こんにちは! <- that means “Hello” in Japanese! I was fortunate enough to spend the summer between my 2L and 3L year studying abroad in Tokyo, Japan. For the first month, I studied the Japanese legal system and International Business Transactions. For the second month, I worked at Nakamura & Partners, a Japanese IP firm in downtown Tokyo.
Having studied Japanese in undergrad, I had a pretty good grasp on phrases, sentence structure, and generally surviving. Unfortunately, having not used my language skills in a few years had made me a little rusty, but staff at hotels and airports are generally bilingual in Japanese and English. During the shuttle ride and upon arriving at the hotel, the first thing I noticed is that everything in Tokyo is small and often a little cramped (a fact that would come to haunt me later as I am relegated to a small out of the way area for people with big feet in a massive shoe store).
The professors taught class in the hotel, so commuting was never an issue. Our instructors were all very knowledgeable international scholars. Professor Taniguchi was a member of the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization Dispute Settlement Body. Professor Matsushita is an expert in competition law and international economic law. Professor Abe was an expert in comparative law at Seikei University and accompanied us on our various trips to government institutions.
Our professors consistently stressed the importance of exploring Japan and appreciating the culture. In addition to in class work, we travelled to major government institutions, includingthe Japanese Diet (Legislature), the Japanese Patent Office, and the Japanese Supreme Court. But educational field trips were not our only chance to explore Tokyo. Classes ended fairly early in the day, so we were free to sightsee. In the short month during classes, we went everywhere. The famous Tsukiji Fish Market, Sensoji Temple, and Yomiuri Giants games are only a few examples of our group exploration.
About half way through classes, the second class began. This class was entirely optional, of which I did not participate, leaving me ample time to explore on my own. My strategy consisted of choosing a random Tokyo neighborhood in my guidebook and spending the day wandering around and crossing off sights and sounds. Walking around, I went to Ginza and saw a Kabuki show, in Oshiage I climbed the SkyTree, and in Shibuya Idid a great deal of shopping.
At the end of the month, I began my internship with Nakamura & Partners out of the Marunouchi neighborhood in Tokyo. Wanting to experience a different side of Tokyo, I moved out of the hotel and into a small house in the Suginami area of Tokyo, 45 minutes west of downtown Tokyo. The house was in a residential area where I lived with Kaoru-san, a 77 year old grandmother, and her dog.
Every morning Kaoru-san would make breakfast while I watched the news before my 45 minute train ride to work. Our discussions were primarily in Japanese and were always entertaining and informative. She makes her own plum wine and now I am too! The only downside was Japan’s energy conservation mentality in the middle of summer often made for some hot evenings.
As an intern for Nakamura & Partners, I did a great deal of contract work and legal research. The clients I worked for were major corporations, many in America, so the primary correspondence was in English (a saving grace for my limited Japanese!). My boss, Naoki Okumura, was extremely helpful. Having earned his LLM from Duke Law School and passed the New York State Bar, Okumura-sensei was well versed with North Carolina and major cities along the east coast.
Going to lunch with partners and associates everyday was an extremely valuable insight into the everyday goings on within a Japanese law firm as well as a food adventure. Indian, Thai, Chinese, it was different every day and this was only a sampling of the eateries in our office building. It was the best intern experience I have ever had.
I would like to give special thanks to the program directors, Philip Jimenez and Marcus Kosins. Both of whom contributed immensely to the excellent experience. Overall, it was the best two months of my law school experience and I cannot wait to visit all the friends I made in my very short time in Tokyo.
Christian Noble is a third year student at the University of Baltimore School of Law, planning to graduate in May 2015 with a J.D. and a concentration in International Law. He graduated from the Penn State University in June of 2008 with a Bachelors of the Arts in International Politics with a minor in Sociology. He has also studied Japanese and Korean language. Previously, Christian studied abroad in Curaçao during the winter of his second year, taking classes in International Law and European Union Law. Currently, Christian serves as a CICL Student Fellow, the Emerging Issues Editor for the Journal of International Law, Vice President of the Immigration Law Association, Treasurer of the Latin American Law Student Association, Treasurer of OutLaw, and is 3L Representative of the International Law Society. Christian is also a Maryland Rule 16 Student Attorney with the Immigrant Rights Clinic at UB.