Above: JCCI President Hidenori Takaoka, Gala Chair Mitsuru Claire Chino, and Keynote Speaker Soichi Noguchi. Photo by Andrew Levine
November 4th – The Japan Chamber of Commerce & Industry of New York was pleased to host its 37th Annual Gala on Thursday evening at the Peak at Hudson Yards, returning to an in-person setting after more than a year of online programming. The theme of the Gala was “New Horizon,” emphasizing the importance of U.S.-Japan relations and intercultural understanding as we move forward into a post-Covid world. This theme was reflected in the messages of speakers, the accomplishments of awardees, and the venue itself.
Mr. Hidenori Takaoka, President and CEO of Mitsubishi Corporation (Americas) and President of the Chamber delivered a welcome address to attendees. Mr. Takaoka reflected on the challenges and hardships of the year, while also acknowledging causes for optimism: “2021 has been a year of fresh beginnings. With the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, we began to feel a renewed sense of hope as we adjusted to a new way of life.” Mr. Takaoka also emphasized the significance of US-Japan relations throughout the pandemic, stating “Japan was able to hold its much-anticipated Summer Olympic Games, and New York City has come back to life with the reopening of Broadway and children returning to school. Through this all, the ongoing friendship between the US and Japan has endured.”
Ms. Mitsuru Claire Chino, President and CEO of Itochu International Inc. served as this year’s Gala Chair. In her address, Ms. Chino acknowledged the diverse backgrounds and accomplishments of this year’s awardees: “Although they come from many different areas professionally, they share one thing in common – their commitment to reaching across borders to strengthen the U.S. – Japan partnership.” Ms. Chino also moderated a conversation with Special Guest Speaker Mr. Stephen Ross, Chairman of The Related Companies. In their fireside chat, they discussed the importance of intercultural business, as well as the future of real estate and remote work.
On the function of multi-use complexes in Hudson Yards, he noted its sustainable and safe environment where people could “live, work, and play” and “walk to work and enjoy everything around them.” To Ross, these multi-use complexes are the key to development.
On his values on real estate, he mentioned “when things are good, you can never see how things can get bad, and when things are bad, you don’t see how they can get good. People really want to go back to work. You can’t grow companies, educate people, or grow a culture without people really working together…when you have a workforce, you want to have everyone together so they can see and hear how those values are coming together. If we’re going to go forward and have these new horizons, that’s what we have to do together.”
Behind the backdrop of the setting sun, Keynote Speaker, JAXA astronaut Dr. Soichi Noguchi, presented about his various missions into space and the importance of diversity in his aeronautical work. He ended his speech on a contemplative and encouraging note: “Humans [have been] going into space for the last sixty years…but we still feel the need to challenge the new horizon. Why don’t you?”
The Chamber honored the late Mr. Walter Mondale, 42nd Vice President of the United States and former ambassador to Japan as this year’s Commemorate Awardee. The award was accepted virtually by Mr. Mondale’s eldest son, Mr. Ted Mondale. In his virtual acceptance speech, Mr. Ted Mondale discussed the importance of Japan in his family’s life. He recounted a story in which his father had been offered an ambassadorial opportunity to Russia, when his mother insisted, “If we’re leaving the United States, the only place we’re going is Tokyo.” Indeed, after a conversation with former President Bill Clinton, Mr. Walter Mondale was able to become the ambassador to Japan.
Professional golfer and 2021 Masters Champion Mr. Hideki Matsuyama, and U.S. Senator and former ambassador to Japan Mr. Bill Hagerty were this year’s Eagle on the World awardees. The Award is given to those who have made outstanding contributions in strengthening the U.S.-Japan partnership. In his virtual acceptance speech, Mr. Matsuyama discussed the importance of sports in transcending cultural barriers and promoting intercultural understanding: “Through golf, I’ve been given the opportunity to deepen mutual understanding across cultural boundaries while competing against people from all over the world. It is my sincere hope that my play will expand cultural horizons and inspire joy and hope in my fans, in those who live in areas struck by natural disaster, and in businesspeople of the world.” Meanwhile, in his virtual acceptance speech, Senator Hagerty discussed the importance of US-Japan relations moving forward, from a political, economic, and cultural perspective, and it is one that he is “passionate about continuing to grow and develop.”
For entertainment, professional tap dancer Mr. Kazunori Kumagai performed a routine. Ms. Christina Maxwell graced the stage as MC and sang the U.S. national anthem, while Ms. Mitsuru Claire Chino sang the Japanese national anthem.
Since 1932, the Chamber has been at the forefront of promoting the dynamic US-Japan partnership. Proceeds from the Gala go toward the JCC Fund, which in turn provides funding to education programs, disaster relief initiatives, and intercultural community projects in the New York area.
JCCI would like to thank all of our sponsors and supporters for this year. If you were unable to attend this year’s Gala, we will also be hosting a Virtual Gala on November 17 at 6PM EST. All registrants will receive special bento boxes courtesy of the Nippon Club. For details and registration, please refer to this link
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