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My exchange program with KEIO Business School

Written by Vital de Clavière | May 2018 | International MBA alumni


I participated in an exchange program from September to December 2017 with KEIO Business School in Japan. I applied to it because I considered that it was a unique chance to learn from professors who are experts in their fields with a solid international background, mix with foreign students and live in a completely different culture. That is exactly what happened during this experience. KEIO Business School values creativity, entrepreneurship and global mindset. Still thanks to its courses and other activities, I discovered great places and traditions. I also learned a lot from a culture very different from mine.




Hiyoshi district, Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture

Keio University is located in Hiyoshi, a district of Yokohama, the second largest city of Japan, 20 kilometers south of Tokyo. It is a very nice residential area. Like all major cities in Japan, it has a well-developed public transport network and many convenient stores. There are always people in the streets, day and night. Many Japanese employees work late at night and have diner in small restaurants before going back home. Furthermore, convenient stores are generally open 24 hours a day.

KBS House, the school-owned housing for international exchange students, is only 10 minutes walk from the campus.


Keio Business School, Hiyoshi campus

Keio Business School is Japan’s oldest business school. It was founded in 1962. Keio’s Hiyoshi Campus is very large with many buildings, a library, a cafeteria, sport buildings and an athletic field. Every year, KBS welcome exchange students during the Fall term (September through December) and Winter term (January through March). KBS Japanese students can attend courses taught in English which creates a wonderful opportunity to interact and work with them.

I had the chance to learn side-by-side with both Japanese and international students.



Courses had a new dimension for me abroad. The knowledge I acquired was always explained in the global context and in the Japanese context. This allowed me to understand many cultural aspects even present in the everyday life. Courses like Intercultural Communication, Managing People in Multinational Organizations and Japanese-style Marketing and Distribution gave me an explanation for many Japanese concepts that I did not know before. Idescribe some of them in these lines.

I also had the chance to discover other places. Production Management in Japan, one of the classes, was divided in four phases: lectures, group works, presentations and factory field trips.




Factory field trips

We visited three factories as part of the Production Management in Japan course: Toho Titanium, in Chigasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, manufactures and sales titanium metal products; Mitsuba Corporation, in Tomioka, Gunma Prefecture, manufactures electrical components for motor vehicles; Hokuriku Electric Power Company, in Toyama, supplies electrical power. The concept of « kaizen », which means continuous improvement, was always widely used and explained to us.



Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture

A KBS student association organized a tour for the international students around the city of Kamakura situated along the coast of Sagami Bay surrounded by mountains. Kamakura is a popular tourist destination in Kanagawa Prefecture. It was the political center of Japan eight centuries ago. The city has many Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. The huge bronze statue of Amida Buddha at Kōtoku-in is very famous. Kamakura’s sand beaches also attract tourists during the summer.



Kuroishi, Aomori

I was also involved in a rural revitalization project sponsored by KBS in Kuroishi. Kuroishi is a city located in Aomori. It has many traditional activities and a sumptuous natural environment. Unfortunately, the city does not have a great attractiveness. The representatives of the city and its partners therefore set up a project in which I participated in order to enhance its assets. I discovered the city and its traditional activities so that I could bring an outside point of view to its representatives to improve its reputation.

We can see in the picture a musician playing shamisen, a three-stringed traditional Japanese musical instrument





Conformity to group norms and values

Japanese citizens, who are very respectful of the rules of society, behave particularly well outdoors: they do not throw garbage or cigarette on the ground, do not spit their chewing gum in the street, sort their garbage, and never express their anger or disapproval in public places. Pedestrians respect the traffic lights as we can see on this picture taken in front of Keio’s Hiyoshi Campus. Conformity to group norms is highly valued in the Japanese culture which can be considered as collectivist.


Lighter, slimmer, shorter, smaller

Because of the lack of space in Japan, the Japenese are interested in compact design. Japanese do more small frequent purchases. This can be due to the limited space in Japanese homes, refrigerators and rooms are often small. « Keihakutansho » (lighter, slimmer, shorter, and smaller) is rooted in Buddhism’s quest of personal enlightenment. The idea of creating one’s own world in a limited place is a frequent attitude in Japan. Japanese cars are usually not big but very safe and practical. They are parked in small spaces.



Appearance and quality of products

The Japanese really like the beautiful appearance of products. They expect high-quality, excellent service, and they pay attention to the details. They always look at the product as a whole, the tangible and the intangible aspect, they are very demanding. This explains why so much attention is given to the way a product is wrapped when one’s buy it. There are sometimes two cashers together, the first one scans the articles, the other one packs them, with two or three plastic layers for some products.


This experience has broadened my horizons. Living away from my French comfort zone has enriched my life in many ways. Being exposed to many different experiences both inside and outside the classroom, I sometimes found myself lost and had to find solutions. But I have always been welcomed and helped by the Japanese in all circumstances. Surprisingly, the ultimate lesson I learned from discovering the Japanese culture was to better understand my own culture.

I would like to warmly thank emlyon and Keio University for allowing me to live this unforgettable experience. I also thank all the people I met in Japan, some of whom became friends. An unexpected bond has been woven for life.




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