Step outside your Comfort Zone and Discover an alternative to your past thought Process and Approach to Research or Work
Professor of Commerce
“My Career from Start to Present”
I recall being quite the average student in undergraduate school. I wasn’t particularly keen to become a researcher. If I stayed in school a little while longer, something might present itself—this hazy sense of optimism propelled me on to graduate school. Soon afterward, I came by the opportunity to study in the United States. Chatting with the graduate students there opened me up to the appeal of research and made me realize that maybe it was the right line of work for me. This was when I took my first steps as a researcher. By the time I completed my master’s thesis, I had developed a real interest in research. It helped that I felt comfortable in the lab. We were given a good deal of freedom in what we would research and how.
After graduate school, I worked for about three years as a part-time lecturer at the Takasaki City University of Economics and the then Meiji University Junior College. Later, I was appointed full-time lecturer at Meiji University, and have been here ever since. I’m a trueborn Meiji man.
In 2013, I joined an overseas program and began a two-year stint as a visiting researcher at Cardiff Business School, in Wales. It offered a great deal of stimulation in terms of research—this much goes without saying. What’s more, I was fortunate to experience the process of building a life from scratch in a foreign country with a completely different set of values, social structure, and culture code. All the methods of perception and understanding I had believed in up to then were shaken to the core. Consumption and lifestyle make up a central theme of my research, and having been able to engage in fieldwork in these areas outside Japan is a huge asset.
“My Research Theme and Its Attractions”
Within the broad field of marketing, I specialize in the branch called marketing research. A market is an arena in which products are bought and sold. Basically, my research involves building models of the goings-on in various markets. I am also part of a group that studies traditional crafts. In recent years, I’ve been conducting fieldwork in regions of Japan that produce porcelain, like Arita, Bizen, and Akazu, and engaging in cross-disciplinary research into the changes in product and industry in chronological order through time and the role of porcelain in regional industrial reconstruction.
I’m attracted to research for several reasons. It’s fun and rewarding to survey various studies and form connections between their lines of reasoning. Sometimes I sit alone in the lab reading the dissertations of famous, distinguished researchers and challenging their logic. No other line of work offers the thrill of verifying theories against data backed by experience. True, it’s disheartening when the results don’t turn out as expected. Either way, I alone take full responsibility. The gloom is mine if results are bad, and the glory is mine if results are good. It’s simple, really. This may be one of the attractions of research.
Personally, I am attracted more to the process of conducting research than the results obtained in the end. I love the satisfaction of seeing the pieces of a puzzle come together, and gaining insight into something I thought I have understood until then but really didn’t. Words can’t express the gratification of this eureka moment.
“Child-Rearing and Work-Life Balance”
As far as time goes, research offers quite a bit of flexibility. It’s ideal for taking on a relatively large share of child-rearing responsibilities. Outside of especially busy periods at work, I myself have done the best to spend as much time as possible with my family. But my efforts are nothing compared to those of British dads. In the United Kingdom, parents arrange transportation to and from elementary school. I imagined the drivers would be mainly moms and quickly discovered I was wrong. It was the dads’ role to get up early in the morning, see their children off at school, and communicate with the teachers. I know, because I witnessed it every day. Since the dads meet daily, many of them get to know each other, speak on a first-name basis, and participate in birthday parties, Halloween parties, and so on. Every dad enjoys spending time with the kids, whether in Japan or the UK. It’s just much easier for fathers to play their part in parenting in the UK, because everyone else does it too.
Another thing I noticed is that the British spend far less time at work than the Japanese. They stop working at 5 p.m. sharp. We should try this in Japan. If everyone went home at five, naturally everyone else would follow suit. A Briton working at a renowned Japanese company once told me about his experience of “Japan time.” He said after 6 p.m. is time for the Japanese members. They alone stayed at the office and carried on working. Apparently we Japanese adhere to our work style even in the UK. Somehow it’s deeply ingrained in our minds that the harder you push yourself and the longer hours you work, the better you are. As far as I could tell, the British didn’t share our belief either at work or at home. I am not saying the British way is always the best way. But I envy the British style of separating work and private life, and making time to enjoy the latter.
“Messages to Students and Young Researchers”
About a month after I arrived in Wales, my daughter had a field trip. She went to an ordinary public school with zero Japanese teachers and pupils. The letter from this school didn’t say whether the field trip required regular school uniform or PE kit, or whether or not my daughter was allowed to bring her own snacks. (I am not joking—Japanese elementary schools give very explicit instructions!) I didn’t want my daughter to feel any different from her friends, so I went to the school and asked the homeroom teacher, who was obviously puzzled. Although she didn’t understand the problem, she offered her best response. “Do you want me to decide every little detail? You know we’re going to a farm. Yasu (that’s me), it’s up to you and Chiharu (my daughter) to choose what to wear and what to do there.” This was a huge eye-opener. It hit me that our Japanese minds are controlled by two blindly accepted notions: somebody else will tell us what to do, and if everybody else is doing it a certain way, it must be the correct way.
The Japanese education system tends to award more points for listening to the teacher and dealing with assignments within the scope of the teacher’s instructions. The system is effective in its own way. The problem is that over the years, it conditions the students to wait for instructions and do as everybody else does. It discourages the students from thinking for themselves and making their own choice. It breeds fathers like me, who can’t make up their own mind about their child’s field trip. One thing I can say to students and young researchers is this: the moment you step out into the real world, you will need to think for yourself and make your own choice. All of a sudden, it won’t matter that you’ve been trained for years not to have a mind of your own. Unfortunately, I can’t offer a solution to save you from the nonsense and confusion that lies ahead. My best advice is to recognize what the future holds and start making your own choices today. Keep at it. I promise you will appreciate it later in life.