July 17–20, 2014
Kiwanis International Convention Tokyo Chiba 2014

Convention news

A Kiwanis insider in Japan

Feb 13, 2014

An interview of Koshiro Kitazato, host committee chairman
Member of the Tokyo Club, 230 members, established January 24, 1964
First Kiwanis club in Asia-Pacific.

Fifty years ago, the first Kiwanis club was established in the Asia-Pacific region. That club is yours, the Tokyo club. Can you reflect on this anniversary and on 50 years of Kiwanis in the Asia-Pacific region? 

Kiwanis was established in Japan 50 years ago by people who were highly motivated to help others, particularly children. The Tokyo club has nurtured this spirit every since then. We’d like to show this original spirit of our founders on the occasion of the convention. This is reflected in our successful achievement in The Eliminate Project campaign. The Japan District per capita donation to The Eliminate Project is number one in the world. 

When we started, I was worried, because this is when the tsunami happened, everyone was so distressed, every newspaper called for help to the tsunami victims. We received tremendous help from the world during the tsunami disaster. It was time to return the favor and the Japan clubs stepped up. Even the club of Sendai, which was hit hard by the tsunami, wished to become a model club. I was very impressed by this attitude. While they were still suffering, they wanted to return the favor they had received from the world. 

What surprises await Kiwanians at the 2014 convention? 

If I say it, it won’t be a surprise! We are preparing a lot so attendees can experience the culture of Japan.

You speak English so well. Have you lived abroad?
Yes, I lived in Honolulu for four years, Madrid for four years, and London for four years, all for my business.

Are there cultural tips you could give Kiwanians traveling in your country? 
Japan is a very safe country. If you need help, people are happy to help you. They are reserved, but if you ask, they are there for you. They want you to enjoy your stay in Japan. 

If Kiwanians could visit only one thing in Tokyo, what would it be and why?

Asakusa. It’s a very old temple, 1,400 years old, people come to pray for long life, prosperity and safety. There are three Shinto shrines and one Buddhist temple. A temple is a realization of your mind—who you are, what you want to be—through visualization. In a shrine, you purify yourself.  Also, in Asakusa, there is a long line of shops with all kinds of souvenirs. From there, you can see the Tokyo Skytree.

What aspect of Japanese culture is a must-have experience?
Patience. You should be patient and considerate to others before you demand something. Be patient and then you will get what you want.

In preparing for their trip to Japan, what should Kiwanians think to bring along?
A camera. Walking shoes. A free mind.

What souvenir gifts would you recommend Kiwanians and their guests bring back from Japan or the Tokyo area? (for themselves or as gifts to others)
• Senbei. They are rice crackers, very light, two inches in diameter, very crispy.
• Aburatorigami. This is a skin oil removing paper. Very popular.
• Japanese fans. They can be functional when it is hot, and can be displayed in a home for their beauty.
• Happi coat. It’s a coat for festivals, shaped like short coat with a belt. It is worn when you cheer your sports team.
• Japanese pottery. Dishes, bowls, small tea cups, etc.
• Yukata. This is a kind of cotton kimono for the summer time.
• Inro. This is a small wooden box attached to the belt containing medicine. It’s an antique.

What are your favorite restaurants in Makuhari?
There is a wide variety of restaurants, I cannot pick. French, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean—even McDonald’s!

What activities do you recommend in Makuhari, outside of those on the convention agenda?

There is a baseball stadium next to the convention center. Professional baseball games are played there. It’s the home stadium of the Chiba Lotte Marines. 

You can go to the Disney resort. It’s open from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. You can take a walk on the beach. Mihama-en, a Japanese garden, is within a short walking distance. There are several outlet shopping centers.

We look forward to welcoming Kiwanians from around the world! See you in Japan!