Expat Musings, Opinion

Tokyo 2020 Employees: Where Do We Go Now?

There is little reprieve for the many contract workers, freelancers, and interns of Tokyo 2020.


One of the reasons why I chose to study in Japan was to be able to live in the same city as the Olympics; to feel the vigor and unity as hundreds of thousands of people join underneath the five interlaced rings. I, along with thousands of others, joined the volunteer program. I, along with thousands of other college students, raced to apply to the olympic broadcasting program, which would consequently make us employees of the olympics broadcasting systems. And I, along with thousands of others, were let go last week, when the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee announced that the Olympics would be postponed. 

I knew that the Olympics would have to be postponed. Months leading up to the announcement, I had doubts about Japan’s capacity in holding the Olympics in the midst of a global pandemic. While Western media praised Japan for its efforts and often alluded to the mystery why Japan had avoided the fate of many of its neighbors inundated by the novel coronavirus– Japan had deliberately avoided widespread testing and relied on contact tracing in order to keep the cases at a minimum. For months, discontent over the current incumbent government has been stirring over a multitude of problems: tax policies, corruption scandals, inability to enact social change, and the response to the coronavirus pandemic. The mismanagement of the Princess Diamond, resulting in 712 infections and 10 deaths was just the brim of what to come. 

I briefly wondered whether I should rescind my position. The virus had no sign of stopping as it ravaged through Europe and America. If the Olympics were to be held in the summer, what sort of precautions should I take? Would I be endangering myself, exposing myself to thousands of people everyday in enclosed spaces like stadiums, broadcasting trailers, or commentary rooms? Would I be endangering others, interacting with my teammates, my colleagues, and thousands of other Olympic employees? 

I expected that the announcement would come soon, as countries were quickly dismantling in the midst of the pandemic. Health care workers in America were pleading for people to stay home; city upon city were issuing quarantine orders. Borders were closing down as thousands of people rushed against the virus to return home. I watched as headlines blared new jumps in cases and new jumps in death tolls. A week prior to the announcement, the government continued to press on, refusing to consider any derailment to their dreams of Olympic grandeur. And yet the world screeched to an abrupt halt as everything shuttered down around us.

The announcement was brief: the Olympics was to be postponed to 2021. I felt relief for a moment before the sinking emptiness and realization hit me. Yes, I would be safe this summer. Yes, I would not be exposing myself to others. And with a brief statement that was released the next day by the broadcasting systems, me, along with thousands of students, and thousands of freelancers, contractors, and volunteers at the Olympics, were let go. 

I realized that I would have to do over the series of tests, applications, training sessions, group discussions next year. My place would not be guaranteed. Hundreds of other students around me gave up coveted positions at other firms for a chance at the Olympics. Many of us are scrambling to apply to other positions, only to find out that many firms, facing an economic crisis, have shuttered their internship programs and turned back new recruits. Our plight cannot compare to the thousands of contract workers and freelancers who work during the Olympics, serving as ticketing organizers, broadcasting professionals, and transportation service providers. With rescinded contracts, many may be without work for several months. Most Olympic employees are on a contract basis without the safety net that other full-time employees have. There is no unemployment insurance to collect; there is no compensation for lost time.  At the end, all of us are faced with the same question: where do we go now? 

With the world in disarray, there is little hope for the many who have become unemployed. There is little solace in the misfortune of many who have the same plight. However, we will continue on, as we always have. 

 

Opinion

Why Startups Need Diversity: Being the Only Woman in the Room

Being the only woman in the company taught me that diversity is often an afterthought for startups when it should be the first priority. Photo: Women in Tech


When I was hired for my first internship, I was ecstatic. I was in my second semester of college and I was shocked that two companies decided to further my application down the hiring process. One was faster: it was a startup. There was no process: I wasn’t hired on the spot, but I was just passed along until I ended up two weeks later in front of the coworking space where the startup was located. I tried my best to learn quickly; I picked up new tasks everyday and shadowed other interns. But on the days when most of the team wasn’t there, I felt increasingly lonelier. As I sat by myself on one of the long tables, I noticed that not only was I the only woman sitting at the table, but also the only woman in the entire room besides the receptionist at the front. At first, I didn’t mind that I was the only woman in my company. But as days grew into weeks, I felt increasingly isolated. There was no blatant discrimination; there was no pay gap because the other interns weren’t paid either. 

On one occasion, as a hiring representative, I attended a job fair along with the CEO. I soon realized not only was I much younger than both the candidates and the company representatives, but also I was also the only woman on the company side. Here I was, a nineteen year old, explaining and trying to hire graduate students. I felt like an impostor, trying to act and dress like a thirty year old when I wasn’t even twenty. I even skipped class that day to avoid suspicion that I was still a student and continue with my facade as a HR manager. After the event, I stayed behind to clean up and push the tables back into place. I nearly cried from a mixture of exhaustion and stress. I had invested so much into buying a new wardrobe, new shoes, and crafting a new personality because I felt like I had to represent all women in the startup workplace. I had internalized such pressures because I felt like others wouldn’t take me seriously unless I dressed in a certain way or talked in a certain way. 

I began to dread going to work. I felt like a four year old child trying on a mother’s high heels, except I had to keep on the shoes, both physically and mentally, for hours on end. Work productivity dropped. I wished there was another woman on the team. Maybe if there was, my experience might have been better. We need more women in startup teams to not only enrich the startup culture but also to mentor other women who want to join the community. The lack of women and the lack of visibility deters and discourages a diverse startup community. 

Startups in Japan are led by an overwhelming majority of men. 83% of startups in Japan are led by men, and most venture capitalists are men as well. The playing field in accessing venture capital is largely led by men: startup competitions that are key to securing investors are made up of a disproportionate amount of men. The gender gap in the startup community is not only discouraging to budding female startup entrepreneurs but also women systematically lack the funds and resources that their male counterparts have. Less than 3 percent of venture capital funded companies have female CEOs. One of the biggest challenges that women entrepreneurs face is lack of investor confidence; male investors are more likely to invest in male entrepreneurs. Dana Kanze, an entrepreneur, noticed that she was getting asked “prevention” questions much more often than “promotion” questions by investors during pitches. She tested her hypothesis that women who were asked more “prevention” questions would have less funding than men who were asked more “promotion,” questions at a funding competition. 67% of male entrepreneurs were asked promotion questions, while 66% of female entrepreneurs were asked prevention-focused questions. Women must overcome social expectations and limited networks besides systematic setbacks. The startup game is skewed towards men; and women’s participation should not only be encouraged but also the startup ecosystem must change to give women a fair playing chance.

Visibility of women in startups is imperative: as startup founders, venture capitalists, or working professionals in the startup community. With a lack of female mentors in the startup community, women lack many of the resources that are needed for success. By showing solidarity across the community, women can excel and further empower future generations to come. 

 

Opinion

Japanese Response to Covid-2019: Too Little, Too Late

The Princess Diamond should be a lesson for all: too many missteps will be a slippery slope to disaster.


As guests enjoyed the theater shows, crowded the bars, and dined at large buffets, the virus was already sweeping through the cruise ship. Unbeknownst to the passengers, the virus would then incapacitate the entire ship, leaving it stranded at sea for weeks as officials scrambled to contain its spread. As passengers continued to mingle and eat together, the virus continued to permeate through the enclosed spaces, and further delays by health officials turned the idyllic cruise ship into an epidemiological disaster. It took several days after the first case of the coronavirus was announced before the lockdown took place, and ten people had already been infected. Many passengers with symptoms were not tested, and those who entered and exited the ship worked without protective gear. Crew members, often four to a room, continued to work despite some becoming sick as well. Those with windowless cabins were allowed out periodically for fresh air, and not everyone kept their distance or wore masks. Passengers had little to no information about the situation; many receiving news from social media and news rather than ship’s officials themselves. Some were within close proximity with suspected infectious people: they feared they would become infected by remaining on the ship. Cases began to double daily, multiplying each day at a terrifying rate, becoming the second largest region of cases after mainland China. Thus, WHO rendered the ship as its own category:  “International Conveyance,” with 634 cases. 

An infectious disease specialist from Kobe University, Iwata Kentaro, criticized the measures taken during the lock down, describing the situation as “completely chaotic,” and infection control management was poor. He had posted a Youtube video documenting the errs of the lock down, and took it down afterwards, citing a violation of the ship’s chain of command. (New York Times). In the video, he stated that people were continuously passing through infection free “green zones,” and infectious “red zones,” without taking protective measures, which would lead to possible secondary contamination.  He also criticized the delay in bureaucratic measures that prevented him from entering the ship earlier. He criticized the bureaucratic control, stating that there was “nobody,” in charge of infection control aboard the Diamond Princess. Unlike other countries, there is no agency equivalent to CDC (Center for Disease Control) in Japan; the current crisis is managed by the Japanese Ministry of Health. 

This is possibly attributed to Japan’s lack of experience with viral diseases: while neighboring regions have experience with SARS in 2003, Japan was unaffected by the SARS outbreak, with 0 reported cases. In comparison, Hong Kong and Taiwan have taken drastic measures by delaying school, cancelling public events, closing borders, controlling medical supplies, and issuing government-sponsored information campaigns. Both regions had the most SARS cases and deaths besides mainland China. 

Citizens from different countries began to raise concerns to their respective governments as cases increased at a terrifying rate. US officials were the first to announce repatriation of American citizens on Diamond Princess. Canada, UK, South Korea, and Italy similarly stated measures to evacuate citizens from the Diamond Princess. 

As the 14-day quarantine ended, thousands of passengers disembarked in Yokohama following the blue tarp tunnel last Wednesday. Without a specific plan for transporting such passengers to their homes, many boarded taxis, buses, and trains. Some officials have criticized the decision to let the passengers return after the quarantine; others disagreed, stating a fear of further rebuke. Media crowded the port; many were without masks while reporting or taking photos of the disembarked passengers. 

Just one day after the end of the quarantine, two Japanese passengers died from the Covid-19 infection. They had been taken off the ship before the end of the quarantine to be treated. Both were senior citizens with underlying preconditions.  On Sunday, another man, also in his eighties, had died from the infection. 

A few days after the end of the quarantine, Tokyo Games Committee Chief, Mori Yoshiro, stated that he “prays everyday that the coronavirus will vanish,” and he has “no plans to wear a mask,” in a press conference. He further criticized rumors being spread about delaying or cancelling Tokyo 2020 due to the virus, and emphasized that the executive board is currently implementing measures in response to the virus. His comments infuriated online audiences; his name trended for a few hours after news of the press conference were aired. One stated, “I cannot trust his words,” and another stated, “His comments are a bad example.” 

Small clusters have appeared across Japan, such as cases appearing in Hokkaido, which experts suspect are connected to Sapporo’s annual snow festival. Two boys were infected, and the disease was transmitted to their father. A week later, some schools were closed after further cases were reported. A JR train worker was also infected as well, prompting concerns about Tokyo’s public transportation and whether control measures are being implemented properly. As cases continue to rise in Japan, public events have been cancelled or delayed. The government must further implement measures before the situation escalates and community spread is rampant. With many hard to trace cases and delayed bureaucratic procedures seen on the Diamond Princess, it is not a question of if, but when the situation spins out of control.

 

Publications

[Schoolynk] Building a Resume for Your English Internship in Japan


With an influx of international students attending Japanese universities, competition for English-based internships has increased. While it may be challenging to differentiate between strong candidates, an outstanding resume will lead to a better application. A resume is the first step in career building. Career-related skills such as resume writing is outside of academia, so many students find it hard to approach. However, there are many online resources that offer tips and tricks to crafting the perfect resume.

Resources for Resumes

One of the approaches covered in this article is the Harvard University template. A resume should be only one page, because a resume’s purpose should be to present information in a clear and concise way, with enough details to demonstrate the candidate’s experience and skills. From a recruiter or hiring manager’s point of view, a resume should be easy to skim and orderly because they go through tens or even hundreds of resumes per day. The main difference between a resume and a CV is length; a CV includes a comprehensive list of all of the candidate’s skills and experience. A resume only details the key achievements; it is often tailored for different positions if the person has a variety of skills and experience.

Formatting a Resume

A resume should have consistent and clear text, such as Times New Roman or other professional fonts. It should not be too colorful or artistically abstract which may detract from the important information that is listed. The text size should also be uniform and easy to read (nothing less than 11 pt font). Finally, the information should be accurate. It is morally corrupt to lie about your experiences as well as embarrassing if others find out that the information doesn’t accurately represent you.

Basic Information

The top should include your legal name, along with contact information such as school email and phone number. The first header should be education, starting in reverse chronological order. On the right-hand side should be the location as well as duration. If the position is still ongoing, then it should be listed from its start date to “Current.” It is also helpful to include major, GPA, test scores, certifications, clubs/academic organizations, and relevant courses if needed. The coursework or certifications provided should be relevant to the job position you are applying for.

Education Background

Following education is a list of experiences. This may include job experiences, such as previous internship positions. If you do not have any previous internship experience, it is also helpful to include other part-time jobs or any other job-related experience. Beneath each title should be a short description of what the job entailed. The sentence should begin with an action verb, such as “achieved,” “analyzed,” or “conducted.” It is helpful to use specific keywords that pertain to the job such as “analyzed consumer surveys,” for a marketing analysis internship. Furthermore, it is important to use quantitative information, such as detailing a number of hours worked using certain software or proficiency in a certain field. This also includes amounts of money (in terms of fundraising), number of hours, team size, or number of participants.

Leadership Experiences

The third section is a list of leadership experiences. This may also be altered to include volunteer experience or any other experiences related to the job position. This section is for relevant clubs, organizations, or positions that showcase your leadership or other skills. Similarly, a description should be included to explain what the position was. To reiterate again, it is crucial to provide concise information by using action verbs and relevant figures to help the recruiter or hiring manager visualize your position.

Skills and Interests

The last section is for skills and additional interests. For technical positions, this may be an entire section devoted to technical skills, such as programming languages or software used. This section may also include language proficiency and hobbies. Depending on the job position, this section may be altered to provide different information that may appeal to the person reviewing your application.

Crafting a resume may be challenging but it is a step in the right direction to finding an internship. Many academic institutions offer resume workshops or resume reviews for students. Take advantage of these opportunities to create a stronger resume that may lead to an internship. Good luck!

Publications

[Schoolynk] Internships as a Pathway into Japan’s Job Market

Internships in Japan

As a university student in Japan, internships are a great way to understand the job market in Japan as well as to gain work experience. The internship process and information explained below refer to internships that range in duration from one month to six months and above. Some company visits may be referred to as “internships,” however, they are not considered internships because they last less than a week. There is a myriad of internships that provide students with a variety of opportunities to learn different skills and leverage their skills outside of university academia. Internships are offered to international students regardless of nationality. Although a large portion of the internships requires business level Japanese, there are many which are held in English. Multiple portals offer a variety of internships with different qualifications at firms that range from startup to conglomerate.

man in a suit at work

How to apply for Internships

Many universities offer internship programs that are provided by partnerships between the university and the firm. These internships can be accessed through the online system, or through the school’s career center. Some of the internships may require Japanese fluency, and may have screening processes such as document screening and interviews. They may also last from at least two weeks to several months, depending on the firm. Many of them have certain recruiting periods and offer the internship program during spring or summer breaks. Many universities offer a wide variety of internships so please consult your advisor or the school career center for additional opportunities. In addition, many university facebook groups or student business groups may have internship listings or connections to firms that are looking for interns.

However, many firms have internship programs for students that can be accessed through multiple online portals or the company’s website. Often times, companies that are not actively recruiting online may offer opportunities through referrals from previous interns or through word-of-mouth connections. Some firms offer summer programs that may result in an offer at the end of the program. Others may recruit throughout the year and pay their interns accordingly. Some websites such as LinkedinGlassdoor, or Wantedly may have listings that include internships. Additionally, several websites such as Internship in Japan or EU-Japan provide listings of websites that include internship programs. Some firms may even scout their interns through Linkedin, Wantedly, or other job-searching websites.

office with desks and computers

Internships in multiple fields

There is a wide variety of work available for students from different fields. Depending on the firm, there are internships based on marketing, consulting, recruiting, programming, content creation, research, design, translation, sales, and others. Typically, large firms with an established intern program may have a certain fixed role and time for interns, while smaller firms may offer a wide range of opportunities for interns to try. An internship should not constitute work that doesn’t provide learning opportunities for students; students should be able to receive benefits from internships such as meaningful work experience or opportunity to pursue personal interests.

Paid Internships?

Most firms pay their interns around 1000 yen per hour. Depending on the work and firm, interns may be paid higher or lower than the average. Some firms, such as NPOs or NGOs, do not pay their interns at all. For example, the United Nations does not pay their interns in exchange for both the UN name and connections that can be leveraged throughout the internship. However, it should not be common that a firm does not pay their interns. While interns are not as fully experienced as full-time employees, the work that interns do is still vital to the company and therefore should rightfully earn a wage.

computer and notebook

Expat Musings

Why Is Your English So Good?

The first time someone asked me that question, I was stunned. The first time someone asked me that question, I struggled to answer in a composed manner. Why couldn’t my English be good? Why was I being asked such a question? Why was I so angry?

“I was born in America. I grew up in California,” I replied, after a moment of shocked silence.

“Oh, I’m from San Diego,” came the reply. As we lapsed into conversation, I couldn’t forget the wave, the feeling of anger that washed over me. It felt foreign; I’ve never been questioned about my English ability before. Perhaps I had been asked in Chinese before, asking why I could speak English by a curious shopkeeper or street seller; but never directly as a conversation starter in English. Was it because the asker was a white American? Was it because of his tone? I felt offended.

On the train ride back, I mulled over the question. Why? But then I realized that this question would have been unacceptable if asked in America– to an Asian American who has spoken English all their life suddenly to be asked about the validity of their American-ness, about their identity as an Asian-American. The question is akin to the “Where are you from?” question often asked to POC, as if America can’t be a valid answer because the color of their skin is not white. In this sense, this question is asking if one can’t be a native English speaker because their appearance is not of Caucasian descent.

The second time someone asked me this question, the shock was no longer there. “Why don’t you have a Taiwanese accent?” the person asked me.

“I grew up in America,” I explained. I had grown accustomed to the question; I had realized that the circumstances abroad and back in America are different; many people haven’t met that many Asian-Americans or other third-culture individuals. I was simply not used to the question; since asking this same question to an Asian-American or to an Asian who has never lived in an English-speaking country would yield very different results.

This question underlies the assumption that the askee is a foreigner– something that would be considered racist towards Asians who have always lived and grown up in an English environment. That’s why this question is acceptable when asked to Asians who have not grown up in an English environment; the asker is wondering how they acquired their English ability.

Once I came to understand how different people would react to this question, I began to understand. The assumption that I couldn’t possibly be American, the assumption that I couldn’t possibly be a native English speaker was what angered me. This assumption would be unacceptable in America, due to the ethnically and culturally diversified demographic. However, this is not the case in Japan, or in any homogeneous society. It is natural to assume that people are not third-culture individuals, or that people’s nationalities and upbringing match their ethnic and cultural background. It is natural to assume that I’m not American.

So if someone asks me this question, I’ll just take the compliment and say that their English is good too.

Publications, The Metric

[The Metric] Japan’s Gender Equality: Sexual Harassment and Victim Blaming

Japan’s failure to address gender equality contradicts its image as a developed nation

Written for The Metric

In June 2018, Japan won a shocking victory against Columbia by 2-1. Crowds of excited fans filled the bustling streets of Shibuya, partying late into the night. The next morning, news broke: sexual harassment complaints filed to the police jumped by a fold after one night. According to a Yahoo Japan article that was published the next day, during the commotion in the Shibuya Crossing area after the victory, many women were groped and harassed, resulting in a large number of sexual harassment claims filed to the police and comments on Twitter and other social media portals. One user on Twitter complained that she was groped around five times; another said the touches were not accidental, but with intention. The article also stated that it was against the law to touch people or their belongings in public places, citing Tokyo’s Prevention Ordinance Article 5, paragraph 1, number 1. It also stated that such acts are considered a crime.

What was more shocking was not merely the reports, however, but the social media comments in response to the incident. The top comment with more than 16000 upvotes simply states, “It would better if they [women] don’t go [to such places.]” Other comments follow, such as “Women shouldn’t go to these places alone,” or “Women have to be careful and be aware of the risk.” Another one reiterates these sentiments: “Well, that can’t be helped.”

The blatant victim blaming in social media comments illustrated Japan’s failure to reduce the gender gap and showed that the lack of direct action against aggressors inhibits Japan from progressing to a more equal society. While there are laws against sexual harassment, it is seldom enforced and often overlooked in both work and school environments. The axiom, “Boys will be boys” and “It can’t be helped.” is often used to dismiss patriarchal and predatory behavior. More importantly, many cases of harassment are often not reported due to the fear and shame of victim-blaming and the failure of the government or police force to resolve such circumstances.

The FIFA incident is a sharp contrast from Japan’s international image as a forward, economically powerful country. Japan is the world’s third largest economy in terms of nominal GDP, third largest automobile manufacturer, and largest electronic goods industry. It is known as a leading nation in technology and innovation. Its distinct culture and society also drew in 28.69 million tourists in 2017, according to JTB Tourism. Japanese popular culture such as Japanese cinema, manga, anime, music, fashion, and video games has shaped Japan’s image abroad as a distinct nation and tourist-favorite scenic destination.

Yet, despite all of its economic glory, Japan still struggles with gender equality; it is ranked 114th in gender equality based on the Global Gender Gap Report published by the World Economic Forum in 2017. The report measures gender equality based on the “relative gaps between women and men across four key areas: health, education, economy and politics.” Japan is ranked last out of the G7, the group of seven major economies. Out of the four key areas, Japan is ranked first in health, 74th in education, 114th in economic participation and opportunity, and 123rd in political empowerment. Japan’s main reason for a low score is due to large gender gaps in terms of income and job promotions, as well as low proportions of women in politics, such as female lawmakers, politicians, and Cabinet members. Despite Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to introduce female-centric economic policies dubbed “Womenomics,” Japan’s ranking in gender equality is still extremely low compared to other developed economies.

Japan attempts to improve gender equality by creating policies that bring more women into the workforce, citing that a higher female labor force participation will bring economic growth. Prime Minister Abe pushed “The Act on Promotion of Women’s Participation and Advancement in the Workplace” in April 2016 as part of his economic policy reform. And in that aspect, it was successful in bringing more women to the workforce, from 67.8% in 2012 to 72.7% in 2016, according to the Gender Equality Bureau. However, while more women are in the workforce, there are still a lack of women in executive, management, and senior positions in companies and the government. Only 3.7% of Japanese company executives are women, and only two of Abe’s Cabinet of twenty are women. According to BBC News, Only 10% of lawmakers in the House of Representatives are women.

Japan cannot simply achieve better gender equality by stating that more women in the workforce help improves the economy. Gender equality should be achieved for the sole goal of improving the lives of both women and men in society. What Japan needs is to recognize that the problem lies within the daily lives of Japanese men and women and start to eliminate microaggressions and condemning sexist behavior, such as victim blaming. As a developed nation with the world’s third largest economy, Japan needs to recognize that its lack of gender equality in every aspect of the daily lives of Japanese people poses a risk to not only the economy, but also the well being of Japanese society.