Heartwarming hospitality connects Tokyo with the world
Office of the Governor for Policy Planning
Tokyo Metropolitan Government
Through internship and overseas study programs, the arena of learning for university students has expanded beyond Japan to include the rest of the world. Here are some Aoyama Gakuin University (AGU) students and alumni who have nurtured global perspectives and thinking at AGU that have taken them to the world stage.
Serving as the contact person for Tokyo, a center of international attention
With the Olympic and Paralympic Games to be held in Tokyo in 2020, we are receiving a large volume of requests to visit Tokyo from around the world, including from major figures. The division I belong to, the International Affairs Division under the Office of the Governor for Policy Planning, Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG), serves as the contact for all such requests. The division takes charge of everything related to overseas affairs, so it is the TMG equivalent of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We handle all kinds of requests, such as “I would like to meet the governor of Tokyo,” “May I see the sewage facilities of Tokyo?” and “I would like information on Tokyo’s policy on people with disabilities,” and make arrangements with relevant divisions within TMG to respond to the requests. When these people come to Japan, I attend to their needs by serving as their “tour attendant.” I feel lucky to be able to make use of my English and Chinese language skills and knowledge about other countries around the world, which I acquired at AGU.
Requests we receive are not always clear-cut and simple. When a request is ambiguous or difficult to address, we communicate carefully with the person making the request to find out his or her true desire. We then need to consider in concrete terms how we can use TMG’s facilities and human resources to fulfill the wish.
For example, when the mayor group of a city in Asia visited Tokyo, they wanted to learn about urban development while enjoying a bird’s eye view of Tokyo. I racked my brains over this request, trying to figure out how I could meet it using TMG’s facilities. I presented various ideas to the mayor, and ultimately fulfilled their wish by having a TMG staff member deliver a presentation on urban development at one of the conference rooms on a high-level floor of the TMG building, allowing the major to enjoy a view of Tokyo from high above. At our division, it is critically important to forge face-to-face relationships with outside parties so that they trust us as the go-to persons when making requests related to Tokyo. To engender such trust, we place top priority on listening to them in an empathetic way to find out what they wish to know about Tokyo.
Why I felt convinced by the idea that “All public officials are servants of the whole community”
I started attending Aoyama Gakuin from junior high school and went on to AGU’s School of International Politics, Economics and Communication. I began to take a deep interest in the English language and international affairs when I was at senior high school. This was partly because I became friends with an international student from the Philippines, and also because I had the opportunity to visit Russia on a homestay program and saw street children there, which sparked my interest in the issue of economic disparities.
My campus life as a student of the School of International Politics, Economics and Communication can be described in a nutshell by the phrase “diversity and harmony.” I was surrounded by unique friends of diverse backgrounds. We all respected and acknowledged each other and enjoyed fulfilling lives as students. The passionate lectures given by our teachers were also deeply inspiring.
I was a member of the seminar led by Professor Takashi Oshimura, who particularly helped me expand my horizons in world affairs with his extensive knowledge ranging from political thought to the cultures and history of the world. Many of my peers pursued education abroad, but I chose to stay in Japan, taking the view that AGU offered everything I needed to learn and being satisfied with my own academic progress. After graduating from AGU, I proceeded to a graduate school at another university, and landed a job with TMG in 2008.
I had initially considered working in the private sector, but when I started job hunting, I found myself reluctant to fill in the “entry sheets” to apply for jobs. I tried to imagine myself building a career at a corporation in the private sector, but somehow things didn’t seem right. I reconsidered my options, trying to identify what job I could see myself doing for many years. The answer was public official.
The phrase “All public officials are servants of the whole community” specified in the Constitution of Japan, sat well with me. I believe this was because I had been familiar with the Christian spirit of love and service that underlies Aoyama Gakuin, although as a student I had never consciously thought about the Christian faith, nor was I especially eager to attend worship every day or sing hymns. It was after I had become a public official that I noticed the spirit of love and service were deeply rooted in my soul. Opinions I hear can at times be harsh and requests can be difficult, but I am capable of facing others squarely and making dedicated efforts to support them with compassion. I believe I owe this capacity to the days I spent at Aoyama Gakuin.
Heartwarming hospitality is a key factor
When interacting with people from different countries, I always hope that they will grow fond of Tokyo. To the people who make requests, we are the contact persons for Tokyo, representatives of the city. In fact, we could very well be the first Japanese person they have ever met in their lives. Their impression of us will shape their impression of Tokyo. Therefore, I believe we should interact with them not in a businesslike manner, but as one person to another.
When engaging in interpersonal interactions with people from overseas, trivial facts I heard in classes at university become very useful. Faculty members at the School of International Politics, Economics and Communication have a rich stock of topics to talk about, not only academic topics, but also bits and pieces of trivia. When I attend to guests from around the world, I suddenly recall such trivia about different countries and regions, which provide me with great icebreakers to start up a fruitful conversation.
“I’ve heard that Mango is delicious in your country.” “Mr.White, I hear you are from the U.S.A. I love movies made in your country.” Such conversation starters have helped me strike up great conversations that bring us closer together. I have made close friends through work, who now come to visit me with their families. I have been taking ikebana flower arrangement lessons since I was a student, which also helps me communicate with people from abroad. People from other countries are often delighted by the distinct beauty of ikebana, so I sometimes arrange flowers in styles that suit the country the particular guests are from. Ikebana lessons provide me with a precious opportunity to revitalize myself. In addition, I also attend English classes after work for self-improvement and self-fulfillment. Spending time in fulfilling ways in my private life helps me improve my work performance.
Role of Tokyo as global megacity
It is said that we are now in the age of the city. With more than half of the world’s population living in urban areas, efficient city management is of great concern to many administrative bodies. Tokyo being a typical megacity, I feel that its administrative management is drawing greater attention.
Notably, we are receiving increasing requests for tours of infrastructure-related facilities, especially the city’s punctual subways, facilities for disaster response projects, and recycling facilities that address environmental problems. Developing countries are now suffering from serious social issues concerning waste processing due to increasing urban populations. There was a time when Tokyo also suffered from waste problems. One of the roles Tokyo needs to fulfill in this world is to share its experience of holding discussions with local communities, trying out different ideas, and making efforts to improve technologies.
I hope to be able to deliver the greatest hospitality possible to all visitors from around the world during the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020. I also hope that Tokyo remains an appealing city that visitors from abroad will desire to visit again. Having studied international affairs and communicated with people from around the world, I would like to continue publicizing Tokyo to the world and help connect Tokyo to the world.
A day in the life of Ms. Kimura
Listen to English news and perform “shadowing” as a morning routine during commute. Approve documents and check emails and overseas media reports.
Internal meeting on a tour to be hosted next month for overseas guests
Prepare venue for receiving key overseas guests in the afternoon.
Attend to key overseas guests.
Talk on phone with embassy official about hosting an event.
Leave office. Head to Omotesando for ikebana flower arrangement lesson.
School of International Politics, Economics and Communication
The Department of International Politics, School of International Politics, Economics and Communication offers curricula specialized in international politics to cultivate people who: can understand issues faced by the international community and Japanese diplomacy from historical, ideological, and theoretical perspectives; are highly sensitive to different cultures and values; and are capable of thinking and acting in a proactive way to solve international problems. The department provides systematic curricula and extensive learning opportunities to allow students to explore in depth politics, economics, and international issues including ethnic conflict, human rights, natural resources, food, environmental problems, etc. and engage in the profound study of international politics. Through theoretical, historical, and regional studies as well as studies of international laws and economics, students are expected to acquire the capacity to comprehensively analyze the schemes of international societies toward the goal of becoming contributing members of the international community.