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Let Tohoku Turn out Visionary Leaders Who Create and Innovate Society: Entrance Ceremony for Tohoku’s First MBA Program

I traveled to Tohoku for the entrance ceremony, which was a first not only for the GLOBIS Sendai Campus, but for any MBA program offered in the Tohoku region. The Great East Japan Earthquake was a catastrophic disaster. But it also prompted the launch of Tohoku’s first graduate business school. I was greatly looking forward to meeting these prospective “visionary leaders who can create and innovate society” in Sendai. Having changed into montsuki haori hakama (traditional Japanese formal attire), I headed for Tokyo Station.

Modern meets traditional: On the Tokyo Station platform before boarding the train for Sendai, I posed in montsuki haori hakama in front of the connected Super Komachi and Hayabusa trains. The haori hakama is no less stunning design-wise.

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GRA Inc. CEO Mr. Hiroki Iwasa spotted me as soon as I alighted at Sendai Station. “The haori hakama looks great. I’m sure it’ll delight the new students,” he kindly commented. Iwasa-san is a native of Yamamoto Town, Miyagi Prefecture, and obtained his MBA from GLOBIS. He has helped launch the Sendai Campus in his capacity as a mentor. We exchanged greetings and chatted as we walked toward the GLOBIS Sendai Campus.

The Sendai campus is housed in a high-rise named AER. The 26th floor, where the campus is, was already abuzz with new students and their families. The ceremony started at 11:00 a.m. I offered the following comment, without the aid of speech notes.

I am so happy to welcome as many as 41 of you as new students to the GLOBIS Sendai Campus. I recall March 14, 2011, three days from that devastating earthquake and tsunami, when about 40 of us voluntarily held a symposium at GLOBIS’ Tokyo campus to discuss what we could do in response to the disaster. The reactor building of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station had exploded, there were still frequent aftershocks, and there were ongoing scheduled power outages. We met and talked nonetheless, and several meetings later we resolved to, “Keep our hopes high and take action, because although individual humans may be negligible in the face of major earthquakes and other forces of nature, we should be able to achieve something if we join our strengths together,” giving birth to the KIBOW Project.

As part of the KIBOW Project, we visited many disaster-affected communities. We also held KIBOW events at various locations. In the process we met many of Tohoku’s wonderful people, whose determination to live life to the full, appreciating the fact that their lives were spared despite losing many friends, families and relatives, deeply inspired us.

“Tohoku has many highly-motivated people, but does not have a place to train leaders. This may lead to motivation going to waste,” I thought. I could not, however, take the bold step of creating a GLOBIS Sendai Campus. The original plan for GLOBIS had been to open a Fukuoka campus following those in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka, and make it the fourth and last GLOBIS campus in Japan. We hadn’t envisaged a Sendai campus.

Research showed, however, that there were no universities in the Tohoku Region offering an MBA program. To me the urgency of addressing this need seemed to grow almost daily.

In October 2011, prompted by a particular event, I finally made up my mind to open a GLOBIS Sendai Campus. The establishment of the Sendai campus was ratified by all the decision-making bodies of GLOBIS—the management, faculty, directors and trustees. When I broke the news to Mr. Kentaro Ohyama, president of Iris Ohyama Inc., he congratulated me on my decision to open a graduate business school, which, “Even Tohoku University regarded as economically unviable.”

“Whether it is economically viable is irrelevant. Tohoku must turn out visionary leaders who can create and innovate society.” This powerful sense of mission drove the establishment of Tohoku’s very first graduate business school.

Starting in April 2012 as a graduate school offering a pre-MBA program, the Sendai campus is holding its first entrance ceremony for the MBA program this April, 2013, which gives me immense pleasure.

After my greeting, I returned to my prepared ceremonial address. The newly-established Sendai campus attracted almost three times the projected number of students, and was able to start its MBA Program very successfully: the campus was selected for 200-million yen in funding by the Daimler-Nippon Foundation Innovative Leader Fund, and a Top Seminar presented by Miyagi Governor Murai is scheduled for late May. I am truly grateful to the many, many people whose support made these achievements possible.

After the ceremony and photo session, which took place in one of the classrooms, we moved to the lounge for the reception. The view from the 26th floor of AER was breathtaking! Under a clear blue sky and lit by strong sunlight you could see the Pacific Ocean, the Ou Mountains, and central regions of Sendai. Meanwhile, the reception was progressing; the photo shows one of our graduates giving a speech.
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I chatted with many new students at the reception: a Buddhist priest from Aoba Ward, a Watari Town resident whose home and office were washed away in the tsunami, a person who had relocated to Onagawa alone to engage in post-disaster recovery efforts, a lady who is participating in Tono Magokoro Net (Tono City Disaster Relief Network), a Tsuruoka municipal government employee, a Fukushima City Chamber of Commerce and Industry employee, and many others. Students hailed from the four prefectures of Miyagi, Iwate, Yamagata and Fukushima.

A scene from the reception at the GLOBIS Sendai Campus. Surrounded by kimono-clad beauties (new students), I find myself giving the thumbs-up.
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Back at Sendai Station after the first entrance ceremony at GLOBIS’ Sendai campus was over. This shot was taken in front of the huge GLOBIS sign at Sendai Station. “Let Tohoku turn out visionary leaders who can create and innovate society!”
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Dressed as I was in montsuki haori hakama, I could do nothing but head straight home. From the Yamabiko train window I caught glimpses of cherry blossoms in full bloom. Watching the idyllic rural landscape, I reminisced on how I had come to travel to the Tohoku region dozens of times since the Great East Japan Earthquake. I toured the entire coastal region of Tohoku as part of the KIBOW Project. As a result, I keenly realized the need for leadership training, which led to the snap decision to launch the GLOBIS Sendai Campus. “If we do not seize this moment to establish a GLOBIS Sendai campus, our claim of turning out visionary leaders who can create and innovate society will become the laughing stock of later generations,” I thought at the time.

I always wanted to spend my life doing whatever I believed was right. I felt confident that this outlook has taken me in the right direction. The first entrance ceremony left me filled with deep emotion. The train arrived at Tokyo Station, and I walked along the busy street home, still wearing haori hakama.


April 16, 2013 
At my office in Nibancho
Yoshito Hori

Mr. Yoshito Hori established GLOBIS Management School in 1992 and GLOBIS Capital Partners in 1996. In 2003, GLOBIS started its original MBA program which, in 2006, received accreditation from the Japanese Ministry of Education and gained “university” status. GLOBIS started a part-time MBA program in English in 2009 and a full-time MBA program in English in 2012.

A Harvard MBA graduate and former Sumitomo Corporation employee, Mr. Hori founded the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) Japan Chapter in 1995 and became the first board member from Asia in charge of Asia Pacific region in 1996. He also served on the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s New Asian Leaders Executive Committee and Global Agenda Council on New Models of Leadership, as well as the Harvard Business School Alumni Board from 2005 to 2008. Currently, Mr. Hori is a board member of the Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives), and serves as co-chair of WEF’s Global Growth Companies.

In 2008, he launched the G1 Summit – a Japanese version of the WEF’s annual Davos forum. This led to the foundation of G1 Summit Institute in 2013, which Mr. Hori serves as Representative Director.

Just days after a huge earthquake struck northeast Japan in March 2011, Mr. Hori launched Project KIBOW to support the rebuilding of the disaster-affected areas. The following year Project KIBOW was incorporated as the KIBOW Foundation, which Mr. Hori serves as Representative Director.

An avid enthusiast of the Japanese game Go since age 40, Mr. Hori has been Director of the Nihon Ki-in (Japan Go Association) since June 2013.

Since October 2013, Mr. Hori has hosted a weekly TV program in Japan called Nippon Mirai Kaigi (Japan Future Conference). He has authored several books including Visionary Leaders who Create and Innovate Societies, Six Dimensions of Life, and My Personal Mission Statement.

Mr. Hori received his BS in Engineering from Kyoto University and his MBA from Harvard Business School.

He is an avid swimmer and enjoys spending time with his family, especially his five sons.

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