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We got off to an exciting start in January after the New Year holiday. I can’t tell you how happy I was to greet our new general manager Tomohiko (Tom) Yanagi on his first day.

After just one week I could sense enthusiasm and fresh energy among our staff. In week two, amid a schedule packed with meetings, Yanagi-san began training our sales staff in marketing techniques during visits to related organizations. At the start of week three he was looking a bit pale. The enormity of his job was sinking in. But he has now found his footing and has firmly taken the reins. Please introduce yourself to him if you haven’t already. He’s hoping to quickly meet all our members.

Attending shinnenkai can sometimes be a chore but I really enjoyed my first invite as FCCJ president to the Keidanren shinnenkai on Jan. 7. What struck me most about the many wheelers and dealers and powerbrokers was the very small number of female guests. A small voice repeating “Japan needs Womenomics!” kept buzzing in my ear. As the huge crowd began to thin out, I suddenly turned to face Masako Mori, the Minister in charge of the controversial Bill on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets. I knew she is also overseeing policies on gender equality, women’s empowerment and the declining birthrate so it was, shall we say, a rather conflicted moment for me. We briefly spoke about her FCCJ press luncheon that was coming up on Jan. 21. She said she really wanted to speak with the foreign press. I thought to myself, “this is one remarkable woman.”

I had the opportunity to meet another remarkable woman, Amy Goodman, when she spoke at a Club press luncheon on Jan. 20. A fearless investigative journalist and fierce defender of freedom of the press, she is executive director of the award-winning news program “Democracy Now!” Ms. Goodman couldn’t be more opposite on the political spectrum from Minister Mori. And yet I could see great common ground between them as powerful, inspiring women.

The next day, I had a meeting at the Club with another powerful and inspiring woman — Margaret Kelly, CEO of real estate giant Re/Max, who was in Tokyo to launch their Japan franchise. She is one of very few women CEOs in the U.S. real estate industry. As a breast cancer survivor, she also heads efforts to support cancer patients and cures. Smart, elegant and probably over 180 cm tall, she brightened the Club with her presence.

Minister Mori’s press luncheon was well attended. As expected, she spoke at length about the secrets law and fielded tough questions. Then with just a few minutes remaining she switched gears and turned to Womenomics. Her face lighted up as she spoke about the role women can play in bolstering Japan’s economy, a popular policy in Prime Minister Abe’s third-arrow strategy. Her talk reminded me of one of the Club’s most important policies and greatest strengths — offering a platform to all speakers, regardless of political affiliation, ethnicity or controversial stance.

On Club business: At the special GMM on Jan. 22, the members voted overwhelmingly to go forward with negotiations on our move with Mitsubishi Estate. We will keep you up to date on our progress. Moving is an enormous undertaking but can offer us many advantages.

Lucy Birmingham

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