Non-traditional Spring Break for IU PR Students

IU International PR students’ spring-break trip to Japan.

By Angela Solomon

TOKYO–Public relations is all about having a unique message or selling point that makes you stand out.

So, while my friends are spending spring break in typical warm-weather destinations, I’ve been in Tokyo meeting with local communications professionals, experiencing Japanese culture firsthand, and learning about international public relations in one of the most fascinating cities in the world.

I’m a senior at Indiana University and I was selected to be a student in the IU School of Journalism’s International Public Relations course. Taught by Professor Jim Bright, the course focuses on the challenges and opportunities that PR professionals face in East Asia.  While International PR courses at other universities often focus on Western European countries such as England, France, or Germany, IU’s course focuses on Asian countries that are gaining world power.

I believe Asia is where the excitement, growth and potential lie in the 21st century.  We are living in “The Asian Century,” and this course will help us navigate the rapidly changing global landscape.  For the last eight weeks, my fellow classmates and I have been learning about the Japanese media, business practices, government and society to prepare for our weeklong trip to Tokyo.   However, there’s only so much research you can do.  Sometimes, you just need to experience something before you can truly understand it.  Thus – we travel to Japan to begin to understand the Japanese. 

I arrived in Tokyo last Saturday, and ever since, it’s been a whirlwind.  The city seems to define the term “sensory overload” as neon lights, bright colors and flashing screens fill the streets, buildings and subways.  The city is vast, the skyline is endless, and the people – all 8 million of them – fill the streets.

 

Tokyo is both overwhelming and exhilarating, and I already love it.  From touring the temples of Asakusa, to getting lost in the department stores in the Akihabara electronics district and the Ginza shopping area, to eating the best sushi in the world in the Tsukiji fish market, my week has been filled with Japanese cultural experiences.

I took a bus tour around the Imperial Palace, the Prime Minister’s home, the Diet building and the Japanese Supreme Court.  I stood below the neon-lit spectacle of Shibuya Crossing (the Tokyo equivalent of Times Square in New York) and below the peaceful Buddhist shrines in the mountain town of Nikko.  I learned about the local history at the Edo-Tokyo Museum, and made my own okonomiyaki (a popular pancake delight) at a restaurant on Tsukishima’s Monja Street.  I witnessed the parade of Japanese youth culture and fashion in Harajuku, and successfully navigated through Shinjuku Station, the world’s busiest train station.

I’ve been experiencing Tokyo as a young professional and not just a tourist.

I visited the offices of Bloomberg and met with Managing Editor Brian Fowler who talked about Bloomberg News and Japanese media.  I ate dinner at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan alongside AP Bureau Chief Malcolm Foster, Nikkei Shimbun Business Editor Akihiro Tanaka, Hiromi Hemuki of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation and others.

Later, I had dinner with local public relations professionals and with Ian Rowley of Business Week and Press Attaché David Marks of the U.S. Embassy.  I saw David Marks again when I visited the U.S. Embassy to talk with Margaret Conley from ABC News and with U.S. Ambassador to Japan, John Roos.

Talking with these professionals, we discussed the similarities and differences between U.S. and Japanese media, and the role of public relations in each country.

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