Friday, February 1, 2013

A rigorous schedule

Lest anyone who runs across this blog think that we, students of St. Catherine University’s Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership, just toured Osaka, Japan for two weeks, I thought I would post our daily schedule of events. We hope to talk about all of these meetings and events in their own right, but because we’ve been working hard and exploring the local culture, we may not cover each completely.

We arrived on Sunday night and met our CET program guide, Lauren, and our wonderful landlady who took us to dinner. Imagine a group of 14 jet-lagged foreigners crashing a quiet family restaurant at 7:00 pm!! Lauren gave us a full Osaka Gakuin orientation on Monday, including an overview of getting around, basic language tips, a campus tour which concluded with a lovely welcome dinner. She also answered our questions about train travel, local activities, and some cultural basics.

Tuesday, January 22nd, we had the unique opportunity to watch a rebroadcast of President Obama’s inauguration at the US Consulate’s Osaka office with Japanese and US students, business people, and dignitaries. We met two wonderful women who joined us for lunch, one of whom became our translator for one of our events. On Wednesday, we toured Sumitomo Chemical Company in Osaka – an all day affair! We met some young women graduate students from Kobe College who are pursuing Master degrees in Environmentalism and  Sustainable Development. They were from China, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines. These twenty-somethings were surprised to see adult women students with families and full-time jobs. In fact, everyone we've met expressed surprise at our demographic makeup. 

Thursday, January 24 brought another full day. In the morning, we met the Working Women’s Network at the Dawn Center in Osaka. The Chairwoman and her members were absolutely amazing and we were thrilled to learn about their work with women's rights in Japan. In the afternoon, we met with the Executive Director of Asia Pacific Human Rights Center, who talked about his journey to become an advocate for human rights. That night, our landlady invited us to participate in rich cultural activities at her home. We tried our hand at playing Japanese instruments, calligraphy, and mochi pounding (pounding sweet sticky rice into a pliable form with which to make treats).

Friday gave us the first opportunity to sit down as a class and discuss what we’d learned so far. The conversation and discussion was rich, and you can read some of observations and thoughts in other posts.

We were back at it on Monday to start our second week. We had a bit more time to meet as a class and discuss and process what we were learning and experiencing. We met Monday morning to share our weekend experiences and impressions with each other. Monday afternoon, we met with at Urban Innovation Institute (Japanese website) and had the opportunity to talk with Japanese entrepreneurs and female business leaders about their work. That night, our landlady hosted half of our group and cooked us popular Osaka foods and dressed us each up in three different kimono.

On Tuesday, we returned to the Dawn Center to learn about the Center’s activities, which included a tour of their women’s information library. The librarian showed us all of the resources and information they’ve collected to help women with career development, education, work-life balance and motherhood. This included so-called gray literature, which means it is not sold in bookstores. What an amazing resource! 

Wednesday, January 30, we headed back to the Consulate to meet with the Consul General and a few members of his team, including one from our home state of Minnesota. We learned about becoming part of the Foreign Service (I think several of us are now thinking of taking the exam!) and Japanese-American relations historically and today. After nearly two weeks of conversations in Japanese and English, we were relieved to be able to speak quickly and pepper our hosts with questions.

On Thursday, we met with a global corporation in Osaka to discuss Japan and globalization. We met with four male executives who were again surprised to see a group of "experienced" career women in graduate school. A member of our class coordinated this visit, and it gave us a great perspective on Japanese business and leadership in a global setting.  

Friday was our last full day in Japan. We toured the Kyoto Museum for World Peace at Ritsumeikan University, Kinkaku-ji - the Golden Pavilion (in Japanese), and enjoyed one last dinner together.  It was  truly an amazing trip!

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