Table Speech

Thanking You All!

January 16, 2019

Mr. Masoud Sobhani
President, Persian Palace Co., Ltd.
Takamatsu Minami RC

 The concept of Vocational Service is not easy to understand or explain and even more so to put into practice. But I learned many things through my 30 years as a Rotarian, after coming to Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture. I think that I now realize the meaning of Vocational Service. Vocational Service calls every Rotarian to aspire to high ethical standards in his/her occupation, to recognize the worthiness of all useful occupations, and to contribute his/her vocational talents to address the problems and needs of the society.

 was born in Iran. When I was a child, my father used to inflate a balloon every evening before supper, painted the world map on it and asked us on which continent we wished to live in the future. I chose the Pacific Ocean, though not a continent, as it was the largest ocean in the world. Sometimes I chose Japan, then my father told us about Commodore Perry who came to Japan towards the end of the Edo Period. My father wished five of his sons to live on five difference continents. Never did I dream of coming to Japan back then, but here I am now.

 One morning when I was 13, all of a sudden, my father took me to New York, then to Las Vegas. After my parents passed away, I moved to Hawaii, where I made a fateful encounter with my wife Nahid in 1985 at the World Youth Convention of Bahai. Bahai is a religion founded in Iran in the 19th century and it teaches unity and equality of all people. 200 Bahai youth came from 27 countries including 10 from Japan: 8 Japanese and 2 Iranian women. I fell in love with one of them and proposed her immediately. She accepted my proposal on the condition that we would live in Japan. Mayor Yoshida of Yamato-Koriyama City in Nara Prefecture was Nahid’s guarantor and he invited us to live there. We were grateful, but we declined his extremely kind offer as we wanted to live near the sea. Then he introduced us to Mr. Yonezawa, a master of shorinji-kenpo, who lived in Takamatsu City along the coast of the Inland Sea. Shorinji-kenpo is a Japanese martial art of self-defense as well as mental and physical training. I started to practice it and in 1990 I won the Shikoku Championship.

 I came to Japan on a tourist visa in 1986 and set up Persian Palace Ltd. trading Persian carpets in Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture. When I went to the Immigration Office asking to change my tourist visa to Working Visa, I was told that it was not possible and treated like an illegal resident. Mayor Waki of Takamatsu City was so kind and adopted Nahid and me, also our daughter yet to be born. With the help of many people I was told that if I worked hard for 10 years paying tax, I would be granted a permanent residence. In the meantime, with the profit from my business I built kindergartens in 5 countries, first in Myanmar, then in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam in appreciation for all the kindness I received from many people.

 I have been a member of Takamatsu South RC for more than 30 years. It was established in 1957 and is one of the most active clubs. Our District 2670 has conducted Youth Exchange Programs with District 7470 of New Jersey for the past 35 years, except for the 2 years after September 11 attacks in 2001, and we are very proud of it. Every year we accept 30 members including 3 or 4 Leader Rotarians and send the same number from here to New Jersey. When I was President of the club, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of Rotaract Club of Kagawa University which was established and sponsored by our club and the 80th anniversary of Seto Inland Sea National Park at my home overlooking the beautiful scenery of Seto Inland Sea with the attendance of over 100 Rotarians. I hoisted both the Rotary flag and the National Park flag at my gate. As the first oversea President of Rotary Clubs in Japan, I wanted to do something special. I sent invitation letters to ambassadors of 140 countries and received 32 responses. I was highly honored by the presence of 6 ambassadors at my home, among them was the Indian Ambassadress who stayed with us for the whole week because she wanted to take refuge from her hectic life in Tokyo and relax herself. I also sent letters to RCs throughout Japan asking them to visit us. In total 40 visitors came to date including 10 from Wakayama Tanabe RC. During my year as President, we affiliated with Tooyama RC and Tanabe RC, and their members visit us several times a year.

 I celebrated ‘Kanreki’ (60 years old) 3 years ago, and my two children born in Takamatsu are now grown-up. My daughter is a medical doctor and lives in the USA. Only recently she got married to a Japanese doctor from Ehime Prefecture. My son is a professional golfer. He used to play with Ryo Ishikawa in the Junior World Tournament. Now he is playing PGA Tournament in New Zealand. I’ll join him tomorrow to be his caddie.

 The Japanese people are so generous and kind even to somebody like myself who finds his/her way to this country out of the blue. Now I would like to return all the love and generosity I received here, spread it throughout the world by engaging in Vocational Service, as a token of thanking you all.