by Professor George Sanchez
Today’s travels took us to two of the leading corporations in Japan in two very different industries. Our final stop in Nagoya was to the leading Toyota auto manufacturing plant outside the city limits, where we were greeted by the head of the plant and many top officials. After hearing about what kinds of cars they build for domestic and global markets, we toured the most highly automated assembly line any of us had ever seen. Robots moved car parts to their respective positions, while a much trimmed workforce placed the parts in their appropriate position. We were impressed with the stated commitment to both eco-friendly cars and to those for “welfare”—largely the elderly and disabled in Japan—in which each car is customized for the individual’s disability. One student, Henry Franco, asked whether this technology could be exported to the U.S., since it doesn’t appear to be a conscious market in the U.S. We did not get a straight answer for the corporate representatives, but on the trip to the train station, we came to understand that this is a highly expensive market serving individual needs which is highly subsidized by the Japanese government through individual welfare. For the U.S. to have this technology would require much greater investment in the aged and disabled by the U.S. government to serve their needs by working with automakers.
After saying goodbye to our wonderful hosts in Nagoya, we traveled on the bullet train back to Tokyo and our “home away from home” at the Weekly Mansion Akasaka. Quickly leaving our bags, we walked to Sony Computer Entertainment Headquarters, where Hoon Kim, a USC alumnus had prepared our afternoon activities. He told us about his own journey through entertainment and sports agencies, landing him now as the Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Communication for Sony Corporation. We then toured the creative gaming studio, with parts that looked both like a regular corporate cubicle environment and state-of-the-art production and recording studios. Finally, Hoon had set us up to actually play some brand new and not-yet-released games, which thoroughly captured the students’ attention and competitive streak. Hoon Kim encouraged the students to take full advantage of every opportunity that presents itself, and we left feeling like we had been given quite an inside look at two of Japan’s leading creative corporations.