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The Japan Stories Project came into being as an AJS-NSW initiative during the pandemic of 2020, with the aim of capturing the stories of people whose lives have been impacted - personally, professionally, economically or psychologically - by their involvement between Japan and NSW. At the same time the project aimed to assist COVID-affected people by providing some employment to students and others. Interviews were conducted during the latter part of 2020, and the stories collected will be posted in both English and where appropriate in Japanese over the next few months.

  • 26 Jan 2022 5:52 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Masanori Ohtani tells a personal story about coming to Australia as an employee of a Japanese trading company to start its business here. Australia, and Sydney, in the 1970s and early 1980s, was quite different then, and he involved Mitsui and Co. in a number of projects that are still important for the company today.

    Since Ohtani-san settled here with wife Momoe, his contribution has continued in a number of fields, not least at AJS-NSW as a Director, and as a founder of the Inoue Yasushi Award. The story continues here.

  • 26 Sep 2021 3:42 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Teri (Fujiko) Teramoto was one of the first Japanese flight attendants employed by Qantas on the Japan-Australia route in the 1960s. It was a very different time flying; dressed in kimono, Teri's initial role was to assist the male stewards with the first class passengers, mainly Japanese businessmen.

    Interviewed by Diane Vukelic, she tells the story of how she came to work for Qantas, and of her later work developing the Japanese group tourism market. Teri now lives in Sydney but travels to and from Japan regularly.

    The full interview (click here) includes some wonderful photos.

  • 23 Aug 2021 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    One of the most influential NSW Japan relationship stories is the unlikely friendship that struck up in the very early 1970s between Bill Forrest from Tamworth, and Ichibay Matsuo, a sake brewer from Sannohe Aomori. Both of them were of a similar age, from a rural background, and very active Rotarians.

    What started as an exchange of correspondence developed into a comprehensive system of youth exchange between NSW and Japan that eventually formed the basis of the Rotary Youth Exchange Programme between Japan and Australia. Since then, hundreds, perhaps thousands of young Australians and Japanese have spent up to 12 months living with families, attending high school, and learning each other’s language. The impact this has had on families, careers, professionals and business would be difficult to quantify but is no doubt immense and profound. My brother Allan and I were both Rotary Exchange Students to Japan, with Allan having the pleasure of becoming a member of Ichibay Matsuo’s family for a year. Personally and professionally we are still both heavily involved with Japan.

    In 2001, Tamworth and Sannohe signed a Sister City Exchange Agreement, formalising the relationship between the two cities. Since then, many exchanges have taken place between both cities especially at the high school level.

    In Feb 2006 Bill received the sad news that Ichibay Matsuo had passed away after a short illness. That night, without hesitation, we took Bill to Japan so that he could be at his friend’s funeral in Sannohe.

    Bill turned 91 in January this year. Bill and his wife Ruth, still live in a retirement village in Tamworth. Every so often, before Covid-19, the retirement village would get a busload of visitors from Japan. They come not to see the retirement village but simply to meet and shake hands with one of the men who started it all.

    Written by Peter Forrest

    The full interview with Bill, conducted by Jim Booth, is here.

  • 14 Apr 2021 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Terry Crotty leads a much busier life than many. Not only has he raised two children of his own, but he and his wife Veronica have welcomed many more into his home from Japan as exchange students. He’s been a director of the Australia-Japan Society of NSW for seven years and deserves a medal for being Secretary for last five years.

    “My involvement with Japan goes quite a way back: fifteen or sixteen years. Our family – my wife and I and the two boys – first decided to go to Japan because we loved Disneyland. We heard that there was a nice Disneyland there, but all our friends said, ‘oh, you don't want to go there. It's too hard to get around, they don't speak English.’ We decided to go anyway, ‘cause we're pretty independent travellers. So we went to Tokyo, we saw a baseball game, went to Hiroshima. We went to Disneyland, of course. And we loved it. So we’ve been back – not every year, but probably most years since then. And that was our first introduction to Japan.

    When we got back, we thought ‘this place was really lovely’. And the next year, there was the World Expo in Nagoya so we went back and did Nagoya and Kyūshū, and travelled all around Kyūshū and did a bit of the snow as well. When we came back from that, we thought ‘let's learn a bit of the language, because we might keep going back’. So Veronica, my wife, and I enrolled in the basic qualification at Granville TAFE.  I moved on to a Japanese language basic course at the Japan Foundation. At the back of the classroom one day was a brochure for Sumo tournament viewing, which we thought we might enjoy. So we went along, met a former Australia-Japan Society of NSW (AJS) board member Ian Stewart, who introduced us to the AJS and signed us up. And we've been part of the society ever since.

    Once I got on the AJS-NSW Board, Veronica decided she wanted to do something Japanese as well. So she joined the Campbelltown-Koshigaya Sister City Association. She took her own independent relationship with Japan a step further. And she's now the secretary of that Sister Cities Association. She takes groups of students over to that area in Japan each year and then we host students who come here.

    One of the beauties of the AJS is that you can get that feeling of Japan by engaging with Japanese folks and those with an interest in Japan right here in Sydney, which is great because for many people a trip to Japan might be a long way off, but you can get that initial association by being involved with a group.

    The highlight [of being part of the greater Japanese community in NSW] is that it provides a depth of exposure and understanding for myself and Veronica that we wouldn't have gotten otherwise. I think too many Australians don't take that opportunity to involve themselves in another culture. They don’t get the benefits of seeing the differences between two cultures. It can be quite enlightening and rewarding. And so, we've gotten a great deal out of being associated with Japan, both business-wise, socially, and culturally.

    We hope that our association with Japan will continue for many more years. Veronica’s quite keen to take more groups and we're keen to host students until we can do it no more. So we're eager to keep that active for many, many years and obviously to tell our friends to get involved as well!

  • 08 Nov 2020 10:35 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    ‘I feel at home in Japan’ and ‘not a day goes past that I’m not involved with it in some away’ says this unique Sydney-sider who has visited Japan 85 times and travelled to all 47 prefectures.

    When he speaks of his love for Japan as his ‘second home’, it is not about the places and attractions highlighted in the glossy tourist brochures. Rather his passion is about its culture and people, who include those he considers to be ‘best friends’, ‘my Japanese families’ and ‘surrogate parents’.

    How did this level of commitment come about for a boy who was raised on Sydney's Lower North Shore with a father who had fought in PNG during WWII - and who left school in 1982 with the ambition of becoming a professional tennis player? During his childhood there was much enmity towards Japan; Peter had no involvement with anything Japanese apart from the Tokyo Mart grocery store that had opened near his home.

    Looking back, Peter says that the tipping point was when, after playing tennis with some local Japanese ex-pats, he was intrigued enough to attend a lesson on Introductory Japanese, followed by a beer with a group of Japanese working-holiday students.

    Tennis became the vehicle for the journey that has made Japan Peter’s other life passion. The two became intertwined because ‘tennis is such an incredibly popular sport in Japan’.

    After leaving school, Peter’s knowledge about Japan grew through his small business of tennis coaching Japanese expat families.  Continued lessons in the language helped his coaching,  done in Japanese. The connections he made through coaching lead to a month-long holiday in Japan at the age of twenty and his return two years later on a 14-month professional tennis contract, when he became more immersed in the culture and established some life-long relationships.

    Whilst Peter describes his career as being the result of a ‘complete fluke’, it seems that the pathway has been more a result of his hard work (‘I take on things with a gusto’), his willingness to take risks and invest himself both culturally and emotionally in Japan and the many friendships he has forged within the relationship based culture of the Japanese. In 1987 he completed a Diploma of Japanese from UTS.

    Although Peter had thought he would probably marry a Japanese woman, in 1993 he married a New Zealand-born Chinese woman. In 1997 their son was born with Downs syndrome and autism. At the time he wondered how this might affect his relationship with Japan because it seemed less accepting of disability than Australia. However he says that, in hindsight, he totally underestimated the capacities of his friends as ‘when we did eventually bring our son to Japan... (sic) it was unbelievable, it was fantastic, it brings me to tears’.

    Subsequently Peter has taught tennis for the Japan Downs Syndrome Association. With his first-hand experience, Peter now says: ‘One of the things I do with a passion is my work with the (Tokyo 2021)(sic) Paralympics.’ He hopes that the Paralympics will help enhance societal inclusion of persons with disability.

    In 1999 their daughter was born. Shortly thereafter Peter sold his Sydney coaching business and since then his career in Sport/Japan has been on the corporate side. Although it is easy to recite Peter’s list of business achievements from his self-made beginnings to the successes of recent times, it is clear that his series of stepping-stones come from his people-skills, his openness to embrace diversity and his empathy and respect for others. And, of course, his love and respect for the Japanese culture and people which have been the common thread throughout - from his tennis business that was flooded with Japanese people to the present.

    After the 2011 tsunami Peter completed the 309km Charity Walk from Fukushima City to Ofunato to raise disaster and humanitarian relief for children orphaned by the disaster. Along the route he stopped to give tennis lessons to children, some of whom had lost their parents.

    Peter speaks of Japanese people with great affection. Although he is quick to state that his view of Japan is not through rose-coloured glasses, he feels passionately about their humility, resilience and sense of harmony. He enjoys their ability to sense the needs of others, ‘rather than thinking about yourself’, the stability, order and quietness of the environment and how they talk to each other (‘The culture is embedded in the language’). He explains his experience of the willingness of Japanese people to trust and go out of their way to assist others. Also how a relationship is ‘for life’. He emphasizes how he has learned ‘so much’ from his Japanese relationships.

    Peter’s adult life has been profoundly influenced by his connections with Japan and his resulting true friendships. Having completed his role as General Manager, Rugby World Cup Japan 2019 with Gullivers Sport Travel Association, Peter is currently Executive Advisor to the Tokyo 2021 Olympic and Paralympic Games and an Executive Adviser with the Seven Network for the games.

    After the Games he plans to trip around Japan with his son in a campervan. Although to date he has never lived in Japan for an extended period, he says ‘I move even more naturally in Japan that I do here’; it comes as no surprise that he is looking to purchase a place in the area south-east of Mt Fuji. And he still plays tennis for fitness - ‘I like to go out and go hard’.

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