With the support from the Reischauer Institute, I interned in the disaster risk reduction unit of Kahoku Shimpo, a local newspaper that rose in prominence in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake Disaster. The unit carries out events designed to create productive discussion about disaster risk reduction and keeps tabs on the latest development in the natural disaster area. I was specifically under the supervision of Mr. Takeda, the head of the disaster risk reduction unit.
Under his guidance, I visited a multitude of disaster-stricken areas and local schools, and participated disaster-related education forums. The disaster-stricken areas in particular were so raw and eye-opening; they permanently changed the way that I think about the human experience. After visiting these areas, I returned to the office to write about my experiences.
Mr. Takeda also encouraged me to pursue my interests in the local area and travel to see the sites of the Tohoku region. I traveled to Akita, Ichinoseki, Tokyo, Kyoto, Morioka, and several other places. I also used my time on these days to pursue my interests in agriculture. Kahoku Shimpo connected me to agriculture faculty at Tohoku University, resulting in one-on-one lessons with a prominent agriculture professor, as well as a trip to see local farms and supermarkets with another professor.
Although Kahoku Shimpo is a large, established newspaper company in Sendai, the work culture at the disaster risk reduction is surprisingly forward-thinking. Unlike my experience at other Japanese companies, many of my colleagues encouraged me to take days off just to learn about the history of the region and write about what I saw. While I was encouraged to be diligent, I was in no way subjected to the overwork characteristic of many large Japanese corporations.
This work culture went hand-in-hand with a cohort of incredibly kind people. My colleagues at Kahoku Shimpo went out of their way to introduce me to the local dishes and get me involved in the local festivities, taking me out at least every other day on weekdays. I could always rely on a co-worker to invite me over on the weekend provided I had not already made plans to travel on the weekend. Mr. Hasegawa in particular, my principal caretaker during my time in Japan, was incredibly generous, doing things such as driving me out to the neighboring Yamagata prefecture to eat their famous soba noodles and visit an onsen.
By the end of the internship, I had written ten lengthy published pieces, translated an English website into Japanese, taken a variety of agriculture classes at Tohoku University, built a strong network of people in the Sendai area (including the leading international scholar on disaster management), and significantly improved my Japanese. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at Kahoku Shimpo, and strongly recommend the internship to other students!
You can read his blog posts here: https://www.kahoku.co.jp/special/spe1151/