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Marta Spiridonova represented Bulgaria in the MIRAI program

Marta Spiridonova represented Bulgaria in the MIRAI

She was selected after a competition to represent Bulgaria in the MIRAI program. Read about her experience in Japan.

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Marta Spiridonova

Why did you become interested in Japan?

I used to hate the Geography classes in high school and nothing could make me read the textbook. So imagine my mother’s surprise when once, in the middle of the night, she caught me reading that very same textbook I used to detest. It was a chapter about Japan. It was such an interesting read that I could not close the book until I learned everything about this enchanting world.

A couple of years later I started looking at Japan from a different perspective, I got interested in the culture, the way of living, the economy. I also had a professor who has worked for a Japanese company in Tokyo for many years, and his stories made my interest in this beautiful country even stronger..

How were you selected to represent Bulgaria in the MIRAI program? And what is the purpose of the MIRAI program?

2019 was the year of three significant anniversaries in the Bulgarian-Japanese relations - the 110th anniversary of the beginning of bilateral contacts, the 80th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, and the 60th anniversary of the resumption of diplomatic relations.  The same year I was granted a scholarship from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to attend a 10-days exchange program in Tokyo, Japan. I was invited to represent Bulgaria in the MIRAI program. In Japanese MIRAI means “Future”. And the main objective of the program was fostering mutual understanding and intellectual relations between Japan and Europe. I had the chance to meet key diplomats and figures from the Japanese Business world, while studying Japanese economy and expanding our mutual cultural awareness. As part of the application process I wrote an essay about the economic relations between the two countries and how they have changed over the years. I was then invited for an interview in the Japanese Embassy in Bulgaria, and that is how my adventure began.

What impressed you the most about the Japanese work culture? Did you experience a culture shock?

During these ten days I visited the Tokyo Stock Exchange and attended the ceremony for the companies listing. I also visited TOTO - the world's largest high-tech toilet manufacturer and NEC Corporation – an ICT company, which is a world-leading provider of facial recognition and other biometrics. During these visits I came across the concept of a “Salaryman”. “The salaryman was granted employment for life, with a very low chance of dismissal, in exchange for giving their complete loyalty to the company, over any other companies or even their family life.” We are used to seeing young people regularly changing the place where they work, switching to different industries or even job positions. On the other hand, promotions in Japan are usually based on the nenkojooretsu ("years-merit-order").  Longevity determines rank, competence is equated with age and experience within a firm counts more than expertise. This was definitely something new for me and gave me food for thought.

Japan

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