Case Study

The 12th Asia Pacific Pharmaceutical Symposium

Soranbushi Performance

Koto Performance


From August 22-28, 2013, the 12th Asia Pacific Pharmaceutical Symposium was held in Chiba at the campus of Toho University. The theme was "Self-medication: be your healthcare partner". The conference was intended to give pharmaceutical students from around the Asia-Pacific region an opportunity to share information, and also to raise the profile of Japan's pharmaceutical industry within Asia. It drew a total of 400 attendees.

The conference was planned and organised entirely by the students of APS-Japan. The meeting offered a diverse programme of opportunities for participants to experience Japanese culture. At the welcome party, students performed traditional koto music and soranbushi, a festive folk dance. Japanese Night was a recreation of a Japanese festival, while an International Night presented dances and songs from many nations. Thanks to the cooperation of the local police, there was also a self-medication awareness parade through the streets of Chiba.

There were field trips to major Japanese tourist attractions such as Asakusa and Meiji Shrine, as well as others to pharmaceutical-related facilities. Participants divided into three groups, each of which visited one of three locations: the Daiichi Sankyo Medicine Museum in Tokyo, the FANCL Biken Corporation Factory in Chiba (which makes cosmetics), or the Life Safety Learning Center in Tokyo.

The Life Safety Learning Center offers extremely detailed and realistic simulations of earthquakes and rainstorms, which teach the frightening power of these phenomena. It covers how to survive and recover from various natural disasters, in a typically thorough Japanese fashion. Many foreign participants remarked that there was no comparable facility in their own countries.

The event as a whole, with its 370 participants, was staffed by 110 Japanese university students. Thanks to exhaustive planning and preparedness, the conference ran smoothly. English learning materials were distributed to staff in advance, side trips were carefully vetted, and so on. Participants praised how punctually the conference ran.

Not just during the conference itself, but also during the side trips, staff were extremely attentive to the needs of participants, especially first-time visitors to Japan, so that they could freely enjoy themselves. In consideration of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds, vegetarian and halal lunch options were made available, as well as space and time for prayer.

Participants really got a taste of Japanese-style hospitality. And by choosing side trip destinations with free admission, recruiting volunteers for the welcome party koto performance, and other cost-saving measures, the conference expenses were very reasonable.

All the publicity materials, including the website, booklets sent via the web, posters and so on were created by staff rather than contractors. A Facebook campaign with information about Japanese culture that was begun several months in advance showcased the social media savvy of the young organizers. The result was an international conference with the cosiness of a neighbourhood gathering.

Attendee from Taiwan:

Getting to wear a yukata on Japan Night, taking a side trip to Meiji Shrine, and the programme of the conference itself all gave me exposure to Japanese culture. During my free time I ate Japanese foods like udon, sushi and ramen, bought souvenirs, and enjoyed my stay. Japanese people are very friendly and helpful. As a student, I felt safe walking around the city.

Attendee from Malaysia:

The conference was very well organized. Japanese cities are very clean and being in Japan was very comfortable. I went to the Life Safety Learning Center for my side trip, and learned a lot about disaster preparedness, which was of great interest to me since Malaysia doesn't suffer from many typhoons or earthquakes. Japan certainly isn't as affordable as Southeast Asia, but the product quality is very high, so there is value.

Attendee from Algeria:

The buses and trains run on time, and you can get to all the sightseeing spots using public transit, which makes it very easy for foreigners to get around in Japan. Seeing how people behave when they are riding the train shows you how polite the Japanese are. As a Muslim I observe special dietary restrictions, but restaurant staff were happy to warn me about any dishes that had pork or alcohol so that I could enjoy my meals without worrying. I bought souvenirs like wooden cups and chopsticks for the people back home.

Interview with Eric So, Chairperson of Professional Development, International Pharmaceutical Students Federation:

Japan has a rich history and tradition, and it is a popular international tourism destination. For students without experience in putting on international meetings, holding one for 400-plus people was quite an accomplishment. The Japanese staff thought of everything, from hotel transfers, to halal and vegetarian foods, to English explanations on the side trips. The side trips, by the way, were unique and interesting.
This was my second visit to Tokyo, and I am always making new discoveries here. You can never get tired of Tokyo. Prices were about the same as in Europe or North America, or even cheaper. I was able to get a Japan Rail Pass and visit Kyoto, Nara and Osaka after the meeting. I enjoyed seeing those very different Japanese cities.
Japan has so many attractions that are totally unique. There are all kinds of programmes that let you experience Japanese culture. Everyone should consider Japan as a MICE destination!

Daiichi Sankyo Medicine Museum URL (Japanese only):

Life Safety Learning Center URL:

Back to top