AT THE APRIL 9 MEETING OF THE FCCJ BOARD, MATERIALS in support of the Club’s application for Koeki Shadan Hojin (public interest non profit corporation) status will be presented. Presuming Board approval, we will then formally apply to the Cabinet Office for this status. If all goes well, we will reincorporate as a “public interest incorporated association” on April 1, 2014.

Under new legislation governing non profit organizations, the FCCJ has until Nov. 30 to apply for either ippan (general) or koeki (public interest) status. To qualify for koeki, we must demonstrate that more than 50 percent of Club expenditures go toward activities in the public interest. Three years ago, we believed it was impossible to clear this hurdle as the vast majority of our spending was on food & beverage (F&B) operations. So the initial plan was to seek ippan status and consider upgrading later.

After much discussion, though, a different consensus emerged among members of the Board and the committee tasked with the matter. If the Japan National Press Club (our domestic counterpart) has koeki status, the FCCJ should have no less. For the long-term sustainability of the Club’s core journalistic mission, it is imperative to secure legal recognition that our activities are not simply in the interest of foreign news organizations, they are directly in the public interest. Particularly because we are a “foreign” club, it is important to be recognized as a pillar of Japan’s civil society.

The need to align FCCJ operations with koeki requirements steeled our resolve to tackle the other long-term threat to the Club’s future: chronic mismanagement and losses in F&B. Effectively, this meant we had to move two mountains. This has required years of intense effort carefully divided between two groups, the original Shadan Hojin Panel under co-chairs Kaz Abiko and Yoshisuke Iinuma; and the Koeki Committee led by Yoshio Murakami.

The Shadan Hojin Panel has overseen the work of revising our Articles of Association, bylaws, management and budgeting procedures, etc. in order to comply with the new legislation. Essentially, the tasks involved would have been the same for koeki or ippan status.

Working in close liaison, the Koeki Committee was responsible for realigning Club operations to meet koeki status requirements. This involved overseeing F&B outsourcing and related labor issues; liaising with the government to make sure we could clear the hurdle; and securing approval from the Membership through a series of general meetings and the referendum completed in December.

Movement of the first mountain was completed last September with the outsourcing of F&B. Not only has this ended years of red ink, it has paved the way to applying for koeki status. The approval of revised Articles with a super majority in the referendum essentially moved the second mountain in December. Approving and submitting the application represents the final step.

All of this has been a truly colossal task, and all of us owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to those who have served on the two groups.

On the Shadan Hojin Panel: Kazuo Abiko, Yoshisuke Iinuma, Jonathan Soble, Tadanori Sano, Masanori Sasaki (consultant). On the closely related Bylaw Revision Committee: Bob Neff, Monzurul Huq, Joan Anderson and Kurt Sieber.

On the Koeki Committee: Yoshio Murakami (chair), Masaaki Fukunaga, Kunio Hamada (former Supreme Court judge), Suvendrini Kakuchi, Shuichi Sasaki (an accountant with deep relevant experience), Jonathan Soble and Rike Wootten, plus “extended members” Kazutoshi Kakuyama (our lawyer) and Larry Cisar. Last but certainly not least, thanks to Messrs. Nakamura, Ogawa, Hirado and Iwamura of the FCCJ staff.

The devoted efforts of all these people represent a historic contribution to the long-term health of the FCCJ.

— Georges Baumgartner