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Career Success
JUL 6, 2004

Looking Around Campus Candidate Sites at Mt. Aizu in Bandai

By Yoshito Hori

“Building a full-time graduate university campus in the middle of the mountains”

This is one of the visions of GLOBIS.

Simply stated, in addition to our current urban campuses in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka that operate in the evenings and weekends, we are thinking about creating full-time graduate university campus in the middle of the mountains. Our urban campuses, which offer business administration courses in the evenings and on weekends, enable students to attend while continuing to work. In fact, very many talented people are taking advantage of this.

However, it is difficult under this system to invite students from abroad and hold executive programs in a retreat-style setting.

So we are thinking about building a full-time campus out in the mountains, inviting students and faculty (lecturers) from overseas and offering an MBA program in English. Of course, our intention is to have credits earned in this program and at our urban campuses to be interchangeable, and therefore both programs will have the same value.

Realizing this vision of a mountain campus will result from long-term planning. Since we have made our plans in view of the long term, a 30-year-span from our inauguration, I guess we are able to consider projects at this scale.

I began GLOBIS when I was 30, and 12 years have already passed. In eight years, when we reach our second decade, I want to have decided where the new campus will be, started construction, and begun to invite students from Asia. In 18 years, by our third decade, our goal is to be the No. 1 business school in Asia. I am now working hard to achieve this goal.

In the context of this long-term vision, I spent the weekend looking at potential campus locations as part of a family outing.

I had first been thinking about Karuizawa, which is easily accessible from Tokyo, steeped in culture, and would never become boring for students. It boasts the magnificent Mount Asama, and the surrounding area is beautiful every season throughout the year.

The only problem is that I have heard it is difficult to gain permit approval. And it is somewhat distant from any international airports, so it is not as good in terms of overall access, and it’s also not very convenient for the other campuses in Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka (now being planned). At first, I kind of liked the idea of the lifestyle in Karuizawa, partly because it is near my mountain lodge, but we’ve got lots of time before we start construction, so I’m going to broaden my search for potential sites to the whole of Japan.

That’s why I am now in Fukushima Prefecture, in the town of Bandai in the Aizu area. Bandai is at the foot of Mt. Bandai, which is celebrated in a popular Japanese folk song called, “Aizu Bandai Mountain.” I’m here with my wife and four kids as well as a few family friends. The reason I chose Bandai is because Mr. Hoshino, president of Hoshino Resort, said to me, “Karuizawa isn’t bad, but Fukushima has an international airport, Mt. Bandai is stunning, and it is relatively easy to gain permit approval, so it would be very promising as a potential campus.”

Mr. Hoshino had kindly given a speech at the last GLOBIS Club session (a seminar for GLOBIS students). He has under his umbrella the Rizonare resort in Kobuchizawa, Yamanashi, and has also taken on the Alts Bandai Ski Resort in Aizu, Fukushima. He has recently started working toward revitalizing the Alpha Resort Tomamu in Hokkaido.

He completely turned Rizonare around, and he increased the number of skiers in Alts Bandai, making it the number one ski resort in the Tohoku region; his revitalization strategies turned out to be really effective. He is one year older than I am, and our families, including the kids, have started hanging out together. He is the owner and president of a family corporation, and I am an entrepreneur. Our positions are different, but I really look up to him as an innovative leader in resort management.

His enthusiastic endorsement of Bandai was enough to make me want to pay a visit.
I left the company early Friday, picked up my oldest two sons from swimming class and went home. I changed into chinos and a polo shirt, put on my hat and sunglasses, slipped a rucksack on my back, and put on my sneakers and headed for Tokyo Station.

We took the Tohoku bullet train as far as Koriyama and then changed to the Aizu liner on the JR Banetsu-sai line, arriving in Bandai just before nine that evening.

I took a stroll the following morning with Mr. Hoshino showing me around. I was born in neighboring Ibaraki Prefecture and had an overall sense of the Aizu geography as I had been there on school trips and swimming club trips. Resort President Hoshino’s take on it was this: “Famous places abound in this area; Inawashiro, Aizu Wakamatsu, Goshikinuma, Kitakata, which is known for its ramen, Mt. Iimori made famous by Byakkotai, and then Mt. Bandai itself. But, it is not being effectively developed as a tourist destination, so the area has not been able to attract enough customers.”

The large-scale Alts Bandai resort was built in 1986 when the Resort Law was enacted, originally as a joint public-private venture by a consortium including the town of Bandai, a real estate developer, a major airline, a large trust bank and others. It covers some 9,930 square kilometers reaching halfway up Mt. Bandai. It has golf courses and ski slopes, as well as educational and training facilities and a natural hot spring spa. It is said that around 110 billion yen has already been invested in it.

Yet, because it has everything, one gets the impression the concept is somewhat vague. This is why the management is stuck in a rut and Hoshino Resort has been entrusted to turn things around.

This area features Lake Inawashiro to the south and Mt. Bandai to the north, creating some spectacular scenery and is also well situated in terms of feng shui. The water is clean, apparently.

Halfway through our stroll, we popped into the sake brewery of Eisen Shuzou. When Alts Bandai was built, they moved their factory here for the clean water. We sampled Ginjyo, Daiginjyo and ume sake (plum wine) as well.

Each was delicious, particularly the ume sake. I asked why it was not called, “ume shu,” the common term for liquor distilled from plum, and was told that ume shu is made from a Japanese liquor called “shochu,” whereas ume sake is made from Japanese sake. So the name was chosen to differentiate it from ume shu. Feeling in a cheerful mood from the drink, I bought a bottle of ume sake and we continued our stroll.

Hoshino Resort has been working on their strategy for participating in the management of Alts Bandai. First, they planned to focus on trying to pull in winter skiers. Resources would not be deployed for summer activities until the concept was completely clear. It was a case of concentrating resources.

They were devoted to increasing repeat ski customers as well as families. They particularly beefed up ski instruction toward helping people to fully experience the sense that they were improving their skiing, and therefore enjoying it more and wanting to come back again and again.

They even introduced a satisfaction guarantee on their curry rice. I had previously spoken to Mr. Hoshino about GLOBIS’ quality guarantee for its services, explaining, “At GLOBIS, if students have any reservations about the quality of instruction after having completed the entire course, we unconditionally refund all course fees. This is a very powerful customer satisfaction system, you know.” I also sent him some written materials about GLOBIS’ service Quality Guarantee System.

Shortly afterwards Mr. Hoshino introduced the curry rice satisfaction guarantee in Bandai Alts. Overall, if you are not satisfied with the curry rice you had eaten, you will get your money back. Apparently it works very well as a publicity device.

The general manager in charge of implementing these initiatives is a graduate of GLOBIS. I had known him myself, and he welcomed me at the entrance hall when I arrived at Bandai Alts. This made me very happy, since I had not expected to see him there. Amidst an overall downturn in the number of skiers going to the Tohoku region from previous year, Bandai Alts had been the only resort to show a two percent increase due to the measures implemented by the general manager. It was the first upturn in the last ten years.

Furthermore, I heard a concept committee had been working day and night to come up with a plan to increase customer numbers during the summer. President Mr. Hoshino said, “The key to resort development is discovering the particular charm of the region and then to concisely distill it and get the word out. No one will come if this place is just the same as everywhere else.”

The following day I went over to Enichi temple and saw the waterfall where mountain ascetic practices took place. Enichi temple was built in the early Heian period by a monk named Tokuitsu, and was once a major location for ascetic practices, at one point housing over 800 monks. Tokuitsu was a contemporary of famous monks such as Kukai and Saicho, and apparently there are documents of them debating with each other. The area where the ascetic practices of Enichi temple took place is actually in the middle of Bandai Alts. There are 18 waterfalls, and if you walk a little farther, a natural outdoor hot springs. Mt. Bandai rises up from there.

Why did the visionary Tokuitsu in the Heian period choose this Bandai site to open a temple? How did he go about creating and developing the Enichi temple, which was essentially a training school (or campus) for monks? What was going through his mind at that time? I wondered what the monks were contemplating during their ascetic practice as they stood underneath the waterfall. What did it feel like to soak in the natural hot springs?

I tend to let my imagination run a little wild about such things. However, this center for monks was ultimately destroyed at the end of the Civil War period by Masamune Date, lord of the region, and subsequently disappeared from history. The temple built at Mt. Koya by Kukai was also in danger of being destroyed around that time by Nobunaga Oda, but somehow it managed to escape unscathed and remains to this day.

I intend to continue exploring the mountains across Japan to scout out potential campus locations. I wonder which place would be good. I’m looking forward to it. If anyone reading this column knows of a good site, please let me know.

My voice hasn’t recovered since becoming ill in Seoul and catching a bad cold. I can’t take any time off, and my body is exhausted, so I’m not recovering very fast. To get ready for the hard schedule that continues tomorrow, I’m going to hit the sack early tonight, with my Heian era dream playing in my mind.