Our Race

We’ve now been living over a year with the pandemic and the challenge continues, with the end not yet in sight. Much like being in the middle of a marathon, there are times when we’ve hit our stride and we feel that momentum will carry us through. And at other times, the tiredness hits and we just want it to be over. 

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

One thing we do know is that when we finally get through it all, we will be forever changed. How we live and work will be different from how it was in pre-pandemic days. It’s true for our personal and professional lives — and for the chamber.


I think we’ve all seen amazing leaps in our ability to manage online meetings and digital tools, a step up in skills and changes in work processes we could not have even imagined in the early days of last year.

And the new normal has made us reflect on how the chamber operates. Our strict rules about maintaining office hours have been replaced by a flexible work-from-home schedule, which still allows us to stay in close contact. Being able to easily leverage speakers from around the world has let us put on events that simply would not have been possible before.

Still, there is no way to replace the great networking and enjoyment we experience with in-person events. We continue to monitor the Covid-19 situation day by day, with an eye on the right timing and aiming to hold the safest events possible.


Speaking of change, this is also the time of year when we prepare for our annual Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan (CCCJ) board of governors elections. This marks the end of my two terms as chair and the first time since 2011 that I will not be on the board — though I do plan to stay involved in several committees.

It’s been a true honour to serve the chamber as chair these past four years. It’s been par-tic-u-lar-ly gratifying to see our board become more diverse and engaged, and to see increased mem-ber-ship involvement across a wide spectrum of committees.

As co-chair of the nominations committee together with Ai Nakagawa, I’m confident that this trend will continue and the chamber will be in great hands when you make your decision from our excellent field of candidates in the upcoming June election.


Even though nominations are closed for this year, if you haven’t done so already, please consider getting more engaged with the chamber — for example, by joining a committee. Although our all-committee hackathons have been on hiatus during the pandemic, we have had several drop-in online events, during which we got as many committee chairs to attend as possible, to explain what their committees do and welcome new members. Keep an eye out for more of these.

The value I received as a chamber member was turbocharged once I joined my first committee in 2011. Less than a year later I was a governor, then vice-chair in 2016 and chair in 2017. Through all of this, the best thing about the chamber has been the great friendships and connections I have made, working together on projects large and small. 

I think there are two main reasons that people hesitate to get involved. The first is a feeling that it is probably difficult and time consuming to climb the hierarchy to the inner circle of the organization.

If you don’t already know this about the CCCJ, you will be pleasantly surprised at how flat our organization is and how easy it is to jump right in and be in the middle of it all.

The second reason is about value for time. Not surprisingly, our members are typically very busy — and as many are senior managers, directors and CEOs of companies, they are already accomplished leaders. However, there are different kinds of leadership skills applicable to different organizations, and even a small organization like our chamber can provide learning opportunities, insights and skills that can cross over to very different professional arenas. I think this is partly because of the nexus that foreign chambers have as business associations with strong embassy and government ties, which are involved in community projects one moment and international trade issues the next.

As the go-to business association for stake-holders of the Canada–Japan relationship, we are a membership-driven community that derives its strength from a diverse and collaborative mem-ber-ship. The more participation we have, the more we can achieve. The only thing missing is you. 

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