"Tokyo saikou!"

Hanyue was our first lifer ever to have interned in Tokyo. She worked for a company called Pocket Menu, mainly as a UX designer. Here she shares her thoughts on last summer when the 3-month internship period was coming towards its end.
Text and photos by Hanyue Zhou

Joining a startup in Tokyo? Yes!

I still remember the excited feeling when I got the email from Startuplifers, telling me that there is a company in Tokyo interested in me. I was screaming inside: “Tokyo! Tokyo!”. I checked the company’s information immediately and decided without hesitation that I must take this opportunity. It turned out that the decision was just great, everything is more than fantastic.
The company is called Pocket Menu, a company providing reservation services for Michelin starred and other high-end Japanese restaurants (pocket-concierge.jp). In the initial email, they mentioned about their offer: “salary and meals made by our CEO (a former Michelin chef).” I think that’s probably one of the main reasons that I chose to fly all the way to Japan just to join them for a short summer time. What could be more attractive than fancy Japanese food? Oh yeah, working as a UX designer for them! The offer was just unable to resist.
Luckily, I got the job eventually and solved all the visa problems. Now I am working in Tokyo for real.

The company

The job
I work as a UX designer, and I very much enjoy it. Since the company is a startup, I sometimes have multiple duties, from graphic design and UX design to front-end development, which is just awesome. I feel like I’ve explored my potential skills to a maximum extent.
The company is currently aiming at entering the Chinese market. I provide suggestions and help with various things including language translation. One of the most interesting tasks was to help them design the banner advertisements displaying on Tencent.
For me, it was a unique experience to help a foreign company to do a market campaign in my own country. On the one hand, I am very glad that I can provide information and insights as a local. On the other hand, I feel like I have a chance to look at everything from a totally new angle, which is a very precious experience from the business perspective of view.

Amazing office and amazing people
The company is located in Omotesando, close to Shibuya. The office is totally different from what I’ve imagined, and it’s quite different from those typical offices from Japanese dramas. We have around thirty people working in the office. It is a nice, beautiful apartment furnished with a kitchen and bathrooms. It looks like a home, and it feels like a home too.
Every Monday and Thursday, we do the office clean-up together, and we have after work parties almost every Thursday in the office, which is so Japanese and I totally love it. It’s so fun that the entire office just turns into a party place after work.
And for me, my Japanese coworkers in the after-work parties are kind of like Finns in the sauna: they become more lovely and talkative.

I am really grateful how they patiently help me during my daily work and how they always take extra care of me since I am a foreigner. They always share Japanese food and snacks with me, accompany me to nearby restaurants for lunch and etc. Our CFO even treated me to a high-end sushi restaurant, because he said:

“I cannot let you leave Japan without tasting the real Japanese sushi.”

By the end of the summer, I’ve got used to saying “Otsukaresama desu! (Thank you guys for the hard work)” to the office every day when I leave the office. It’s such a warm sentence. And when I say it I do mean it, lots of people in the company work really hard. Our company’s official off-work time is 7 pm, but sometimes some people stay until 9 pm or even more. Although overtime work culture is kind of common in Asia, what I see in our company is quite different from that. Everyone loves the company from the bottom of their heart and simply enjoys the work.


I guess I don’t need to say too much about how awesome Tokyo is. Everyone probably knows it. It’s such a charming city in its own way. If there is a sentence to describe it, I guess it’d be Tokyo is Tokyo. It’s so exciting and bizarre, yet it’s beautiful in a restrained and harmonious style. There are too many interesting places to visit and too many interesting things to do. And what’s the most important: there are so many things that you can only experience in Tokyo. Every day you find something new.
Life in Tokyo is just great. One summer is not enough at all.

The summer hasn’t ended

Our CFO always says it’s a miracle that people from different places can come to join this company and work together in Tokyo. I do agree with that. In the beginning, I basically knew nothing about startups in Japan, and neither had I made such plan at all. Now, I’m working in Tokyo. It feels like a dream. What if I had never heard about Startuplifers and never applied for it? I feel lucky that I could connect with Pocket Menu, and I feel luckier that I got the chance to know about Startuplifers. Not only do I get this extraordinary work experience, now I also dream in a wider scope.
I hope everyone could find their own miracle somewhere in the world. I’d say this summer experience in Tokyo is one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Startuplifers is a student-driven internship program that sends students from Finland to work in startups in Tokyo, Shanghai, and California. We connect you with top-notch startups, help with applications, visas and flights and introduce you to all the people you need to know. Our application runs twice a year, around February-March and September-October.

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