May 2014 - Vikingess Voyages

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Working at Rakuten - Introduction Training (研修) Summary!

10:45:00 PM

This week was the last week of the initial training period (研修) for Rakuten's April 2014 New Graduates Group. We were 279 new-grads who joined the company on April 1st, and together we have been working on different projects to adjust ourselves to the working culture and life at Rakuten. 
Throughout the training we have learned a lot about doing business in Japan, and the courses we have had covered a wide range of topics such as Japanese business manner, omotenashi, the Rakuten Shugi, lectures from executive officers, and even a Q&A session with Rakuten CEO Hiroshi Mikitani.

In this blogpost I'm going to write a little bit about my experiences during these two months. I will not go too much into detail about the training due to confidentiality issues, but feel free to ask me any question you might have and I'll try my best to answer!

After a couple of weeks our large group with new employees was divided into 4 groups; the Domestic Merchant Development Group, the International Merchant Development Group, the Taiwanese Merchant Development Group and the Japanese Language Group. 

Group 1: The Domestic Merchant Development Group
The job of the Domestic Merchant Development Group was to contact merchants in Japan asking them about their interest in selling on Rakuten Ichiba, and the goal was for each new employee to get one company to sign up. As Rakuten already has more than 40.000 merchants selling their products on Rakuten's e-commerce site it is pretty hard for new Japanese companies to stand out in the crowd, so in that sense it must have been a pretty tough job to convince the merchants to join Rakuten.

Group 2: The Taiwanese Merchant Development Group
The Taiwanese Merchant Development Group was sent of to Taiwan to recruit merchants to join the Taiwanese version of Rakuten. The people selected for this training were native Chinese speakers either from China or from Taiwan.

Group 3: The Japanese Language Group
The Japanese Language Group had *surprise, surprise* Japanese language lessons during their training! This group consisted of foreigners who only had basic knowledge of Japanese, and only 7 new-grads were selected for this group.

Group 4: The International Merchant Development Group
I was selected to be a part of the International Merchant Development Group, a new initiative that was initiated last year with the October '13 New Grads. Our group comprised of 32 people divided into 6 teams, and our job was to contact American merchants to ask about their interest in selling their products to Japan through Rakuten Ichiba. This initiative just started last autumn so it was a new and exiting project to be a part of. 

32 members of the International Merchant Development Group
We were divided into teams of 6-7 members + 1-2 mentors, and my team ended up choosing the slightly humorous team name "All Nighters". We had to work night shifts in order to contact the American merchants due to the time difference, and that is how we got the idea for the group name..! The great thing about this training is that we got to talk directly to CEOs from a lot of interesting and unique companies! But although I learned quite a lot during the process I have to say I'm really happy that this training only lasted for 6 weeks.. Night shifts is not something I would like to do as a regular job to be honest, it is quite tiring.
The Rakuten All Nighters!
But although the training itself was pretty tough we bonded very well as a team. Everybody really did their best to perform well and support other team members, and I felt really proud of working with such talented and ambitious people. I'm convinced that I've made some really great friends, and hopefully we'll be able to stay in touch with each other also after we have been assigned to different departments.
Our 7 members + 2 mentors
So as I've already mentioned, this week our initial training period was finally over! On Friday we had a placement ceremony (配属式) where our superiors announced our future departments, and for the 32 members of the International Merchant Development Group most people were assigned to Rakuten Ichiba. This is the biggest department in Rakuten, so it was not really that surprising. Other departments people in my group was placed in included Rakuten Travel, Rakuten Card, Rakuten Marketing Japan, and finally the Creative & Web Design Department. Members of the DU (Engineering New Grads) have also been a part of the same training program as the Business New Grads (BU), but they get their placement results later as they will have their own training program starting from next week.
Got assigned to Rakuten Travel. In the background: The Rakuten Shugi
I got assigned to Rakuten Travel along with 23 other new-grads (among them 3 foreigners)! I'm pretty happy about my placement, and I think that it will be a really interesting place to work. I already had the opportunity to talk to some of my sempais, and they seem to enjoy their job a lot. So far so good.! 
Getting ready to change office 
Goodbye to the large office we have had our first training at!
I still would have to say that in general I do think that Rakuten is a very stereotypical Japanese company in many ways. There is a lot of focus on reaching the monthly KPI, and although the company is trying to become global there is still a long way to go. Unless you are prepared for long working days (sometimes you might even have to stay until the last train) you might find the work in this company pretty tough. From what I've heard from others working in the company there is a huge gap in the working conditions depending on departments, so you might be lucky and end up in the more international parts of the company where they're better at providing their employees with life-work balance but you might also be very unlucky and end up in the departments where you'll have little spare time outside of work.

Luckily Rakuten Travel is known as one of the more foreigner-friendly departments at our company so hopefully I'll be fine. From now on my Rakuten Travel group is going to have another month of training before we get to know our actual position in the company. I look forward to the training and I'll be back with more blogposts about my experiences here in Japan.

As always, thanks for taking your time to read my blogpost! I really appreciate all the comments and feedback I receive from you guys^^

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Rakuten Café (楽天カフェ) Grand Opening in Shibuya

11:19:00 PM
Rakuten is most known in Japan and throughout the world with its “online shopping mall” model where merchants are the ones who are making the actual sales. But on this Thursday (May 29th) Rakuten will have a grand opening of its first physical entity: The Rakuten Café!

Situated about 7 minutes away from Shibuya Station the café offers bestselling dishes and drinks from Rakuten’s e-commerce platform at a reasonable price. The café can thus be a great place for those who are interested in trying out some of Rakuten's most popular items.

The café offers you free wifi and has power sockets for all the seats, and has event spaces in the second and third floor. Various events will be held at the café, such as a Umaimono Taikai. The café is also a window for Rakuten to promote a wide range of its services such as the Kobo eReader. Another example is that people who order using their Rakuten Card can get 50% off their coffee or tea (Apply for a Rakuten Card and get 7777 Rakuten Super Points). You can apparently also earn Rakuten Superpoints just by visiting the café.

Address:東京都渋谷区神南1-20-6 Ma Maison(マ・メゾン)渋谷公園通りビル13F
Access7 min from Shibuya Station
Opening Hours11:0023:00

Monday, May 26, 2014

第5回東京蚤の市: Blancway Tea Store

10:45:00 PM
少し前に 東京オーヴァル京王閣で行われた

A little while back I participated in the 5th Tokyo Flea Market (東京蚤の市) held in Keioukaku Velodrome (京王閣, also known as Tokyo Oval Keiokaku) together with my friend Chiaki, who was displaying products from her store Blancway.

Nordic Tea

Chiaki opened up her own store two years ago, and now she is selling Nordic tea and Nordic goods in Shibuya. Her main product for the stand at Tokyo Flea Market was Swedish tea, and she had among other things brought with her tea that is served at the Nobel Banquet.
 I participated on the second day of the flea market, and by then there was already a number of her products that had been sold out.

I had a lot of fun helping out selling tea at the flea market. But although it is interesting to talk about the different types of teas to the customers it is hard to be able to properly explain the technical details related to the tea in Japanese. I guess I have to keep on working to improve my language skills..!

Various Swedish tea
Cute Swedish tea houses
You can visit my friend Chiaki's store through the links below!


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Norwegian 17. May Celebration in Tokyo 2014 - 東京でのノルウェー憲法記念日

9:34:00 AM
On the 17th of May we celebrate Norway's National Day in Norway and in Norwegian communities around the world, and for the third time I had the opportunity to celebrate the day at the Norwegian Embassy in Hiroo. This day also marked 200 years since the Norwegian Constitution was written in Eidsvoll. The Norwegian Constitution was actually written in May 1814, which makes it the oldest European constitution that is still in use. It is also the second oldest constitution in the world after that of the United States, which it was inspired by. In 1814 the Norwegian Constitution was a groundbreaking document that ensured a strong focus on human rights, freedom of speech, gender and equality. 17. May marks a day that laid the foundation for the modern Norway and Norwegian democracy.
The Ombudsman for Children Anne Lindboe (left) holding a speech at the Embassy
Norwegian style buffet
The Norwegian Constitution Day is in a way also Norway's largest festival. It is a day for delicious food, great company, children's parades, music and fun. Although people have different traditions depending on for instance place and family background there are some things like salmon, sausages and waffles with the Norwegian brown cheese "brunost" that is a must for most Norwegians on this day.
Norwegian Salmon
Celebration by the Embassy pool
The Constitution Day is also known as a Children's Day, as the day is filled with games and activities for children. Children's parades is a common sight throughout the country, and Norwegian communities abroad also make their own small parades. Tokyo is not an exemption, although we unfortunately didn't have live music like in the parades back in Norway.
Norwegian parade in Tokyo
My bf and me outside the Embassy
Another thing that is special about the Norwegian Constitution Day is that it is a great opportunity to have a look at the Norwegian traditional costumes called bunad. Every area in Norway has its own unique bunad, and you can even tell a person's hometown by looking at their bunad. My bunad comes from the city Bergen on the west coast of Norway where I partly grew up, and where all my relatives live. If you look at the picture above you can see the traditional houses from Bryggen on the belt.

Some safety guards watching our parade with great interest
Although the Embassy only can open its doors to a limited number of people there are alternative places such as the Norwegian Cafe Fuglen where one can participate in fun celebrations regardless of nationality and background. In our case, after the celebration was over at the Embassy we continued to Bar Acqua Z in Shinjuku where we met up with friends to celebrate more with drinks and Norwegian waffles.! What a great day!
Norwegian party at Bar Acquaz
ノルウェー大使館のお祝いには関係者しか参加することができませんが、他にも憲法記念日をお祝いすることができる場所は幾つかあります。その代表として渋谷のオシャレな「カフェ・フグレン」がありますが、私たちの場合は今年は新宿のBAR ACQUA Z で友達とパーテェーをすることにしました。
Waffles with brunost! So yummy..
Thanks for a great celebration!

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Monday, May 12, 2014

Funny Videos: Ylvis' "Intelevator"

5:14:00 AM
Perhaps you have already heard about the Norwegian comedy duo Ylvis? These are the two guys behind last years' international mega-hit "The Fox". Although the song brought them instant world fame the talented brothers were originally more famous in Norway for their many comedy shows rather than their music.
This is one video based on a prank shown in their TV-show "I kveld med Ylvis" that I personally find quite funny. I specially like how the brothers utilize so many different languages (or imitation of languages) in their prank. Anyway, hope you'll enjoy it;)

Some of you might remember the Ylvis brothers from last years' hit "The Fox"

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

GW Samba Carnival in Tokyo!

4:15:00 AM
There are a lot of events being held in Japan during the so-called Golden Week, a series of national holidays usually held in the end of April/beginning of May. Yesterday I went to a place in Tokyo called Haginaka (萩中) where a friend of mine was going to participate in a Samba Carnival.
Japanese samba ladies!
This was the third time that the event was held, and it seemed like it was very popular by the locals. Although Haginaka didn't exactly seem like the most lively place in Tokyo the shōtengai was filled with young and old spectators. Here are some of my photos from the event:

Thanks to Yoshimi-san for inviting me to the event!

Yoshimi has asked me to come join their samba classes starting from next week. If all goes well perhaps I'll get the chance to dress up and dance at the carnival next year.. Would be fun to at least give it a try.. ^^

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Sightseeing in Saitama: Pink Moss (芝桜) Viewing in Chichibu Hitsujiyama Park (秩父羊山公園)

2:50:00 PM
If your visit to Japan is too late for the hanami season you might want to take a trip to some of the country's pink moss parks to make up for the missed sakura. Although Japan is more well-known for its elegant cherry blossoms (sakura) the pink moss will not disappoint you with its dazzling beauty. In fact, in Japanese this pink moss is known as Shibazakura, a word that can be translated to something like "lawn of cherry blossoms".

Monday, May 5, 2014

Sightseeing in Saitama: Only in Japan - The Mickey Mouse Graveyard..

7:33:00 PM
Minnie Mouse
It is not a surprise that Disney is popular in Japan as most Japanese people love cute things. When it comes to Disney it's basically kawaii all the way, and people buy all sorts of products branded by the company. There's nothing wrong with that, but perhaps there is a limit to how far people's fascination for Disney should go..

About Me

Adventures ofAnette

A modern day shield-maiden who loves to explore the unbeaten paths of the world. From her base in Tokyo, Anette takes on both rural and urban challenges, and goes by the motto "No challenge too big, no adventure too small"!
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