2022/01/22 05:53


Shrines are the Roots of Japanese Culture.



Shrines are the Roots of Japanese Culture.

A truly international person is one who understands what Japan and the Japanese are and can relay this overseas.
Profile of Hidetoshi Tojo, webmaster of ‘Jinjyajin’ website
Tojo, the CEO of Culcharge Co. Ltd., was born in 1972 in Saitama as the great-grandson of Hideki Tojo, the 40th Prime Minister of Japan during World War II. Investigating the model of Japanese nonprofit sector, he focused on the presence of shrines and Shinto.  He promotes cultural tourism through shrines, in order to revitalize local communities and their cultures. On May 24th his book, The Proof of the Japanese, was published. Following this, he began lecturing extensively across the nation.

As an internationalized society, we will further communicate with people from other countries. However, there will always be more to understand about ‘Japan’ and ‘Japanese.’ In this edition, Ms. Yu Chihama interviewed Mr. Hidetoshi Tojo, who published The Proof of the Japanese on May 24th. Ms. Chihama is in her third year at Tsuda College, and she is a volunteer interpreting guide for Meiji Jingu.

Q1: What inspired you to create the shrine database? What do you think is the most attractive aspect of Shinto? 
A1: It all started when I thought of making a web portal focusing on Japanese culture. As I was doing the research on Shinto, which is closely related to Japanese culture, I found that there are more than 80,000 shrines in Japan. However, there were no databases on shrines, so I decided to make one. I started visiting shrines, taking photos, and studying their histories.

I was not familiar with shrines before, but through visiting a number of them, I came to understand that each shrine has its own unique identity and history that connects its community with its pasts. Visiting more than 900 shrines over three years, I gradually became aware of the relationships between one shrine and another, and this in turn led to other discoveries.

I would not know such things if I had not experienced it first hand. I think it would be easier to understand Shinto not as a religion but a ‘collection of thoughts.’ For example, those who made a living from fishing have enshrined ‘God of the Sea’ to pray for safety at sea. Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine in Osaka is one of the shrines where people go to pray to the ‘God of the Sea.’ When visiting many shrines, we can understand people’s thoughts back then, and this is the only place where we can feel the connection with the people of the past.
The objects of worship are not only Japanese. In fact, there are shrines dedicated to people from foreign countries. The openness of Shinto allow the Japanese to accept beliefs and ideas from overseas like Buddhism. Furthermore, Shinto has no doctrine or commandments such as those in Christianity or Buddhism.

A mirror normally sits on the altar in a shrine. It is said that one can find “Kami” (God) in the reflection of oneself. In Shinto’s belief, one has to find the answer in oneself. It is different from other religions that teach people to follow the doctrine to be an ideal self. That is why in Japanese it means ‘the road of God(s)’ rather than ‘teachings of God(s).’ The path to one’s ideal self is through appreciation of others, meaning having gratitude for everything.

This simple form of worship in nature is considered as new lifestyle that coexists with nature. Although this is one of the oldest concepts, it would be great if we can expand this as a new concept from Japan.

Q2: Would you tell me the relationship between the emperor and Japan? What do you think is the idea of ‘protecting Japan’?
A2: My activities started from understanding ‘National Foundation Day.’ Japan has been ‘the oldest country’ that has been governed by an emperor for 2,672 years, and recognized by countries that have a monarchy. However, this is not taught in compulsory education and thus not recognized by the public. If the imperial system is lost, Japan will lose itself as a country. It is based on that which emphasizes the importance of keeping the imperial system.

‘Protecting Japan’ means to protect the essence of Japan and the Japanese. Ancestors have passed on tradition and beauty of Japan to the next generations. The world witnessed people from the Tohoku area helping each other without disorder after the earthquake on March 11th. When there was a devastating catastrophe in Turkey, the public learned from Japan’s orderly conduct.

On the other hand, as the result of pursuing a rational economy, Japan is a country that wastes more than 1 trillion yen worth of food. Most Japanese used to be farmers and appreciated what nature has given us. We need to remember ‘the Japanese aesthetic’ from the farmers’ perspective of cherishing ‘objects’ and ‘mateship.’
Q3: What attitude is important for young people to have in Japan? How should they deal with globalization?

A3: With a challenging spirit. When I was a businessman, I requested to transfer to Hong Kong and spent four years there. This experience made me who I am today. Life is long, therefore I hope that people can step out of their safety zone and accept new challenges while they are young.

Don’t be afraid of failures and mistakes, and go abroad to meet with those who have different ideas. Then you’ll find your identity, realize what Japan and Japanese are, and become a real international person.

(After the interview with Mr. Tojo ,Yu Chihama, Third year student of Tsuda College)
I was most impressed by the importance to understand the different views and thoughts of others. From this, we can understand ourselves as Japanese, and discover the identity of Japan and the differences between others. Through this process, we can establish our Japanese identity, create uniqueness, and become an international society. As a young generation, we are heading towards globalization without understanding what Japan and the Japanese are. We should once again learn Japanese culture and traditions and find our own identity. There are many things we can learn from Mr. Tojo’s shrine database, and I will consider how to learn those things in my own way.

《Translated by Kaori Asakami (Monash Univ.)》

Unlock infinite potential of students




Unlock infinite potential of students

Over 1,300,000 teenagers worldwide
already took part in the legendary “Rock Challenge”event


“Rock Challenge” – In 1988 this event took place for the first time to get the “positive attitude” out of the teenagers. Nowadays this event is also recognized by the UNESCO and the WHO and just yet the performance of Koshien was broadcasted nationwide. Furthermore, beside Australia, “Rock Challenge” events are performed in over 120 different places, like in New Zealand, England, Germany, Japan, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates and a few more. Many educational establishments consider Rock Challenge as ”the best  educational  program  in the world to cultivate sound spirits among students" and also enjoy the reputation as " educational institution" that motivates normal  teenagers to the level of creating a whole event on their own,

The German exchange student Andreas is working for Global Community as an intern since March 2012. He met with “Rock Challenge” producer Michael J. Di Stasio and talked with him about this project.


Q1:Andreas: “Rock Challenge” exists now for a very long time. Have you ever thought in the past, that this project would have such a big success?

A1:Di Stasio: “Rock Challenge” gives the chance for the students to work  and overcome the difficulties as a team and to have fun by creating everything on their own. Although they get some help for the music, the dances and the production by some professionals the main actors are students. Educators tend to underestimate the potential of the students. I think education means to unlock infinite potential of students That's why we focus on giving them a platform and assure them to tap their full potential on stage. I hope that they can also taste the joy of acting on stage like a professional.

Q2:Andreas: What was the intention to start this project in other countries, such as Japan? Furthermore, what are the future perspectives for this event?

A2:Di Stasio: Drinking, smoking, doing drugs and promiscuous behavior of teenagers are the biggest problems in countries like Australia, America and some European countries. For instance, in South Africa the biggest problem is  that 15 percent of all high school students are infected with HIV. High school students are looking for a way to dissipate their energy. However  the problems of the Japanese high school students are different. Their biggest worry is, that they often don't know how to behave themselves  in society. This problem arises from the fact that the way to measure to the abilities of a student are quite limited in Japanese society. They have to be free to create their own ideas and thoughts.

Also we wanted to create an antithesis to the strong commercialized Japanese pop and show business. In my opinion it is a much bigger threat, that young children are  sexually abused for CD sales than the threat of radioactivity.

Since 2006 we went on stage 5 times and the main  participants have been  international schools, but every year there are more local Japanese shcools participating and in future we want to implement more traditional Japanese music.  Through this matter we can introduce Japanese music and art more in foreign countries. I think the traditional Japanese performance gains dignity even of western arts producers when they watch it. Until now the Japanese students mainly perform HIPHOP songs and the American culture has a big influence on the students, but  hopefully the spirit of the Japanese performance may touch their souls. My dream is that Japanese students discover fun in expressing themselves on stage freely at the “Rock Challenge” events, just like students do in Australia.

As Mr Di Stasio is married with a Japanese women and living here for many years, he is concerned with the needs of Japanese students. Kindly he accept our offer to  cooperates with our  2nd International Singing Festival in October. We hope that there will be more schools participating in “Rock Challenge” in the future.


Comments from interviewer  Andreas Steiner



I never heard about Rock Challenge before and so I read some articles about it before the interview took place. But right in the interview I realized what the real intention of Rock Challenge is. I have to admit, that I was really amazed after the interview with Mr. Di Stasio.  There should be more people like him that put so much effort into a non-profit project. He exactly figured out, what the problems of today's youth are and he tries to avoid that they start drinking too much alcohol, doing drugs or even committing suicide. With his project he wants to show them that they can be strong and self-confident without any addictive substances. He gives them a chance to find their own way and build their own mind and he even has enough courage to oppose the modern pop industry. They can be stars without sexually attracting older man, like most of the Japanese pop bands with young girls in it do. Furthermore I like the fact that he brought the idea of “Rock Challenge” to many other countries with different backgrounds. I hope that this project will gain more success and I also hope that Mr. Di Stasio keeps on working on this unique and outstanding project.
Translated by Andreas Steiner (exchange student in Dokkyo Univ.)

ROCK CHALLENGE OFFICIAL SITE http://www.globalrockchallenge.com/

The Original Social Business!




The Original Social Business!

Never give up on Fukushima!!

After the March 11 earthquake, many people reaffirmed the importance of “people-to-people bonds.” In this interview, Shi In Ketsu (right, China) and Lee San Jun (left, South Korea) speak with Masao Ogino, a native of Iwaki City in Fukushima Prefecture, who is involved in support activities for the earthquake reconstruction, and is also the president of ICHII Corporation Ltd., a social business enterprise that provides housing support for foreigners.

Masao Ogino: President of ICHII Corporation Ltd. and chairman of the International Exchange Committee of the Japan Property Management Association. Returning home after living in several U.S. and European countries during his university years, Mr. Ogino decided to move into the property industry, providing housing for foreigners. With the industry expanding, Mr. Ogino has become a pioneer by holding seminars related to housing support for foreigners, as well as running a foreign student internship program. After the March 11 earthquake, he quickly returned to his hometown Iwaki City in Fukushima Prefecture, where he launched the “Fukushima International Media Village,” and is steadily continuing his activities with the aim of giving courage to the Iwaki locals.

Q: (Mr. Shi) What gave you an interest in housing problems for foreigners?

A: (Mr. Ogino)When I was a student I travelled to the US and England, where I rented and lived in various places. It was here I saw many different types of housing. In the guesthouses I stayed at there were people of various countries hanging out in the living room and enjoying their conversations with one another – regardless of age, sex, or nationality. It was very stimulating. When I first came back to Japan, I searched for accommodation where foreigners could live. Apart from places where embassy workers and executives from foreign companies would live – where the rent was $10000 a month – at the time there were no other places.  One day, while searching for a house with a [foreign] university professor, we went to several real estate agents, but were turned away from most of them just because the professor was a foreigner. I realized then how hard it was for foreigners to look for housing, even if they were trustworthy people. Since then, I began to work in earnest in order to get rid of this kind of housing discrimination. After that, as foreigners in Japan increased my business began to grow, and I was able to build large corporate-style accommodation capable of housing over 100 people, just like the guesthouses I saw overseas. Now, guesthouses are becoming known in society, and are even reported on frequently in various media.

Q: (Mr. Lee) As chairman of the International Exchange Committee of the Japan Property Management Association, you must be making all kinds of new proposals to the industry.

A: (Mr. Ogino) That’s right. It’s part of my pride as a real estate agent! My parents were landlords, so when I was a child I lived in tenement housing with other residents where we got along well. Back in the day, part of a landlord’s job was looking after residents by, for example, helping them search for jobs and introducing them to prospective marriage partners. This was in return for receiving rent continuously from residents. This was the original role of real estate agents (i.e. landlords). Here we see the concept of “social business”, where the idea of valuing the community is an essential part of business. At the International Exchange Committee, therefore, we do things like hold seminars for people in the business, make multilingual DVD housing guides, as well as run an internship program for foreign students, in order to create an easier rental environment for foreigners.

Q: (Both interviewers) We’re very grateful for your kindness during our internships. Is that kind of sentiment also the basis for your support in your hometown of Iwaki, where we also helped out?

A: (Mr. Ogino) That’s right. It’s part of my pride as a real estate agent! My parents were landlords, so when I was a child I lived in tenement housing with other residents where we got along well. Back in the day, part of a landlord’s job was looking after residents by, for example, helping them search for jobs and introducing them to prospective marriage partners. This was in return for receiving rent continuously from residents. This was the original role of real estate agents (i.e. landlords). Here we see the concept of “social business”, where the idea of valuing the community is an essential part of business. At the International Exchange Committee, therefore, we do things like hold seminars for people in the business, make multilingual DVD housing guides, as well as run an internship program for foreign students, in order to create an easier rental environment for foreigners.

Q: (Both interviewers) Finally, what do you hope from today’s young people, and what kind of person would you like to work with?

A: In any case, I think it’s important for young people to go overseas while they’re young. Also, please mix with as many different people as possible and make friends all around the world. In terms of people I want to work with, they should have a sense of curiosity and enjoy challenges. Also, although work in real estate will change with the needs of the time, regardless of the age considerate communication will always be fundamental. If you’re someone who sympathizes with idea of making people happy through housing, then I would definitely want to work with you.

It is said that when foreign students come to Japan the first people they come into contact with are their Japanese language school teacher and a real estate agent. President Ogino, as a pioneer in the real estate world, has step-by-step single-handedly realized the oath he made over thirty years ago. It is precisely this social business manager who, thinking of his friends, is also involved in the Fukushima nuclear problem.


Change in Osaka = Change for Japan?

Change in Osaka = Change for Japan?

Can Japan’s youth place their hopes in the “Osaka-to (Osaka Metropolis) Scheme”?
Following the March 11 earthquake, tourists and foreign students coming to Japan have greatly decreased. It’s also true that people’s interest has started to shift to China and the other rapidly-growing Asian countries. With people beginning to feel that things can’t remain as they are, will there be a reform of Japanese society? Four students spoke about this possibility with Keio University Professor Shinichi Ueyama, a specialist in organizational reform and advisor for the much-talked-about “Osaka Metropolis Scheme”.
Shinichi Ueyama profile: Professor at Keio University, Faculty of Policy Management. Born in Osaka, 54 years old. Specializes in company/administrative management strategy and organizational reform. Also works in city/regional renewal. Previously worked for the former Transport Ministry and as an associate for McKinsey & Co. Currently serves as Chairman for the Seisaku Hyouka-kai (Policy Review Council) at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, head of the Niigata City Research Institute for Public Policy and Management, Director of the Public Policy Studies Association JAPAN, as well as an advisor and committee member for a number of other companies and administrative bodies. Graduate of Toyonaka High School and the Faculty of Law at Kyoto University. Received his Ph.D from Princeton University.

Q: (Lance) Please explain the thinking behind the Osaka Metropolis Scheme, as well as its impacts on Japanese society should it be realized.

A: (Professor Ueyama) The Osaka Metropolis Scheme isn’t just about Osaka, it is about changing Japan from a “one state, one system” structure – a structure that has continued for 140 years since the Meiji Restoration – to a “one state, multi-system” structure. I believe everyone feels that if we continue under the present system, where the state controls everything from the center, it will be difficult to respond to an age of dramatic change. Power may have shifted from the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), but the core system of the country has not changed, meaning there will be no reform.

However, it is not possible to change this system as long as the regions remain economically dependent on the state. Therefore, in the “Osaka Metropolis Scheme”, we will first streamline the prefectural and city administrations and cut waste, then under the one plan effectively utilize the assets of Osaka Prefecture and Osaka City to revitalize the economy. Osaka Prefecture’s current debt is 10 trillion yen, but if you combine prefectural and city assets, then you have a total of 16 trillion yen. In particular, Osaka City owns an astounding 25 percent of the land within the city. If we utilize this asset effectively it would not be difficult to attract outside investment. Also, if the prefecture and city cooperate we would also be able to create more efficient infrastructure. In countries that are currently growing economically, it is not the state that guides everything but rather the leaders of large metropolises who use their own discretion to implement new policies and bring in investment from overseas and private companies. If Osaka shows its new growth model to other regions, then we should see similar moves in the Kyushu, Chukyo, and Tokyo areas also.

Q: (Mei-Hua Cui) That’s an amazing scheme. However, living in Japan (Tokyo), I feel the Japanese are conservative, so even if they agree with the concept, won’t it will be difficult to turn the plan into action?

A: It’s certainly not simple. However, I have many colleagues in various fields who are working in the same direction as me. Also, Osaka in a way isn’t really Japan (laughs). Historically, it is a flourishing commercial city, so without a more free and vibrant movement of people, goods and money, it cannot survive. Osakans also aren’t really sticklers for the rules; they are an adaptive people. If anything, they more Asian in this sense.  If Japan’s system becomes inflexible, it will eventually become easy for Japanese people to miss opportunities.It’s very difficult to change Japan as a whole.That's why we start from Osaka.

Q: (Sumida) There has been an increase in young people acting out of a desire to change society after the March 11 earthquake. As someone promoting the Osaka Metropolis Scheme, do you have any advice for them?

A: There is also a need for young Japanese to change their mindsets. The best way to do this is to live overseas. If you view Japan from the outside, I think you can really feel the differences in other systems and ways of thinking. Society does not change easily (laughs). First, you should start by steadily changing your immediate environment. In order to do this you need to acquire the necessary societal skills, try them out, and learn how to be persuasive.  I began thinking about the “Osaka Metropolis Scheme” 10 years ago. I occasionally had setbacks on the way, but if you believe in your aspirations, then chances will come your way. Even if you make mistakes, if you’re willing to openly admit to them, you will find people willing to help you. If you have aspirations, it’s important to not let yourself get upset and instead progress forward in a positive manner.
Also, I would like young people to have more of an interest in politics. Looking at the newspapers and TV, politicians don’t seem very appealing, but if you speak to them individually, many of them are very bright. However, when you get them all together, the Japanese group mentality takes over and you can’t see this. In order to change this situation, I would like young people – regardless of nationality – to take more a proactive interest in Japanese society and politics.

There would be very few people who think Japanese society is fine the way it is. It’s becoming more difficult even for young people to hold bright hopes for the future. In this way, I hope that if interest in the “Osaka Metropolis Scheme” acts as a catalyst for young people to develop a clear vision (for the future), then no matter how difficult, a “can-do spirit” will spread throughout Japan.

translated by Lance truong (Monash Univ)

Build the “Int'l Red and White Song contest” into an int'l event




Let’s build the “International Red and White Song contest” into an international event!

The “Red and White Song contest” (Kōhaku Uta Gassen) is, of course, the national event held every New Year’s Eve on NHK. Japanese around the country share hit songs and golden oldies, as well as reflect on that year’s events. They also affirm their connection and solidarity with one another in preparation for the new year. The songs performed are also a reflection of the times.

While the “International Red and White Song Battle” is based on this event, its essence is slightly different. Rather than the “red and white” (denoting the colors of the teams that compete against one another), the focus is on the “international”. In this way, we can bring together those foreigners around us to create a “multicultural song battle”.

However, one cannot describe this song battle without mentioning the Great East Japan Earthquake. On March 3, Japan was hit by an unprecedented major earthquake and tsunami, followed by a nuclear accident. Relief teams came from around the world, along with donations and calls of “ganbare Nippon!” (“Don’t give up, Japan!). Foreigners living in Japan also rushed to volunteer in the affected areas. For these people, the disaster wasn’t someone else’s problem. “Giving hope to those in the disaster zone” – this was the theme of the International Red and White Song Battle right from the planning stages.

Having ethnic and multicultural media enter their names as group sponsors was also a bold approach. While they are vastly inferior to the mass media in terms of audience reach, we were able to transcend national borders through their use of technology to transmit information in their native languages. They thus demonstrated their power in a different dimension to the Japanese-language mass media. We also trialled a live broadcast through Ustream. It is through these approaches that the meaning of “international” in the “International Red and White Song Battle” is found.


However, even more worthy of note is the fact that foreigners of many nationalities as well as Japanese were able to come together through song. There are over two million foreigners living in Japan, but if their nationalities are different they don’t have many chances to interact with one another, and thus tend to mingle with people of their own nationality. This is only natural if they are unable to speak the same language.


If NHK’s Red and White Song Battle is a Japanese national event, then the International Red and White Song Battle can be said to be an event for a multicultural society. Actually, just confining it to a regional event is not enough – I want it to be turned into an international event that garners attention the world over.

(Author) Susumu Ishihara , editor-in-chief at the multicultural info magazine “Immigrants” (he contributed this article representative of the planning committee for the event).



 グローバルコミュニティーでは、今回、多文化共生に詳しい元毎日新聞論説副委員長の石原進氏に国際紅白歌合戦の総括の記事を書いていただきました。石原氏は、記者当時から日本における外国人問題に深い関心をもち、「多文化共生社会・日本」 の実現をはかるべく多文化情報誌『イミグランツ』を創刊されています。第一線のジャーナリストとして活躍された深い見識と、毎日新聞政治部副部長時代に培った豊富な人脈を活用し、海外有識者ネットワーク日本事務局長を努めながら、『日本社会の内なる国際化』の啓蒙活動を『イミグランツ』を通して地道に続けておられます。


多文化情報誌『イミグランツ』 NO.4




I just want to help the people I love




“I just want to help the people I love”

A desire to help, and the miracle it led to

Several months after the 3.11 Great Earthquake, there were problems with relief supplies sent to government offices not being efficiently delivered to those in need. It was in this situation that “Fumbarou East Japan” (“Project Fumbaro Eastern Japan”) representative, Takeo Saijo, came up with a simple system of directly sending supplies to these people. Mr. Saijo, then spread the word of this method to tens of thousands of people over Twitter, starting a revolution in the delivery of relief supplies. Eitarou Konno (Lakeland University, Japan Campus) and Yiru Guo(Sophia University) spoke with one of the most relied-upon people in the disaster area.


(Konno) My hometown is Ishinomaki City, and I volunteered there for a month and a half, clearing up rubble. However, because the local leader was absent, we had a difficult time. What was your strongest feeling during your work in the disaster zone?

(Saijo) This disaster is of a magnitude no-one has ever experienced before. I don’t want to simply say “you can’t understand unless you go,” but the damage was far worse than I imagined – I was lost for words. I also lost an uncle I loved very much, and my relatives and friends that remained have suffered a lot. Even if you go and help out in the disaster zone, it’s very hard to tell the people there to “give it their all.” Everyone is already giving it their best suppressing their unhappiness. Despite the heat, there are people even now in the evacuation sites without fans. There’s still so much more we need to do.

(Konno)  What is the reason Ganbarou Higashi Nippon’s work reached so many people in such a short time?

(Saijo)  I think it’s because it is based on my research in “Structural Constructivism,” where you grasp the situation on the ground, and try to conduct support activities in as simple a way as possible. There were already a matching website for sending support material, but the people in the disaster area who can access the internet and obtain information are in the minority. We went directly to the evacuees, asked them what they needed, and then put that list up on our website.
Luckily courier services were already running, and through the website we were able to connect people receiving and sending supplies. Before long we went from simply “sending supplies,” to a feeling of “helping specific individuals to receive supplies,” and I think senders motivation to support them became stronger. Twitter was really helpful in relaying the situation from the ground. The will to help those in the disaster zone spread with the dissemination of this vivid information, and friends of “Ganbarou” increased in no time. Also, even if some things went bad and were criticised, if this remained at only around five percent of everything we were doing, we turned a blind eye to it and proceeded with our plans. I think it was good that we stuck to our idea of “only for the disaster people.”

(Guo) How do you think students should respond to the earthquake?

(Saijo) In any event, myself and the students around me want other students to go the disaster zone and see it for themselves. I think it would be difficult for some young people, who are blessed with the environment they have, to empathise with people’s pain and deep sadness. However, for those who go and see the disaster zone, their feelings towards giving support changes in a definite way. As they volunteer, I think the feeling that they want to help others becomes aroused from the bottom of their hearts. I don’t think of the activities that I do as volunteering. I simply act with the thought that in any event I want to help those in the disaster zone – it’s as natural as eating. I think a lot of my fellow workers are the same.

It’s already been four months since the earthquake, but the disaster zone is still far from recovery – everyone’s continued support is needed. Emergency groups such as “Geiger Counter Project” and “Kaden (home applicance) Project”, as well as new groups like Entertainment Squad and Student Squad have started their activities. I think studying for job-hunting is important, but through Ganbarou East Japan’s activities I want everyone to have encounters and experiences that they can’t learn at school – one’s they won’t forget for the rest of their lives.

Takeo Saijo profile:
Waseda University Graduate School (MBA) full-time lecturer. Specialises in Psychology and (Scientific) Philosophy. Systemized the meta-theory “Structural Constructivism”. Originally from Sendai, he started Ganbarou East Japan in order to do what he could for those who lost their lives.

twitterID:@saijotakeo (follower:17,532)


Eitarou Konno’s impressions

I was very impressed by Mr Saijo’s words, “I’ve never thought of what I am doing as volunteering.”  Having had these feelings myself, people often tell me to “give it my best” or that I’m very “admirable,” but helping your friends and relatives when they are suffering is a natural reaction. Rather, when I think of my friends who lost their lives, I truly feel sorry for not being able to do anything for them - I recognized this again during the interview.

(please see the full article at yokosojapan.net)
translated by Lance Truong (Monash Univ.)

「ふんばろう東日本支援プロジェクト」 http://fumbaro.org/

The Rebirth of Japan from Tokyo



The Rebirth of Japan from Tokyo


From CEO to challenger of the political world: interview with Miki Watanabe

One out of ten high school  students studying overseas
From seven million to fourteen million tourists

After succeeding in the restaurant business at a young age, Miki Watanabe then expanded into other fields like nursing, agriculture, medicine, and education, reforming their harsh business environments through his own individual style. During this period he ran into the “political wall” of regulation; he therefore decided that using his managerial skill he would revive Japan by standing in the Tokyo gubernatorial election. He has won the hearts and minds of mainly young people with his messages of “No apathy” and “A Tokyo overflowing with dreams and thank-yous”; words rarely heard from your usual politician. Zhang Xin , a junior from Watanabe’s alma mater Meiji University, spoke with him.

Q1: What was the main reason you decided to run in the election?
A1: Using a trillion yen budget, I wanted to “manage Tokyo” and bring joy to its 13 million citizens. I’ve started businesses in fields like restaurants, nursing, agriculture, medicine, and education, and in 27 years have managed to achieve rising sales and profits. Utilising an entrepreneur’s perspective, by making operations more thorough and efficient, and cutting waste, I think Tokyo can be run more efficiently.

Q2: I am in total agreement with your idea of having one in every ten Tokyo high school students study overseas, but what should be done in order to make students want to go overseas and expand their potential?
A2: In the current situation it may sound like a dream, but as long you create a system that supports students, I think it would be more than possible to have one in every ten students study overseas. I believe that impressionable high school students who see the world will be able to expand their limitless potential. Japan is the only advanced country where the number of students studying overseas is decreasing. It is really important for Japan’s future to change this situation.


Q3: Tokyoites don’t really recognise Tokyo as a “tourism city”. What do you think is the most important thing in order to increase Tokyo’s appeal as a city for tourists?

A3: I want to make Tokyo into a brand. When people hear the word “Tokyo”, I want them to recognise it for “that thing”, whatever it may be. People from all over the world identify Tokyo for its many attractions, like fashion, anime, and gourmet. If I’m elected as governor, I want to double the number of tourists from the current seven million to fourteen million. I want to make Tokyo into a town where Tokyoites recognise its appeal and warmly welcome foreign tourists.

Q4: How should one motivate themselves when they’re having trouble achieving their dream?

A4: It is important to have a dream and never give up pursuing it. I’ve written it in my book as well, but I believe that by “putting a date” to your dream and then imagining what it would be like if it was achieved, you can increase your motivation.

Q5: I would like you to create places in Tokyo where overseas students can become more actively involved. How do you view, however, a Tokyo with increasing numbers of foreigners and overseas students?
A5: That’s a very important point. I would like to, for example, turn the city-run Tokyo Metropolitan University into one that people all over the world want to attend, by opening its doors and inviting large numbers of talented professors and overseas students.

Q6: Please give a message to both Japanese university students and foreign students studying in Japan.
A5: When I was student, I travelled around Asia, Europe, and America. One time, I was in a live music club in New York, and saw people from many different countries mixing with one another. This experience motivated me to start a dining business. These days we live in an age where national borders are less recognised. Whether you’re Japanese or not, as people of the earth I think it is important to think of our friends across the world the same as we would our own countrymen. If we encounter one another with a determination to understand each other, I think the world will become a wonderful place.

At the age of ten Watanabe lost his mother, and his father liquidated his business. Raised by his grandmother in difficult circumstances, he decided in grade five to become a company president.  “Putting a date” on this dream he overcame the difficulties that came his way, and has achieved enormous success in many business fields. During the interview, I felt that Watanabe truly believes in the idea that “as long you stick to the belief that everything you do is for the customer, you can succeed in any business”. There are many young people who are distrustful towards those involved in politics and administration. However, in the upcoming unified local elections, let’s judge candidates not by their political and administrative experience, but rather in terms of who will seriously consider the needs of the local people and work to break through the current situation. Let’s take responsibility for our future, get out there, and vote!

Zhang Xin’s (Meiji University second year) impressions:


It was real honour to meet directly with and talk to Watanabe-san, a “big senior” from my own Meiji University. I think his ideas, such as sending high school students overseas to study, and turning Tokyo into one brand and transmitting it to the world, are really great. Someday I want to become a person like Watanabe-san – someone who can change the world. Watanabe-san, please win in this election and make Tokyo a more open and spirited place. (Last year, Zhang-san completed a one-month long-term internship in the property industry, and with other graduates of the program is currently studying for the “Real Estate Transaction Specialist” exam)


Running Tokyo
Author: Miki Watanabe   Publisher: Sunmark Publishing Inc.

From a “management pro” with experience in a wide range of fields including restaurants, nursing, agriculture, education, and medicine, comes an outstanding work offering his opinions on the administration of Tokyo. How can we break down the wall of ‘politics’ that he experienced as an entrepreneur? The author argues that what is most important is a “management perspective”. How can we rid ourselves of our shackles and fundamentally remake Tokyo? Awash with ideas from the author’s original perspective, he presents the fruit of his efforts – the “Tokyo Reconstruction Theory”.


Miki Watanabe – Profile: Born 5 October 1959. After graduating from Meiji University’s School of Commerce, he worked for half a year in an accounting firm in order to learn about the financing and accounting required in order to run a company. After this he worked for one year in a transport company and saved three million yen in capital. In 1984 he founded Watami, and under a doctrine of “becoming the business group that gathers the most thank-yous in the world”, constructed an original business model in areas such as dining, nursing, agriculture, environment, education, medicine and welfare. He has worked as director of the Ibunkan incorporated school, the Kishiwada-Eishinkai Hospital, the NPO “Everyone’s Dream”, and Nippon Keidanren; he was a member of the government’s “Education Rebirth Council” (2006), Kanagawa Prefecture’s board of education (2006-2009), the Japan Sumo Association’s “Independent Committee for the Improvement of Governance” (2010); and an advisor to the Japan Tourism Agency (2010). At the same time, as representative director of the public service corporation “School Aid Japan”, he is also involved in the construction of schools in Cambodia.

Miki Watanabe’s official websites:


Students are chosen as regional committee representatives



A Japan-first! Two university students are chosen as regional committee representatives

Regional committees were conceived from the idea of finding new forms of local administration, centering on volunteer-participation. So what do they do?

Nagoya University journalism student Lance Truong spoke with Shingo Tamaki (a fourth-year student at Nagoya University), and Koujiro Ohara (a third-year student at Aichi Prefectural University). They were elected to serve as representatives in the regional committee for Chikusa Ward in Nagoya, where they deliberated over how to allocate their fifteen million yen (around 180 thousand USD) budget.

Regional committees began on a trial-basis in Nagoya. In this system of regional self-government, committee members are elected to according to school districts, which have a population of 5000 to 15000 people. While all members are volunteers, with their budget of five to fifteen million yen and task of promoting discussions as representatives of local residents, they are vastly different to existing residents’ associations and regional liaisons.  Despite accusations of being a ‘dead letter local assembly’, all regional committee meetings are open to the public, with normal citizens able to freely participate and ask questions – a new form of local self-government.

   (Left: Tamaki, right: Ohara)

Q: Why did you decide to run to become a volunteer committee member?

A: (Tamaki) I came to Nagoya from Wakayama, and in my life as a student I didn’t have much involvement with my community, so I though it would be a good opportunity to learn about it. I also felt it would be a challenge to decide by ourselves how to spend a fifteen million yen budget, so I decided to run. 

A: (Ohara) I study Spanish and have an interest in the influence (Spanish architect Antoni) Gaudi’s buildings had on the cities they were built in.  I found our regional committee’s task, the‘preservation of historical buildings’, very attractive, so I ran.

Q: What did you feel in your experience as a regional committee member?


A: (Tamaki) While I also served as committee vice-chairman, there were not many other young committee members. However, I was surrounded by many people with rich life experience, from seniors to housewives, and they really listened to our opinions. I learnt that the ability of students to provide new ideas and put them into action can be useful for the local community. While there are many young people who show no interest in politics and don’t vote, if you can have an interest in your community, you can become responsible for how your society changes into the future.

In my family there are many police and public servants. I also served as student body president, so I guess I was always relatively surrounded by politics and social issues. Being able to take responsibility on deciding how to spend fifteen million yen of peoples’ taxes however was a really good experience – I keenly felt the weight of that responsibility. I learnt that in terms of your own community, there are many problems close at hand, and young people are able to contribute in areas like mobilizing help and doing the planning for events. I also think that my being chosen as committee vice-chairman reflected the large expectations of the other committee members towards the younger generation. Originally, politics shouldn’t be carried out by “special” people; there should be more roles for younger people, salarymen, housewives, representatives for the weaker in society, and others. Working this time as a community representative, I keenly felt the large expectations towards my generation. Also, to make the regional committees function better, I think we need the cooperation of city councilors. In order to listen to the voices of local residents, if city councilors can both accept and work with the volunteer regional committees, I think local governance will become more democratic, and the number of young people participating in politics will increase. In order to answer those expectations, I want to continue studying about politics and local governance.

A: (Ohara) Firstly, because I ran without any big expectations, I was honestly surprised when I got elected. Talking with other members in the committee meetings, I was able to learn about aspects of society that you can’t learn about in university. I was impressed by the committee chairman’s ability to coordinate such discussions while listening to everybody’s opinions. Working with a large budget and debating about the community I live in allowed me to appreciate again how great it is. When I told my friends at university about my activities as a regional committee representative, many of them showed an interest. The students at my university, majoring in foreign languages and other international-related subjects, tend to focus on larger world issues. I thought however that if people can become interested in their own community, this could also lead to solving those world issues.

Also, while I had studied about how Gaudi’s architecture influenced the formation of cities, by learning about and taking pride in the historical buildings of my own town, I developed an attachment to my community. I was also very happy when my university friends volunteered to help out at regional committee events. If even just one student gets involved with the people living in his community and develops an interest in it, I think this is a good thing. While I plan to study overseas in the future, through my work in the regional committee I was able to rediscover the importance of community ties and the wonder of Japan, and felt I have become able to talk about myself as a Japanese person.

Many local politicians in other democratic countries have another principal occupation; the volunteer aspect of their work (as local members) is strong. In this case, there aren’t many professional members of parliament (MPs) like in Japan. This trial of regional committees in Nagoya aims in the future to bring parliaments - which becoming more entrenched with professional MPs - closer to ordinary citizens. These two students, through their first experience in a regional committee, seem to have felt they have answered what was expected of them. This year there are unified local elections. It is important for young people themselves to carve out a new age, rather than leave their future to others. If they continue to act with this in mind, the adults of good will around them will give their support.

The World as Your Homeland!




The World as Your Homeland!

The 1st Asia Empowerment Forum

The 1st Asia Empowerment Forum was held November 7 at the Hotel Asia Centre of Japan in Minato Ward, Tokyo. Despite being called a “forum”, it was different from your usual government-talk fests. There wasn’t the kind of formal atmosphere where scholars present their research results. The running of the event was mainly conducted by students. Within in the forum’s keyword, “Asia”, there were many varied forms of “empowerment”, including multicultural society, health and housing, community, art, entrepreneurialism, volunteering, international marriage, love and emotion.

I received the forum program beforehand from my acquaintance Kazumi Miyazaki. Miyazaki-san publishes “Global Community”, a multilingual, international exchange-related magazine . He was also involved in planning the forum. Two days before, I had received an e-mail from Miyazaki-san explaining that the venue had been hastily changed from Tokyo University’s Faculty of Engineering to the Asia Centre in Aoyama. To chance venues at the last minute… it was with slight trepidation that I arrived at the forum.

The forum was sponsored by groups involved in international activities and a planning committee of volunteers. It was run by female university students from the East Asian student forum LEAF (Linking East Asian Future). Given it was their first forum, you couldn’t say that operations went entirely smoothly. Perhaps it was from lack of experience, but the host’s oratory style was slightly faltering. There was no official program in the materials that were on the desk. Such issues were more than offset however by the memorable messages that the forum promoted.

The opening featured “bugaku”, or military music not to be confused with the other “bugaku”, or traditional Japanese court music), a koto performance, and a song by a female Chosen-zoku, or Chinese person of Korean descent. The idea was to first capture the participants’ eyes and ears, perhaps aiming to create a “forum-like” atmosphere. Next,  a representative from the planning committee, LEAF’s Tomoko Wada , expressed the organizers’ gratitude for being able to gather people committed to Asia’s future and open the inaugural forum. After that, Pakistan’s ambassador to Japan, His Excellency Mr. Noor Muhammad Jadman, offered his congratulations as the representative Asian ambassador for the opening of the first forum.

The forum began with section A, “Multicultural co-existence, health and housing”. There were sections up to the letter G, with these seven “subcommittees” continuing in the midst of a tight schedule.  There were also representatives from various groups, including “Garuda Supporters”, who assist nursing and care worker candidates coming to Japan from Indonesia; Japan Property Management (Nihon Chintai Jyutaku Kanri Kyoukai), who find  housing for Int'l students and other foreigners;  and Daito Bunka University, who house foreign students in the Takashimadaira Apartments in Tokyo’s Itabashi Ward, and are making efforts to deepen their exchanges with the Japanese residents there.  For Japanese society, facing continuing population decline, the important issues being tackled by these groups are ones that must be confronted head-on.

Next on stage were both Japanese entrepreneurs and foreign entrepreneurs living in Japan. Gunyong Kim a Chinese of Korean-descent, utilised his  trilingual abilities to publish magazines in both Chinese and Korean. Indian resident Shyam Pyarauk, whose company WHCreation sells Indian coffee in Japan, spoke of his hardships, which were of great interest. While everyone knows about Indian curry, there are nearly no Japanese who are aware that India is also a coffee-producing country. Chinese resident Long Ri Cai  founded the company Sedai Keishou Katsugaku Ltd, a unique business that supports Chinese students in Japan. The company offers assistance from entry into school through to graduation and employment. It is also a supporter group of the Japanese government’s policy to increase the number of foreign students in Japan to 300,000.

Chiaki Ainsworth , Executive Director  at the NPO Multicultural Family Support Centre, gave a presentation as part of the “Multicultural Communication” section, and captured the attention of the female university students in the audience. Mrs Ainsworth is Japanese, but her husband is American. She pointed at that in Shinjuku Ward one out of every ten married couples is in an international marriage. She also explained the toils involved, saying that “while international marriages are increasing, in real life mutual understanding is hard to reach, so there are many divorces.”

Another presenter who created a lot of excitement was Professor Kawan Soetanto of Waseda University. An Indonesian, he has four doctoral degrees in Engineering, Medicine, Pharmacology and Education, yet the essence of his classes remains to “arouse motivation in students”.  Accompanied by his own female students, Professor Soetanto held an actual lesson as an example, his passionate style motivating the whole audience.

Perhaps it was because of the “Soetanto Effect”, but after that discussions became more intense. In particular, organisations like LEAF, the student group promoting exchange with Asia, student groups from Tsukuba and other Universities, interpreter tour guides,  and student groups involved in international medical assistance all spoke about their efforts. They all appeared to be utilising their strong wills and proactively putting them into practice. Their efforts should be known to all those adults who complain that “today’s young people have no spirit”.

The forum was closed (albeit one and a half hours late at just before eight pm), with a Tsugaru Shamisen and singer-songwriter performance. If you were to describe the event in a metaphorical sense, you could call it a “boiling pot of multiculturalism”. Masanobu Yamamoto, one of the initiators of the event and president of the Yamamoto School, an organisation that gather’s people who aim to revitalise Japan, said, “This was our first time, but every year from now on I would like to hold  a forum every four months.”

Everyone, come and visit Yamamoto school!

Multicultural-related Magazine immigrants


(Translated by Lance Truong (Monash Univ.)