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https://www.discovernikkei.org/en/journal/2021/12/29/kaigai-nikkeijin-taikai/

Behind the Scenes of the 61st Convention of Nikkei and Japanese Abroad

Over the weekend of October 30 and 31, 2021, the 61st Convention of Nikkei and Japanese Abroad (Kaigai Nikkeijin Taikai) was held with the theme “The Challenges in the New Era - Connecting Nikkei beyond Space, Time and Generations” and the logo for the International Day of Nikkei was revealed, whose commemorative date was created in 2018 during the 59th Convention held in Hawaii.

Logo for the International Day of Nikkei

Organized by the Association of Nikkei and Japanese Abroad (Kaigai Nikkeijin Kyokai), the convention has been held annually in Japan to promote international exchange, understanding, and friendship, as well as to report to the Japanese government on the macro situation in countries that have welcomed Japanese immigrants. The convention always takes place in a very positive and friendly atmosphere, where the participants have the opportunity to meet old friends, make new friendships, and exchange information and experiences.

The first convention, named Convention of Nikkei Abroad, was held in 1957, after Japan became the member of the United Nations. The second convention was held in 1960 and renamed the Convention of Nikkei and Japanese Abroad. Since then, it has been organized annually in Japan, except for two conventions. Since the 6th convention, the convention has been held with the presence of a member from the Japanese Imperial family.1  

The convention was taken place outside of Japan twice: the 48th convention in 2007 in Brazil jointly with Pan American Nikkei Association (COPANI - Convention of Panamerican Nikkei) in commemoration of the 100 years anniversary of Japanese Immigration to Brazil, and the 59th convention in 2018 in Hawaii due to the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Japanese immigration to the United States.

The 2019 convention had the presence of Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako, which was a special historic moment for the Emperor's enthronement and the beginning of the Reiwa Era.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the global uncertainties, last year’s convention was canceled for the first time in its history. This year, the convention held virtually to comply with the sanitary restrictions in Japan, which allowed the participation of a wider audience. Despite the concerns of the organizers about the participation and quality of the event, the event can be considered a success, with 560 registered participants from 32 countries and peak viewers reaching 324.

There were lots of discussions, preparations, and rehearsals over the months. Behind the scenes, nervousness hung in the air among the organizers and people behind the screen. Although social distancing was highly recommended, we are able to strengthen our community ties and to show the strength of the Nikkei to the world, beyond their expectations. 

Broadcast Studio at the Kaigai Nikkeijin Kyokai Office

I had the honor and privilege of working behind the scenes in this great virtual event as a member of Kyodai Remittance team. On the day of the event, simultaneous interpreters were placed in a different studio, based on the languages, set up in the Association of Nikkei and Japanese Abroad’s office, located inside the JICA Yokohama building next door of the Japanese Overseas Migration Museum.2 Emcees, moderators, convention and office staffs, panelists, and speakers virtually participated from different spaces. 

Broadcast Studio at the Kaigai Nikkeijin Kyokai Office

At the beginning, everyone was quite nervous, including the emcees for being the first to experience conducting an event of such magnitude and with audiences from all over the world. But as things progressed, everyone ended up relaxing a bit and enjoying the moment. Everything went smoothly at the end, except for a small of loss of connection issue which was promptly resolved within minutes.

After the broadcasts ended, we were able to talk about the event in a more relaxed atmosphere. We discussed some positive and negative points with moderators and organization staff.

Unlike the past conventions, there was a large amount of youth participants, perhaps because they are familiar with technology or the participation fee was lower. I hope that more people will  participate in future conventions so that we can expand a stronger network among Nikkei and increase opportunities to explore Nikkei identity in the world. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to develop some strategies to virtually share the in-person event. It is also important to open its door to all Japanese descendants of all ages and Japanese culture fans.

Another point raised was the lack of interaction between the participants, whether in meetings, side conversations, and other social events that were a part of previous conventions. This is one of the main objectives of the Convention. It is very important to think about solutions for future events, especially if we will organize virtual events.

Believing in the values inherited from our ancestors, we should challenge the hardship, never give up overcoming obstacles that seem impossible to remove, reach out to our compatriots, and remember the spirit of compatriot love. By doing so, I believe that we could further strengthen the Nikkei dentity that we all have.

*Convention videos can be viewed on the Association of Nikkei and Japanese Abroad’s homepage and on YouTube (Day 1, Day 2).

Notes:

1. 海外日系人協会「海外日系人大会のあゆみ

2. The Japanese Overseas Migration Museum is undergoing renovations and is scheduled to reopen in March 2022 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of its opening.

 

*Thanks to Clarice Satiko Aoto and Amelia Hissami Shoji for writing this piece; and André Ryutaro Ukon for reviwing English text.

 

© 2021 Antonio Kotaro Hayata

Convention of Nikkei and Japanese Abroad (event)
About the Author

Antonio Kotaro Hayata was born in São Paulo and graduated from São Paulo Catholic University (PUC-SP) with an MBA in Finance from Business Administration Foundation (FIA/USP). Today, he is in Japan, working at Kyodai Remittance responsible for the Brazilian market and the Nikkei Network, and in parallel as a legal translator and interpreter. He is a Lawyer from graduation, but finance executive by choice, where he led a career almost entirely focused on financial institutions, always connected with Japan. Crazy for sports in general, especially running and soccer. After the Covid-19 Pandemic, he discovered a new passion in road biking.

Updated October 2021

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