Konichiwa from Japan!

{Michelle Lee}

We were very excited to start our first day. We first met up with Nini, the CEO of myHarapan at the hotel lobby. She greeted us with open arms and we soon started chatting away as we made our way to our first destination.

Navigating the train system in Japan is nothing less than interesting and challenging. Not only is it known for its complicated routes, but with limited English directions, one can easily get lost amongst the constant hustle and bustle. However, with our good friend Google Maps, we seamlessly traveled to Ichigawa with time to spare. Nini then proceeded to treat us breakfast, which was a pleasant surprise! We happily ate our sandwiches and drank our coffee until it was near to our appointment time.

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We then made our way to Borderless Japan which is a platform that supports social entrepreneurs who create social businesses in Japan and internationally. Greeting us were Sayaka-san and Juri-san, welcoming us into their office which we later found out was where the backend support such as marketing, finance, and legalities for the social businesses were. We learned about their mission of making the world a better place through businesses and their unique support system. An interesting programme that they were running is the Borderless Academy, aimed at bringing in aspiring entrepreneurs to learn the ropes of starting a social business, whom they will then refund the course fee to once their business is up and running! We also had an opportunity to meet some of the Borderless social businesses who were based on a different floor of the building.

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Feeling inspired and enlightened, we left Borderless and made our way to our next destination, Shinagawa. Nanami Granger, the founder of Eighty Days met us there. Eighty Days aims to develop tourism to help stimulate economic activity and promote the exchange of culture and ideas across Japan. Over coffee, she showed us the different tour packages that she provides, from Samurai sword-making, which is a dying art form, to traditional porcelain tableware. We were mesmerised by both the concept and the tours as we loved travelling beyond the beaten path. It also gave us the motivation to hear that she started Eighty Days two years ago and has managed to get good responses and traction.

Day one went by quickly, but we had learned so much from the people that we met. We were also grateful for the bonding moments with Nini and for the stories that she has shared too.

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