The School Visit
I was thrilled to receive an invitation to attend a three-day conference on technology and innovation in Tokyo. The sponsors paid for my travel and accommodation, and it would be an excellent opportunity to meet my manager and my colleague, Tsukamoto-san.
Tsukamoto-san is exceptional. I bow down to her for her knowledge and experience in the public policy space. I looked forward to meeting her in person for the first time.
I sent a note to her about my Tokyo travel. She immediately responded that I should extend my stay by another three days to look around Tokyo. I sought the permission of my manager, who is always willing to support me, and he made a brilliant suggestion to spend time with my Japanese colleagues and a few customers and provide an Indian perspective during my stay. Tsukamoto-san helped me with an itinerary for three days, including visiting a few cultural sights and customer meetings, including a visit to Kamakura Buddha. I requested her to help me see a public school as I heard a great deal about the Japanese schooling system. She readily agreed and included it in my itinerary.
After completing my three-day official schedule, I met my colleague at the hotel reception. After exchanging a few pleasantries, she gave me the plan, and as requested by me, she arranged a visit to a school. When I looked at the printed sheet in front of me, I was visiting a business ‘ school’ and not a regular school. My heart missed a beat. I trembled like a leaf, and the sweat started breaking from every pore of my body. I realised my mistake of not communicating my intent to my colleague. It was too late to make any cancellation or a new appointment. She was very kind to accompany me to the Graduate School of Business, Rikkyo University.
During the one hour drive, my head was swirling as I had not done any preparation for the business school visit. My mind was in a state of unrest, and I could not stay still in the car. I kept reticent, looking outside, and I could not explain my predicament to her as she had put considerable effort to get the appointment. I was nervous, and imaginary tactics for the day flashed again and again in my mind.
A blackboard with my name welcomed me at the business school entrance, and two students were waiting to receive me at the gate. They greeted me with a deep bow and escorted me to Dean’s office. I soon realised that special reception in a typical Japanese fashion was waiting for me while walking literally ‘naked’ into unknown territory. I felt like a soldier entering a battleground without knowing what to expect.
An assembly of the Business school staff dressed very formally, bowed respectfully to me in Japanese tradition as I walked in. A tea session followed the round of introductions. In the brief conversation, I could infer that the staff have considerable knowledge and experience in business teaching, and I felt small in front of these experts.
During the tea break, the Dean whispered into my ear that students were waiting in the next room and I needed to spend the whole day with them. The new development rattled me, and I felt like Mona in the Disney movie where she faces Tek ha while locating Tefi Ti. While it is easy to guess the ending of Mona’s story, I could not imagine my day end. I want to run away and hide somewhere others can not see. Because of the air-conditioning in the room, the others could not see me sweating. After another round of bows, the rest of the staff left, leaving the Dean and me. The Dean led me to the classroom where the students had assembled. I walked into the next room like a goat with a red ribbon heading to a slaughterhouse with faltering steps and nervous enthusiasm. My face lit up as soon as I saw my colleague following me, and she was like a messenger sent from heaven as she spoke Japanese and English. She gave me an admiring glance as I met the group of students — six boys and six girls, laughing as I entered the room. There was murmuring and whispering while my face lowered as if I faced a strong wind. The Dean took a deep bow left us with the students.
How did I perform? You need to check with the students.