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Alumni Ambassador profile - Japan

Shoji Miyagawa '98

Course studied:
MSc International Management

Vice President, Kaneki Seito 

Shoji Miyagawa

Shoji is the new Oxford Brookes ambassador in Tajimi, Japan. Here he talks about his experiences as a student, applying what he learned in business and cultural differences between the UK and Japan.

When Shoji started his course in 1997, he had already been in the UK for two years – one year studying at a language school in Brighton and then a pre-master’s course at Oxford College of Further Education. And he was happy to stay in Oxford to study at Brookes.

“Living in Oxford was really exciting because of the atmosphere and the buildings. Living costs were a bit higher than other places. But it was wonderful to stay here!”

One feature of the course that Shoji found both challenging and valuable was the mix of nationalities.

“Around 40 out of 45 students on my course were from outside the UK. It was difficult using English to explain my culture and to understand the different cultures of my fellow students. But it was a very good experience for me.”

Shoji Miyagawa

Shoji lived on St Clements but spent much of his time studying at Wheatley – often staying late in the library. Unfortunately, due to health problems, he was unable to come to the university for a while.

“I was really behind so when I recovered, I studied 18 hours a day. It was a really hard time and I was nervous that I wouldn’t graduate. I talked to Stewart Rocks who was in charge of the course. He advised me and helped me a lot. Stewart sadly passed away some time ago – he was a very kind person.”

Shoji’s hard work paid off and he successfully graduated. He returned to Japan to work for a ceramics company - Kaneki Seito – where he still works today. The communication skills he learned on his course enabled him to improve the company’s engagement with customers.

Shoji Miyagawa

“My company exported to other countries through an agent. And it suffered from poor communication. Customers had to talk to the import/export company who would then talk to my company. So things were sometimes misunderstood. But with my experience, I could talk to the customer directly and understood what the customer wanted.”

Shoji also travelled to open new markets. His company now mainly exports to Hong Kong, Taiwan, USA and Australia but he is looking to break into European markets as well. The experience he gained at Oxford Brookes, of communicating with people from many different cultures, makes him the ideal person for this job.

In fact, Shoji became so used to talking in a British way – expressing his opinion in a direct way – that he had to adjust when he first returned to Japan because people told him his way of speaking was “too strong, too direct”. This has led him to realise a key difference in how Japanese and British express themselves.

“Japanese people, when they get a question, stop to think first which means it takes a longer time to reply than for British people. In the UK, you reply quickly and build up your thoughts as you speak. These are completely different ways of doing it.”