JFTC Essay Competition

Words from Winners of JFTC Essay Competition 2016

It was my great honor to be able to share my ideas and views with JFTC members and the general public via the great platform provided by the Essay Contest. The fact that I was recognized for my ideas and views through the Prize of Excellence was completely unexpected and pleasantly surprising. The Prize encourages me to continue contributing analytical writing to other relevant channels for public consumption, so that those writing can potentially affect mentalities toward, attitudes of, and policies on Japanese globalization in the near future.

What made me apply for JFTC Essay Competition

I applied to the Essay Competition due to my past work experiences that saw suboptimal performance of Japanese firms abroad. In particular, as an employee of Rakuten and an ecommerce startup in Malaysia and Philippines, I witnessed the failure of Rakuten’s China and Southeast Asia ventures. In Africa, the continued decline in influence of Japan, even while its Overseas Development Assistance and private business projects continue. These failures, in my opinion, is not so much due to the lack of business acumen on the part of their Japanese project managers, but lack of suitable localization strategies in the process of globalization. This is the reason I shared many ideas on this subject in my essay entry.

Mr. Xiaochen Su (U.S.A.)

I would like to express my appreciation to the JFTC for organizing this competition. I am honoured to have my essay selected for one of the prizes this year and would like to thank the selection committee for their generous feedback.

What made me apply for JFTC Essay Competition

I started living in Japan as an international student at the start of 2016. During this time, I had many opportunities to travel to places where foreign tourists seldom frequent. Coming from Singapore which has one of the highest population density in the world, it sometimes astounds me how bereft of people, Japan’s suburbanized areas could be. These are the places where the effects of an aging population can be most readily felt.

Singapore will be facing an aging population very soon. We have the 4th lowest birth rate internationally, just one rank behind Japan who is 3rd. Naturally, I was compelled to make observations of how Japan handle this issue and compare it with Singapore. The JFTC Essay Competition was thus a great outlet for me to organize my thoughts and present my ideas. 

The essay called for to Japan to tap on its creativity and strength in technology to develop products that can alleviate the symptoms of an aging population. This idea stems from somewhat selfish reasons. I am pretty sure, many people in Singapore (including myself) might need these types of self-enabling products in future. Having experience some of the amazing products that can only be found in Japan, I hope that the essay can encourage Japan to continue develop these technologies and more importantly, to export them.

Ms. Jiaqi Zhang (Singapore)

I am extremely honoured to be awarded the Prize for Excellence in the JFTC Essay Competition 2016. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the selection committee for choosing my essay to win this prestigious award from a pool of 189 highly qualified essays. I believe that such an international contest could attract new ideas from different perspectives across the globe as it is open to everyone regardless of age, profession, or nationality. This is another think tank that could provide solutions to some of the most serious challenges in Japan, particularly the role of Japan in globalization and international trade. I sincerely hope that a piece of my thoughts could be part of the agenda for the discussion on the strategies for trading in services.

Having won the award, I had a great opportunity not only to visit Tokyo, but also to meet and talk to leaders of the Japanese industry. More importantly, I learned a lot more about the vision of the Japanese companies towards to the global trade in this competitive environment. I believe that Japan will remain an innovator and a market leader in the global market given that Kaizen, the practice of continuous improvement, still holds.

What made me apply for JFTC Essay Competition

I first heard about this contest from the Cambodian Student Association in Japan, and I thought that I would like to participate in the competition one day. Since I am interested in Abenomics ‘Japan Revitalization Strategy’ and I am keen on topic for this year's competition, I thought that I had something to contribute and it would be worth trying. Obviously, not everyone participating in the essay competition will win; therefore, I want to challenge myself in order to learn new things through developing research skills and improving writing skills. I do believe that participating in this competition would allow me to test my ideas and apply my knowledge to a specific and practical problem of the real world. I would encourage more people to participate in this contest in order to show their capabilities, and to learn and grow from experience.

Mr. Sok Heng Lay (Cambodia)

Sleepless nights (little exaggerated) for me and my family in several days before and after the Chair’s announcement! Wow, what a sweet fruit! Thank you JFTC for sponsoring and offering us a great opportunity to participate in the competition 2016, which is indeed challenging when it first required attendees to well understand the role of Japanese companies in the context of fast-moving/changing global trade, and then it turned out to have “many strong, high-quality essays”, as remarked by Mr. Atsushi Nakajima, the Selection Committee Chair. Though tough, it is worthwhile for any team/anyone who love(s) on-going learning, innovating, contributing, and excelling themselves/himself/herself, I believed. I am tremendously honored to receive the Excellence Award, especially when for the first time I took part in and also for the first time in the proud journey of 12-years of JFTC Essay competition Vietnam has a successful representative in the awarding list. Larger than the prize is that my initiatives and proposals, having been strictly screened and qualified by the Selection Committee, are welcome and beneficial to Japan, particularly to the trading community. I would never forget this amazing experience. My deep gratitude to JFTC, the Selection Committee, the secretarial team and individuals who more or less involved in for the success of the competition, and to my respected peer-contestants who actually made the competition this year most challenging and rewarding! Best wishes to all of you!

What made me apply for JFTC Essay Competition

For one thing, I love and owe Japan a lot for their well treating my brother when offering him so many opportunities and nice things, of which there was a Ph.D. scholarship with a superb academic care for the past 3 years. I wanted to do something helpful to repay Japan. Second, I love writing and sharing my thoughts and I found the subject for the competition this year was not only beneficial for Japan, but for other countries including Vietnam: Searching for a New Initiative in Global Trade and the Role of Japanese Companies. Next, it was the encouragement from my brother and my family when they told me that I would be able to contribute to Japan with my economics background and my pen. The other drive is that the competition is open for everyone with no constraint of nationality, age, occupation, etc., so my eligibility status took me in. Finally, I challenged myself for a place in the winners list of the competition this year, because of the great honor and the prestigious prize awarded by JFTC. I eventually won the Prize of Excellence which is truly amazing. Though there are rooms for betterment in my essay which I should continue to accomplish, I am happy with the result and would like to express my deep thanks to JFTC for opening such a high-quality “playground” and offering me (and others) a chance to participate in this tough but awesome competition. Please keep on!

Mr. Long Bao Vuong (Viet Nam)

I attended the awarding ceremony thinking it will be a simple awarding ceremony. Little did I know it will be a ceremony I will remember forever. When I found out during the start of the ceremony that the Philippines Charge d'affaires ad interim and Deputy Chief of Mission Eduardo M.R. Meñez will be joining the ceremony, I came to realize that this is no longer just about me receiving the award but as a citizen of the Republic of the Philippines receiving the award. With co-winners from U.S.A., Singapore, Cambodia and Vietnam, each of us stood proud representing our countries as we received our award certificates. It was truly a happy and proud moment for me as in my own little way; I was able to represent my country in this highly competitive (international) essay competition. I thought that the shining moment would end after the awarding ceremony; however, the JFTC New Year Reception event scheduled after the awarding ceremony made the shining moment even more brighter as JFTC Chairman Kobayashi presented and introduced on stage each of the winners to around 600 guests who included Japanese government officials, corporate executives and foreign diplomats. Again, it was a moment to remember and cherish and I hope to experience it again in the future.

In retrospect, these events would not be possible without JFTC sponsoring the essay competition. Hence, I would like to thank JFTC for sponsoring the competition, the selection committee (Chairman, Vice-Chairs and members) for painstakingly reading, judging all 189 essay submissions and choosing 5 winners out of them and lastly JFTC employees who in one way or another contributed their time and efforts to make the competition, awarding ceremony and new year reception a memory I will never forget.

As what Selection Committee Chairman Mr. Nakajima commented on my essay, I hope the essay I presented will start a novel discussion for the SHOSHA to determine the feasibility of SHOSHA-as-a-Service model in tomorrow’s business environment. I also hope that even though the SHOSHA is traditionally involved in commodities trading, they would explore and expand trade in services.

What made me apply for JFTC Essay Competition

Seeing the JFTC Essay Competition attracting more than a hundred essays every year (except in 2007) from several nationalities since it first held the competition in 2005, I can see the competitiveness and the prestige of this competition and I wanted to be a part of it and if possible a part of the circle of winners.

In this digital age, our written words can be read by anyone from anywhere in the world and our vision can be a reality someday. I hope JFTC will continue to sponsor this competition every year to continue to encourage opinions and ideas from all over the world. Who knows the thoughts and arguments presented in the essays (past, current and future) might be a catalyst for change of Japanese companies.

Thank you and more power to JFTC and all its members and wishing them success in all their trade endeavors for 2017 and beyond.

Mr. Baltazar Jr Sabado (Philippines)