Summer Internship in Japan – experienced a completely different world

About Author: Shashank is a B.Tech graduate from PDPM IIITDM, Jabalpur. he interned with Sumitomo Metal Industries, Kashima Steel works, Japan in the same profile as his graduate studies; Electronics and Communication Engineering.

My internship story is full of fascination and thrill as it transcends the barrier of nationalities, ethnicity, languages and cultures. Here I will narrate my internship story as briefly as I can, but I can write an entire book on my internship experience. The story begins when I was offered an internship by Sumitomo Metal Industries, Kashima Steel Works, and Japan through college placements. The program was supported by diplomatic relations between India and Japan. At first I was reluctant to accept the proposal as the project had not been disclosed by the company but after consulting my parents and teachers, I finally agreed to accept this opportunity.

After visa confirmation, I traveled to Japan with a transit flight at Hong Kong International Airport. My flight landed at Narita International Airport. The weather was cold and there was no sun visible in the sky as it was beginning of December. At the exit gate somebody from JICE (Japan International Cooperation Center) picked me up and made me stay at Shinjuku Washington Hotel, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo. Since I arrived on Thursday and I needed to join the company on Monday, so I stayed for four days at the hotel. During my stay I was all alone in my hotel as an Indian student from college. I used to feel proud when I went to eat breakfast every morning among the people who had come from different parts of the world. During these four days, every day I traveled from my hotel on foot to search for any Indian restaurant nearby, but many times I could not reach the destination and got lost in the wonderland of Tokyo. Every time I got lost, I asked for help from Japanese people present around me. They found themselves helpless in explaining to me the directions in English and I usually got escorted by them to my hotel. One day, while struggling to find my path back to the hotel, I somehow managed to catch the beautiful and awesome view of Mount Fuji from the top most floor of government’s metropolitan building which was the highest building in the area.

On the fifth day I was ready to be escorted by the JICE coordinator to Kashima Steel Works which was located at Kashima-shi in Ibaraki prefecture. The company was established on the coast of Pacific Ocean. During my journey by bus, I talked about the political and cultural issues with the coordinator. On reaching the destination I was received by my intern support. He showed me some introductory videos about the company and gave me the schedule of my entire stay. That day I signed the non-disclosure agreement papers and was authorized to work in the company. After this I proceeded to the meeting hall in the main building of the company accompanied by the JICE coordinator and intern support. At the meeting room, a welcome party was thrown by the top managers of the company. During lunch, I was thoroughly interviewed by these managers on my views related to Japan and the whole conversation was interpreted by the JICE coordinator. That day I got acquainted with my team members, my manager and the manager of the section. I was also provided the company uniform along with a crash helmet to work in the manufacturing unit and this uniform gave me the feeling of a traditional engineer. I got my accommodation at Human Resource Development Center of the company which was Jinkai center for Japanese people around.

Next day I was ready to do my first task. According to the schedule, it was the day for plant visit. I was provided a luxurious bus to reach the distant part of the manufacturing firm. I visited many metal processing and manufacturing units and learned from the engineers there. There was one thing common among all the engineers I met; they were too shy to speak in English. At the end of the day, I was taken to the coastal area of the company where I saw how raw materials were being unloaded and manufactured steel was being loaded to be shipped to distant parts of the world to assure timely delivery. The next day was again all about plant tours. That day I visited some other manufacturing units. On the third day, I was assigned the actual work for which I had come. I had been given the project which was a necessary requirement of Research and Development unit of company. I was provided with some additional technical data to analyze. In this way I started co-relating what I had seen to what the data inferred. Starting from that day, I completed my work on a daily basis and discussed the problematic areas with my manager. Initially, I and my manger found it difficult to communicate but soon the problem was overcome by our intense desires and an electronic dictionary by SHARP which was being used to translate English to Japanese and vice-versa. In this way the official work was going on.

I have more interesting moments to share which occurred during lunch hours. I used to sit with my manager in a meeting area accompanied by other fellow workers of that section. I used to take some fruits and bread during the lunch as I was the only vegetarian among them. During lunch, my manger and other people around used to talk in Japanese that I could not understand but I could sense that they were talking about me. I had also brought some sweet cakes and namkeens from India which I shared with people at lunch and got several responses. Some said cakes were overly sweet and some said namkeens were hot, khara in Japanese.

Here I want to explicitly mention about the weekends which were also managed by the company members. I had four weekends to spend as holidays. On my first weekend my colleagues and I went to Kashima shrine, a religious place near Kashima, and Ushiku Amida Buddha, may be the tallest Buddha in the world. During this visit I talked a lot about cultural and religious beliefs of Japanese people and Indian people. On second weekend I went to Aqua World, Orai aquarium with my intern support and one of his friends. There I saw shark and a variety of water species that I had never seen in my entiree life. That day I also visited the beach and enjoyed throwing the stones into deep sea water. On the third weekend, it was time for me to be a part of a Japanese cultural activity. A festival called Moziski (Rice cake making) was organized by the company. I participated in the festival and hammered the soften rice flour which was in turn converted into rice cakes. That day I celebrated extensively and got familiar with the family members of fellow workers. On the last weekend, it was a surprise for me. My section manager and his wife along with my manager planned to take me to UNESCO world heritage site Nikko. That day we started early in the morning by car and reached Nikko on time. It was a cold day and the natural water had frozen. There we visited Toshugu Shrine, Rinnoji Temple and other religious monuments. After that we also visited Kegon Waterfall and Lake Chuzengi where it was snowing. We enjoyed our time while collecting the fresh snow and making snow balls. When it was about to  getdark, we started our journey back and reached Kashima. Gradually the last day of my stay at company arrived.

On the last day I gave a presentation before the general manager of the company who was accompanied by other managers. The general manager appreciated my presentation and observation skills. After the presentation I was ready to leave. While leaving I posed a Namaste to people at the farewell and they greeted me back with the good wishes for life. The HR manager also gave a souvenir to me. Then I left for Tokyo. After staying for a night at Tokyo, I finally boarded the plane for New Delhi and arrived at IGI international airport. My internship not only educated me in technical terms but also gave me a deep insight into another world, very much undiscovered by Indian People.

If you have had a similar Internship experience (in India or abroad) and would like to share it with all of us, please submit your entries here.

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