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GSPP in Japan

pink flowers in Japan

A discussion about Japanese healthcare. 
A ride on a bullet train. 
A conversation with a Hiroshima survivor. 
And more.

The student-led Goldman School trip to Japan gave participants the unique opportunity to compare and contrast policy approaches while enjoying the sights, sounds, and tastes of Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Himeji.

The trip was organized and led by Naoyuki Komada, a first-year MPP student from Japan, and was funded by the generous support of the Goldman School community, friends, and by PRESENCE, an English language program for Japanese professionals. 

“The goal of the trip was to enhance the policy analytical skills we’re developing at the Goldman School by comparing the political climates between the US and Japan and learning about the current strategies Japan is using to address public policy challenges,” says Naoyuki.

Upon arriving in Japan, the students were warmly greeted by trip supporters and volunteers who welcomed them with a picnic in the shade of blooming cherry trees. The first stop for the group was Kyoto, then on to Hiroshima where they had a chance to meet with Keiko Ogura, a Hiroshima survivor. 

Goldman Students with Keiko, a Hiroshima survivor.

“Hiroshima is an experience I will never forgot,” says Sofia Andrade. “ I’m so thankful to Keiko for sharing her experiences and educating us on the realties that so many have had to live with, even decades after the bombing.”

Upon their return to Tokyo, the students met with officials from the Japanese ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, the Prime Minister’s Office, and the National Diet (Japan’s legislature). 

“I was truly honored to learn from Suzuki Yasuhiro, the Vice-Minister of Health, about the health challenges Japan faces, and how the ministry is working to address them,” says Maria Balcaza Tellez. “The well-informed presentation allowed me to understand how Japan is addressing the growing elderly population challenge in a very well-rounded context. This opportunity allowed me to get a better context about health policy and informed my efforts as I work in the international development space in the fields of health.”

Goldman students in front of Nationa Diet building of Japan

Another trip highlight for student Ned Resnikoff was experiencing Japan’s transportation policy firsthand, including riding the shinkasen, Japan’s bullet train. 

“I knew going in that Japan's rail system was more extensive and faster than what we have in the United States,” he says. “But I didn't fully understand the extent the centrality of train travel to the country's economic and urban development. The rail stations themselves were the most obvious physical marker of this; many of them were several stories tall and featured dozens of shops and restaurants. It was awe-inspiring to be in a country that takes mass public transit so seriously.”

The students returned to the US brimming with enthusiasm about the trip.

Goldman students with UC Berkeley flag at Hijemi

“Experiencing Japan with my Goldman classmates provided particular windows into Japanese culture and policies that I may not have recognized before my time at UC Berkeley, or traveling with another group of people,” says Ana Ashby.

”Each time we observed a train arriving exactly on time, witnessed a city worker scraping gum off of the sidewalk, noticed how quiet the busy streets were, or saw yet another dentist's office, we asked ourselves, our hosts, and one another about what policies underpinned each of these phenomenons. We had many eye-opening discussions about how historical, cultural, and political differences make things possible in Japan that are not conceivable within the US and vice versa. It was an incredibly revelatory trip, and a great way to apply some of the critical policy lens we're learning at Berkeley to a new place in the midst of our studies.”