What do Japan, the United States, and Brazil have in common? A love of beef is definitely one. Good thing Akinori Yoshida, who got a dual master’s in International Development and Business Administration in 2000, isn’t a vegetarian.
Five years since graduating from AU, Akinori finds himself not in his home country of Japan, but in Brazil working with a new company that imports and exports foods and agricultural products, including wagyu, Japanese Kobe beef.
Akinori’s path from Japan to Brazil took him to both coasts of the U.S. and through Central and South America. Between his undergraduate studies in Oregon, graduate studies at AU, and work after graduation, he spent close to eight years in the United States. In 2003 he decided he was ready for something new, and he embarked on a year-long trip through Mexico, Central America, and South America. Along the way he learned Spanish and Portuguese, and developed a fondness for Latin American culture.
Then last March 2004, when Akinori was in Brazil, he decided to put down some roots, enamored with how friendly and easy-going the Brazilian people were . “They talked to me even though I did not understand a word of what they were saying,” he notes.
Akinori took a job with a newly established company, Andes Foods Emportação e Importação de Alimentos Ltda, and found that his knowledge of the Japanese market made him an ideal fit for the company whose services include Japanese exports to the Brazilian market – mostly in meat products. His main responsibilities involve negotiating with Brazilian plant managers, export managers, and Japanese buyers; looking at products, prices, and production processes; and working on the development of new products. Much of his time is spent visiting production plants, where he monitors quality control, teaches production processes, and serves as a cultural interpreter teaching the Brazilians about Japanese food culture. His biggest challenge: teaching Brazilian workers how to prepare food products that they would never imagine eating themselves for export to the Japanese market – what he describes as “weird Japanese foods” such as beef offal, meat trimmings that only some cultures consider edible.
Akinori recognizes his good fortune in being able to “see a different world,” and travel before settling into his current job and home way from home. He hopes to someday spearhead an exchange program that helps Japanese students experience Latin America. He volunteered with international student orientation each semester at AU and is still in touch with friends he met there from all over the world, exchanging e-mails with people in Costa Rica, Russia, Thailand, and Taiwan.
In the meantime he hopes to connect with “local” AU alumni in São Paulo, as well as friends from AU who are now scattered across the world. E-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.