Japan is a country that I’ve had a deep connection to for many years. Growing up, my father often traveled to Japan for work and occasionally, my mom and I would tag along on these trips. Japan won me over during these visits, and my parents, sensing my interest in the country and in global business (it was, after all, where most of my father’s business was conducted), enrolled me in Japanese classes when I was in middle school. I continued learning the language until college and visited Japan a handful of times in between as both an exchange student and a tourist. As a young adult, I couldn’t get enough of Japan’s rich and deep cultural legacy and the fascinatingly harmonious juxtaposition of its modern sensibilities and technological innovation.

The Japan IFC, then, was an incredibly personal journey for me to revisit a country with which I have a longstanding relationship and an unbelievable opportunity to view it from a new lens. The IFC provided unparalleled access to Japanese entrepreneurship and culture, and through the experience, I feel even more connected to Japan and its future in the global economy. I hope that I’ll be able to use my Japanese and my experiences through the Japan IFC to build bridges as a business leader between Japan and the global economy.   

Today we’re going to explore a “day-in-the-life” to give you a sense of what an incredible journey this field-method course provides to Harvard Business School students!


We start the day off today with a very special treat – a visit to a Tokyo Sumo Stable, a house where Sumo wrestlers live and train for years before competing nationally. Sumo stables are wrapped in tradition and guarded heavily by a veil of secrecy. We were so lucky to be able to actually visit a stable and view an entire practice!

The practice was led by two renowned grandmasters – Konishiki and Musashimaru Koro, who maintained a strict decorum in the practice studio and worked with wrestlers individually throughout the practice.

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What struck me most about the practice was the intense discipline and physical fitness of the wrestlers – not what you would think of when you think Sumo! They performed extremely difficult strength and cardiovascular exercises meant to enhance endurance and mobility when they reach their peak weight.

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Some of the Sumo wrestlers were as young as 15 years old and we were told they’ve signed themselves up for one of the most grueling and difficult training processes of any sport in the world. If they’re lucky, they will be chosen as one of the 700 national sumo competitors. I have my fingers crossed for all of them – they were simply superb!


Up next on our agenda was a panel discussion with Hiro-Sensei (our Professor) and Yanai-san, the CEO of Fast Retailing (parent company for UNIQLO, Theory, etc). It was an absolutely fascinating and candid conversation with one of the biggest businessmen in the country.

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Yanai-san discussed the connection he feels between his business and the country as a whole – brands like UNIQLO have come to symbolize Japanese business and values across the globe. Yanai-san also discussed his deep commitment to the country and economy of Japan – Fast Retailing was one of the first responders during the Tsunami and contributed its patented Heattech clothes to victims in the colder regions.

Given my background and interest in e-commerce, I was curious to hear more about his strategy for the online channel and was surprised to hear that he is more focused on the in-store experience, which he believes will be a primary driver of purchases – “It will always be important for the customers to touch and feel our products.”

In an interesting change of tone, Yanai-san then asked us for our opinions on Japan’s place in the global market and how business is evolving given recent political and economic events. He pushed those of us in the Harvard Kennedy School – HBS joint degree program and others who were engaged with politics to speak on how we believe business and retail will be impacted by recent U.S. presidential election outcome.

Of course, this incredible visit ended with a shopping spree at the UNIQLO in the basement of the headquarters!


Next on the schedule, it was the part of the trip about which I was most excited – getting dressed up in the traditional Kimono. We went to a tiny shop in Asakusa that was doused in colorful Kimonos. We selected our kimono colors and then immediately started getting beautified!

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The kimono wrapping process was quite laborious and between the waist-belt, the elaborate hairdos, and the one-toed socks, we could barely move!

After we were all wrapped up, we walked in our Kimonos to the Sensoji, a Buddhist temple. It was an experience I likely will never forget!


Our busy day ends with a Japanese tradition – Karaoke! Hiro-Sensei invited local HBS alums to join us, and wow, these guys know how to Karaoke! Those of us students on the IFC took a backseat and watched the incredible alums bust a move.

Hiro-Sensei was pretty good himself! One of my dear friends, Yohei (HBS ’16) also dropped by – I’ve always known him as a pretty quiet guy, but after seeing him on the Karaoke stage, I’m wondering what else he’s been hiding all these years?!

Phew! It was a long day and after a few sakes and Sapporos we were all ready to call it a night. 

I hope you enjoyed a taste of a day-in-the-life of a Japan IFC student!