An Inside Look at QUEST2Japan

By: Grace Cha (Q24)

This school year for the QUEST2Asia study abroad trip, the program took 21 students to Japan. Japan is known as the birthplace of the total quality management (TQM) movement. Naturally, Japan would be the perfect destination for QUEST’s 25th year. Students went on various cultural and corporate site visits in Kyoto, Tokyo, and Osaka. Outside of the class, students got to explore the city and participate in fun activities, such as a tea ceremony or sushi-making class. Read on to learn about two students, Ivy Xia (Q25, Marketing) and Dominick Montero (Q24, Aerospace Engineering), and their experiences in Japan this past winter break:

Ivy Xia in front of temple

Ivy Xia in front of a temple

1. Why did you decide to go on the QUEST2Japan trip?

Ivy: I’ve always wanted to visit Japan. My interest to explore the Japanese culture stemmed from my love for Japanese cuisine, and a QUEST trip sounded like an enriching learning experience in addition to the cultural components.

Dominick: This program gave me a reason to travel to East Asia, somewhere I haven’t been before. I’ve been to Europe and Latin America, and I feel that Japan would have a different perspective because its history and roots are drastically different. I wanted to see how people would think and act in an East Asian country. I also was able to build my winter vacation around the trip and got to stop by South Korea as well.

2. What was your favorite corporate/cultural site visit?

Ivy: My favorite corporate visit was to Kodenshi corporation, a manufacturer of semiconductors. Our hosts really exemplified Japanese hospitality and made us feel like the most important and valued visitors. We were welcomed by a staff of over 10 people, including the founder of the company. We were able to see the clean room and the various facilities, which gave us really valuable insight into the operation of the company.

Dominick: The corporate visit to Toyota. The employees took us on a tour of the factory, where we witnessed the final stages of assembly building. We got to look over the entire factory on an overhead walkway. At one point, we got to complete fun tasks testing our hand coordination and agility. It was really interesting to see how Toyota implemented small kaizens (improvements) – such as line robots or kanban flashing lights – and how it could significantly impact their overall efficiency.

Dominick Montero in Niseko

Dominick Montero in Niseko

3. What were your main “QUEST” takeaways from the trip?

Ivy: The main QUEST takeaway was the application of quality management and Kaizen (continuous improvement) principles in businesses. While Japan is a leader in innovation and quality, there are significant differences in business operations between Japan and the U.S. The business visits shed light on the effects of culture in business.

Dominick: On a soft skills level, I would say that a main takeaway was understanding the importance of different perspectives and balancing that with your own. For example, Japan has a different approach in certain areas that we could apply here in the U.S., but there are also things that we do that could work in Japan as well. In QUEST, we intuitively learn about team dynamics through our projects – and how to better work together. It was inspiring to see how people in Japan work together like cogs in a machine.

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