Shige Itoh

Globe Americas

It’s been almost 5 years now since I returned home from spending a year in Japan. In that time I’ve graduated from UC San Diego, completed law school, and ventured into society. Although it seems and feels like a long time ago, my experiences from my year in Japan continuously return to me. Whenever I meet someone from Japan, I become delighted by an indescribable urge to approach and converse with them. I believe this feeling comes from my insatiable curiosity that was particularly piqued during my time in Japan. It must also come from my desire to understand where my ancestors and part of my culture originated. But, my interest isn’t solely isolated to Japanese people. Whenever I meet non-Americans, I also get this same feeling. I attribute this part of my feeling to my understanding of what it is to be a citizen of the world, rather than simply a member of a smaller society. One beauty of studying abroad is the opportunity to mingle and meet people of other backgrounds and cultures who aren’t from the host country. So by studying in Japan, I not only got to learn more about Japan, but also about those around me who were also simultaneously taking in the wonderful aspects of the unique society around us.

I have also noted that my Japan experiences benefit me greatly in my daily life as a professional. I currently work with many international legal issues. To a U.S. trained lawyer, many of the laws of foreign countries neither appear coherent nor do they simply feel right. However, whether you agree or disagree with the foreign law, that is the law of the respective land, and one must respect that law or forgo transacting business in that particular jurisdiction. Perhaps the best method for approaching these differences is not by rejecting these laws as ludicrous, but to look to the cultural and historical underpinnings of the laws. For example, the laws in Japan are very different from those in the U.S., and at times seem convoluted and unclear. I have found that by referring to my historical and cultural understandings of Japan, these laws become much more rational as I begin to understand why the people who created the laws drafted the laws as they did. I believe this has made me not only a better thinker, but a more reasoned and rational lawyer. I know that without my experiences in Japan, none of these perspectives would be even comprehensible to me.

Shige Itoh
Japan, 2000-01