2017 Japan Minnesota Association Christmas Party ( Dec.10 )

On a gorgeously sunny Sunday afternoon on December 10th 61 members of the Japan Minnesota Association gathered at Meson Cervantes, Spain Club in Kojimachi for their annual Christmas party. The airy space was filled with the aroma of delicious Spanish food and the sounds of lively conversation and laughter as members gathered to remember the year, look forward to the next, and share a meal together.


The afternoon began with members trickling in, greeting one another, and sampling the large variety of Spanish dishes beautifully displayed in the center of the room. Participants enjoyed Cava for the toast, donated by Mr. Matsui, the owner of Spain Club, beer, wine and soft drinks. Brightly colored Paella, delectable Ajillo, tender Roast Pork, were also served, followed by coffee and desert. It was a chance for members to catch up, reminisce about cold Minnesota Christmases of the past, and feel the warmth of good company.


As the afternoon went on, JMA president Iwanami-san opened with several important announcements. Audra Gerlach, the Director of International Alumni and Travel at the University of Minnesota, had flown all the way from Minnesota to deliver the exciting news that JMA had won the Program Extraordinaire grant award for the Ohanami Party it hosted in Inogashira Park in Tokyo last April. It was an honor to have Mrs. Gerlach in attendance, and a proud moment for the JMA. Additionally, Mrs. Gerlach thanked JMA members who participated in the annual U of M Day of Service by hand delivering baseball caps to commemorate the occasion.


The Christmas Party was far from over when the charitable auction began. The JMA received large variety of donations, so it was no surprise that member participation was high. All types of U of M memorabilia, like T-shirts and sweatshirts, and other goods, like globes and leather journals, were auctioned off with all proceeds helping fund JMA’s endeavors.


Finally, auction winners were announced and members said their goodbyes. It was another fantastic year for the JMA Christmas Party. The JMA’s active membership, dedicated volunteers, and support from the University of Minnesota all helped make the party, and all of its 2017 events, a great success. We look forward to the coming year with the first 2018 event, Minnesota Youth Seminar, on January 27th, on the horizon!


U of Minn. Alumni Day of Service (Oct 14)

Saturday, October 14th, 2017 was the University of Minnesota Alumni Day of Service. This annual event is a day for alumni and friends to engage “in service to their community through one big day of service and gratitude”. Service projects can include anything from planting trees, to volunteering in soup kitchens, to cleaning up garbage, and more. While official participation sites are routinely located across Minnesota and throughout the United States, the first and only international site was our very own Japan Minnesota Association’s Tokyo site.


A total of five JMA participants, joined by the twenty-five participants from our partnered organization, Tokyo Kami Kyoukai, woke up before the sun on the cold and stormy Sunday morning and met at Shinjuku station with plastic gloves and rain gear ready. Mr. Yamazaki, the leader of Tokyo Kami Kyoukai, welcomed everyone and divided the large group into teams, each of which included JMA members and teachers and students from a local elementary school. Mr. Yamazaki had been introduced to us by Mr. Kagiyama, who is himself a Carlson School graduate, and assumes the Vice President of Foreign Affairs position of a nonprofit corporation called The Association of Making a Beautiful Japan.


Being that Shinjuku is one of the busiest areas of Tokyo, it’s no surprise that it can get pretty messy by the end of the weekend. We gathered plastic lunch boxes, gum, wrappers, empty cans and bottles, and even a broken smartphone, just to name a few things. Despite the rainy weather, it didn’t seem long before we had filled our trash bags and were headed back to the meeting spot.


From there we spread out a tarp and sorted the garbage, and Japan’s strict garbage sorting requirements meant that this wasn’t a step we could skip. We sorted trash into categories like plastic bottles, cans, and general so that proper recycling could take place. The collective efforts of the group made this a simple task even with the high volume of garbage we had gathered!


After rinsing our hands off with the warm soapy water that a thoughtful organizer had prepared, we gathered for a send-off. A leader from each group gave a short speech to close, and all of the groups seemed to agree that it was deeply fulfilling to do something good for the community, and definitely something worth incorporating in our daily lives.


The efforts of our JMA volunteers helped to globalize the 2017 U of M Alumni Day of Service, and we hope to continue the tradition. We would like to thank the members who participated, and extend next year’s invitation to those who couldn’t make it.

The 1st Minnesota Tea Ceremony 2017

The first Minnesota Tea Ceremony was held on Saturday, September 23rd at the Tokyo location of Mushakoji Senke Kankyuan in Sendaigi, Bunkyo-ku. On this day, the Autumnal Equinox, rain threatened and the 15 members in attendance enjoyed the fall-like atmosphere while experiencing the deeply traditional world of Japanese tea ceremony.


The Tokyo location of Mushakoji Senke Kankyuan was a very quiet and relaxing space that allowed us to forget the bustle of the city from the moment we entered. The tea ceremony began with a tour of the open grounds, which included the tea garden. Upon entering the tea room, a calm washed over us and the ceremony began. We enjoyed a close view of the polite ritual’s elegant flow while receiving Japanese sweets and the tea. After the ceremony itself finished, we asked Mrs. Naoko Kume and her disciples many questions, such as what proper tea ceremony etiquette is and about the history. Many questions came from the participants and, overall, it was an excellent experience.


One of the participants, Brian Emch, had the following to say about the tea ceremony experience:


“The Japanese Tea Ceremony was a rewarding event as it truly brings together the fine details and protocol of the tea culture. It has been 17 years since I’ve participated in the Tea experience, it’s culture and process also reflects positively in some aspects of the Japanese society, culture, and tradition. I look forward to bringing friends and co-workers to experience this great tradition.”


The Minnesota Tea Ceremony will return for a second year. Those who unfortunately could not attend this year must be sure to attend the tea party next year. Those who are new to tea ceremony are also welcome. Let’s experience the wonderful traditional culture of Japanese tea ceremony together!

2017 Summer party (June 18)

This June 18 th , the Japan-Minnesota Association Summer Party was held at Josui Hall in Takebashi. Altogether, 44 members joined the event.

As usual, the party was divided into two parts. In the first part, Ms. Maya Inoue, the representative director and president of a theater company called “Komatsu-za”, gave a wonderful speech. Ms. Inoue is the third daughter of the late Mr. Hisashi Inoue, who was a well-known writer and playwright.


We asked her to discuss various topics that passed on her father’s memory, such as the meeting with Mr. Yoji Yamada, who is a famous movie director and director of “Haha to Kuraseba (Living with your Mother)”. Ms. Inoue also showed us her father’s works and expressed that she had struggled to sow the seeds of the stories that her father had left behind for future generations. Additionally, she shared some of the interesting secrets behind the production of “Haha to Kuraseba”. During her presentation, she emphasized the importance of passing on our thoughts and sentiments to the next generation.


During the second part of the event, we enjoyed the cuisine at Josui Hall while socializing. Over the course of the event, many multi-generational exchanges took place, which was a pleasure to see.

The 9th Big Ten Golf tournament (April 16)

The Minnesota team’s results are…?
I believe that many people know of a tournament called the “Sports Conference”, where fourteen major mid-western American universities, referred to as the “Big Ten”, compete
together. In 2009, eight years ago, the focused turned to Japanese graduates from Purdue and the University of Illinois, and the Big Ten golf tournament began in Japan.


The 9 th Big Ten Friendship Golf Tournament’s 23 participants from 7 of the Big Ten schools were blessed with a beautiful day for golf on Sunday, April 16 th at the Yamada Golf Club in Chiba Prefecture. This year’s 7 participating schools were Indiana, Michigan,
Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue, and Wisconsin. From the Minnesota Association, the six members (names:) were entered into the competition, which was the largest number of participants ever.


The competition rules and rank were based on the team competition and individual score calculations using the New Peoria method (a type of handicap calculation), so each school’s team competition ranking was determined by calculating the total net score of their top three players. After the competition, the player’s impressions were that it was not easy to score points considering the distance to each hole, the fairway slant, the spring season’s late green, and so on.

Michigan State’s outstanding performance could be seen in both the individual and team competitions. In the individual competition the 1 st and 2 nd rankings were monopolized, but Minnesota narrowly hung onto the 3 rd rank. The overall victory went to Michigan State, who went on to win the prize, with the University of Minnesota behind at a difference of 3.4 points, followed by the University of Indiana at a difference of 4.8 points.
Although we couldn’t expect to continue last year’s consecutive victory, the Minnesota team remained strong.


The 10 th tournament is scheduled to take place this year on a weekday in November at the course proposed to host the Olympic tournament, Kasumigaseki Country Club. The Minnesota Association appreciates everyone’s participation and continued support.

Ohanami(cherry blossom) Party 2017, April 2

On Sunday April 2nd, 2017, the Japan Minnesota Association (JMA) hosted its annual Ohanami, or cherry blossom viewing party, in Inogashira Park, located in western Tokyo. This event is always highly anticipated, as it is a great chance for members to get together and enjoy each-others company while picnicking under the unique beauty of the impermanent sakura blooms. This year over 40 members gathered for yet another unforgettable JMA Ohanami.

Inogashira Park is a go-to place for cherry blossom viewing, boasting around 500 sakura trees, many of which surround the central pond. Despite this year’s unusual cold snap, the park was covered in the unmistakable sakura pink in the form of opening buds and new flowers. It was the perfect setting for this year’s JMA Ohanami. Everybody gathered at a spot near the pond, right along a line of trees, and enjoyed a huge potluck-style spread— members shared homemade chirashi-zushi, niku-jaga, and many other traditional foods and snacks. Matusmori-san, one of the planning contributors, began the party with a kanpai!, or “cheers!”, to another great year together.

One impressive feature about the annual Ohanami is the diversity present in the group, and this certainly remained the case at this year’s event. There are many connections to Minnesota in this group, some of which date back to times long before the University of Minnesota’s Washington Avenue Bridge had a roof. This event is a chance for families, study abroad students, both young and experienced professionals, and many others to get together; it is a cherished opportunity for members to share memories of Minnesota and to stay connected to our experiences or roots.

One of the participants, Abbey Burtis, a study abroad student at Hitotsubashi University from University of Minnesota said “Ohanami was delightful! It was a pleasure to meet others connected to the University, share traditional Japanese food and enjoy the beautiful Sakura. I look forward to the next event hosted by the University of Minnesota Alumni Association, Tokyo Chapter”.

As the event came to a close, Yamaguchi-san announced the details of the upcoming Summer Party which is scheduled to be held on June 18th, 2017, at Josui Kaikan. Finally, members gathered for a commemorative photo, holding the University of Minnesota Alumni Association flag with the beautiful sakura blooms serving as a gorgeous backdrop. The 2017 JMA Ohanami event was a great success and we look forward to next year and other upcoming JMA events in Tokyo.
(Reported by Alex Ehret)


"Employee Engagement" seminar by Dr. Kenneth Bartlett (Jan 17)

The seminar was held at 19:00 in January 17th, at the seminar room of Tohmatsu Innovation, Yurakucho.


Professor Kenneth Bartlett in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development (OLPD), University of Minnesota provided the great presentation, "Employee Engagement", which is the pretty popular topic in Japan as well as US.


The approximated 30 participants joined the seminar and exchanged some questions and comments with Dr. Bartlett in a passionated mode. The presentation consists of several sections, and he introduced the research results of Employee Engagement rate from the comparison between Japanese and US employees in each country.


After the seminar, some participants, Dr. Bartlett and his wife joined the late dinner, and continued to share some thoughts of the seminar and other topics. The participants gave the good feedback about the seminar and the members arranging this seminar had the very delightful time.


Although Dr. Bartlett made first his visit to Japan as the presenter, he was quite impressed with Japanese culture and enjoyed some time with his wife in Tokyo. We are looking forward to having another opportunities to boost exchanges with him in the future.


Dr. Bartlett's Profile