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Whether it’s taking over a restaurant to cook a meal or trying to stay upright playing broom ball (hockey minus ice skates,) company off sites often bring a creative bent to team building for a PR agency.

But when I heard our Japan team was headed to a place called “Jigoku” which literally means “hell,” I asked Shingo Nomura, our North Asia VP and Japan GM to chronicle the journey.

Here’s his narrative.


By Shingo Nomura

Vice President, North Asia; Japan GM

Like the U.S., company offsites are quite common in Japan.

The history goes back to before the World War II when appreciation for everyone’s hard work was rewarded with a trip to a hot springs. Furthermore, there’s a tradition of what’s called the Graduate trip in most Japanese elementary schools, junior high schools and high schools in which students travel together before graduation.

I believe there’s culture of group travel rooted in Japan.

With this as a backdrop, Hoffman Japan decided to take its first company trip. Keeping with tradition, we decided on a hot spring (my idea of deep sea fishing was outvoted). The team wanted a destination as far as possible within the budget and a place that ideally staff had never been before.

The destination—

Beppu & Yufuin, a  famous hot spring resorts located on  Kyushu Island.

Kyushu Island

Our staff arrived at Oita airport with more than a little enthusiasm.

Oita Airport

As Lou mentioned, we visited Jigoku or “Hell,”  the most famous part of Beppu covering the hot springs. This hellish nickname derives from the surreal steam that envelopes the entire city. In fact, most homes in Beppu include an onsent or natural steam bath.

We enjoyed different “hells” during the offsite. This shot shows the team with the always-present steam in the background.

Sea Jigoku 2

The team dinner was also a hit.

Team Dinner

Most of the Onsen resorts devote rooms to table tennis. After World War II, table tennis boomed in Japan because one particular Japanese table tennis player performed well on the world stage. It turns out we have several staff members who love the game. As an outlet for our competitive instincts, we staged a tournament.

Table Tennis 1

Table Tennis 2

For Day 2 of the offsite, we went to Yufuin, a well-known quiet Onsen resort with the Japanese traditional landscape. We had a great time which included riding a horse cart. Needless to say, you don’t see many horse carts in Tokyo.

Riding cart

But what might have been the most unique experience involved creating a cup or dish using a potter’s wheel. It turns out everyone has artistic talent.

Cup creation 1

Observing the fun, I couldn’t help but notice how each individual’s personality comes out during the creative process and the final cup or dish. Some people ever-so carefully follow the professional’s guidance. Other members opted to take matters into their own hands and pressed on with little or no guidance.

Regardless, I’m pleased to say that everyone created a masterpiece.

Cup creation 2

What an amazing experience!

There’s a certain quality that’s hard to describe that comes from traveling together.

I’d like to say to my Japanese colleagues:

思い出に残る楽しい旅行をありがとう。来年も行くよ!

Thanks for the great memories.


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