International Business
Case Study in Tokyo

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Graziadio Business School: Pepperdine University


7-day study trip to Tokyo, Japan | April 14th-20th, 2019
28 full-time MBA students + 4 faculty members
Initial consultation: 2 months prior to the trip

Client brief:

Participants should gain insights into how business is conducted on the international stage and explore how practices differ between the U.S. and Japan. It is especially important to analyze how American businesses operate when based outside of the U.S. and how American expats have adjusted to cultural differences in Japan.

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To contrast business practices between Japan and the U.S.


From learning about entry models for foreign-affiliated companies at Starbucks to understanding the role of the government in Japan’s business environment at VMware – each event allowed students to interact and compare a wide range of US and Japanese companies and gain an acute overview of the local market.

Based on those gained insights, students could then apply what they had learned to a flash consulting project with, where they were tasked with proposing solutions to various startup challenges. They tackled topics such as improving the user interface, developing strategic partnerships locally, and expanding a Japanese product to a U.S. market.

Meanwhile, debrief sessions held at the beginning of each day provided a fantastic opportunity for the faculty to reinforce key learnings and for students to reflect. These discussions added another dimension to the study trip and ultimately helped to enhance the learning experience.


To contrast business practices between Japan and the U.S.


One of the programs’ successes lay in the way cultural immersion was embedded throughout each event. The students were introduced to several American expats and university alumni who provided unique insights about living and working in Tokyo and the adjustments they have made since moving to the region. Meeting C-level management at Havas Group also taught participants how clearly understanding Japanese culture is crucial in order to influence the population through marketing.

The itinerary paid special attention to events that would enhance the students’ experience. For example, specific ‘cultural’ events including a ‘sumo-themed lunch’ and a culinary evening cooking on lava stones exposed students to the role that tradition plays within Japanese culture and the influence that cuisine has on day-to-day life.

Our group enjoyed a great mix of company visits, cultural events, and camaraderie. But more importantly, I felt like the students had great exposure to the unique corporate and societal culture of Japan.
— Brian Jacobs, Professor, Pepperdine University
Very insightful about Japanese culture from many angles.
— MBA Student, Pepperdine University

Overall students’ trip evaluation


4 out of 5

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