Photo credit: Yoshihiko Tsujihata

Every January, I take a group of GLOBIS MBA students to Shoin Jinja (Shoin Shrine) as part of our Keiei Dojo course, which aims to help students develop self-awareness and social skills. Of course, most students already have some of these qualities, but reflecting on what kind of person you are and want to be can help anyone develop as a person and professional.

So why Shoin Jinja?

Visiting Shoin Jinja is a study in leadership and kokorozashi, the commitment to achieving a significant goal in your life that will benefit both you and society.

The shrine honors Yoshida Shoin, who established a school based on the teachings of Mencius, a noted Chinese philosopher. In addition to focusing on how to live well as a leader, the school also advocated, as Mencius did, the critical analysis of books and the deepening of understanding through debate. This approach is a core principle of the GLOBIS MBA.

Though Yoshida only ran the school for two years, in that time, he taught several students who went on to become leaders of the Restoration, and later the Meiji Era, when Japan underwent very rapid change and modernization.

Yoshida felt that Japan had to learn from the West and apply what it learned to modernizing and building a new nation. He ignored restrictions on traveling to the West and even tried to stow away on one of Admiral Matthew Perry’s ships. For his trouble, he was eventually executed by Ii Naosuke, the Tokugawa’s second in command.

As it happens, Ii was also executed. His grave is at Gotokuji, a temple within a few minutes’ walk of Shoin Jinja.

Visiting the shrine, students are encouraged to consider what kind of life they want to live, what kind of person they want to be, and how they want to be remembered. The theme of the outing is similar to Clayton Christensen’s book How Will You Measure Your Life?

Shoin’s exemplary commitment and powerful influence come up often in the writings of GLOBIS founder and president Yoshito Hori, as well as in our leadership and career-fulfillment courses, which teach students to consider how to become better at leading and living.

Why teach such things as part of an MBA?

If a person can find a pursuit that excites them and makes them happy while also contributing to society, then that person has found something very special. Their life will have meaning. They will also experience a sense of balance within. For most people, this is a great challenge. It doesn’t come easily, but it’s certainly worth pursuing.

The field trip is also a good chance to get outside, to enjoy Tokyo’s Sangenjaya neighborhood and the area along the Setagaya Line in the brisk winter air. We do a loop from Shoin Jinja to a few nearby temples and shrines, then pass through Kamimachi Station to peruse the Boroichi Flea Market. At 450 years old, Boroichi is one of the oldest continuing flea markets in Japan. Japanese business is notable for its longevity. Of the roughly 6,000 companies worldwide still operating after 200 years, Japan accounts for more than half. This is a testament to how business and society can grow as an ecosystem.

At the end of the day, much of the group returns to Sangenjaya for dinner and drinks. It’s there that we have a chance to reflect on the day, and where we can each go from here with our lives – what we want to do and how we want to be remembered.