Currently viewing the tag: "Tatsuo"

I’m going to close out this blog week with the post that wraps up Tatsuo’s Fletcher experience.  It’s hard to believe that I met Tatsuo almost exactly two years ago, and he’s already back in his job with the ministry in Japan that sponsored his studies.  As much as any student I’ve known, Tatsuo made the most of his two years away from the workplace.  He traveled widely in the U.S. and beyond, pursued an exchange semester in Paris, had an internship last summer (relatively uncommon among students who will return to their pre-Fletcher workplace), and while on campus, built community with fellow students interested in Japanese culture and food.  In today’s post, he describes his return to work at the ministry.

Two months ago, I graduated from Fletcher and came back to Japan.  Fortunately or unfortunately, I am readjusting quickly to Japanese life and work.  I miss my days in the school on the hill, but I already feel like they passed years ago.

I’ve settled in Kasumigaseki, the district that is home to almost all Japanese central government agencies, and I am serving as the Deputy Director of the Transport Planning Division in the Public Transport Department of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT).

In Japan, maybe like some other countries, the name of the government district — “Kasumigaseki” — is sometimes used as a word to symbolize “conservative,” “sectionalism,” or “stubbornness.”  However, we, the people in Kasumigaseki, are now facing the tide of many and great social and economic trends.

My new position is one of the difficult but interesting positions through which the government is facing change and challenges.  Due to Japan’s aging population and the end of high economic growth, Japanese cities and towns, especially in rural regions, are struggling with economic and social stagnation.  In these areas, public transportation faces decreasing demand.  Many local bus companies will be bankrupted.  Japanese Railway and other railway companies abolished many “unprofitable” routes that are still critical for the local society and economy.  A decade ago, some free-market-oriented policies that eased or abolished governmental regulations to control transport companies accelerated the trend.

My task is to revitalize regional economies and societies such as these to reconstruct the transport networks.  Many bus routes and railways were built in the age of high economic growth.  Most of these networks are inefficient for current demand, while the companies have heavily subsidized them and lost the capability to adjust to social/economic change.  Moreover, there are many innovations on the horizon to bring a new future to public transport, such as automated driving.

This work needs very broad cross-sector approaches and communication.  I am working with many colleagues beyond a single department, ministry, or regional government.  I work with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, and many businesses to tackle regional transport projects.  This complex approach is needed because we have to connect multiple transport modes, many industries, various technologies, and diverse thoughts.

The position has another unique dimension.  It is very close to “ground-level.”  MLIT is generally field-site oriented: there are tens of thousands of engineers and technocrats, in many branches all over the country, with a big influence on politicians and local governments through the huge infrastructure budget.  However, even in MLIT, such detailed field work that I am tackling is really rare.  For example, I have to check local governments’ transport network plans.  I am sometimes thinking about the location of a bus stop or route because of these very detailed transport network plans.

Although I am enjoying my new responsibilities (while struggling with terrible Japanese working conditions…) some colleagues or friends have said it’s unfortunate that this position is too domestically-focused for a person who just returned from studying in a foreign country.  They said that such a “global” person as me should be appointed to some kind of international work, for example international treaty negotiation, promoting infrastructure exports, or diplomatic postings to foreign countries.

However, in Timor-Leste, Kazakhstan, and many other places I visited throughout the world, I realized a truth.  To be a “global” person, we need to have “local” expertise.

I enjoyed working in Timor-Leste, not because my English was fluent or I had completed a year of studies, but because my transport/infrastructure expertise was very rare and important for the country.

Imagine if I had no expertise in Japanese industries, infrastructure technologies, or at least the culture and the society.  If I had one of those “international” positions, what should I negotiate for?  What should I promote to export?  How could I represent Japan?

Before Fletcher, I was a man who simply adored the image provoked by the words “global” or “international.”  But Fletcher taught me many dimensions of global politics, international business, and the lives of people in the world that I didn’t know.  I didn’t learn only on the Fletcher campus, but everywhere in the world that Fletcher opened up for me, such as Timor-Leste, Paris, Israel, and Central Asia.

My new position will give me very deep and special experiences and knowledge about regional public transport.  Many places in the world have interest in the questions: How can we build a transport network in areas without good economic/social conditions?  How can the public sector and private sector cooperate to manage transport infrastructure while maintaining market competition and people’s welfare?  Therefore I think that while this new position seems to be very “local” at first glance, it can strengthen my “global” career.

So now I am working in Kasumigaseki with big Fletcher pride.  If you visit Japan, please let me know, so we can talk about the hill in Medford.  🙂

And, if you do visit, I also strongly recommend that you stay not only in Tokyo/Kyoto/Osaka.  Please go to our beautiful regions — using public transportation!

Tagged with:
 

Throughout these past two academic years, you’ve been reading the stories of three students, Tatsuo, Adnan, and McKenzie.  Now it’s time for them to describe their academic pathways for us in their “annotated curriculum” posts.  The first of these is from Tatsuo, who spent three semesters at Fletcher and his fourth semester in an exchange program in Paris.

Pre-Fletcher Experience
Administrative (Legal/Policy) Officer, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Tokyo, Japan

Fields of Study
Law and Development
Modern Maritime Issues and American Foreign Policy (self-designed Field of Study)

Capstone Topic
“The Needed Technocratic Bureaucracy for Transport Infrastructure Development in LDCs: An Assessment of the Case of Civil Aviation Policies in Timor-Leste” (Advisor: Professor James Fry)

Post-Fletcher Professional Goals
Return to the Ministry as a deputy director to manage Japanese infrastructure policies, including overseas development aid projects.

Curriculum Overview

Semester One

Law and Development
Development Economics: Policy Analysis
Foundations in Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance
Crisis Management and Complex Emergencies

In my first semester, I took two courses on international development studies, which was my top priority for study at Fletcher.  Additionally, I took two courses on finance and security.  These were not the focus of my professional career, but I had heard that the school has a long and deep tradition in the field of security studies and it has also developed resources for business studies.  All of these courses were good for connecting me with Fletcher’s traditional and more recently developed strengths, and it was a good foundation for me as I planned my academic life at Fletcher.

Semester Two

Global Maritime Affairs: International Trade, Security, Energy, and Environmental Issues at Sea
Science Diplomacy: Environmental Security in the Arctic Ocean
The Foreign Relations of the United States Since 1917
International Investment Law
The Islamic World: Political Economy and Business Context (0.5 credit)

Based on my experiences in my first semester, I decided to make my course range broader than what I originally expected.  I had already planned to choose Law and Development as my first Field of Study, and I thought I would also have another development-related second Field.  However, I changed my mind, and decided to design my own Field of Study.  I selected from Fletcher resources linking multiple fields, including security, science, and business to form “Modern Maritime Issues and American Foreign Policy,” and I included various courses ranging from conventional diplomatic studies to emerging fields in science and business.

Summer Internship
The Asia Foundation, Timor-Leste

A second-year MALD student introduced me to the Timor-Leste office of the Asia Foundation, a global international development NGO.  The vice director of the office was also a Fletcher alumnus and he gave me an interesting opportunity to experience the realities of international development.  As I described in a previous post, I focused on policy development for the Timorese civil aviation market based on my practical experiences in Japan and academic studies at Fletcher.  It was the first time for me to live in a “least developed country” and also a great opportunity to connect practical expertise, academic theory, and the actual needs of the people in the field.

Semester Three

Grand Strategy in Diplomacy, Past and Present
Building Long-Term Relationships and Sharing Value with Stakeholders
Political Speechwriting
African Key Economic Issues
Economics and Globalization
Japanese Politics and International Relations (audit)
French A1 (audit)

In my third semester, I studied at Sciences Po in Paris through a Fletcher exchange program.  I took diplomacy and development courses similar to those that I took at Fletcher, in order to compare different perspectives and approaches.  Additionally, I learned about areas in which France leads the world, such as project management and public relations.  I enjoyed not only great French cuisine and wine, but also unique approaches that were very different from what I studied in the U.S.

Semester Four

The Strategic Dimensions of China’s Rise
Cross-Sector Partnerships
International Humanitarian Response (offered jointly by Tufts Friedman School and Harvard School of Public Health)
U.S.-European Relations Since the Fall of the Berlin Wall  (0.5 credit)
Cities, Infrastructures, and Politics: From Renaissance to Smart Technologies (audit at Harvard Graduate School of Design)

In my fourth and final semester, I am taking courses that I chose based only on my curiosity, because I had already taken all my required courses.  Cross-Sector Partnerships and International Humanitarian Response are practical and case-study-based courses that are good for wrapping up my study and internship experiences in the MALD program.  China’s Rise is also a very realistic security studies course, taught by Professor Yoshihara from the U.S. Naval War Collage, that can test what I learned about diplomacy and security.  I expect to acquire another European perspective from U.S.-European Relations, taught by Professor Scharioth, a former German Ambassador to the U.S.  I also wanted to extend my perspective by auditing a Harvard Graduate School of Design course that introduces the views of designers and architects.

When I am back with the Japanese Government, many and various tasks are waiting for me, from economics to security to East Asian security crises to preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.  I am very excited to tackle these issues by using the skills and experiences that I acquired in my two years at Fletcher.  It will be very interesting and exciting.  At the same time, however, I wish I had one more year, or at least one more semester, at Fletcher.

Students have been sharing their stories on the blog for quite a while now, but this is the first year when one of the writers pursued an exchange semester.  Ever-intrepid Tatsuo spent the fall at Sciences Po in Paris.

In the third semester of my MALD study, I decided to join an exchange program in Paris.  I wanted to study international relations from another viewpoint, though I know that Fletcher and the hills of Medford/Somerville are the best place in the world to study.

Tatsuo, Courtyard_of_SciencesPoI spent my semester at the Paris School of International Affairs at Sciences Po.  Sciences Po is one of the best schools for politics and international relations in Europe.  It was founded in 1872 just after Franco-Prussian War.  French elites were shocked by their country’s defeat and also impressed by the power of Prussia, and they faced the need to change their education system.  Sciences Po was the result of the effort to improve French practical education, based on the philosophy of political realism.  The symbol of the school, the fox and lion, originated from Machiavelli’s phrase “be smart as a fox and be strong as a lion,” and shows what the founders felt they needed.

At Sciences Po, I took five courses — Grand Strategy in Diplomacy, Past and Present; Building Long-Term Relationships and Sharing Value with Stakeholders; Political Speechwriting; African Key Economic Issues; and Economics and Globalization — to earn four Fletcher credits, and I audited two more courses, Japanese Politics and International Relations; and French A1 (elementary French).

All the courses I took, except French A1, were taught in English; thus, the basic materials and styles were not so different from what I encountered at Fletcher, but there were still some interesting differences between a French (or European) school and an American school.

For diplomatic issues, I took a grand strategy course, mainly focusing on security strategies, taught by the former minister of foreign affairs of Costa Rica.  In the course, and in other discussions of diplomatic topics, people mainly followed realism — based on basic political realism theory and great figures like Machiavelli, Clausewitz, and Bismarck who I “met” in the U.S.  However, the “realism” I studied in Paris was a little different from what I learned in the United States.  In discussions I had at Fletcher and other places in the U.S., people argued the survival of the state must outweigh all other concerns.  Thus, there were many options that could be taken, including unlawful or unethical means.  Additionally, the strategies for security tend to justify unilateral actions.  On the other hand, the discussions in Paris I faced tended to exclude such unlawful, unethical, or unilateral options, intentionally or unintentionally.

Classroom view.

Classroom view.

On development issues, French development studies consider the historic background of developing areas, while American studies mainly focus on the current situation.  Sometimes, French professors’ attitudes looked more emotional than rational.  On the other hand, these attitudes or analyses brought me a deeper understanding of the regions and the people to be developed.  Additionally, these attitudes were understandable and maybe useful for me, a Japanese development officer, because we also have complex historical backgrounds with the Asian countries we once occupied.

One of the most interesting courses in Paris was Political Speechwriting.  In the French school, theoretical studies seemed to be the majority, while American professional schools like case studies.  Even in the practical course for speechwriting, the professor took a lot of time to introduce many theories of Greek and Roman rhetoric.  When I took the course, it was the very interesting time after Brexit.  In that context, the professor analyzed American presidential debates and shared his concerns about the French presidential election coming up next spring.  Through the course, I realized the great advantage of theoretical studies.  At that time, most American (and global) media criticized Trump’s speeches and judged Clinton to be the winner of the debates.  On the other hand, the professor evaluated Trump’s speeches in terms of their technical rhetoric while many people, including me, tended to analyze the speeches based on their content.  The result of the election proved the advantage of objective/unbiased analysis based on theoretical studies.

Generally, my semester was a great opportunity to learn a lot regarding the different perspectives of the U.S. and Europe.  In Japan, we tend to think of “the West” as a single actor and a single set of values.  In the U.S., we tend to think of the American standard as the global standard.  The three months in Paris gave me the background knowledge to avoid such misunderstandings.

It was surely true that everything went well in Paris.  But I missed the family atmosphere at Fletcher, including its flexible and warm administrative offices and the close connections between students and faculty.  I also missed the great academic resources around Boston.   And I also love the comfortable hilltop more than the crowded buildings filled by thousands of students in the small campus in the middle of Paris.

In the end, the three-month exchange program was both long enough and short enough for me, even if it was too short to learn French, to explore Paris and other areas of France and Europe, and to enjoy the great food and drink culture.

Tatsuo, Enjoying_TheHistoricalArtictic_City

Tagged with:
 

Back to the Student Stories feature!  In this year’s second post from a returning writer, Tatsuo reports on a summer when he barely stayed still.  Tatsuo is currently pursuing an exchange semester at Sciences Po in Paris.

Last summer, I visited two different types of developing nations: four former Soviet countries in Central Asia and a newly independent country in Southeast Asia.  My experiences in these countries moved me in a lot of ways.

After completing last spring semester, I first traveled to Alaska to visit the Arctic Circle and enjoy the beautiful summer.  Alaska’s natural scenery completely refreshed me.  Then, at the end of May, I joined the Central Asian Leadership Trek organized by the Center for Asia Leadership.  The trekkers were mainly from Harvard schools, but also from other prominent schools including Stanford, Columbia, Sciences Po, and, of course, Fletcher.

During the nearly three-week trek, we traveled through four countries — Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.  Compared with the Israel Trek I joined last spring, this trip had fewer participants, and participants also had to do some workshops or TED-style talks based on their backgrounds and expertise.  Therefore, the participation was more active and we connected with the politicians, entrepreneurs, and students in this region more deeply.

Before traveling to Central Asia, I had some knowledge about the counties I would visit.  All four of the countries became independent from the former Soviet Union 25 years ago.  They also inherited many Soviet remains, including infrastructure and bureaucratic schemes.  Most of them rely on natural resources for economic development, and their economies and societies are under the strong control of and regulation by the public sector.

On the trekI was surprised, though, to find a lot of diversity among the societies and economies, and their problems and possibilities.

In Tajikistan, I felt the Soviet atmosphere most, but also felt the economic struggle of the country since its independence.  Kyrgyzstan was the most democratic country in the region.  We enjoyed a lot of free discussions with central and local politicians, entrepreneurs, and young students; however, we also saw and heard about the problems related to the unstable, sometimes chaotic political and economic situation.  We found that democracy and freedom of speech might not contribute to economic growth well.  On the other hand, in Kazakhstan, we were surprised by the great infrastructure, well-maintained public services, and developed and modern cities under the authoritarian but stable regime, while we were also afraid that the further growth of the country — which the regime plans and promotes based on an opportunistic estimate a decade ago — might be uncertain in the current global market situation.  Finally, in Uzbekistan, we were impressed by the beautiful historical remains, although we found an ironic contrast between such great tourist places and poor economic conditions, based on primitive agriculture and the chaotic national currency caused by the closed regime.

Talking with people — ranging from the higher levels of the public sector to the local youth — was very meaningful for learning about the realities of these countries that I, like most Japanese, was not so familiar with.  Additionally, as I work on infrastructure and transport policy, learning about the regional infrastructure was greatly useful.  For example, these countries largely rely on the old infrastructure that the former Soviet Union built and maintained.  These plans and networks were not appropriate for the current economic strategies of each country, and some infrastructure, in particular road infrastructure that needs frequent maintenance, was severely deteriorated.  Such a finding will contribute to my future research and policymaking regarding how Japan and the international community can support the region.

As a public sector official, I also felt that the career tracks of public elites in the region were very unclear, unpredictable, and vulnerable.  I thought the people’s distrust for the public sector might derive from the weak and undeveloped recruiting system for public officers.

Last, but not least, the trekkers traveling with me came from a lot of different backgrounds and with different expertise.  Sharing diverse perspectives on the region and discussing with each other made the trek much more special than just a sightseeing trip.

After the thought-provoking trip, I flew from Tashkent, Uzbekistan to Timor-Leste and started an internship with a global NGO, the Asia Foundation, Timor-Leste.

I had two reasons to pursue the internship.  First, I wanted to have an experience in a least-developed environment, and Timor-Leste is one of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) as recognized by the United Nations.  The other reason was that I could contribute, based on my expertise as a policy-officer, because the Asia Foundation is a policy-oriented NGO.

In the marketIn Timor-Leste, I mainly researched the public transport sector, particularly the aviation sector, which was receiving little attention.  I struggled to research without basic statistics, institutional information — including the fundamental laws and regulations — or implementing capacity.  No local officers understood their tasks clearly.  No regulations actually worked.  No one knew who could tell me about something I wanted to know.  However, this chaotic and underdeveloped situation taught me about practical issues and challenges of today’s development studies.

In thinking about what we could do for the economic development and economic diversification of the country under such difficult conditions, I considered very basic questions for a public officer, an elite bureaucrat, and a person from a developed country: What is infrastructure?  What is public transport?  What is bureaucracy?  And, What is a country?

During the two months, the deputy country representative and Fletcher alumnus, Todd Wassel, F06, and other helpful staff allowed me to research my field of interest freely in the very supportive environment of the office.  I also used the resources of the NGO, including government contacts and visits to local districts.  With that support, I was very satisfied with my internship, although two months was still too short to learn about the small but very diverse country.

With ToddIt was also meaningful that I could compare this “least developed country” with other developing nations after visiting Central Asia.  I know that there are many problems in such a struggling country, such as corruption and the lack of capacity in the public sector, the lack of economic and financial policies including a currency, dependence on importing goods, noncompetitive local industries, and even confusion over establishing an official language under great linguistic diversity.  These problems cannot be solved in the short term.  On the other hand, my experience of interviewing and making visits to the field showed me that public sector experts — those who take care of basic bureaucratic work in their developed home countries — must be playing a necessary role.  People who work to regulate an industry, operate an agency, or manage a government should join the field of international development, because how the public sector works and develops can benefit from the advice of experts who actually have experience doing it.  It was very thought-provoking for me, coming from one of the biggest and strongest public sectors in the world and studying international development.

Before the summer, I felt that a three-month break would be very long.  (When I worked in Japan, my summer break was less than a week…)  But last summer, I visited a lot of towns, regions, and countries, met many and varied people, faced a lot of troubles and fun, and learned a lot of things.  Now, the summer has flown, and my fall semester in Paris has begun.  I actually feel this summer was very short.

Tagged with:
 

Due to a little disorganization on my part, I’m only now sharing a wrap-up of the spring semester that Tatsuo sent me in June.  With apologies for my delay, let’s revisit Tatsuo’s extremely busy semester.

My second semester at Fletcher is over and half of my study in Medford/Somerville has quickly passed.  I realize that the phrase “time flies” is true.

Many friends in the MA and LLM programs and second-years in the MALD have left the School.  I was a little surprised that few first-year students were at commencement.  In my home country, first-years would also attend such an event to say goodbye to students who are leaving.  Maybe Americans like more casual opportunities to say goodbye to their friends and they think formal events like commencement are mainly for families.  On the other hand, we Japanese (and other East Asians?), think that formal events such as commencement are good opportunities to say farewell to each other.  For our families, we like more casual settings.

Looking back, this semester was very fruitful for me.

My first Field of Study is Law and Development; however, I am also interested in another area of international relations, Maritime Affairs.  The economic and cultural prosperity of Japan largely depends on the sea surrounding our country.  The ministry that I work for is also responsible for the vast area of maritime issues, from the shipping industry to marine leisure to maritime security conflicts.

Unfortunately, Fletcher does not offer a Field of Study in Maritime Studies, even though the school has some highly experienced professors in the area.  Fortunately, the School allows students to design their own Field of Study.  Thus, I combined some relevant courses and designed my tailor-made Field of Study, “Modern Maritime Issues and American Foreign Policy.”

I took four and half a credits this semester: Global Maritime Affairs, which was the core of my self-designed Field of Study; Science Diplomacy, another course for my Maritime Studies Field; The Foreign Relations of the United States Since 1917, which was the last class for Professor Henrikson; International Investment Law; and Islamic World (0.5 credit).  I took the last two courses for my interest in development studies.

For non-native English speakers, especially Japanese students who were accustomed to a more passive style of study in our college and high school education, it’s difficult to join the discussion in large classes (although at Fletcher, “large” means only 20 to 30 students in a class), so I try to take at least one small discussion class each semester.  Science Diplomacy, led by Professor Berkman, had only around ten students, and the lectures and discussions were friendly and easy to join.  The class focused on issues concerning the Arctic Ocean and the relationship between science and diplomacy.

Fletcher offers a lot of courses dealing with diplomacy or negotiation, but Science Diplomacy was unique for two reasons.  First, the course dealt with scientific results and methods to use them in diplomatic negotiations.  Most of us at Fletcher are not scientists and do not have science backgrounds.  At least in my country of Japan, we (political or legal professionals) tend to think that scientists live in a different world.  When I was a college student, I was interested in connecting people and studies in the arts and sciences.  I helped to organize a forum on outer space development that gathered many researchers and students with different backgrounds, to improve exchange among them.  The perspectives in Science Diplomacy at Fletcher awoke that interest again.

Mock Arctic conference

A mock Arctic Council conference in the Science Diplomacy class.

Additionally, Science Diplomacy focused on “common interests” for all the participants.  In most diplomacy case studies, we have to define certain interests for each participant in the negotiations, even if these negotiations are not zero-sum games.  However, this course provided another perspective on participants’ interests, by introducing the context of science.  It was thought provoking for those of us struggling over global issues with many deeply intertwined interests.

Outside of classes, I joined a project led by Harvard Law School’s Law and International Development Society (LIDS).  For the project, our team drafted policy guidelines for local stakeholders in Afghanistan seeking to promote community development in resource-rich areas cooperating with local government and mining companies.  It was a very interesting practical opportunity to learn how we could use legal skills to tackle issues of international development.  Thanks to the instruction and support of CLDP, the U.S. agency that provided the project to LIDS, I learned a lot, from Afghanistan’s unique practices to global issues for mining-community development.  On the other hand, I was afraid that our work could deprive Afghan stakeholders of an opportunity to develop legal and policy skills.  When I was a young officer of the Japanese Government, I drafted a lot of policy papers and guidelines.  I could not complete the work alone because of my inexperience, and I had to draw on support from my boss and colleagues.  As a result, over time, I acquired the skills I needed to be effective in my work.  With that history in mind, the project was a very thought provoking opportunity for me.

For recreation between studies, I took part in a Fletcher student activity, Fletcher Strategic Simulation Society (FS3), where we mainly enjoyed playing board games.  In Japan, most board games are for family parties. especially including small children, and the rules tend to be simple.  When I asked my Japanese classmates to join FS3, they worried it would be a little childish.  But in the U.S., college students enjoy many board games and the rules can be very complex, requiring strategy to win.  This cultural difference is the mirror image of the perspective on manga or anime.  Many Americans think that comics and cartoons are not appropriate for intellectual adults.  By contrast, in Japan, even old or well-educated people like manga and anime, because many are very literary and include social satire.

I like to play strategic simulation games with Fletcher’s future diplomats, officers, and negotiators.  In particular, I was very excited to play “Diplomacy,” which is a classic game dealing with World War I.  Players negotiated, allied, and deceived each other, posing as great powers of the era.  It took more than four hours to complete a game, but I truly enjoyed playing “Diplomacy” with the people of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Also outside of classes, I tried to organize a Japanese Table.  At Fletcher, there are many language and culture tables, and I wanted to make my contribution to the cultural diversity of Fletcher.  Additionally, I wanted to find people who are interested in Japanese language and culture, and to increase the number of interested students.  One of the reasons is that I work for Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism.  I regretted that I could not organize the table too many times.  The number of students who participated was not too large — except when we served Japanese cuisines and drinks!  On the other hand, I realized that there are a good number of Fletcher students who are learning Japanese, although the Japanese presence in the U.S. has been dramatically decreasing over the past few decades, compared with that of China and other emerging countries.  I think one of the reasons that it continues as an interest at Fletcher is that many students are focused on security studies.

Japanese table

We also have Japanese students at the School, and most of us have worked for the government.  I think it should be our role to build, strengthen, and deepen the community to benefit both our country and international society, by staying connected to people from other countries who are interested in our culture.

Tagged with:
 

Continuing our return to spring break, along with yesterday’s post by McKenzie, today we’ll read about Tatsuo’s trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories.  Fletcher offered a trek to this region, but Tatsuo will explain that he ended up joining students from Harvard Kennedy School for their trek.

Over the recent spring break, Fletcher students organized a Fletcher Policy Trek to Israel.  I applied for Fletcher’s trek, but I wasn’t accepted because there was a lot of competition for the available places; however, I had another opportunity to join such a trek to Israel, through Harvard Kennedy School.  Many events at HKS welcome the participation of Fletcher students.  I think that having access to the resources of one of the world’s largest universities is a big advantage of Fletcher.

In line with this, I eventually joined HKS’s Israel trek.  It was a little more costly than that of Fletcher because of the size.  (HKS’s trek had over 100 students, while Fletcher’s trek is limited to about 50 participants. The funding resources were about equal, which meant I needed to pay more.)  But the places we visited were almost the same and I was also pleased to make friends with enjoyable and interesting students from HKS and other Harvard schools.

I knew something about Israel and the neighboring Palestinian territories as a Japanese public officer and a student of international relations.  However, through the entire trek, I realized that knowledge from books (or the internet) is just knowledge itself.  Everything I saw, everywhere I went, and everyone I met were interesting, thoughtful, and impressive.

Tatsuo, Golan 2In an area of Israel near the Gaza district, we saw concrete-covered bus stops and other shelters to avoid rocket bombing from Gaza.  The IDF base at the Gaza border crossing had a very serious atmosphere.  On the other hand, in the Golan Heights, the other area fronting a conflict zone, we were surprised by the peaceful scenery.  We drove through an old Syrian Army headquarters, trenches, broken battle tanks, and dead villages.  We also saw an ISIS controlled town, Quneitra from the top of the hill in the Golan Heights.  The Syrian Army and ISIS are still fighting over the area, but UN peacekeeping officers seemed to be relaxed and welcomed us to take a picture with them.  There were also many tourists chatting and drinking coffee.  The contrast between the peaceful scenery, old military facilities, and the ongoing conflict area was very strange.

The wallThe contrast between the Palestinian areas and Israeli occupied villages in the West Bank was also thought-provoking.  Over the separation wall/security fence, we faced an undeveloped and struggling community.  Almost all buildings placed black plastic tanks to store water on the roofs.  The landscape with many steep hills seemed to be hard to cultivate.  By contrast, the Israeli villages were well developed, beautiful, and clean.  I had already understood that the Israeli people enjoyed well-developed lives, unlike those of the Palestinians.  But I was moved by the clear and sad contrast in very close vicinity.

When we walked around the old city of Jerusalem, the guide said we walked on the floor of the Jewish district and on the roof of the Muslim district at the same time.

Israel is very small country.  We could see the skyscrapers in Tel Aviv from the hills of the West Bank.  However, I was surprised by the power of Israel.  I don’t mean the military power.  There were modern and developed cities, well-maintained infrastructure, beautiful cultivated fields, and green forests.  I heard that most trees in Israel were specially planted, not wild.  Compared with other Middle East countries that I have been to, the land of Israel seemed to be an oasis in the desert.  I was impressed by the power but I also felt mixed emotions.  The oasis did not benefit the surrounding region and people, including the Palestinian people, unlike a natural oasis that can feed anyone who visits there.

Western WallWhile I was moved by such interesting but complex experiences, I also enjoyed the trek by swimming in the Dead Sea, riding camels, and of course, eating and drinking!  In particular, the region has a lot of historical sites.  Masada, the ancient fortress of Jewish rebels against the Roman Empire was one of the most interesting places for me.  I climbed the hill using the ramp that the Roman Army built for attacking thousands of years ago, and from the steep edge, I observed the walls and camps of the great empire.

The entire trek was a very nice opportunity for me.  Although I could always visit Israel by myself, on the trek I visited places that would be hard to go to if I went by myself.  I met people who are too busy to meet with a typical tourist such as Salam Fayyad, the former prime minister of the Palestine Authority, and Yair Lapid, the former minister of finance of Israel.  And I shared the time and my feelings with many interesting Harvard friends.

Now, I am still struggling to catch up on the tasks that I had to skip because HKS’s spring break was one week before that of Fletcher.  But the trek was surely worth the hard work.  If you will be at Fletcher next spring, I strongly recommend that you join Fletcher’s or HKS’s Israel Trek, or another interesting study trek that might be offered!

Tatsuo collage

Tagged with:
 

The final update on the fall 2015 semester comes from Tatsuo, who, like Ali and Aditi, took a heavy course load last semester.  In fact, I would describe it as an extremely challenging semester for anyone, and particularly for a non-native English speaker just starting his Fletcher studies.

In my first semester at Fletcher, I took four courses: Law and Development; Development Economics: Policy Analysis; Foundations in Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance; and Crisis Management and Complex Emergencies.  Every course was interesting, but especially Law and Development, which was one of the reasons that I chose the School.  Thus, I want to introduce the course in this post.

Tatsuo and his Law and Development reading group.

Law and Development dealt with development theory and implementation of development policies from the legal perspective.  It was an interdisciplinary fusion of international development and legal studies.  The combination of two fields, law and international relations, is characteristic of one of the unique qualities of The Fletcher School of “Law and Diplomacy.”  In the course, some students did not have legal expertise or practical experience; therefore, the legal materials that we reviewed in the class were not too difficult or specialized.  But I hardly felt bored in the class, although I have five years’ experience as a legal officer, managing legislation and implementing laws and orders.

I found the class engaging for a few reasons.  First, I was a beginner in international development studies.  Thinking about how we could manage issues of international development through legal schemes and techniques was very exciting and helpful for my future career when I will be involved in regional development as a public legal officer.

Second, and more importantly, the course gave us opportunities to think about fundamental questions of law.  Developing countries and regions tend not to have adequate legal schemes, bureaucracies, or precedents.  Thus, they cannot rely on routine procedures or ways of thinking, and they face fundamental questions that we, developed countries’ officers, likely ignore.  What is law?  What is a court?  What is justice?  What is development?  Some people think that these questions are not practical, but I certainly do not agree with them.  In interdisciplinary or emergency cases, including one I have experienced personally, we have to face such questions.  Just after the Great Japan Earthquake in 2011, we wanted to skip or abolish many legal procedures for rapid rescue and recovery.  However, even in this emergency situation, in order to evade these established legal schemes, we needed to identify truly necessary legal procedures.  I remember that we discussed “What is the government?” and “To what extent could we pursue coercive actions without any democratic or legal procedures?” in those chaotic days.

The professor of the Law and Development course is Jeswald Salacuse.  He has a great reputation both in practical fields (the former president of international arbitration tribunals of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes) and academia (he is also a former dean of The Fletcher School and the founding President of the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs).  In previous work as a legal assistant, he actually pursued law and development issues in developing countries.  As a result, his lectures incorporated not only theoretical and text-based knowledge but also vivid recollections of experiences in the field.  Although he has had such a prestigious career, he was very friendly and approachable for his students.  His class was one of the largest lecture classes at Fletcher, but even with about 30 to 40 students in the class, I did not feel any difficulty asking questions.  Professor Salacuse also seemed to like interactive lectures.  Additionally even outside the class, the professor kindly helped me with class assignments and papers.

The course dealt with vast areas of law and development.  Reading assignments were huge, especially for non-native English speakers like me, so I organized a reading group with other five students.  We read and summarized each assigned reading and discussed them each weekend.  That was very helpful for understanding background material for the course, and the discussions with students who have diverse backgrounds were also really interesting.

One thing about the course that I regret was my decision to write a paper.  We were offered the choice of taking a final exam or writing a research paper.  I chose to write the paper.  During the first half of the semester, I was struggling to manage the course’s assignments, and I wasn’t able to start writing until after mid-term exams.  That meant that writing my draft of the paper overlapped with presentations for final presentations, exams, and papers for my other courses.  If my schedule management had worked better, I could have done more to improve the final version.  Although I did not receive the grade I had hoped for on the report, it was the only thing I regret about the course.

Tagged with:
 

Today, I’m happy to introduce the first post from one of the new students who will report on their Fletcher experience in the Student Stories feature.  Tatsuo and I met last summer when he had recently arrived on campus, and I’m very excited to be able to highlight the experience of a student from Japan.  Fletcher benefits every year from the perspective of Japanese students, many of whom, like Tatsuo, have been sponsored by the organizations for which they work.  I’ll let Tatsuo supply the details.

TatsuoHello!  I am Tatsuo Sakai, a first-year MALD student.  I feel very happy to have the opportunity to share with you my future tough, but surely enjoyable, days at Fletcher, by posting in the Admissions blog.

My first-priority interest at Fletcher is international development.  I’d like to study theories and practical implications of development today.  I think there is a lot of room to pursue interdisciplinary work examining development studies for developing countries and regional development policies in well-developed countries.  I believe such integrated studies can contribute to both the less developed countries and to disadvantaged areas in well-developed countries.

Additionally, I am also interested in security studies.  As I will explain later, a position in homeland security is one of my future possible jobs.

Before Fletcher, I worked in the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT), as a legal officer in three areas:

1) The city planning division
2) The international affairs office for Civil Aviation, and
3) The road administration division.

During my five years in MLIT, I worked on planning policies for reconstruction following the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011; negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other economic partnership agreements; reform of public road policies, including the introduction of private funding into public infrastructure projects; and promoting disaster response capabilities.

As a ministry official who was assigned to study abroad with a Japanese government long-term fellowship, I had some options for my graduate studies, from the west coast to the east coast, and including public policy schools or design/planning schools.  Finally, I decided to study at Fletcher for three reasons.

1) Fletcher’s broad and flexible curriculum

I am a person who cannot narrow my interests into a certain area.  Thus, in my work, I was in charge of broad fields, from very domestic policy, such as city planning legislation, to global negotiations with foreign counterparts, for example for the TPP.  I may even be assigned to be a Coast Guard officer in the future.  I am curious about and able to enjoy everything I encounter.  In this, my first semester at Fletcher, I am taking four courses — Law and Development, Development Economics: Policy Analysis, Foundations in Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance, and Crisis Management and Complex Emergencies.  The classes are very diverse, from law to economics to security studies.  Fletcher has courses and professors with expertise in many different areas, and we can take any courses we want within the program’s flexible requirements.

2) The community

Fletcher is well known, even in Japan, for its strong community.  After other Japanese students and I received our admission decisions from Fletcher, one of Fletcher’s alumni, the Pakistani ambassador in Japan, held a welcome party at his official residence.  We met many alumni from various government sections and countries.  I also feel the strength of the Fletcher community as a student here.  It’s my first time living in a foreign country, but I enjoy and relax with friendly support from classmates, even in an unfamiliar environment and with a tough workload.  I surely believe that the tight bonds in the community will contribute to our success around the world.

3) Fletcher’s reputation in international affairs

As you know, Fletcher is the oldest graduate school for international relations in the world.  We have a lot of successful alumni who have built a great reputation for the School in the United Nations, World Bank, or other international organizations, and of course, governments and the private sector.  The reputation prevails even where I didn’t expect it.  When I traveled to a rural town in Montana this summer, I wore a sweatshirt with a Fletcher logo.  An old couple asked me, “Are you a Fletcher student?”  I said yes, and then, they said, “You can save the world!  Please do it!”  I was surprised and really proud at that moment.

I have nearly completed my second month at Fletcher.  I’m looking forward to experiencing many strange, curious, surprising, and enjoyable events during my two years.  I hope you will enjoy sharing my experience at Fletcher through my posts in the blog!

Tagged with:
 

Spam prevention powered by Akismet