems like socialism. The U.S. seems to have a busy, broad society and there are so many things going on simultaneously. That might depend on where you live, but it looks to me like anything goes here, and everyone seems to accept it. And I like that.

If you have any relationship with local women, would you tell us how you feel about their life and work styles?


All of my girl friends are pretty casual yet energetic. They are easy-going but have established their own lifestyle. Peer pressure exists of course, but everyone seems to fully enjoy their life anyway.

You are required to prepare mentally to do what you love. How did you step ahead towards your dream?


I didn’t really have other options.  I didn’t want to wonder afterwards like “What if I tried to get a job in the U.S. back then?” when I ended up working in Japan. My father wanted me to go back to Japan and was quite opposed to my plan. It was about my life and there was not much I could do to comfort him. I looked for a job in the U.S. anyway. So when I found a job in LA, I just let my mother know about it. Then my father called me right away and congratulated me as if nothing happened… not too sure what that was all about, but it’s a funny story to tell now.

Do you have any special habit that you are conscious of carrying out in daily life?


I always try to be myself, appreciate what I’ve got, and exercise a little. I didn’t like exercising when I was younger, though. I participated in a charity run for the Great East Japan Earthquake relief back in 2011 and started running then. It’s been amazing how much my health has improved ever since. I haven’t caught a cold and my mental health has improved as well. I now realize that exercising is a key to maintaining mental and physical health. I once saw a car with a sticker saying “Running is cheaper than therapy”. I totally agree with this.

How do you spend your free time? What are your hobbies?


I am often out on weekends, meeting up with friends for lunch or going hiking etc. Having alone time is important for me as well and I take it easy on weekdays after work. I go to the gym once or twice a week, but other than that, I stay home watching TV, trying new recipes, and hanging out with roommates. My interests and hobbies are broad and it’s hard to focus on one thing, but I especially like meditation, running, and making Koji and Kombucha.


Do you have any future goal?


I love to write and would like a second job involving writing eventually. I used to write contemporary poems and 31 syllables, Tanka, when I was in college. I admire the girly yet sarcastic writing style of a Japanese media activist, Nameko Shinsan.

Do you have some goals and challenges in the future?


I have so many things I’d like to challenge. To name a few, Quantum Touch, scuba diving (giving it another shot), and starting a family – this is not something I can have on my own, though. I’ve been wanting to start writing and playing the guitar as well.


Have you planned and managed your life consciously so far?


I couldn’t really think about it until recently. I finished my master’s program this spring, but it was almost a 5-year project as I kept my full-time job. This may sound like an excuse, but I was pretty overwhelmed with school and work. In addition, my green card was approved just last year. I feel like I am finally at a point where I can start planning my life.

Do you have any future life plan?


I love Japan, but I don’t plan to live there. I am hoping to keep working, utilizing my Japanese – English skills and eventually starting a family in the U.S.

We in Japan are getting familiar with the word “globalization”, but do you feel anything special regarding it?


I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and I think more than 50% of the residents here are immigrants. I find the mixed-culture environment globalized.

By knowing the different cultures and people, did you find any change in your thought, mindset, or value?


I think I’ve become composed/open-minded. I used to care about details a lot and take things a bit too seriously. I even got persistent with my feelings and sometimes had a hard time letting things go.

However, there are so many things going on here and now I just don’t have time to get emotional or depressed about small things if I want to make a living. When I went back to Japan several years ago, I had a chance to listen to a friend’s story about her worries. I don’t remember her story anymore, but I remember telling her it was nothing. I feel bad if I made my friend uncomfortable, but at the time, I felt that stuff I used to worry about did not bother me anymore.

Could you give us a message for women who are interested in living, home-stay, and working abroad?


I think it’s worth trying. If you think you’re ready for it, I’d say you should give it a shot. Of course this is not for everyone, but I think living outside Japan would make you tough and broaden your perspective. It’s been a great journey for me.


Going back to school after working once is rare case in Japan. You case sounds to be harder thank I imagine. Your story would be one of good models for young genereration.

Thnak you for sharing your great story, Rie san!

Vol.3 Promoted to an office manager in China, one of her dreams to work abroad came true in her twenties!


Hiroko Ito

She experienced working in China as an office manager at 28. Became familiar with Chinese culture, got married and had a child there. She now lives in Japan now and is the mother of a 2-year -old son.



Milestones in her life


Graduated from university (major in Chinese language) Age 23
Studied abroad (Beijing for one month) Age 22
Joined a company Age 23
Moved to Shanghai Age 25
Marriage Age 29
Had a child and returned to Japan Age 30



You were majoring in Chinese language at university.


Yes. I received advice from my father, and I thought that Asia, particularly growth in China would be expected in the future. Based on this belief a need for Chinese speakers would be in demand.



After graduating from university, you found a job in Japan. Why did you make up your mind to work in the management consulting industry?


I desired to pursue and strengthen my expertise of service to raise added value to products. At that time, I hoped to work in the service process improvement for B to C companies and customer service.



What made you decide to work abroad?


I wanted to work with foreign languages since I was young. During some short-term study in Beijing, I was surprised at the low level of service in China. I realized the importance of distinguishing our company from the competitors through good service. I decided I was willing to work on reforming the business model for service in China.



Would you tell us how you came to work in China? How your interests and concerns have changed since working abroad?


When I joined a management consulting company that supports management and activation of organization, at the time their only overseas offices were in the U.S. and Korea. For 2 years, I worked as a sales representative in our Saitama branch, and I participated in regular dinner parties with the chairman and executives. During one of these occasions I overheard talk of launching a China office and told them directly, without hesitation, that I wanted to work in China.


I had been drinking Japanese sake (alcohol) and was feeling quite comfortable and didn’t think twice about speaking up (laugh). A half-year later, my dream became reality and I went to Shanghai!


I was 25, with no fear, only curiosity. That’s all I had. Your story on having the opportunity to work in China gives me a very positive attitude toward work.



Were you conscious of advancing yourcareer?


Actually, the word “career” didn’t come to mind at all when I was a university student and looking for a job.



Would you tell us your challenges, happiness and difficulties working in China and adjusting to the customs and culture?


I found my job to be more rewarding in China than it had been when I was in Japan. I was in charge of many companies and there was pressure to achieve results. It was a challenging time but I was up for the challenge and thoroughly enjoyed it.


To increase customer acquisition, I visited many clients in Shanghai, Beijing, Dalian and Shinsen. I took business trips two or three times a week, working from my laptop whilst travelling between cities. I needed to set up everything from the scratch, and all my work was directly reflected on the organization. That’s why I worked so hard. I was required to think and create everything – it was hard work but I was happy for the challenge.


The toughest thing was communicating with some of the Chinese staff. I found that the Chinese culture and way of thinking, was very different from Japanese. I especially had trouble with the culture of concern for personal honor. I made great effort to convey my thoughts and understand their true inner voice. My Chinese colleges and I overcame conflict and managed to build a good relationship of respect and support for each other.



Would you tell us challenges as an office manager and any impression on communication with staff?


I had previously made an effort to achieve “my” targeted benefits, but after I became the office manager, those goals became something to be accomplished as a team. The staff was not interested in target sales at first, but over time we could share delight with each other when our clients accepted our proposals, finally bringing a feeling of unity. They improved their ability within a year and came to get more contracts.



What differences did you feel working in china, compared to Japan?


Initially it was the idea of “carrying out my word”. Chinese people don’t recognize a person’s job title. At first, it is a premise that I can do it before I ask, and it is necessary to explain the reason clearly. The second one is a “give and take” idea. We need to understand and recognize our own strength in each other. Beyond title, without a relationship based on trust, we couldn”t bring about a feeling of unity. Numbers in Chinese, manners and greeting, those are what I learned from them.



Would you tell us your feeling about Chinese women’s lifestyle, working, and private life?


Women have a lot of opportunities for promotion in China, and many return to work just 6 months after childbirth. They have a favorable working situation because of a custom that grandparents take care of children. Chinese people rarely work overtime and most value spending time with family. They conduct their tasks properly in limited time.


That’s the impression I have. In Japan, of course, we value family as they do, but it is difficult to leave at the fixed time and we usually work late.



By touching other cultures and people, do you have any big change in your vision and sense of value?


I might have lost my shyness. My voice became loud too.



What’s a good point that you aimed to achieve in your twenties?


In my twenties, I had the physical strength and learned anything new very quickly, and it was good that I had something to devote my effort and various experiences to at that time. After I married and had my son, it was difficult to work under the same conditions as before, but I believe those experiences were useful to make a good relationship with my son.



You are required to prepare mentally to do what you love. How did you step ahead towards your dream?


I didn’t feel that I needed courage (laugh). Basically, my life is built by myself, and it depends on my actions.



Do you usually make a conscious effort to live your daily life?


I imagine what kind of life I want to spend, what kind of person I want to be, and make plans to make the goal realistic. I also pay attention to utilizing time effectively.




You have a son now, and do you think your experience of working abroad may influence on your child rearing? Any change in your mind or thoughts?


I hope my son can learn and speak English without trouble. In China, children are taught, “Never lose and become No.1” in education. I can’t say unconditionally, but Japanese have a great regard for cooperativeness and their thoughts on education are extremely different compared with those of Chinese. I think both are important and don’t think either are wrong. The most important thing is to have one’s own opinion and tell it simply.



Do you have any beliefs in bringing up your child?


I would like to teach my son to think and make decisions for himself.


You attained goals in your twenties and reached a woman’s turning point, which are marriage and child-birth around your thirties. It is one of the ideal lifestyles in a woman’s life planning.



After your son has grown up and you have enough time, you can go ahead towards another step, would you like to work in the same field or challenge a new area?


I would like to utilize my career, but actually I’m still thinking now what I should do next. It must first balance my husband’s future job relocations and take care of my son.



If you have an opportunity in the future, do you wish to work abroad and with local people again?


Yes, absolutely!




Hiroko-san has a soft personality and is a mother of one child. She is powerful with energy in her heart and is a charming woman.


Hiroko-san, thank you for sharing your wonderful story!