Diary of my global internship in Tokyo (part 1)

Let’s delve into our summer 2023 program intern, Nathan Fikes’ fascinating journey as an Engineering Intern in Tokyo. Nathan is a student at George Mason University in the United States, embarked on an exciting internship adventure at Kisui TECH, a cutting-edge company founded by Dr. Tamir Blum. He is currently enrolling in his second year and his career goal is to become an Engineer after graduation.

Nathan also shared about his internship at CRCC Asia: “It was an honor being under the guidance and help of CRCC. The team has definitely made the trip much more special and having volunteer events have given me unforgettable opportunities and once in a lifetime experiences. CRCC has given me an environment I felt at home in and I had a pleasure talking with the CRCC employees during all the events.”

Hello, this is Nathan Fikes!! As my life unveils all the amazing things and people that make it soo special, it is my duty to document all of it. After all such a wonderful and unique story shouldn’t be forgotten and what better way to do that than to write every aspect about it every day. I write a ton (like a ton) of material each day to both practice my remembering skills as well as help improve my writing skills. It is also nice to go back and look at what I’ve done. I’ve also had some practical use from my travelogue which has helped me remember days, plan better, and recall events in the past that I don’t necessarily need to do again, (or ones that definitely need to happen again).

For my CRCC testimony, I would like to share all the wonderful things that have happened in Japan but in a readable format. I will abbreviate what happened each day and highlight big events and their impact so that this document isn’t 10000 words long. This means that there is a lot of missing information. Please enjoy, I will be including everything (no cherry-picking) so I’ll include some failures too, because that is what makes life real. Also, please let me know if you would like to know more about my hobbies:

Transposing and playing music, Writing and Journaling, Studying Japanese, Drawing, Programming, 3D software Blender, and Cooking.


May 24th (Departure day)

My flight from Virginia to Japan in the Haneda region from the Washington DC area in Dulles was not too difficult thanks to my mother helping me previously by letting me direct her and me to a plane flight to San Francisco. Due to my family not coming in, I needed to navigate the airport without help. IAD isn’t bad because I’ve had experience in that airport in the past. Everything went super smoothly. The flight was a total of 13 hours and two very kind women next to me talked with me about academics for a good part of the trip, I occupied myself by writing, sleeping, transposing music, and practicing Japanese.


May 25th (Arrival day)

Today was my first day in Japan and it is just about as exciting as every day in Japan. There were tons of signs in both English and Japanese which made it easy to get to where I needed to go. Since I had completed my Customs Declaration and Disembarkation on the plane (unfortunately with pencil) I had almost no issues at Japanese Customs. I did however have to rewrite some of the forms in pen and I luckily carry my student ID with me at all times so I showed them the card and said “大学生です” to the person there and got through with no other problems. Meeting up with CRCC wasn’t too difficult either, everything was sent through WhatsApp and questions were answered live. After meeting up, CRCC had a very clean system of getting students to their accommodations, and later on in the day, we explored the city.


May 26th (Induction day)

Induction day was held at the Design Festa venue in Harajuku. There we went over some very useful information about the internship, what is future looks like, and some tips about being in Japan. There we got to meet our CRCC advisors and a bunch of the interns who worked at different locations across a bunch of locations in Japan. It was also very cool to get a free T-Shirt which I have been wearing to most of the CRCC drop-ins and volunteer events. The induction day scavenger hunt was very cool because I got to explore a lot of the city with a prompt that gave premade locations. This made exploring much more confident and much more exciting because we had a direction. After exploring everyone met back up and CRCC hosted a big dinner with Soba and Okonomiyaki (Which had really inspired me to try Japanese cooking).

Image 1. Our welcome banquet that is filled with Soba and Okonomiyaki


May 27th (Shrine visit day)

One of the first events was the Meiji Ichino Torii shrine. When I got there we all went into the shrine as a big group and saw a ton of amazing things. Gigantic gates, colorful straw barrels, giant trees with shimenawa streamers, large brown buildings with golden trimming roofs. We even got to see a traditional Japanese wedding take place in the shrine which was very cool to see. After the event, the rest of the group went to Yoyogi Park and then split off. I took this opportunity to go to a ramen shop. I actually walked through a Laos Festival filled with tons of music and colors everywhere. On the way to the ramen shop, I saw a middle school amongst all the tall buildings. At the ramen shop, I had a chance to use my Japanese language skills. When I got there I said “あー, すみません, 英語が話せできますか?” to the lady and she immediately understood and helped me out with the new system I was unfamiliar with. (Ordering with coins on a “vending machine”) After ramen, I made sure to say “君のらーめんはとても美味しいですね” which totally made her day. After ramen, I went to a shop for Japanese books where I used some more Japanese such as “この店にはこれがありますか?” as I was pointing to a book title on my phone. I also want to a Daiso for an Ice pack where I also asked a store clerk “すみません, アイスパックはありますか?” and she showed me where they were very fast. After that Sakura House actually invited me to help them shoot a video and do an interview for their company. I had a ton of fun helping them out and we all went to the Design Festa Café and Bar for dinner together. I had fun talking about the Japanese language with them as well as some of the other guys that were invited.


May 28th (Shopping day)

Today was my first day visiting a supermarket in Japan. I use the supermarket called OK Sendagaya for all my cooking needs. Everything in the market was completely in Japanese so I had to make sure I could read a lot of the Kanji or pronounce Katakana in my head so I could make sure I was getting the right materials. Luckily the store is about 2-3 blocks away from my accommodation so trips there aren’t too long. After the supermarket, I headed to a place called Tokyu Hands which is a department store and also a bookstore called Books Kinokuniya. At those locations, I wanted to look for household supplies as well as another Japanese book but specifically for learning. I found a book online that Kinokuniya would have but when I showed it to a clerk, she assumed I spoke fluent Japanese and I ended up saying “はい” when she said “大丈夫ですか?” That ended up making her take the book away because of the double meaning of (daijoubudesu). I ultimately found the perfect kanji learning book after browsing the store. When I got back I agreed to go out with my housemates to get Udon for dinner near the Shinjuku station as a meeting dinner. Tomorrow was my first day for the internship so when I got home I prepared everything.


May 29th (First day at Internship)

It was really good having Ishmael, one of my housemates, who also worked at the same company as me. He helped me locate and use the correct train to get to the company office. Because of his help, I can navigate to the station and get to work without a map. My first commuter train ride during rush hour was very packed. I had also worn very dressy clothes so it was very warm, but luckily it was raining. I tried to practice Japanese using Duo Lingo on the train but as my time here in Japan progressed, I found that using Kanji Teacher is much easier on the train. My first day in the company was really good, everyone there was super nice, and helped me set up and get settled into the company. I was able to get my work times and expectations as well as contacts for everyone. I also got to see the agriculture robot in action which was awesome. For lunch our lead engineer took us all out to a Chinese restaurant next to the office and everyone got the chance to talk with each other. After work, I tried getting dinner at the Family Mart next to my accommodation for the first time and it was very very convenient. I was able to get some chicken noodles and fruit bread. I practiced more Japanese when I got home.

Image 2. Our drop-in session that happened during the first day of the internship


May 30th (Cooking salmon day)

Today was a day to test my cooking skills. I woke up early and went over to the supermarket for salmon supplies. Since my accommodation comes with a kitchen, it would be perfect to get some use out of it. When I gathered all the materials from the store I started cooking the fish. Unfortunately, when I made the bread paste for the fish, I had included fried onions in the recipe which didn’t work well with the small baking oven. The onions ended up burning and I had to keep the kitchen vent hood on. I learned from that and for next time I would look for panko flakes. I was very lucky to catch the onions burning before the smoke alarm went off, and after scrutinizing the onion container, it said not for baking. Today was also an asynchronous work day which was really nice because I got to work at home and then submit material on my own time. It gave me the flexibility to go explore more of the city and buy some souvenirs for my family. Today was also extremely hot, and I only had thick Unilqo clothes, but I pushed on regardless. After exploring I went out to dinner with my housemates at Isoji for some Chinese-style ramen which I had to make sure wasn’t beef. I helped my housemates tell the server about beef and pork in Japanese. When I got back into the house it was very very moist in my room. I had a lot of troubles arising from the moisture but I eventually got it fixed.


May 31st (Workday)

I usually commute to work in the mornings so I went to the convenience store and grabbed myself some lunch. It was nice having an ice pack I got from the Diaso because the days have been very hot recently and having cold food is very refreshing. At work, I was able to drive the robot around using a controller and talked to the lead engineer and the employee working on the driving system for the robot. I got some good insight into how Kisuitech operates from talking with them. After work, I had a CRCC drop-off meeting at the Tokyo Dome. I originally had plans to go to Akihabara that day but with the drop-off event, I had to change plans quickly. I was super glad to be able to read Hiragana and Kanji otherwise I would have missed a transfer station. It was fun to talk with everyone during the event and see all the attractions around the Tokyo Dome. We talked for a very very long time getting acquainted with each other and all the restaurants started closing. My housemates already being in Japan for a month had a suggestion for food in Yoyogi since most shops there are 24/7.

Image 3 & 4. CRCC Asia’s drop-off meeting at the Tokyo Dome

To be continued.