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An Exhilarating Journey with UNIQLO in Japan
Author:Yinglun Liu  Date:2015-06-16  Clicks:

Taking a short, Ferris Buellerian time off from my hectic month at school, I embarked on a trip to a country I had never set foot in—Japan. As a winner of UNIQLO’s 2014 scholarship program, I was lucky to be selected as a team member of the College Student Delegation to UNIQLO’s headquarter in Tokyo. In our tight 4-day schedule, we were arranged to meet with the CEO of the company, Mr. Yanai and with the Chinese envoy at Japan, visit the UNIQLO store at Ginza and tour through the most visited sites in the world’s most fashionable city.

Upon landing in Tokyo, we were greeted by the very epitome of the country—silence and order: everyone was whispering in order not to disturb others and the queue on the escalator steps was strictly to the left in case someone in a hurry needed to dash up. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Before we realized anything, we were already lowering our voices and uttering smiling ‘hai’s (‘ok, good’ in Japanese) with nodding heads. The city itself, seen through the shuttle bus windows, slowly unravels and reveals its reality—crowded with matchbox-style buildings of various heights, no openings on each side of the blocks—but there seemed to be concord in babel, unity in messiness, and a certain invisible but ubiquitous rule.

On our first day we were invited to UNIQLO’s headquarter in Roppongi. In the gray skyscraper overlooking the Tokyo Tree and the 2016 Tokyo Olympics Sports Complex, UNIQLO had in store for us the hall of fame—Signed posters, tennis balls, sports outfits even golf clubs by Novak Djokovic, Adam Scott and other sports stars who represented UNIQLO’s sports collection. The posters were framed and displayed on every wall of the 28th floor. The legend is that all those valuables are gifts left by the sports stars every time they visited the company. And in the afternoon, we had the privilege to meet with the person who made it into the Hall of Fame of retailing industry—CEO of Fast Retailing (Parent Company of UNIQLO), Mr. Yanai. At age 66, Mr. Yanai still has the vigor and ambition of a 30-year-old. It is often difficult for people to imagine that Mr. Yanai, now the founder of the world’s 4th largest clothing retailing enterprise, self-made billionaire and Japan’s wealthiest person, started from running a small, family business specialized in making suits. In the company’s conference room, he was patient enough to inquire each and every one of us about our dreams for the future. Between exchanging polite smiles and talking about our personal aspirations and his comments, we saw a man with a great vision, determination and abysmal wisdom, characteristics that distinguished him from his rivals.

Tokyo—Seen from Fast Retailing’s headquarter

The next day we were granted the honor to communicate with the Chinese Ambassador to Japan, Mr. Cheng Yonghua. Mr. Cheng has held his post for five years, an achievement quite rare in the diplomatic sphere. Mr. Cheng addressed in his welcoming speech that although these had been one of the most difficult months in the history of the Chinese-Japanese political relations, we still needed to bear in mind that while we can choose our neighbors, we can never choose our neighboring countries. Instead of taking detours and shunning, we should boldly face whatever problems we had  ahead of usand do our utmost to solve them. In the meantime, the task for us college students is to see with our own eyes instead of taking in indiscriminately everything from the mass media. The Ambassador believed we should try to develop our own judgment after real communications with the Japanese people, without accepting any piece of information or commentary featured by the press. In closing the meeting, Mr. Cheng shared with us, for the very first time, as claimed by his secretary, his life experience of promoting from a Japanese Interpreter to the high position of Chinese Ambassador to Japan, reminding us that success comes from nothing but diligence and perseverance.

Having parted with the ambassador, we went on a tour  of Tokyo’s most visited areas: Ginza, Shinjyuku, Shibuya, each marked by their unique vibrancy and style. Shibuya boasts a raw sense of liberty, Shinjyuku a collision of the classy and the sassy, and Ginza the equivalence of New York’s Fifth Avenue. As the dusk was descending, we boarded the ferry that travels to and from the banks of Tokyo Bay where we were served a traditional Japanese cuisine—Words Burn. The dish that once served the dual function of feeding a family and teaching the kids about Japanese Characters seemed to be enjoyed purely as a perfect company for some light Japanese beer, but after all, no change in its function can take away its mother-homemade taste. Sharing the boat with us that day were a dozen youngsters in their twenties, throwing a birthday party for one of the girls. When the birthday cake came out and the birthday girl burst out in tears, we soon found ourselves joining them in singing “Happy Birthday to You” and toasting as if we had been together from the very beginning. As the night grew old, we indulged  in roaring out Chinese jingles and dancing to Chopstick Brother’s “Little Apple” while they clapped and cheered, though sometimes out of rhythm. By standard, we were obviously lost in translation, but in a strange way, at that moment there seemed to be no need for translation at all, and we all knew it, somewhere deep down in our hearts. That, I guess, was what one feels when he opens his heart to another, regardless of nationality, race, gender and everything skin-deep.

(Edited by Diana & Sijia Hu)

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