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While the days are heating up, so is interest in our speaker events. We’ve expanded our options, partly to improve and enhance our membership benefits.

But more importantly, we have done this to reflect the growing international interest in Japan-related topics (and help quell concerns the FCCJ just doesn't pull them in anymore.

Along with our press luncheons and press conferences, we’re now offering monthly morning “Asa-kai” talks; evening political roundtables; study sessions; and the “Women Speak” series. All have been attracting wide audiences.

Though July has been a relatively quiet month the past few years, our PAC speakers this year included Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who pulled in 162 attendees and coverage from 17 TV stations, and other high profilers like Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki and Masako Mori, Minister for Declining Birthrate and Gender Equality.  

The Political Roundtable on July 3 with Unity Party member Tsuyoshi Shiina and Professor Christopher Hobson of Waseda University was also well received. To top off a month on the political front, Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe made his third Club appearance of the year.

Among business movers and shakers, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn graced our podium on July 17 after a four-year lull and numerous invitations from our hardworking PAC team. His talk on Nissan’s self-driving cars pulled in 151 attendees and seven TV stations.    

The business of crowdsourcing was one of our new study session topics featuring three compelling entrepreneurs. The typhoon warning that night had to be a big factor for the disappointingly small turnout, but we’re sure that offering evening study sessions is a smart idea. The smaller scale events allow our members and guests closer contact with speakers on a wide variety of topics.

Business topics have been a focus of our Asa-kai talks, some drawing up to 60 attendees. Our July speaker was Dr. Gerhard Fasol, CEO of Eurotechnology Japan, who shared his entrepreneurial expertise on ways “to make Japan even more fantastic.” It was hard-hitting analysis, and a reality check for some. Hard-hitting analysis also reigned during our “Women Speak” talk with Kathy Matsui, Chief Japan Equity Strategist with Goldman Sachs, who shared her recently released report: “Womenomics 4.0: Time to Walk the Talk.” Also in the “Women Speak” July spotlight were top women educators – University of Tokyo Director Masako Egawa, Hosei University President Yuko Tanaka, and Kayo Inaba, vice president for Gender Equality and director of the Center for Women Researchers at Kyoto University.

Kazue Morisono and Saeko Uno from the organization, “Women of Fukushima Demand an End to Nuclear Power” drew a crowd of about 30. But their video on the FCCJ’s YouTube channel has received over 15,200 views, probably our largest number of viewers to date. Proof again of a small organization using the Internet to reach an unimaginable number of potential supporters. That is power.    

On the powerful diplomatic front, Waleed Ali Siam, Palestine’s Ambassador to Japan, spoke about his country’s searing conflict with Israel in Gaza. While Japan is not directly involved, one wonders how the recent “reinterpretation” of the Constitution’s war-renouncing Article 9 would play out if Japan were asked to assist in a future conflict.    

Democratic Party lawmaker Hiroyuki Konishi and four other politicians spoke about their efforts to nominate Article 9 for the Nobel Peace Prize. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has received 278 candidates for the 2014 Peace Prize – the highest number ever. We’ll learn in October when the laureates are announced. Could this be Abe’s game changer?    

And that was July at the FCCJ. So much for somnolent summers.

— Lucy Birmingham

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