On the afternoon of Thursday, February 7, a day before the start of the G1 Summit, I headed for Fukushima City on the Tohoku Shinkansen. The purpose of my trip was to attend KIBOW Fukushima. It was the third KIBOW session in Fukushima City. Combined with sessions in Iwaki City, we have already hosted KIBOW sessions five times in Fukushima.
This time, Mr. Takuro Tatsumi, Mr. Dai Tamesue and Mr. Allen Miner are supposed to join us. All of them are KIBOW council members.
I just arrived at Fukushima Station. After checking in at the hotel, I put on my KIBOW T-shirt and cap and headed for the KIBOW venue in front of the station. Before long, the venue of KIBOW Fukushima was filled with 100 participants. Now, the session is to begin.
Ms. Sugawara of Radio Fukushima served as the MC for today’s session.
This time, KIBOW Fukushima was comprised of two parts. The first part was a talk session and the second part was a “KIBOW-method” presentation.
The panelists for the talk session were Mr. Yabuki, Manager of the Asset Management Department and Mr. Sato, Chief Researcher of the Corporate Sales Department of The Toho Bank, a regional bank based in Fukushima. It was our first attempt. The theme of the talk session was “All for the Region, Two Years of Relentless Efforts―A Message from the Center of Reconstruction.”
They said, “Amid the situation in which many of our customers lost their bank books and seals, we handed them cash anyway based on our slogan, ‘All for the Customers.’ We actually got all the money back from the people of Fukushima Prefecture we loaned money to. Isn’t this wonderful? We were moved by the spirit of the people of Fukushima and Japan.”
Ohhhh, this is moving me to tears.
“Although the manufacturing industry recovered relatively quickly, the biggest issue is the spread of harmful rumors. Agricultural and food industries have been suffering significantly.” At KIBOW Fukushima, all the food products were from Fukushima, of course. As they tasted so good, I asked for several helpings.
My message to everyone in Japan is: Let’s eat more food products from Fukushima. And let’s visit Fukushima more often.
“Subsidies are appreciated but in order to realize an ‘independent and self-sustainable recovery,’ as was the theme of KIBOW Fukushima this time around, it is necessary for us to set proper sales targets and sustain business autonomously. One of our most successful examples is Fukushima Transportation, Inc. (the Vice President participated in the session today). The Company provided crucial transportation services for people in Fukushima. Another successful example is Aizu-no-yado. They provided free accommodation to people from March 12 2011. Several thousand people stayed there and as a result, people are still visiting as repeaters. This proves that companies which are committed to services based on a spirit of ‘All for the Customers’ will surely be rewarded in the future.”
“The Great East Japan Earthquake was a tragedy. However, whether or not we were unlucky is something that each of us should decide for ourselves. We suffered hardship after the disaster, but I have to admit that I am actually so fortunate that I have a job to which I can devote my life. I want to continue to do my best for the sake of our children and Fukushima.”
“As a banker, perhaps I have never been needed this much by my customers in my life. Even in a restricted area which was devastated by the tsunami and houses were washed away, the tombstones looked brand new. I heard that they spent 3 million yen on rebuilding tombstones for their ancestors. I want to be of some help to people like that.” (Mr. Yabuki, Department Manager of The Toho Bank)
“I want people to visit Fukushima. Rather than learn of our situation through the media, I want people to come here in person to have a look at the reality. Some 1.98 million people of Fukushima Prefecture are still going about their normal lives here.” (Mr. Saito, Chief Researcher of Toho Bank)
These comments concluded the talk session. I was truly moved by their stories. Now, the “KIBOW-method” presentation for the second part is to begin.
The “KIBOW-method” is a method in which several teams provide presentations first and all participants vote where the 1 million yen in donations will go. The top-ranked team will also be given the opportunity to provide a five-minute presentation at the G1 Summit.
The first presenter was Mr. Masato Utsugi of the “Konban Wine-de Kampai! R-40 Project.” He is an owner of a wine bar in Fukushima which serves only wine made in Japan. Mr. Utsugi said, “I think my mission is to make wine in Fukushima. My dream is to make “Konban Wine” in Fukushima.” It was so interesting.
The second presentation was on the project for “Panda House―a house near the hospital in Fukushima” by Ms. Yoko Kikuda of Panda House-wo Sodateru Kai. Panda House is a house to support children who are fighting serious illnesses and their families. They have a plan to expand the house built 19 years ago in order to accommodate those who wish to stay longer due to the earthquake.
The third presenter was Mr. Yudai Ohuchi, Director-General of the Fukushima Fruits Flower Garden Executive Committee. Since Mr. Ohuchi could not join us due to illness, so his father appeared on the stage to give the presentation on his son’s behalf.
The fourth presenter was Mr. Mikio Abe, Representative of Dream Support Fukushima, which is a “reconstruction support project that connects university students in Tokyo and Fukushima.”
The fifth presentation was by Mr. Shinji Handa of the NPO Team Fukushima with regard to the “Fukushima Sunflower Foster Parent Project.” The organization has planted seeds of sunflowers grown by 100,000 people around Japan in 9,000 places in Fukushima Prefecture. They are planning to sell picture books with sunflower seeds in the future.
Following voting by the participants, people enjoyed chatting with each other. Now, it is the time to announce the results. I am getting nervous.
Ms. Kikuda of Panda House ranked third. Mr. Utsugi of Konban Wine ranked second. And, the first prize went to Mr. Handa of the Fukushima Sunflower Foster Parent Project!. Congratulations!
KIBOW Fukushima came to an end with great success. This is a group photograph with all participants. Isn’t it a nice one?
The next session will be the third KIBOW Iwaki to be held on Friday, April 12. I am planning to continue to be involved in KIBOW activities in the future.
The G1 Summit is going to start from tomorrow under the theme of “The Reconstruction of Fukushima/Tohoku and the Re-building of Japan.” I have been working a lot on G1 and KIBOW projects recently in addition to my core business. It is my hope that I will be of some help to Japan by doing as much as possible.
February 25, 2013