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The Big Picture San Diego Blog


Reflections from Japan

June 14, 2013

By Jennifer Storm
 
Breweries and biotech companies abound. Strong public/private collaboration. A modernized downtown. A breathtaking waterfront. Until I came back from Yokohoma, Japan last week, I thought San Diego was the only place where this existed.
 
I was representing EDC as part of the World Trade Center San Diego’s trade mission to Japan, along with BIOCOM and San Diego Regional Airport Authority, to learn about further strengthening ties between the two regions. Last week, I boarded a plane at Lindbergh Field. Nearly 12 hours later, on one of the most immaculate airplanes I have ever seen, I stepped foot in Narita Airport in Tokyo thanks to Japan Airlines' direct service. A few days and a bus ride later I found myself on the way to Yokohoma, Japan – San Diego’s sister city. 
 
From an economic standpoint, it’s an optimal time to launch flight service between San Diego and Japan. Much like the U.S., Japan is climbing out of recession. As such, they’ve adopted liberal spending policies – known as Abe-nomics –to spur investment and growth, so there is a strong potential for increased foreign direct investment .  
 
YokohamaWhile in Yokohoma, Japanese business leaders exhibited their strong interest in partnering with San Diego companies. We were met with a delegation of 40 business leaders who had ties to San Diego or were interested in creating them. The strong link between Yokohama and San Diego was very apparent- I even met the sole distributor of Stone Beer in Japan! 
 
Traveling to Japan also helped me put things in perspective back home. It’s amazing how two distinct countries could have so much in common, yet also have the opportunity to learn so much from one another. The infrastructure in Japan is outstanding. You can move from one place to another with absolute ease.  This is something we’re working on in San Diego, but admittedly, we’re just not there yet.
 
On the other hand, while touring a biotech company, I had the opportunity to chat with one employee who had previously spent time at the Salk Institute. He noted that although he prefers Japan on a personal level, he misses the creative freedom of working in the U.S.  If he discovered something while in his lab at Salk, he had the freedom to explore that opportunity, in the hopes that it would lead to further research. Although it varies from company to company, he echoed that Japan has more of a regimented work environment. 
 
Although each city has excelled in similar industries, we have a lot of lessons to learn from each other. After all, isn’t that what siblings are for?
 
To learn more about San Diego’s most recent business delegation to Japan, you can read Joe Panetta’s guest column in the U-T.