To promote the World Forum on Sport and Culture, an international conference to be held in Tokyo and Kyoto in October, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology appointed five economic ambassadors.
A ceremony took place on July 19 for the appointment of Shinya Katanozaka, president and CEO of ANA Holdings, Kengo Sakurada, group CEO, president and chief executive officer, Sompo Holdings, Inc., and Nobuhiro Endo, chairman of the board of NEC Corp.
A round-table discussion followed the ceremony between the appointed ambassadors and former minister Hiroshi Hase at his office. The discussion was presided over by Kumi Fujisawa, an advisor to the ministry and head, Office of World Forum on Sports and Culture.
Fujisawa: Thank you very much for taking on the roles of ambassadors for the forum. First of all, could we have your comments on why you took the position?
Katanozaka: Ministry officials visited me to explain the idea of this forum and it matched exactly what I had in mind. We have the Rugby World Cup 2019 and Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games lined up, and I thought those are great opportunities to disseminate Japan’s culture. That is what I had in my mind when the ministry officials visited. So, I jumped at the offer to help the forum.
Sakurada: We were planning to be engaged in activities to combine the world of sports with the world of business. As for cultural activities, we had the opportunity to exhibit Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” 30 years ago. We’re interested in taking part in projects that unite the worlds of sports, culture and business.
Endo: I feel the forum is a great idea to support Japanese culture and the power of sports. We also like to support the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the field of public safety, and decided to support the events that would set a favorable tone for the games.
Fujisawa: Thank you very much. What do you think about the ambassadors’ comments, minister?
Hase: The idea of this forum, as a matter of fact, started when former minister Hakubun Shimomura was still in office. The idea was to have an Olympic and Paralympic Games version of international meetings, like the World Economic Forum’s Davos meetings. That was the start.
Also, we thought Japan could be missing something to be more of a major tourist destination. We say Japan is a country of tourism, but back then we had only 8 or 9 million tourists visiting Japan every year. France has 80 million visitors every year. We thought that Japan must have been missing something.
We have a culture of the Japanese spirit, historic buildings, shrines and temples, as well as a vibrant food culture. Technology and innovation creating new value is also part of our culture. So, sports, culture, the Olympic and Paralympic Games and the business field in this country should not be separated, rather they should be united over the next four years until 2020 to create a better society beyond that year. That was the original ideal for this forum.
And, I’d like to add one thing to this. Over the five years starting from 2018, we have a series of major sporting events lined up in the region every year. The 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Pyeongchang, the Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan, Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, followed by the World Masters Games 2021 in Kansai, and the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Beijing. Through those events, I think we may have to advocate “sports and culture security” in this region. A sporting event cannot be held in a non-safe area and business activities cannot be expanded in such an area. Northeast Asia is a peaceful area for those major events and that can be a start to have successful events to promote mutual understanding.
Fujisawa: Thank you very much. The minister has given his expectations on the forum, and now I’d like to hear your thoughts.
Endo: Sports have the capability to explore the power of human beings, especially at special occasions such as the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and people are excited and moved by watching them. Former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori said sports have the capability to change people and that they may eventually change society.
I agree with that idea. In the forum, we want to talk about sports and the economy in connection with themes such as what kind of good culture is needed for Japanese society and what kind of culture we should pass on to future generations. We have a corporate message of “Orchestrating a Brighter World,” which means we will seek good values to create for societies and I think that could be part of the forum’s broader theme.
Katanozaka: The Olympic and Paralympic Games have opening and closing ceremonies, and those ceremonies are opportunities to demonstrate the history and culture of the host country to the world, as well as showcase the pride of the ethnic groups of the country.
That is the moment when the whole world is enjoying the history and culture of the host country. I think it is meaningful to hold the forum, which is an event with sports and culture in collaboration.
It is also meaningful to hold the forum in Kyoto, the heart of Japanese culture that the entire country is proud of, as well as in Tokyo. Sports, culture and the economy — this forum is the place where those three key factors can collaborate, and I have great expectations for it.
Sakurada: I’d like to talk a little bit about Japan’s presence in the world. Japan has not had much of a strong presence at the recent Davos meetings in the last several years and they don’t choose issues related to Japan for discussion. Unfortunately, that has been the reality for several years.
I’m making this comment as an economic ambassador, and I say the world will certainly turn to Japan, again, if this country solves contemporary issues, including an aging society with fewer children. And, one possible factor to solve these issues is, I think, the spiritual nature of the Japanese and culture of Japan.
Fujisawa: Thank you all very much. We’ve heard the ambassadors’ expectations for the forum. What do you think, minister?
Hase: As I said earlier, France is the world’s most-visited tourist destination with 80 million visitors a year. In Asia, Singapore, Thailand, China, South Korea and Hong Kong have more inbound tourists visiting them than Japan. And I thought that the Japanese, or the Japanese government, might not be disseminating enough information.
We know we have something wonderful, but we may not have shown it enough to people abroad. So, I’d like to make this forum an opportunity to have thorough discussions between all those concerned to respond to the overseas demands to know the “real Japan,” supported by technologies and innovation provided by the business fields.
Fujisawa: Thank you very much. Finally, as this meeting is happening just a few weeks ahead of the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games, could you please tell us what you are planning moving forward to 2020, and beyond?
Sakurada: Among the corporate social responsibility activities we are focusing on, support activities overseas gain the highest appreciation, and that fits into the theme of this forum.
We are thinking about plans to unite art and aged people, or disabled people. There are artists with physical disabilities, and there are artists whose activities are centered on aged care centers. We are planning to support those artists.
Endo: We were proud to have several of our employees participating in the Rio Olympic Games for rugby and women’s volleyball.
Hase: How many?
Endo: One in rugby and another in women’s volleyball, as well as three more from one of our affiliates in sailing. We have also been supporting wheelchair tennis. So, we have respect on the power of sports, as a factor to change something and we are grateful if other people feel that power.
We will be a supporting company for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games responsible for the public safety issues and this is a field where we can be valuable.
“Security and safety” are significant platforms that a society is judged on these days, and that is the basic platform on which the economy, culture and inbound tourism should be developed. We will build that platform to make sure the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games are a safe event to visit. After that, I expect that platform to play a role as a legacy to give the impression that Japan is a safe place to visit.
Katanozaka: The ANA group is supporting several athletes. ANA sponsors table tennis player Ai Fukuhara, figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu and wheelchair tennis player Shingo Kunieda. Additionally, rugby player Chisato Yokoo and swimmer Takuya Tsugawa are ANA employees going to the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games. We are very much looking forward to watching them in the games.
Speaking of our future business, as ANA is an airline, it is important for us to extend our network all over the world so that everyone in the world has access to Japan to watch the Rugby World Cup 2019 and the World Masters Games 2021.
We will also provide in-flight services to deliver news on Japan or information on Japanese culture. Additionally, we are planning to make improvements at airports so that disabled athletes don’t have to worry about using airport facilities when they come to Japan to participate in sporting events. We will make those arrangements at airports by offering universal designs and user-friendly services to give them a good impression of Japan.
We are also considering introducing something such as a “Japan fare,” that would allow athletes visiting Japan for sporting events to travel around the country after the competitions are over, so they can visit many spots in Japan to enjoy local culture and food. I expect all those plans and activities to boost Japanese economy.
Fujisawa: Thank you all very much for your comments. I have a feeling that huge innovations are coming from just these three companies.
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