Global Programs Blog


​Garrison Lipscomb (JD '1​​9)
Legal and Internal Audit Department, Kobelco Construction Machinery Co., Ltd.
Tokyo, Japan

“Sumimasen”/First Day at the Office (06/25/18)

My first impression of the office was the vast difference in office setup compared to an American workplace (at least those I have been in). The entire company/company division at that location works in one large room, an entire floor, really – there are no individual offices. The room is open and desks are clustered together based on your working group where your group manager typically sits at the head or one end.

Thus, I was sitting at the “legal group” cluster of desks along with my group members: Inaba-san; Honsho-san; Yamauchi-san; Takagi-san; Fukuda-san; Kikui-san; and, our group manager, Otowa-san. I will also be working with the Compliance Group and Internal Audit Group, both clusters of which are located within ten yards or so of me.

It was different but exciting and makes for easy communication – I feel very much in the “thick” of things.

The first day began with introductions and a review of the company’s history as presented, in English, by a few members of the Legal Group. I was very surprised as to how many people in the office spoke English and many were extremely proficient!

A little bit about the company -- Kobelco develops manufactures, sells, and services construction machinery, primarily excavators and cranes of all shapes and sizes. Kobelco is a subsidiary of Kobe Steel, Ltd., but has over 7,000 employees working in 24 subsidiaries across the globe!

Following the morning presentations and a delicious lunch at a restaurant in the office building, I had a meeting with Honsho-san and Otowa-san who reviewed in more detail what the Legal Group does on a daily basis. The breadth of legal issues and the locations in which they must address certain matters was very impressive – Japan, China, Southeast Asia, United States, Europe, Middle East, etc.

Honsho-san then gave me my first assignment. I was tasked with reviewing and researching sales transactions in the United States. I realized I was going to become quickly reacquainted with UCC [Uniform Commercial Code] Article 2.

“Sumimasen” ~ “Excuse me”/“sorry”/“thank you”/“I don’t know Japanese please forgive my confusion” (The most useful phrase I have learned yet, which most directly translates to “excuse me” but kind of means a lot of different things depending on the situation. Using this phrase on the train immediately clears out a lane so you can get out. I have also used it on numerous occasions counting coins while frantically trying to pay for something – again, extremely useful.)

Senso-ji Temple Hozomon gateView outside of Senso-ji Temple (Hozomon gate) in Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo, Japan, 06/30/18
View Tokyo Sky Tree OshiageView from the Tokyo Sky Tree in Oshiage, Sumida-ku, Tokyo, Japan, 06/30/18