All together

As we head into the final stretch of 2020, things are still very challenging. But this is also a time for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan (CCCJ) community to come together and be stronger than ever. It’s times such as these when what the chamber needs to do to help its members becomes even clearer.

Neil van Wouw, Chair, Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan

The big issue that is affecting so many of our members is re-entry (or entry) to Japan. We have been very active in advocating changes to Japan’s re-entry rules, especially for foreign residents of Japan — rules that make Japan an outlier as a G7 nation. This is an ongoing issue, and as always we are looking for the best things we can do to make a difference, rather than to make the most noise or beat our own drum.


Another request we are hearing is to find a way to do in-person events again. Many members have been teleworking since March and are looking for occasional opportunities to safely meet with people. It’s clear that teleworking in one form or another is probably here to stay, but at the same time people need direct contact with other people to thrive. Tight communities such as the CCCJ can play an important role in safely rebooting in-person meetings.

We experimented with our first hybrid event for our AGM on July 1, Canada Day — the combined online and offline attendance was quite possibly a record for a CCCJ AGM. Based on learning and feedback from that event, we developed a comprehensive Covid-19 Policy for CCCJ events, and are now looking to do more in-person and hybrid events.

One good example of this was the opening night of the Hibiya Cinema Festival, which we were proud to cosponsor for the first time. It was held in a safe, responsible manner, and was an incredible opportunity to collaborate with Mitsui Fudosan Co., Ltd., Tokyo Midtown Management Co., Ltd. and Hibiya Area Management Association.

Another was the CCCJ Golf Scramble. We kept a tight cap on attendance and made a slogan to summarize our approach to safety: “Pod play all day.” We encouraged all of the foursomes to travel together, and stay distanced together all day. The event demonstrated once again the chamber’s unique formula for fielding foursomes with first-time golfers along with groups that play serious golf in a format that is fun for everyone. Governor Jackie Steele on her first ever golf outing even came up with a closest to the hole award.

We are currently making plans for a small-format, socially distanced Gala in February — more on that soon.

Of course, we will continue to explore a variety of online events. We had several well-attended ones with panelists joining us from various countries and time zones. But we are also looking at much smaller online events that more directly engage our members. To this end, we recently rebooted our monthly Hackathon for the first time in an online format and will be trying out some different approaches to see what works best. Please keep an eye out for these and drop in when you can — your feedback and suggestions are always welcome.

There has never been a better time to get more engaged with the CCCJ.


These past months have seen some other important changes in the chamber as well. The board made changes to our by-laws to ensure that we strive for more diversity in our field of candidates of our annual elections. It was most gratifying to see the membership embrace this choice and bring the number of women on the board to a record 40 per cent from among what was also surely a record number of candidates. Long-time board members have all remarked how the energy of the board has changed in the past two elections, and we have not previously seen this level of engagement.

A recent board email thread on the re-entry issue had more than 100 emails in only a few days, with nearly every board member participating. Although it’s an ongoing challenge to find the ways we can all engage, please work with us to make it happen. There has never been a better time to get more engaged with the CCCJ.

Finally, let me give a big chamber welcome to Marie Ohashi in her new role as executive director of the CCCJ and Leah Bowman as our new events and communication manager. Marie is not only the first female executive director of the CCCJ, but also the first Japanese national to hold this title and the first person to be promoted internally to this position.

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