Table Speech

New Encounters Stimulate Creativity

March, 24 2021

Ms. Junko Koshino
Fashion Designer

 I am happy to be back here and make a speech after 13 years. The day before yesterday, our government lifted the State of Emergency and tomorrow, the Olympic Torch Relay will start from Fukushima. I believe every single day carries a special meaning. I was accredited as a Person of Cultural Merits three years ago which was a great encouragement for me to make a positive impact on society through my creative career.

 Life has changed dramatically due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). I had many fashion shows abroad the year before last and stayed in Japan for only half a year. My wish back then was to have “one free day completely to myself.” After returning from Paris last February, the spread of COVID-19 changed the situation in France, Italy and London drastically in just one week. I have not been abroad ever since, the longest ever in my life. Last year, every day became a free day because of self-quarantine. I spent this period writing an essay book “Dai-jyobu: Collection of 56 Sayings”. Dai-jyobu means “it’s OK” or “no problem” in Japanese. It is a magical word made up of three kanji characters (logogram) that represent a “person” or “human being” and tells us no one can live alone. I define my purpose in life as to live and work for “others”.

 Let me quote some words from my book and share what I cherish in my life. On the front cover of my book, it says “this moment counts.” We cannot change what happened yesterday or in the past. Rather, this moment is a constant new start leading to tomorrow or to the future. We must keep ourselves young and fit so that we can make a positive impact on others. The key is to maintain good oral health and a balanced diet. We should also develop a positive outlook on life and try to turn adversity into our advantage. Now that our social life is on hold, we should not complain but appreciate this stand-by time as a blessing and try to restore our energy and reorient ourselves to make proactive moves once we overcome COVID-19. Looking back on history, the plague that had run rampant across Europe ushered in a new understanding and brought about the Renaissance movement that was a period of transition or “rebirth” from the ancient to modern world.

 I enjoy getting to know new people, things, food and traveling which are my source of creativity. New encounters can set new objectives, new directions and expose ourselves to new opportunities. Some encounters may seem to be accidental coincidence at first, yet we come to understand and feel grateful they were actually life-changing moments over time. For me, the most impressive encounter was with the late Mr. Hirotaro Higuchi who was Honorary Chairman of Asahi Breweries, Ltd. Mr. Higuchi was a person full of curiosity and a fervent supporter of arts and culture. I enjoyed working with him on different projects. He believed that cultural heritage stands the test of time and defines our national identity. I believe culture and the economy are two wheels of a vehicle that move a nation forward. We must strike a balance between contrasting elements so as to become a nation of true value. Member Rotarians present here today are all successful professionals in your own field, so let me call on you to support and fund different cultural activities and enhance the value of our country. As we cannot visit other countries nor welcome overseas guests at this moment, I think it is an opportune moment to learn more about Japan, especially young people.

 I took the opportunity and worked in collaboration with the Japanese traditional performing art Noh that has a history of over 700 years and is the oldest theatrical performance in the world. After being postponed for three times, we managed to have a fashion show last November on the stage of a Kanze Noh theater lit up by projection mapping where fashion models wore traditional Japanese socks (tabi) and marched to a solemn and dynamic ohayashi tune of music. This experience taught me anew the importance of passing down our tradition to the younger generation.

 As I conclude, let me encourage you all to keep calm, carry on and cope and remain constant despite reversals. As we live in a disaster-prone country, we should learn to “appreciate” small things in life, keep our “hopes alive,” stop “whining” over every little thing, stay “fit and healthy” and “take concrete actions.” I go to the gym twice a week to swim and work out because I want to stay fit and active. I am looking forward to be one of the runners in the Olympic Torch Relay starting tomorrow. The Japanese word for “exercise” consists of two kanji characters that mean “fortune” and “move.” I believe what makes a human humane is to keep a good appetite, keep moving and stay active.