The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

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Campus Now

Early Spring Issue (Apr. 2013)


Cultivating global leaders active in the community

Happy relationships between university and the community

“Waseda Vision 150” is a mid-and-long-term plan which defines the ideal form of Waseda University in 2032, the year of our 150th anniversary. The global leaders who are described in this vision are not limited to overseas professionals; rather, they include professionals who return to their hometown, using their global perspective and sensibility for the good of the community. Cultivating such global leaders will further deepen the partnership between our university and the community. We will explore what Waseda University can do to construct a brighter future for our planet.

Global leaders active in various regions

We spoke with two alumni who are active as global leaders in regional society. They discussed how what they learned at Waseda is applied to their daily activities.

“Kumamon” is a spark for increasing the brand strength of Kumamoto

Record of Kumamon’s Activities
(1) Traveling to Singapore for an exhibition of Kyushu products
(2) 1 of 32 different business cards; a total of 10,000 have been handed out
(3) Kumamon holds citrus fruit from Kumamoto while posing in front of Osaka Castle
(4) Speaking at a university in Kansai
(5) Craft made by fans (fair of Kumamoto goods held in Nanba, Osaka)

My decision to return to my hometown was not based on any particular aspirations. Even so, after 4 stimulating years at Waseda spent interacting with Japanese and foreign people of various backgrounds, I had always thought about returning to my hometown and using my breadth of experiences to help in some way. I found the answer in “Kumamon,” a mascot who won the 2011 championship of regional mascots in Japan.

Kumamon was originally created as a character for Kumamoto Surprise, a regional campaign in Kumamoto in preparation for the 2011 opening of the Kyushu Shinkansen line. Kumamon was then selected as the main mascot for the KANSAI Strategy, which sought to increase recognition for Kumamoto Prefecture in the Kansai region which would be connected via the shinkansen line. Although the opening of the Kyushu Shinkansen line filled Kumamoto Prefecture with hope, there was also a sense of urgency that failure to take action would result in Kumamoto being forgotten and travelers simply passing through the city without getting off the train. In response, I established “Team Kumamon” together with members of the Kumamoto Brand Promotion Section where I worked at the time, as well as with collaborators from both inside and outside of Kumamoto Prefectural Government. Our goal was just to stand out as much as possible. We handed out business cards with a funny content based on Kumamoto’s comedy culture. We also conducted bidirectional communication using Twitter and blogs. Fortunately, our efforts were featured by the national media and many people now come to Kumamoto out of a desire to meet with Kumamon. There has also been an increase in requests from other prefectures which want to hold exhibitions of products from Kumamoto. Everyone is after Kumamon. Even corporations from other prefectures are manufacturing Kumamon goods which are sold nationwide. All of these activities are PR for Kumamoto.

Currently, as part of a new mission for bringing energy to Japan, Kumamon is visiting regions throughout our nation, including disaster areas in Tohoku. Of course, we are also working to promote Kumamon overseas. Kumamon has already appeared in Shanghai, Singapore and America, and has even been featured in the Wall Street Journal. I look forward to the day when Kumamon is a character that is loved throughout the world. My ultimate goal is to increase the popularity of Kumamoto Prefecture. Based on diverse values which I acquired at Waseda and through the understanding of Governor Kabashima, I will seek new ways for contributing to the prosperity of Kumamoto.

Mr. Masataka Naruo
Council Member, Regional Promotion Section, Kumamoto Prefectural Government(graduated from School of Law in 1982)

Entered employment in the Kumamoto Prefectural Government in 1982. For 2 years beginning from April 2010, together with Kumamon, oversaw KANSAI Strategy while working in the Kumamoto Brand Promotion Section. Plans to publish Kumamon no Himitsu (tentative title) (The Secret of Kumamon; Gentosha Inc.) in March.

Sparking local revitalization through regional tradition and overseas sessions

(1) Aizu lacquered dishes, a collaboration product with the Italian brand Orobianco
(2) Yae Selection, utilizing Taiga Drama for developing a prefectural brand
(3) This is the 10th year for selling Aizu Keishomai Ujisato, a brand of vintage rice
(4) Denim (Kojima) products, a collaboration between Betty Smith and Aizu cotton cloth

I developed awareness towards the community while in high school. As part of the newspaper club, I learned about history in my hometown of Aizu. I felt the desire to live proudly as an Aizu citizen in order to pass down this tradition and history to future generations. During my time at Waseda, I actively studied philosophy, literature, religion and other areas outside of my field of expertise. These studies further increased my desire to return to my hometown.

After graduation, I started an IT venture company in Aizu. Although I had wanted to expand sales channels for local products, I was shocked to realize that there was nothing to sell and no one to make products. Even when using IT, it is impossible to differentiate a region if it lacks individuality. In response, I began producing Aizu brand rice 10 years ago. Through cooperation with local farmers, I spent the first 5 years preparing soil. After 5 years, that soil and rice fields become assets to the region. Discovering such regional assets and creating added value are an essential part of regional branding. On the other hand, the development of new products is meaningless without distribution. Therefore, I focus on session with overseas brands. Following the Great East Japan Earthquake, Fukushima has received great support from overseas and the region is drawing more attention. Utilizing this visibility, I created a product collaboration between Aizu and the famous Italian brand Orobianco. The result was a completely novel product and a new sales channel. Another activity was fieldwork in which French students created a type of “Michelin Guide” for Aizu. In addition to conveying the appeal of our community to overseas, such fieldwork was also an opportunity for Aizu to learn about foreign perspectives.

I am also active in areas other than Aizu. Each area has the same issues. Even while incorporating new culture from overseas, Japan has stubbornly protected our tradition. As a result, tradition has been removed from our modern lifestyle. Now, such tradition is attracting renewed attention, and it is a wonderful opportunity for conveying Japanese and local tradition to overseas. The Nisshinkan School of Aizu Domain taught students to live with a sense of moral indebtedness to their parents, teachers and society. As in this teaching, I want to take on various challenges in order to repay my debt to local society which has supported Japan.

Mr. Katsunosuke Honda
(graduated from School of Political Science and Economics in 1997)

President of Aizu Food Renaissance Inc. and Hillside Connection Inc. Through the perspective of regional management, produces food and manufacturing with a focus on Aizu and Fukushima Prefecture. Also conducts a consulting and renovation business for traditional industry.