From the President's Desk: July, 2014
As I began to write this, another severe downpour made visibility across the Tokyo skyline nearly nil. This too will pass, I whispered under my breath.
Sure enough, 20 minutes later beams of sunlight broke through the clouds, streaking the sky with Irresistible Pink and Mikado Yellow.
It wasn’t the perfect metaphor for our recent Board of Directors’ election mishaps, lessons and hard work, but it was close enough. Like Gilbert & Sullivan’s wildly popular comic opera, The Mikado, there were moments of absurdity and laughter. Tackling 50 new Articles and 20 paragraphs of Bylaws with seemingly endless clauses, plus additional provisions, Robert’s Rules, and our feisty, combative membership was . . . how shall I put it . . . a test of faith. As yet, I am still whispering my this-too-will-pass mantra.
We managed to elect the needed six Regular Members: myself, Masaaki Fukunaga, Carsten Germis, Suvendrini Kakuchi, Michael Penn and Patrick Zoll. William Sposato was elected as Kanji, and Dennis Normile as the Reserve Kanji. Unfortunately, none of the Associate candidates received the necessary majority, so we are organizing another election for the Associate candidates toward the end of July.
Once again, we will need your cooperation in this stage-two election process. Please cast your vote for three candidates who will join the board, and one reserve. Many of you left blank your ballot choices for the Associate candidates. So please read the candidates’ statements, consult with friends who know them, and make your choice. It’s imperative that you do this.
In the meantime, we are functioning under a 12-member “Caretaker Board of Directors” that includes the previous nine board members and three newly elected ones. Again, we kindly ask — no, actually beg — for your cooperation and patience on this vital new process. We’re almost there!
Our June 24 press conference with Tokyo Assemblywoman Ayaka Shiomura drew about 100 attendees and wide media coverage. Brave indeed, she has unveiled a heckling tradition previously unchallenged at this level. There was a twittering of nervous laughter in the mostly male TV newsroom where I work when LDP lawmaker and heckler Akihiro Suzuki made his unforgettable deep bow and apology. I smiled at the justice of it. As much as I question some of Prime Minister Abe’s policies, I had to thank him for that historic moment.
We also discovered a wider opportunity for promotion and sales in Japan’s prefectures’ plans to draw attention to their charms. Gunma Night, held on June 27, was a smash hit. Governor Masaaki Osawa came to share news of the Tomioka Silk Mill’s designation as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. Participants included the okami-san from the region’s top ryokan, a troupe of traditional dancers and musicians and even live silkworms munching on mulberry leaves. Culinary delights and local sake and beer were there for the taking. I met a few representatives from other prefectures quietly surveying the event. They told me, “We’ll be back!” Indeed, the more, the merrier.
— Lucy Birmingham