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I’d like you all to meet my new boss, Kennedy. You might be thinking, “but Peter, it’s your company! Aren’t you her boss?”

To which I would respond, “Well yes, technically I hired her. But when you hire great people who know more than you about specific areas, it’s best to leave the experts in charge.”

Anyways, my new boss asked me to write a reflection on my recent trip to Japan in October 2022 for our newsletter. So here we go!

My Trade Mission to Japan

A trip to Japan has always been a dream of mine. Although I’ve largely forgotten all the Japanese I took in college, the culture of Japan continues to intrigue me. So I quickly accepted my invitation to participate in a trade mission to Japan.

Trade mission…what? Who put it together? Why? Why would Genesis Feed Tech go?

Those are all excellent questions. The trade mission was lead by the Governor of North Dakota, Doug Burgum, who wrote a reflection about his experience.

“In addition to Burgum, the 35-member trade delegation includes state Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, leadership and staff from the North Dakota Trade Office, North Dakota Department of Commerce, Governor’s Office, Bank of North Dakota, North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota, and representatives from about a dozen North Dakota companies involved in agriculture, energy, manufacturing, technology and aerospace.”

Governor Burgum and others.

Building Partnerships and Support for GFT

Additional fun facts – our group was the first trade mission to Japan from the United States post-pandemic. Also, it was one of the largest delegations to be received there.

So other than a burning desire to go to Japan and an invitation, why did GFT go? We work with feed ingredient buyers from 19 countries globally. Japan isn’t on that list…yet. In the past year we’ve been increasingly taking a closer look at opportunities there both for GFT and our partners. The trip was a low-risk way to evaluate the opportunity in Japan. Aside from the publicity about the trip, here is some of the support we received as a result:

  • Local contacts from the US Embassy (both Commerical Services and Foreign Agriculture Services) worked to setup individual meetings with businesses for us. This is an amazing service available through USCS. I’d highly recommend engaging the Trade Office and Commercial Services to learn more.
  • On-site interpreters for the meetings – because who knows what would have happened if I had tried to conduct the meetings in Japanese!
  • A business concierge who attended the meetings – really helpful in facilitating the meetings, providing feedback, and generally ensuring I didn’t do something foolish.
  • Speaking opportunities – I was able to speak to a group of 200 Japanese businesses about GFT.
  • Networking – we were able to meet business leaders, governmental contacts, and others at various events. One of them was a private reception at the US Ambassador to Japan (Rahm Emmanuel)’s residence

Learning about Trade and Culture

As I mentioned above, I had no idea the level of service that the US Government offices could provide in export markets. It’s an invaluable resource that I plan to utilize in other markets going forward. I made some amazing contacts that will be helpful for future trips with our partners. I also learned how crucial ND exports can play to support Japan’s energy and agriculture industries.

Personally the trip opened my eyes to a love of Japanese culture – from the people to the art and food. It was wonderful to be surrounded by people in a culture that are community and “others” minded. Take the trains for example. I was in NYC this summer and frequently rode the subway trains. It was a dirty, smelly experience with graffiti and other trash. The trains, stations and walkways were spotless. People were courteous along the whole process.

I had a full schedule with meetings but chose to spend a few extra days there to explore. Here’s a sampling of what I was able to do:

  • Visiting the Studio Ghibli museum. Definitely a bucket list thing for me as I’m a HUGE FAN of their movies
  • All the food! Tepanyaki, Onigiri, Sushi (fancy made to order and the conveyor belt kind), Ramen, Okonimiyaki (Japanese pancake), Cremia (fancy Japanese ice cream)
  • The magic of konbini (Japanese convenience stores…they have everything!)
  • Exploring parks and shrines
  • Enjoying a sampling of the many varied neighborhoods in Tokyo
  • Spending two days with a dear friend who lives there

The Most Interesting Things

There were many interesting things about Japan. If I had to pick one (and it should be the most interesting according to my boss) it would be…this is hard to pick…ok I’m going to say the cafes.

I didn’t actually visit any of them but the idea is fascinating. In Japan there are all these themed cafes. Robots, rabbits, cats, owls, or other variations of what I’ll call “companionship cafes”. These are all places where a person can go to enjoy the attention of an animal or a person, and it’s done as a way to relieve loneliness. The marriage rate is low and declining every year. Why and what to do about it is the subject of other articles. But it’s created this commercial response to fill needs for basic conversation and interaction.

Outside of that I enjoyed all the many food experiences I had. I admired the commitment to high quality ingredients, as well as the disciplined methods used to prepare and present food.

That’s all for now! Fun writing this article while I’m in the airport about to board a flight to Spain. Stay tuned for another travel blog…

Catch you next month!

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