Akio Negishi, director, president of Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Co., and Shingo Tsuji, president and CEO of Mori Building Co., were appointed as the last two of the five economic ambassadors to promote the World Forum on Sport and Culture, an international conference to be held in Tokyo and Kyoto in October to bring the world together to “co-create richness through sports and culture.”

A ceremony for the ambassadors’ appointment took place on Sept. 9, and a round-table discussion followed between the newly appointed ambassadors and Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Hirokazu Matsuno, presided over by Kumi Fujisawa, an advisor to the ministry and the head, Office of World Forum on Sport and Culture.

Fujisawa: We now have less than two months before the World Forum on Sport and Culture, and we are very pleased with your becoming ambassadors. First, could we have your comments on why you decided to take part in the forum as Diamond Partner companies?

Negishi: Can I go first? I think it’s wonderful to have this kind of forum in Japan in October when the country is still in the excitement and afterglow of the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Akio Negishi (Director, President, Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Co.)
Akio Negishi (Director, President, Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Co.)

Negishi joined the company in 1981 after graduating from the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Waseda University. Having served as an actuary, he was engaged in marketing strategy planning and product development for individual customers. He was appointed General Manager, Corporate Planning Department in 2005 and General Manager, Marketing Planning & Research Department in 2007 and was responsible for corporate strategy and individual insurance marketing strategies. He has held the current title of director, president since 2013.

Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance has been a top partner of the J. League since January 2014, and has been the title partner since January 2015. Our activities for the sponsorship are a bit different from the usual styles, and we place the top priority on face-to-face activities. Our marketing unit has individual sponsorship contracts with all the J. League teams to be engaged in face-to-face activities to help child care and other issues in local communities.

Then, we had an offer for this position. We thought this would be a great opportunity to share our vision with those both domestic and foreign who are actively engaged in projects to support sports and culture, and thought this would be a chance to come up with new ideas for support activities through dialogues with those who are working on the projects. That should be very meaningful to further the growth of our company.

Tsuji: We will have major international sports events in 2019, 2020 and 2021, and I think it is a great opportunity for Japan and for Tokyo. So now the question is how we can set the mood for them. Japan won a lot of medals at the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games, but we still have more sport events coming up. We will gear up for those events and I see this forum as a kick-off event for them, and as a catalyst for the events. That is a policy I agree with.

The other reason is that this forum will be held at Roppongi Hills. This is a great pleasure for us, and we are very thankful for it. Roppongi Hills opened 13 years ago, and time has flown by ever since. We opened Roppongi Hills with the concept of making it the cultural heart of Tokyo, and have been engaged in disseminating cultural information for more than a decade. We will mobilize all our capabilities and past experiences to support this forum. We have big expectations on this forum and that is why we decided to support it.

Fujisawa: Thank you both very much. And, how did you feel about the comments, minister?

Matsuno: I’m very pleased with their understanding of the meaning of this forum and their strong commitment to the event. As both said, the inherent meaning of sports and culture is to develop human resources and to promote health through sports, while protecting and nurturing culture with sports. Also, another aspect of sports and culture is a part of a country’s growth strategy. By combining this forum with businesses, we see great potential for a huge market to open for the sports industry or an industry focusing on cultural activities. I expect this forum to have a significant positive impact on Japan’s economy in the future.

Fujisawa: Thank you very much. We are expecting both companies to give us business support for our sports and cultural activities, and now I would like to hear a little bit more about your expectations for this forum. Let’s start with Mr. Tsuji this time.

Tsuji: This forum will be placed as a kick-off event, and the beginning of anything is the most important part. So, it is very important to set the starting tone for disseminating information at this forum.

We need big fireworks at the beginning to set a “Let’s go!” tone. I think past sporting events can be a good reference for Japan, and we are conducting a lot of research on them.

Shingo Tsuji (President and CEO, Mori Building Co., Ltd.)
Shingo Tsuji (President and CEO, Mori Building Co., Ltd.)

Tsuji joined the company in 1985 after graduating from the Yokohama National University Graduate School of Engineering. He served as the head of the Roppongi Hills Management Division and Town Management Department. He also served as managing director responsible for the leasing and operation of office, residential and retail facilities, as well as development projects in Shanghai. In 2009 he became executive vice president and launched the Corporate Planning Office. Since June 2011, he has served as president and chief executive officer.

Our think tank, the Mori Memorial Foundation, releases the “Global Power City Index,” and London became the top city on the index in 2012, overtaking New York. But, that didn’t just happen in 2012 all of a sudden. After the city was chosen in 2005 as the venue of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, London made good preparations, building various facilities and infrastructure, as well as hosting many cultural events. The result of the research reflected all those cumulative efforts.

There is another interesting thing. Following the 2012 ranking, London maintained the top spot even in 2013, 2014 and 2015, earning more points. We hold a major art event, “Roppongi Art Night,” in spring every year, but we will hold it around the same time of the forum.

Negishi: It’s important to galvanize the whole country of Japan. But at the same time, we, Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance, like to place significance on energizing regional economies as well. Our idea is to spur regional economies first and spread the strong economy to other areas throughout the country, so the whole country will be eventually galvanized.

Sports carry tremendous capabilities, as they can encourage people, gather people and bond people. If companies unite with sports on those capabilities, a lot of potentials will be generated. And, I hope those potentials will be clues to solve issues and problems seen in regional societies and local communities.

Regional societies and local communities are facing problems such as aging people, decreasing population and shrinking economies and these problems are expected to become more severe in the future. I’d like to exchange opinions with many people through this forum and through the combination of companies and sports, to come up with more and more new ideas and potentials to help solve the problems. That is my expectation for this forum.

Fujisawa: Thank you both very much. Now, I’d like to hear what your companies are planning to do toward 2020 and beyond.

Negishi: More than anything, we like to focus on our main business. Our main business is life insurance, something that offers our clients safety and wellness.

We will think about what else we can do based on that main business. If we become sloppy in our main business, we will be sloppy in other activities. We will be engaged in activities rooted in regional and local communities to support them through the activities of our main business.

Also, we are backing sports, including the J. League. And, if we are engaged in supporting activities, we can unite regional governments and unite companies in local communities through sports activities.

Additionally, we will be also engaged in children’s education. We like to help raise children so that they can have dreams toward 2020 and beyond. We like to promote those concepts through our deep-rooted activities in regional communities.

Tsuji: We are an urban landscape developer and are now proceeding with several large-scale projects simultaneously for city renovations in Tokyo’s Minato Ward, specifically in the areas of Toranomon and Roppongi. Some projects will be complete before 2020, and others after 2020. With these projects, we plan to create a global business center, as well as the cultural heart of Tokyo.

The Rugby World Cup 2019, Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the Kansai World Masters Games 2021 are great opportunities for disseminating information. For example, Roppongi Hills and Toranomon Hills are good venues for conducting academic and industrial research on, for example, how artificial intelligence will be related to cities and the relation between biotechnology and cities. Plans are underway for conducting collaborative research between MIT Media Lab, various global companies such as Google, Japanese companies and Japanese universities.

As a matter of fact, an experiment is now underway across the entire Roppongi district for testing new technologies of security and related cameras.

I think these international sport events are a great opportunity to make the whole country a venue for disseminating information on those projects and research. We will be fully committed to those new developments. We run an art museum and plan to hold major art events around 2018 and 2019 to set the mood for 2020 and beyond.

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