Aki looks back on his first Fletcher year

Long time no see! I trust that all you students are relishing your summer vacation. For those among you who are employed, you may be contemplating how to best utilize your summer recess.

As for myself, I am currently situated outside the United States. In this blog entry, I aim to provide a summary of the past year, encompassing the completion of my studies at Fletcher during the Fall 2022 and Spring 2023 semesters.

The Latter Part of the Spring Semester 2023

From an academic standpoint, I am still acclimatizing to the distinctive approach to learning at Fletcher, particularly during the latter part of the semester, when the workload tends to surpass my capacity. In fact, during the previous fall semester of 2022, I began to lose equilibrium in managing my four courses. Furthermore, in addition to test preparation, a substantial number of group report assignments were allocated prior to exams, leading to a few unanticipated tasks. Nevertheless, I believe I managed to secure more time compared to the previous occasions.

The Fletcher School offers a notably flexible curriculum, which is appealing. However, this also necessitates a dedicated focus on one’s chosen field of study. If one undertakes too many unrelated courses, their specialization may suffer. While it is possible for those endowed with versatility to explore a wide range of subjects, I sense the need to approach next semester’s course selection with a conscious recognition of my own capabilities.

Aki at the Arc d'TriompheMy Summer Plans

This summer, I will be embarking on an internship at the OECD in Paris. The project I am engaged in endeavors to quantify industrial policy, an area that lacks a definitive definition. As the internship has just commenced, I will elaborate further in a subsequent blog post.

Naturally, this marks my inaugural visit to Paris, and I intend to savor the delights of France.

Reflections on This Year – Part 1: The Experience of Becoming a Minority

At this juncture, I would like to reflect upon my time at the Fletcher School thus far.

Japan holds a unique position, surrounded by oceans and relatively secluded from other nations, rendering being Japanese synonymous with being part of the majority. Consequently, a high-context culture has emerged, wherein many aspects of the country can be understood even in the absence of extensive verbal communication.

Conversely, upon venturing outside of Japan, one soon realizes that certain commonplace aspects are not universally comprehended. For instance, in Tokyo, the usage of washlet toilets is the norm, restroom availability in the city is not a concern, trains arrive at frequent intervals, and major convenience stores operate 24 hours a day as a matter of course. While the extent of such convenience is rarely encountered elsewhere, it is often taken for granted.

Given the multitude of shared experiences among Japanese individuals, the range of what is deemed “taken for granted” becomes vast. Consequently, the necessity for verbal expression diminishes significantly. Paradoxically, as I delve deeper into these aspects of daily life that I have come to regard as “normal,” I realize the numerous assumptions I have made in my own explanations. Consequently, when confronted with a culture that lacks such advanced technology, I find myself unsure of where to begin.

Upon entering the Fletcher School, I experienced the status of being a minority for the first time. Although there were moments of discomfort, I do not regret my decision to attend the Fletcher School. Without this experience and the opportunity to learn from my peers, I doubt I could have attained such growth.

Aki and friends before Dip BallReflections on This Year – Part 2: Aspiring to Be an Active Global Participant

As I engage in daily studies at Fletcher and encounter novel concepts, a strong desire emerges within me to make a notable impact as a Japanese individual on the global stage.

Indeed, the mention of Japan often elicits limited recognition from people worldwide. While sushi restaurants and ramen shops can be found in many countries, and Japanese cars, including Toyota, enjoy popularity on the roads, the broader understanding of Japan tends to be limited. Some awareness may extend to topics like anime, samurai, ninjas, and other aspects of Japanese history.

However, beyond these surface-level impressions, the depth of knowledge about Japan varies from person to person. I find myself pondering the true allure of Japan. It appears that Japan’s appeal is not as substantial as one might expect. Therefore, I strongly believe that some of the aspects we take for granted could be shared with the rest of the world.

Although I have yet to develop a concrete idea, I sense that Japan possesses a unique essence. During my time in Tokyo, for instance, trains arrived with such punctuality that station staff would apologize profusely even for a mere 5 to 10-minute delay. Dining out was incredibly convenient, to the extent that one could sustain themselves on restaurants alone with minimal effort. Despite the scarcity of trash cans in the city, the streets remained remarkably clean.

At present, Japan is often perceived as a country in decline. However, in comparison to the global landscape, I believe Japan still possesses noteworthy qualities.

The Significance of Expertise

Throughout my engagement in reconstruction work, among other endeavors, I have had the opportunity to participate in uncommon experiences. While I have collaborated with experts and taken pride in the work I have accomplished, I have also recognized the absence of strong expertise in my own field.

Upon joining the Fletcher School, I have encountered individuals who specialize in various fields, such as climate change. Their presence has fostered a sense of admiration and, simultaneously, a certain unease regarding my own level of expertise. Until now, I have primarily focused my studies on data utilization and development economics. However, I do not yet possess the confidence to declare myself an expert. While I value my intuition, I aspire to cultivate a deep understanding of my chosen field of study.

The Path Ahead

Upon completing my studies at the Fletcher School, my plan is to enter the workforce rather than pursue a doctoral program. Initially, my intentions revolved around working for the benefit of the Japanese people. However, I now aim to redirect my focus towards showcasing my strengths as a Japanese individual on the global stage, capitalizing on my unique attributes. This shift in perspective is becoming increasingly paramount.

As previously mentioned, while expertise in a specific field holds value, I have found myself disheartened by the limited dissemination of discoveries made by experts. Hence, I aspire to act as a facilitator, enabling the conveyance of such discoveries to where they are needed most, fostering collaboration in the process.

For instance, in my own work experiences, I have observed a lack of cooperation between the government and academia in Japan. With the advent of easily accessible data, we have the opportunity to establish efficient legal, budgetary, and taxation systems. Additionally, by incorporating impact evaluation into our endeavors, we may find it easier to justify long-term investments in science and technology projects. In the business sector, there is considerable room for leveraging more data in marketing, and the government sector could benefit from enhanced data utilization across all policy domains.

I also perceive significant potential in the field of AI. While Japan may have entered the game relatively late in terms of constructing the internet environment, we have a tradition of “kaizen” within companies like Toyota. This involves establishing a solid technological infrastructure and subsequently refining it to create unique products and services. I believe we excel in this area.

Looking inward, I must acknowledge my own passivity in absorbing new knowledge thus far. I strive to advance to a point where I can contribute my own work, emphasizing not only technical expertise but also a heightened sense of creativity and sensitivity.

Therefore, I encourage everyone to enjoy a splendid summer vacation. I eagerly anticipate reconnecting with you all in the upcoming fall semester of 2023!


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