A Natural Progression

CCCJ Chair David Anderson is heading off to Berlin to jump headfirst into another pivotal role as the representative of Saskatchewan at the Canadian Embassy in Germany. Before he leaves, he takes some time to reminisce about his time in Japan and with the CCCJ.

David Anderson found out during the week of March 1, 2011, that he’d been both accepted into the McGill MBA Japan program and been named the CCCJ’s new executive director—and that he needed to be in Japan within a month.


“I’m jumping all over the apartment,” he recalls. “My wife’s very happy, and we’ve got a new baby, just nine months old. I quit my job at JETRO and closed our condo in Toronto. And then just as we’re preparing to go, the big earthquake of 2011 hits. My mother told me there’s no way in hell we’re bringing her grandson to that nuclear disaster, but we did.”


Fantastic Tales

Ever since he was a kid back in the eighties, Anderson had heard fantastic tales about Japan from his grandfather. “He was a senior-level executive in Canada working on a joint venture partnership with a Japanese firm, so he was travelling to Japan quite a bit. Every time he came home, he brought Mikimoto pearls for my grandmother, basically to keep the peace. And he kept telling all us grandkids about Japan. 

“I guess I’d always grown up with that in the back of my head,” he continues. “After I earned my undergraduate degree in economics I wasn’t quite ready to enter the real world, so I decided to hop on a plane and escaped to Asia.” 


He immediately fell in love with Japan, and decided to stay for a year. As many newcomers to this country do, he taught English, but soon realized it wasn’t for him. 

“I did discover what I wanted to do, though, and that was to help build the Canada-Japan connection. I found out about the McGill MBA Japan program, and thought, okay, I’m going back to Canada to do more schooling focusing on Canada-Japan and then coming back to do the McGill MBA here.” 


After a postgraduate course focusing on Canada-Japan international business relations, Anderson did a Google search for Canada-Japan trade, and the Japan External Trade Organization popped up. “JETRO has an office in Toronto,” he says. “I literally walked to their office, knocked on their door, and introduced myself and told them what I wanted to do. I asked for an internship.”


They gave him that internship, and then they hired him. He worked at JETRO for five years, always with the goal of returning to Japan in a business role and keeping his eye on that McGill MBA program. 

“In December 2010, I was on vacation here and interviewed with Phil O’Neill, the former director of the McGill MBA Japan program, and I also interviewed at the CCCJ because they were looking for an executive director.” 


We already know how all that turned out.


Into the Fishbowl

When Anderson and family boarded an Air Canada flight in early 2011 there were virtually no other passengers, and the airline told them to bring as much baggage as they liked. “We had many, many suitcases packed with bottled water and diapers, because we couldn’t get that stuff in Japan at the time,” he recalls. 


Arriving on March 30, he was supposed to take on his new role on April 1, but on day one the Canadian leadership community in Japan was called into an emergency meeting with the ambassador, and it was baptism by fire. 


“I’m sure the older members of the Chamber that were around at the time would have a little smirk on their faces about the ‘new executive director’ back then,” he says with a laugh. 


He acknowledges that being the CCCJ’s executive director is great for getting yourself and your name and face known. “But it’s a big organization with a small secretariat,” he notes. “On paper, you directly report to the chair, but you have a lot of bosses and a lot of people asking for things. I think it’s a matter of working calmly under pressure and getting stuff done.” 


Anderson worked “inside the fishbowl” as the executive director for nearly three years. “I got to know the whole membership and every executive in the Canada-Japan community as this relatively young kid,” he notes. “And I owe the Chamber forever for that. It’s really helped me in my career, both professionally and personally. I’ve got great business contacts, a huge network and great friends from the Chamber.” 


While he was the CCCJ’s executive director, Anderson was responsible for organizing the Chamber’s annual Golf Scramble. “It just kept on getting better and better,” he says. “Now it’s recognized as one of the best international chamber tournaments in Japan. I enjoyed it so much, after I left my ED position, I became the chair of the Golf Committee.” 


In 2014, he became the managing director of the Alberta, Japan office. Similar to many expats after the big earthquake, their managing director had left, and the position was vacant for a couple of years. “I got that job because of my experience at the CCCJ, and also I guess reputation building from dealing with a bunch of challenging situations at the Chamber.”


Anderson is always motivated to give back. “Apart from the secretariat, the Chamber is a purely voluntary, member-funded, member-driven organization, and only as strong as our membership,” he says. “Coming from the paid position of executive director, I wanted to be on the other side of the table. I ran for a position as governor and served for two years, and then served as a vice chair for four years under the leadership of Neil Van Wouw.”


A Chair’s Favourite Moments

That set him up for the top spot as chair in this very natural progression. His favourite moments as the CCCJ’s leader?


“Growing the community,” he responds. “Over the past few years, we’ve seen a surge in membership, making the Chamber more representative of the Canada-Japan connection. Also, the advocacy work that we’ve done for Canadians in terms of pushing the Japanese government to reopen borders following the COVID pandemic, and to strengthen Canada-Japan ties in promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I’m also proud of speaking for the Canadian business community and promoting liberalized trade and bilateral business development. 


“I’m also a strong believer in the social aspect and building relationships between our members and the Canadian community at large,” he continues. “I’d say the peak event for me was the Canada Day celebration in 2022 when Randy Bachmann did a live concert for us in the backyard at the official residence and got back his long-lost guitar.” 

Natural Progression
What’s next for David Anderson in his chosen role as an international bond-builder?


“I’m going to be working at the Canadian Embassy in Berlin as the representative of Saskatchewan, and covering not only Germany but the broader European Union,” he reveals. They told him he was the kind of person they wanted, and that they understood he was looking for professional growth. “Europe is a very new market for me. Apart from being a bartender in London when I was twenty and hitchhiking through Spain, I don’t know much, but I’m excited to learn.”


“I have every intention upon of returning to Japan in four years, though,” he states firmly. “I’ve got two boys that have grown up here, and the second one was born here. They’re both hockey players active in the Japanese hockey community. And my wife is Japanese, so my family is really the embodiment of Canada-Japan relations. 


“It’s hard to believe how fast twelve years have flown by, but something that’s been a constant in my time in Japan is the CCCJ,” he concludes. “Thanks to all our engaged members for making this the strong community it is, and thanks especially for all the cherished memories.”