Japan Tourism Agency Commissioner Hiroshi Mizohata


Hiroshi Mizohata, 50, is the Commissioner of the Japan Tourism Agency. A native of Kyoto and a graduate of the University of Tokyo, Mizohata entered the ranks of the prestigious kanryō, the career bureaucrats who control Japan’s top-tier government offices. He worked in various ministries in Tokyo and later in Kyushu before creating the Oita Trinita soccer team in Oita Prefecture from scratch in 1994. Being a die-hard sports fan, his dream was to coach the team to become champions and to bring the World Cup to Oita. Incredibly, he accomplished both those missions: Oita Trinita became the 2002 J-League Division 2 champions and Oita City was a co-host to the 2002 FIFA World Cup finals. Mizohata’s unstoppable determination then led the team to victory in the 2008 J-League Cup. The coach and dealmaker extraordinaire was also the driving force behind the establishment of Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in 2000. The international private university in Beppu, Kyushu, is representative of Mizohata’s vision for all of Japan: Approximately half of its students and faculty are from overseas. Mizohata has always been steadfast in his belief that Japan should play a more international role in business and culture. Since his appointment as Tourism Commissioner in January 2010, he has been shaping Japan into a top travel destination. If anyone can do it, even in these trying times, it’s him.

No dream is impossible if you work 10 times harder than anyone else. My father invited me to Italy to see the 1990 FIFA World Cup finals there. Twelve cities hosted the matches and once I was in the stadium in Rome, I thought: “This is it! I’ll do this in Japan!”

Focus on the positive. The media keeps repeating that tourism in Japan is down by 90 percent compared with numbers before the March 11 tragedy. Let’s focus on the fact that tourism has improved by 70 percent in the last two weeks. That’s news worth spreading.

In business, being called “a great guy” is not such good news. It really means that person is useless at work. Basically people compliment a person’s personality when they can’t praise that person’s work performance. Otherwise they would say, “He’s a brilliant businessman” or “Man, he gets the job done.”

Tourism is an opening to create a bigger market for Japanese goods and services. When people visit Japan, they fall in love with its beauty and its people. They get a chance to use our superior products and services, and that leads to a boom in many business sectors.

Make more effort, even if it seems impossible to win. Especially then! I’m constantly told that my dreams are unrealistic. Yet, one by one, I achieved every goal that I had my heart set on. I struggled a lot. I still work hard, like a bulldozer, to make small paths toward my goals, but all along the way I see a network of highways in front of me. I push nonstop, without asking for help, and I eventually get the support I need. But I never depend on others. When people see this kind of powerful attack on life, they want to join in and push for change.

Japan’s potential in tourism is unlimited. The only reason tourism in Japan is not doing as well as it could is that our domestic travel market was so huge, there was no need to look for customers outside it. But with the graying population, we now must look elsewhere.

Even if you travel in Kyushu, it helps Tohoku. Any movement boosts the Japanese economy, and that’s the key. All of Japan is safe. In Tohoku, the baseball games have started, and Tokyo Disneyland has reopened. We appreciate the outpouring of support for Japan and we’re ready to welcome tourists.

The March 11 disaster is the start of a new Japan, not the end of Tohoku. Nature’s power swept us away, but we are back on our feet again. We will make Japan stronger than ever. Every 70 years or so Japan experiences huge changes — in 1868 there was the Meiji Restoration; in 1945, defeat in World War II; and now the Tohoku tragedy in 2011. From the ruins, Japan has always emerged stronger. This time will be no exception.

You’re not young forever. Don’t waste time, make your vision clear and work for it. Be like top athletes whose days and nights are managed around their determination to be a world champion. No rest, no slacking off.

Japan needs more salespeople. Companies are full of office staff, but they have such small sales forces. And our government has no salespeople at all — except me. I consider myself the nation’s top salesman. I feel the power and the desperation of businesses around Japan that are hard-hit by the triple disasters. Even though the tragedy happened in the Tohoku region, the whole country is suffering. I work nonstop to connect people and to bring business and happiness to as many as possible. Make a new Japan: That’s my goal.

One small step leads to a long journey. Imagine if everyone in Japan invited one friend to visit. We could kick-start both our domestic and inbound travel. That’s what I’m talking about!

If your timing is off, life is over. There aren’t so many chances in life, so you must grab every opportunity — especially if you want to do something big, because there’ll be a long line of capable people hot on your heels. You either run and win, or get left behind. These are the two choices in life.

Judit Kawaguchi loves to listen. She is a volunteer counselor and a reporter on NHK’s “journeys in japan.” Learn more at: juditfan.blog58.fc2.com Twitter: judittokyo