My Internship at the Office of Congressman Seishiro Eto
A few days before the first day of work at the Office of Mr. Seishiro Eto, I was very nervous. As a Japanese citizen, living in America since the age of three, my Japanese language skills had really suffered and I was nervous of my incompetence of doing work in Japanese. I had taken Japanese classes for two years at Rutgers University , in order to improve my writing and reading skills, but I did not feel that it was enough to work in a Japanese Office environment. I was worried that my actions, wording, and attitude would be too Americanized for the Japanese environment. Although I had these nervous thoughts running through my mind when I arrived, I did not leave with the same anxious feelings. The people who work at the office are friendly, sincere, and very helpful. Even from the beginning of the first day, each member of the office explained to me, with a smile, about the workings of the Japanese government, the election process for Diet membership (the election system, campaigning, etc.), upcoming elections, and the current political issues that are being discussed in the LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) and the National Diet. In addition to their explanations of the government system and political issues, they also gave me a tour of the LDP Building and the National Diet Building . In the LDP building, I had the opportunity to see the press room, the office of the president of the LDP, and I even got to sit in and listen to the meetings where the representatives of different prefectures and towns discussed and shared ideas concerning finance and budgeting. In the National Diet Building , I was given a tour of the room where the national finance and budget is discussed, the room the Emperor rests when he visits, the Cabinet room, the House of Representatives, and much, much more. The National Diet Building was beautiful and truly allowed me to absorb the history and culture behind the Japanese Government system and helped me develop a new appreciation for Japan .
While working in the office, I got the chance to see the inner workings of a Japanese Congressman’s office. I was given different tasks and jobs to do and through these responsibilities, I began to realize how important behind the scene work is in a politician’s office. Although some of my jobs were as simple as checking the name, position, company name, company address and telephone number of a postcard with their reply regarding their attendance to a seminar, these contacts are vital for a politician’s survival in the political world. As my boss states, “A politician’s life depends on contacts,” even one simple mistake of the name or address can change the relationship between the contact and Congressman, so it is necessary to continually update the contact directory whenever possible. In addition to updating the directory, I was able to see the role that the media played in the office. Since politicians are always in the eyes of the public, even the slightest move is questioned by the press. In order to pacify the inquisitiveness of the media, the members of the office answered phone calls from reporters and met with journalists and reporters in the place of Mr. Seishiro. It was interesting to see how many phone calls from different media networks the office received in a day when the spotlight was on our Congressman. In order to have a good image from the public, the office needed to respond quickly and effectively to media attacks. Although difficult, the people working here did respectfully work with the media to strengthen or maintain Mr. Seishiro’s good image and media coverage. Additionally, working in the office environment has allowed me to recognize the importance of information. Since the office needs to efficiently maneuver around media attacks and other situations, it is necessary for everyone in the office to know all information at all times. There needs to be unity between the workers and the information needs to be up-to-date. To ensure that everyone is informed, there are newspapers being read in the morning and the television is turned on and tuned into the news station at 9am, 11:30am, and at 5pm. Although none of these actions are seen in the public’s eye, they are all crucial to run an organized politician’s office.
Through this internship, I also got to see and experience the differences between the American office environment and the Japanese office environment. In an American office, each worker has their own work space and each person does the work that they are assigned to. In Japan, everyone works in the same room, right next to each other with no wall separating each worker, if your boss is out in a meeting, you are given the responsibility of answering questions and phone calls that he or she would receive, and the final difference is that the workers in an office in Japan are metaphorically regarded as family members and when speaking to people outside of the company about a member of the office, even if they are your boss, you use the casual language. Using the casual language when speaking about someone above you is usually regarded impolite but it is considered strange when you use the polite language when talking about your co-workers and boss to people outside of the company. The two differences arise from the cultural difference between the two countries. America is a country that strives from individualization. In fact, America ‘s education system is based on developing an individual and since it is such a multicultural country, the education system is built to truly let the student’s unique abilities shine. Since the country’s fabrication is based on individuality, the work environment also reflects this by providing each worker their own space to work in. In contrast, Japan is a country based on unity, equality and fairness. Even from the first day of school, students are required to purchase a specific type of backpack, hat, and shoes to walk around in school with, almost all middle schools and high schools have uniforms, and the students begin and end the day at the same time as every other student. This is done in order to make sure all students feel accepted and not left behind because of differences. Since Japanese people are educated to be similar to one another, it is not questionable to have an office where everyone is sitting next one another and able to see each other’s faces. Even though these dissimilarities in culture and offices exist, both working environments contain strengths and weaknesses and it was interesting to be able to analyze and understand why each system works in each country.
In addition to learning about the Japanese Government System and Politics, I was also able to obtain a better understanding of Japanese culture. Through different conversations at the office, I learned the various traditions that Japanese people continue to uphold all the way to the current messenger trends among the younger population of Japan . Getting a better understanding of Japanese culture helped me relate and value my own culture more. This internship has given me the opportunity to return and immerge myself into my own culture that I have been away from for many years.
I am very grateful for Mr. Seishiro Eto and the people working at the office for providing me with this wonderful opportunity. I want to thank them for teaching me about the inner workings of Japanese politics and government, giving me the chance to meet different people and to expand my networking, but more importantly allowing me to acquire a deeper understanding of my own culture and heritage. I hope to be able to put this valuable experience I gained through this internship towards my future.