Apr 25

JQ Magazine: JQ&A with Tomoya Suzuki of CLAIR New York’s Japan Local Government Center

“As a staff member at the JLGC, working with the JET Alumni Association is my first and foremost top accomplishment. I have been able to learn how a volunteer group works in American society, and I am impressed by the alumni’s passion and devotion for its activities to be a bridge between the U.S. and Japan.” (Justin Tedaldi)


By Renay Loper (Iwate-ken, 2006-07). Renay  is a freelance writer and international education professional currently seeking FT opportunities. Visit her at Atlas in Her Hand.

I recently had the pleasure of doing a brief Q&A with Mr. Tomoya Suzuki of the Japan Local Government Center (JLGC), CLAIR’s New York branch office dedicated to international exchange and mutual understanding between the U.S. and Japan. Suzuki-san has been working with the JLGC in New York since April 2010 through a temporary overseas assignment with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG). Suzuki-san lives in New York with his wife and son.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born and raised in Chiba Prefecture and moved to Tokyo soon after I started working for TMG. I came to New York for the first time in April 2010, so I have been here for just one year.  I am so happy and proud to be living and working in this exciting city!

You are an assistant director at the JLGC. What is your primary focus?

I would say my foci are as a staff member of the JLGC and as a representative of TMG. As a staff member of the JLGC I want to tell Americans, especially local governments, the good points about Japan and its people. As a representative of TMG, I want to facilitate the relationship between Tokyo and New York City, who have one of the oldest sister city relationships—it has been in existence since 1960.

Why did you want to work there?

TMG has an in-house program to recruit its staff for overseas postings, and the JLGC is one of the positions for this program. I applied for this position to widen my experience and expertise by living and working in the U.S.

What are some of the ways that you tell Americans about the good points regarding Japan and its people?

I have opportunities to participate in conferences or meetings of American local governmental organizations. Making good use of these opportunities, I try to talk to the participants there and share information about Japan and its society. In addition, I edited JLGC newsletters and displayed some of our activities.

What is a typical day for you like?

I commute to work by subway, and usually stay in the office for most of the day. Outside of work, I live with my family, so I do my best to finish my job within office hours and go back to my home as soon as possible, since playing with my son after dinner is one of the ways I refresh myself.

What are you most proud of in terms of your accomplishments with CLAIR/JLGC since being in New York?

As a staff member at the JLGC, working with the JET Alumni Association is my first and foremost top accomplishment. I have been able to learn how a volunteer group works in American society, and I am impressed by the alumni’s passion and devotion for its activities to be a bridge between the U.S. and Japan. As a representative of TMG, I have been able to welcome and help my TMG colleagues who came to New York on business trips or on overseas training programs.

Also, I was happy that my report about the best practices in the U.S. was distributed by TMG.

Congratulations on that! What is it in regards to? Is it for public viewing?

I was asked by TMG to research and create a small report about the safety procedures for medicine bins. TMG made use of discussing new regulations in Tokyo. The report is written in Japanese and is for in-house usage, so unfortunately I will be not able to share the contents.

Under jigyo shiwake, the JET Program (along with several other programs) was up for review. Fortunately, it survived—what are your thoughts on that process and on the current state and future of the JET Program?

I personally think jigyo shiwake was a good chance for the JET Program to review itself and innovate. Actually, before the shiwake process began, CLAIR Tokyo headquarters had already started reviewing the program in response to the opinions of Japanese local governments, and shiwake certainly stimulated the speed of this renovation.

CLAIR Tokyo has reduced the JET Program’s budget without reducing the number of the participants form overseas countries, lowering the cost that local governments previously shared. Thanks to this movement, the program streamlined itself and started becoming more effective. Now. I am optimistic for the future of the JET Program.

If you don’t mind, I’d like to switch gears a little. Recovering after a tragedy is always a difficult challenge. What are some of the steps the JLGC has been taking to regroup and recover since the tsunami?

Collaborating with CLAIR Tokyo and the local governments just after the earthquake, the JLGC had put up information about accounted for JETs on our website. I think this helped many people. I am happy to know that JETAA USA and its chapters have been taking action for the relief of Japan. JLGC has reported on such movements in the U.S. and Canada, sharing information with CLAIR Tokyo headquarters, and CLAIR Tokyo has been making announcements about donations for local governments affected by the disaster on its English-language website.

Additionally, one of our staff members is from Miyagi Prefecture, which is one of the seriously damaged areas. We also have staff with experience working at the Miyagi Prefectural Government, so they are now working as liaisons between Miyagi and American communities.

How has the tsunami affected your daily life at work?

Compared with March, things are settling down, but I am continuously receiving detailed reports from Tokyo Headquarters by e-mail. This is my first task in the morning, to read through these reports. Personally, some of my family members live in the Tohoku area. I have confirmed they are safe and are getting back to their normal life, but I am still concerned about them.

Other than continue to organize fundraisers and prayers, what are some other ways JET alums can get involved and help?

Please tell American communities that the Japanese people are making every effort to recover from this tragedy. I also heard that the number of overseas travelers to Japan—including unaffected areas such as Kyushu or Kansai—is declining after the earthquake. I would be happy if you find time to visit Japan; it will help in revitalizing the Japanese communities and economy.

Please keep on loving your “hometown” in Japan where you spent your precious time as JET participants.

Subscribe to the JLGC’s online newsletter at www.jlgc.org/TopicList.aspx?topicCategoryID=11&languageTypeID=1.

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