Bold move pays
off for Tokyo intern

Air New Zealand intern James Bowen says leaving the comforts of Gisborne for the hustle and bustle of Tokyo was a bold move for him but looking back on what he gained through his time in Japan a move he's glad he made.
James standing in silhouette at the top of an esculator

James spent his weekends exploring Tokyo's neighbourhoods or venturing further afield with a group of friends

The decision to live and work in Tokyo was definitely a bold move for me.

Hailing from the sunny shores of Gisborne, I am used to a more relaxed lifestyle and this couldn’t be more different to the fast-paced metropolis of Tokyo.

When I first arrived, I was struck by the scale of everything: the airport runway that felt like it would never end, the towering skyscrapers, a completely new world that existed underground and the waves of people walking in each and every direction.

I had to quickly learn and adapt to the unspoken cultural norms like bowing instead of shaking hands, keeping silent on trains and not eating while walking, to name a few. If you slip up, there’s always a little Japanese lady nearby to set you straight!

I discovered first-hand about Japanese discipline, manners and conformity to the rules, which I had read so much about before coming here. At first I thought it was all a bit much, but I soon realised how crucial it is to the smooth functioning of the world’s largest city.

My first big challenge was finding suitable accommodation, as living in Tokyo can be very expensive. I also didn’t want to commit to a place I hadn’t checked out first. I managed to stumble across a company called Oakhouse, which manages hundreds of shared houses across Tokyo. I ended up moving into a 'social residence' of 80 people, half Japanese and half foreigners.

A large dinner table with a group of 15 young people sitting at it

James: "Living in a large social residence enabled me to quickly meet new people and make friends from all over the world."

Living in a large, social residence enabled me to quickly meet new people and make friends from all over the world. There were frequent cooking nights, Japanese lessons and cocktail parties. My weekends were filled with exploring and sightseeing, always with great company. We hiked Mount Takao, discovered temples and roamed Tokyo’s suburbs, stumbling across cat cafes, food markets and some of the best back alley restaurants.

At Air New Zealand, I was lucky enough to work on a diverse range of marketing projects and support tasks.

One really cool project involved setting up a “mini planetarium” stargazing experience inside of a travel store, aiming to capture and inspire customers to travel to New Zealand during the shoulder season.

I also worked closely with the education marketing team and various New Zealand government agencies on developing an education pipeline strategy. This involved first identifying key schools and principals then thinking of ways to influence them to consider moving their educational travel programmes to New Zealand.

Apart from these longer-term projects, I had day-to-day tasks in content research and creation, Google AdWords and brief writing, all with full support and guidance from different members of the marketing team.

In my third week, I attended Air New Zealand’s annual Japan culture conference, which gave me an opportunity to connect with colleagues and learn a bit more about the company culture. 

I think the most valuable thing I've taken away from the whole experience is confidence. The confidence to back myself and put myself out there regardless of how uncertain or momentous the task may seem.

I also gained valuable work experience, connections and an amazing mentor in a company so special and influential to New Zealanders, which I am incredibly grateful for.

If you’re a marketing wiz looking for a challenge, I strongly recommend applying for this internship!