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What are the challenges faced by companies in Hikone?

A group of 20 students from Deakin University, Australia, who were on a short stay with Shiga University (Hikone Campus), met with various local companies in Hikone to find solutions to some of the challenges faced by these companies . On the last day of the Program, these students presented their recommendations incorporating their viewpoints as foreign students.

The students were in Hikone from 18 to 29 June 2018. As part of project, their challenge was to find, through discussions with local companies, issues faced by them and come up with suggestions to resolve those issues.

During their stay, students visited four companies: Eirakuya, a manufacture of Japanese traditional Buddhist altars, Tourism Division of the Hikone City, the Hikone Castle team in charge with enlisting the castle as a world heritage site, and Okamura Honke, a sake brewery located in Toyosatocho.

After visiting all four companies, the students, in smaller groups of five, were allocated a company each to work on.

Shiga University has been hosting Deakin students since the exchange agreement with Deakin began last year. Out of many similar overseas programs offered by Deakin, Study Program to Shiga is one of the most popular among Deakin students and therefore participants are selected based on academic merit.

About a hundred people, including representatives from each company involved in the program and staff and students from Shiga University attended the final presentation. The participants received presentation summaries translated to Japanese by Shiga University students.

The group that worked with the Hikone Castle said they were impressed by the beauty of the castle and the surrounding gardens. However, due to the lack of English language signage and descriptions, they were unable to appreciate the historical importance of the castle and therefore did not find the site very welcoming (to English speaking visitors). The lack of spots with free Wi-Fi in Hikone was also highlighted as problematic.

Based on an online survey of Deakin students, conducted by the group that worked with the Sake brewery, revealed there is very little knowledge among Australians about Japanese Sake and drinking habits. They recommended linking up with Australian bars who serve Japanese sake to promote sales.

The group that visited Eirakuya, suggested furniture made using the traditional alter making techniques could create business opportunities in Australia.

The city officials said it was interesting to look at things from a different point of view to their own and would use the suggestions in their future planning.  At the conclusion of the session, Deakin students presented their respective companies with Australian souvenirs and posed for a group photo with everyone involved in the program.

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This article was originally published in Chunichi Shimbun (Morning Edition, Thursday 5 July 2018)  and was translated by Deakin University.