- What are your main responsibilities?
- As secretary to an assistant general manager of the Corporate Planning & Coordination Group, my primary tasks consist of arranging schedules and collecting and organizing relevant information, among others. Recognizing that I am expected to do more than just fulfilling assigned duties, I endeavor to put forward proposals as appropriate in relation to my responsibilities. I also work as a liaison to a variety of external organizations, particularly major industry groups such as Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) and the Japan Foreign Trade Council, as well as public agencies. Communication and schedule coordination between these organizations and the Company are predominant tasks required of me.
In November 2011, I taught Japanese calligraphy in a Japanese culture workshop held in Ukraine.
- Tell us about your pursuits and activities outside the Company.
- I have for years been involved in volunteer activities overseas promoting traditional Japanese arts and culture, typically, flower arrangement and calligraphy. This long-time commitment traces its origin back primarily to my first trip to Taiwan around 20 years ago. During my first visit to the region, local staff of Sumitomo Corporation Taiwan helped me in a very kind manner, and their impressive kindness inspired me to do something to help overseas visitors to Japan. After returning from Taiwan, I began to participate in volunteer programs organized to support foreigners in my hometown of Yokohama. Specifically, I worked as an interpreter tourist guide and as a staff member of a foreign student support program. On a number of occasions organized under these foreigner support projects, and particularly during times that I taught Japanese-style flower arrangement, foreign participants asked me numerous questions about Japanese culture and history, for which I was often unable to provide accurate answers. I was shocked at the extent of ignorance I displayed about my own country. However, this shameful experience triggered my enthusiasm to more widely learn traditional performing Japanese art forms, from tea ceremony, calligraphy, kimono making and dressing to mizuhiki decoration art. The skills developed in these fields served me well later on as I began to accept offers—mostly under the name of cultural promotion projects as well as from my friends living abroad—to provide instruction in traditional Japanese cultural activities at schools in a host of countries. Currently, I visit Ukraine and Moldova on a regular basis to introduce Japanese language and culture at schools and other organizations.
In the course of a couple of years since I started teaching Japanese culture in these countries, the children began to speak to me using the Japanese words they learned such as "sensei". It was a profoundly exciting and fulfilling moment. Many students also show interest in Japan’s postwar history, from its national reconstruction from scratch through to the unmatched level of economic and cultural growth that followed, which helps encourage them to learn about this Far East Asian country in the hopes that their country can follow this successful model. I hope that my activities can help build friendly relationships between Japan and many other countries.
In November 2011, I taught Japanese to children using karuta playing cards in a kindergarten in Moldova.
- Throughout these years of your commitment to promoting Japanese culture, has there been some link between your volunteer activities and business engagements?
- Yes. My volunteer activities unexpectedly helped me when I was working to arrange a meeting between the Chairman and President of Sumitomo Corporation and an ambassador designate to Ukraine prior to his swearing-in. During seven years of continuing cultural promotion activities in Ukraine and Moldova, I had opportunities to meet the then ambassador in person. This personal acquaintance facilitated our negotiation process with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in making an appointment that might otherwise have taken a longer time. I am deeply impressed by the close relationship that has been established between Ukraine and the Company, as quite a few employees, including myself, have a special interest in or connection with the country.
In November 2011, I demonstrated Japanese-style flower arrangement in the Japan Center in Kiev, Ukraine.