The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Confab | CSR

September 2013

Here are the great causes that benefit from the millions of yen raised every year by ACCJ members and fundraisers, such as the ACCJ 2013 Tokyo Walkathon on September 21

By Julian Ryall, Custom Media Photos by Antony Tran

Twenty years ago, the ACCJ did not have a structured or organized CSR program. Member companies and caring individuals donated time and funds to charities and organizations that they felt deserved a bit of a financial leg-up, but it was not a core tenet of the chamber.

On January 17, 1995, the magnitude 6.9 Great Hanshin Earthquake tore through the cities of Kobe and Osaka, killing more than 5,500 people. Members of the chamber swiftly stepped in to volunteer and provide more than ¥30 million to Kansai charities that were “under the radar.”

Today, the ACCJ Community Service Advisory Council (CSAC) provides millions of yen in support each year to needy causes across the country. The concept of assisting local communities has become a pillar of the chamber’s activities.

“I was the chamber’s treasurer at the time of the Kobe quake and I went down there soon afterwards to see what we had done and who we had helped with our donations,” said Tom Whitson, who now chairs the council.

“It was very meaningful for me to see the relief activities for myself. It was not on the scale of what happened in Tohoku, but it was still an awful sight to behold.”

After the Kobe quake, there was a growing feeling among ACCJ members who wanted to help, that their efforts would be more effective if they were to band together, to pool information and resources. Increasingly, ACCJ members believed that their aid efforts would be more effective were they able to institutionalize a community service to facilitate a quick response when the next crisis occurred.

Now, the ACCJ raises money every year through the Charity Ball and walkathons in the Chubu and Kansai regions and in Tokyo. The funds support a varied and changing list of organizations.

There are literally dozens of organizations attempting to assist different sectors of the community around the country. Yet, all too often they lack the resources that would enable them to do so most effectively.

Jason Chare, executive officer and director of Life Line Services for Tokyo English Life Line (TELL), said financial assistance is “the lifeblood” of his counseling organization.

“We can pull together the professionals and the experts to get the job done and you can have great ideas and projects, but you don’t get to do them if you don’t have the funds,” he told the ACCJ Journal.

TELL wants to be able to provide its telephone counseling services 24 hours a day, but needs more volunteers and they require training before they can handle a cry for help.

“We are also reaching out to Kansai. The people are there and the technology is ready; we really just need an organization to step forward to enable us to go ahead with the plans.”

Another of this year’s recipients, the Polaris Project, set up an office in Tokyo to combat human trafficking for the sex industry when a member company of the chamber provided space in its offices. “That was vital support,” said Shihoko Fujiwara, director of the organization’s Japan office.

“We need the support of the community as we push the government to change legislation in this area,” she said. “We’re in a similar situation to TELL, in that we want to expand our hotline, which at the moment operates from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.


“We also need to train staff and this year we are going to start a training program for public- and private-sector workers and teachers, to enable them to identify victims and the vulnerable.”

For the Tokyo Union Church, the funds that come from the chamber enable it to purchase fully one-third of all the rice that it uses every year to feed the homeless across the city, while members’ generosity allows the YMCA to reach out to children with developmental disabilities—and to assist their families—through a range of programs, including summer and winter camps.

But the 10 charities that received financial assistance know the vulnerable can always use more help.

“We are a church and we simply follow the teachings of Jesus,” said Paul Fukuda, coordinator of the Tokyo Union Church’s Mission for Our Homeless Neighbors. “That is, to feed the hungry and clothe the naked.

“We have been feeding the homeless but we would really like the ability to clothe them better,” he said. “It is all a question of their basic needs and we want to provide other things, like a chance to have a shower, a haircut and dental care.”

For the YMCA, the chamber has done more than simply provide funds to enable programs to get off the ground. Through its network of members, older children with developmental difficulties have been provided internships and other workplace opportunities—something that Emiko Tokunaga, executive director of the Foreign Community Supporting Committee, said she hopes will increase in the future.

The major disaster that everyone hoped would not happen struck in March 2011 and, thanks to the foresight of the chamber’s leaders back in 1995, the ACCJ was better prepared to deal with it. The chamber donated more than ¥50 million from its members for the immediate relief effort, which in 2011 raised ACCJ giving to ¥86 million.

ACCJ member companies directly contributed many millions more through their own offices in Japan, the United States and elsewhere.

One of the recipients in the areas most affected by the worst natural disaster to strike Japan in living memory was the education department of Fukushima City.


“We have spent some of these funds on buying many new musical instruments for children in elementary and junior high schools who lost their instruments in the earthquake and tsunami,” said Toshiko Saito, head of the Education General Administration Division of the Fukushima City public school system. “The instruments are used in music classes, school events and club activities. And some of the children have been able to win prizes with these excellent new instruments.”

Looking to the future, the education authority hopes the ACCJ will continue to extend support and help children return to a normal way of life in the prefecture. The important schemes include creating and maintaining safe play areas for children, who have been largely unable to go outside since the disaster at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Plant; providing education for children about radiation; and helping to improve children’s scholastic abilities, Saito said.

“CSR efforts have grown to become a key pillar of what we as a chamber do now,” said Whitson, who added that he had been deeply impressed by the children of the Noda Elementary School marching band. He saw them perform at the 2012 national championships, playing new instruments funded by the ACCJ.

“This is something that we can feel good about and I believe it projects a good image of ACCJ members to the Japanese community at large,” he said.

Paul Fukuda
Coordinator of the Mission for Our Homeless Neighbors

“We reach out to homeless people, those living on the streets and in parks. We are an international church and a community that revolves around that, but we do not have the strength to help homeless people get jobs or reintegrate back into society. What we are able to do is help maintain their basic life needs. This is mostly delivering food and we also invite people into our church for hot suppers.

“We have around 400 volunteers—the strength of our organization—and, every day, 100 people make basic meals to be delivered to the homeless. The ACCJ is helping us financially and giving these volunteers the chance to use their talents. There are many people who are more than happy to do good, so we can serve as a way to help channel their energies.”

Emiko Tokunaga
Executive director of the Foreign Community Supporting Committee

“Our group was established in 1958 to support challenged children in Japan through a wide range of programs. We have more than 200 programs throughout Japan for children with disabilities. These are mainly developmental disabilities, and between 6 percent and 10 percent of all children here have some kind of developmental disability.

“We support them and their parents, and are only able to do that thanks to funding from companies and organizations, as well as charity events.”

Toshiko Saito
Head of the Education General Administration Division

“In our city, we have 51 elementary schools, 21 junior high schools, and one special support school. We have been receiving assistance from the ACCJ since the disasters of March 2011, although donations have only been granted to some of our schools. We hope that the chamber will continue this project so we can assist all the schools in our city.

“We have spent some of these funds on buying new musical instruments for elementary and junior high school children who lost their instruments in the earthquake and tsunami. The instruments are used in music classes, school events and club activities. They also help to cultivate the aesthetic sensitivity of the children in every aspect of their education.”

Shihoko Fujiwara
Director, Japan office

“We fight human trafficking and help to rescue the victims—primarily women and children who have been trafficked into the sex industry, and young Japanese runaways. Today, 40 percent of the people that we help are Japanese teenagers; 60 percent are young, foreign women.

“I started in this position directly after graduating from college 10 years ago, and my role is to promote advocacy. We also work very closely with the police and immigration authorities. This is a big issue here; the criminals behind the trade are very smart and Japan has to pass laws against human trafficking.”

Jason Chare
Executive officer and director of Life Line Services

“We started in 1973 as a branch of a Japanese lifeline, because it was getting so many calls in English and it was clear that members of the international community here needed help as well.

“Today, we get up to 7,000 calls a year, in 500 of which suicide will be mentioned. Today, 60 percent of the people who call are Japanese, so we are having to evolve and respond to the needs of the community. We are branching out.

“In the 1990s, we started doing face-to-face counseling with accredited and trained counselors, with people paying on a sliding scale according to how much they can afford. We also have a children and family program, and our new projects include a child protection program and a parenting program, because we believe there is often not enough support for families here and they need it. We also have a suicide prevention program, training people how to spot the danger signs.

“In addition, there is an outreach program for schools, since teenagers are often nervous about talking with teachers, family, or friends. Throughout our 40-year history, we have looked out into the community and asked the simple question, “What is missing?” When we identify the support mechanisms that are lacking, we can step in to provide the backing that is not there.” •

UPCOMING EVENTS — 2013 ACCJ Tokyo Walkathon, September 21 2013 ACCJ Kansai Walkathon, October 19

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When Business Gives Back - ACCJ Journal

Tom Whiston is chair of the ACCJ Community Service Advisory Council.

CSR efforts have grown to become a key pillar of what we as a chamber do now.”