Highlights From The Japan Trek 2012

The Haas Japan Trek 2012 is coming to a close. First of all, special props to the trip organizers for their hard work, meticulous planning, and amazing coordination. The entire trip was a blast from beginning to end. You can read more here.

As for the highlights and memories? Here’s my list:

  • Walking the streets of Osaka, braving the crowds, and visiting amazing video game arcades with endless claw machines
  • Seeing the red gates of the Fushimi Inari Shrine and hearing our hosts comically bad-mouth Memoirs of a Geisha
  • Learning drinking games from Maiko (Geishas-in-training)
  • Seeing a million cute deer co-exist with humans in Nara
  • Participating in a real live Japanese tea ceremony
  • Riding a bullet train to Hakone and eating an egg boiled in sulfurous, volcanic water
  • Sitting in an onsen (hot spring) with classmates and not feeling too awkward
  • Wearing a pink yukata, like a boss
  • Eating rice balls from 7-Eleven (I don’t care what people say, they are delicious)
  • Seeing all of Tokyo from the observation deck at Roppongi Hills
  • Having a drinking party underneath some cherry blossom trees while Japanese citizens point and take pictures of us
  • Surviving Akihabara (enough said)
  • Staying up all night to see the fish auction at Tsukiji Fish Market and then eating the most expensive (but delicious) sushi in the history of mankind
  • Assorted oddities!
In conclusion, Japan was everything I expected and more. I am really glad that I went. I simply cannot wait to see what trips will be offered next year.

Yokoso! Japan



While many of the Haas students had a relaxing spring break, 33 of us decided to visit the beautiful Japan last week with 4 hours of sleep everyday. Thanks to the excellent planning by our 5 fearless, super-human Japanese classmates, we had the opportunity to experience Japan’s amazing culture, people, and food. Some of the many highlights of our trip include:

Hiroshima Peace Memorial: This was definitely a very humbling experience for all of us. We got to witness firsthand the terrible results of nuclear weapons and wars. We also met with Steven Lloyd Leeper, Chairperson for the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, who encouraged all of us to take part of stopping the development of nuclear weapons.

Itsukushima Shrine: Touring the world heritage shrine with cherry blossoms and wild deers all around us. What more can you ask for?

Kyoto: The best tofu in the world and the beautiful temples are a winning combination.

Sumo Wrestling in Osaka: We witnessed the biggest upset of the Osaka tournament. As the best sumo wrestler in the world, Asashoryu, got pushed out of the sacred ring, the whole stadium went crazy, and people started throwing their seat cushions everywhere. Let me know if you want a video of it.

Toyota Factory Tour: Our visit to the Corolla/IQ factory in Toyota City would have been described by our operations professor as a tour to Disneyland. We all used the terms (flow rate, capacity, bottleneck, kaizen, andon cord, etc.) we learned in the ops class last quarter to describe the Just-In-Time System as it unfolded right in front of our eyes. Our ops professor would have been very, very proud had he heard our conversations with the Toyota tour guide.

Onsen (hot spring) at Atami: We held the first Haas WBC (World Beer Classic) in Japan during dinner. After three rounds of intense and controversial battles, Texas won and Taiwan came in second (I only wish I drank just a little bit faster!). Oh, and did I mention that you can’t wear swimsuits in the hot spring?

Ghibli and Sunigami Animation Museums: It was heaven for anime geeks like me.

Tsukiji Fish Market: Wow, just, wow. We left our hotel at 5 am, dodged left and right from the hectic fish cars, and waited for an hour and a half in front of Sushi Dai to enjoy arguably the best sushi in Tokyo (i.e. the world). The sushi took my taste bud through a spiritual journey.

Sony Visit: We enjoyed the showroom, The Square, inside Sony’s headquarter. We also had lunch at the Sony cafeteria, the biggest cafeteria in Japan.

Alumni Party in Akasaka: It was a wonderful ending for our trip as we met with alumni (the keynote speaker was a class of ’82, the year when I was born!), new admits, and prospective students. I was very touched to see the spirit of the Golden Bear is alive and well in Tokyo.

I just want to give a huge thank you again to our student organizers, our alumni, and our sponsors. With sleepy eyes, an extremely happy stomach, and an enriched mind, I encourage all of you to be a part of the Japan Trek next year. It may just be the best trip of your life!

—Eugene Lin

Spring-A Roundup

Since I haven’t blogged in a while, I figured now is a good time go give you all an update on the last few weeks.

Interviews: As I mentioned in a previous post, I am a student admissions interviewer this year. I had my first few interviews before Super Saturday and then three interviews on Super Saturday. I won’t talk about the actual interviews here, but the entire process was both really interesting and very rewarding. The admissions office did a great job training us interviewers, making sure we were all on the same page when it came to assessing candidates, and while the interview process is challenging not just for the candidat, but also for interviewers, I felt good getting the chance to influence the next generation of Haas students and helping to ensure that the class of 2011 will be another great class.

Travel: I was back in Germany for a few days in February preparing for my move back home and will go back there over spring break to find an apartment. To make sure I also had some spring break fun, I went to Tulum, Mexico, for a long weekend. Great scuba diving and a very relaxing weekend away from the MBA crowds. (I love my class mates, but sometimes it is nice to get away from everything.)

Classes: The academic semester is going well. I just got back from a great discussion with John Denniston, Partner at Kleiner, Perkins, in my Energy class (directly after a mid-term exam), have been working on a number of interesting group projects, and tried to make sure my OPEC country (Iran) did well in our simulation. We ended up coming out ahead of last year’s Iran team, but were a bit too careful towards the end of the simulation, expecting a breakdown of the cartel. I also just bid on a portfolio of power plants last week for yet another energy markets simulation. We got our portfolio for cheap, but aren’t really sure if we got it for a good price. Other teams were clearly better prepared for the auction, but some of them also got carried away during the bidding process, raising their bids to (what seemed to me like) unreasonably high level. But then, they had pretty fancy spreadsheets, so maybe they actually knew what they were doing.

Other: The last semester is a lot of fun. Trying hard to cram in as many activities as possible. I am actually excited about going back to work this summer, but I already know that I will miss my friends, I will miss Berkeley, and I will miss Haas. Which is why I am trying to get as much out of this semester as possible on all fronts.

—olistrut

Bloggin’ for Social Change

One of the things I love most about Haas is the fact that it’s situated in the bedrock of innovation. The Bay Area / Silicon Valley definitely deserves its global reputation for pushing the envelope in everything from technology to philanthropy to banking to social ventures. People here are allergic to the status quo.

I like to think I’m a burgeoning social entrepreneur–part of a growing cadre of change agents who are passionate about addressing persistent social problems in necessarily new ways, with interventions that are market-based and organizations that are managed (and impact measured) like a good MBA. It’s why I chose to go to b-school, and Haas in particular.

Anyway, two of my fellow first-years with similar interests and I got the opportunity of a lifetime over spring break. We crossed the pond bound for the Skoll World Forum, in Oxford, England, THE gathering of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs. And we didn’t just get to go–we got to blog for it, which was a great excuse to meet and substantively chat with many of my personal heroes. It was an amazing and inspiring experience…Al Gore and Jimmy Carter spoke! And that was just scratching the surface.

This pic is of the three of us (the “Berkeley Bottom Line”) in Paris before the conference started. Check out our blog here if you’re interested in reading more (warning: some of my posts are kinda corny…).

I may not have gotten to work on my tan over spring break, but I couldn’t be more glad that I traded sun and sand for the rain and wind of Europe…

—Omar

Tokyo

Jetlag is kicking in and it is time for me to go to sleep. But I nevertheless wanted to finish this series of posts with a few words about Tokyo.

We were lucky to be in Tokyo just in time to watch Sakura – the Japanese cherry blossoms and over the course of four days had a number of opportunities to see the cherry blossoms and to hang out in under Sakura trees in addition to the usual Tokyo hangout places: Karaoke joints, arcade halls and endless walks in subway stations.

Of course we hit all the typical sightseeing spots (including Tokyo’s fish market), but I really enjoyed just being in the city and experiencing city life in the world’s largest metropolitan area.

I wanted to use this blog post to once again thank the organizers of this trip – 7 of our fellow Haas students. We all had a blast and I will definitely come back to Japan in the future.

Update: Check out Helen’s blog to read about her experience in Tokio as well.

P.S. In case you wondered, the post titles all refer to song names. I have only picked those songs names because they in some way refer to Japan, so please disregard any other connotations they might or might not have.

  • Turning Japanese was originally recorded by the Vapors in the 80s.
  • Big in Japan is another 80s song, this one by Alphaville.
  • Tokyo is a song written and recorded by the Swedish band Local Boys.(The last link starts the MySpace music player immediately – so don’t open it at work.)

—olistrut

Big in Japan







I arrived back in Berkeley this morning with a slight cold and major sleep deprivation. I had planned to post more during our Japan trip, but all the activities left little time to go on-line.

Osaka had proven to be quite a party spot, but given our jetlag we had decided to skip the large clubs on Saturday night and instead ended up at a concert of a Japanese hardcore band in a small bar and watched about 25 Japanese kids headbanging. We left Osaka on Sunday morning for Kyoto, but not without enjoying Japanese breakfast at a street stall first.

After a short train ride from Osaka to nearby Kyoto – one of the historical cultural centers of Japan – we arrived at our first “real” hotel and met with the rest of the group and the trip organizers, 7 Japanese Haas students. We took the afternoon off to explore our surroundings and visited a few of the mandatory shrines and temples. I was particularly impressed with the “womb” at Kioyomizudera, a small tunnel underneath the temple that we got to explore in complete darkness, clinging to a cord on the side on the path to make sure we wouldn’t just bump into a wall or wander around in circles.

That evening, we had our first group dinner at a local restaurant, enjoyed plenty of Sake, and ended up at a Karaoke bar later.
Given that we spent half the night singing Karaoke, it was tough to get up Monday morning, but we made it to the train station in time and took the Shinkansen to Hiroshima, about 90 minutes away from Kyoto, where we visited the famous Itsukushima Shinto shrine and the impressive Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum commemorating the first ever nuclear attack of 1945. After returning to Kyoto we joined the rest of the group for dinner in Kyoto’s geisha district and watched the performance of a Geisha and a Meiko.

Tuesday was reserved for more excursions in Kyoto and I decided to went to a local market before we left for Arima where we stayed at a traditional Japanese hotel, enjoyed a bath in a Japanese Onsen and had a fabulous 15-course Japanese dinner.

Wednesday saw our only “real” business related activity: We visited Toyota’s Tsutsumi plant to observe first-hand some of the priciples we had learned in our operations class just a few weeks earlier, took a brief look at Toyota’s trumpet-playing robot and then met with two Toyota executives for a Q&A session.

—olistrut