The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

INTERVIEW | CHUBU

OCTOBER 2014

Marathon Man
Nagoya consular officer has lofty ambitions for coming years

By Adam Miller

Stephen G. Kovacsics first came to Japan in 1992, when he studied for a single term at Temple University’s Tokyo campus. Since then, he has also lived in rural Hiroshima Prefecture for three years, working in the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme.

Kovacsics jokes that everyone he knows who has visited Japan almost always returns: “I don’t know many people who come to Japan just once. We always seem to find a reason to come back.”

Thankfully for Kovacsics, he has been posted for the next three years in Nagoya, where he will be working as the principal officer of the American Consulate, Nagoya. But this is by no means his first time in the hot seat, having served as consular officer in Nigeria and Kyrgyzstan, and political/economic officer in Belarus and Russia.

In an interview with the ACCJ Journal, before delving into the various tasks his new role entails, he made it very clear that his “main priority is taking care of American citizens.” This is a demanding task in and of itself, but he explained that there is an added responsibility placed on his shoulders: “I’m also here to promote US business, culture, and education.”

This he does in a number of ways, from creating and solidifying international business ties, to encouraging exchange programs between Japanese and American educational institutions.

He said that while some of these exchanges are aimed at high school students, the majority are arranged with university students in mind. When asked how he sells the idea of studying in the United States, he replied with a knowing smile.

“It doesn’t usually take a lot of convincing. Interest in studying in the US is quite high. Students have logistical and other concerns, and I help them through those,” he said.

The United States clearly has a very strong presence in Japan, and is a nation that is viewed positively by the majority of the population. Even so, Kovacsics is still extremely determined to broaden the scope of the people the consulate reaches.

One of the major ways in which the consulate targets a wide demographic is through its Guest Speaker Program. Kovacsics was noticeably proud of the project as he explained the details.

In short, prominent entrepreneurs, business people, public figures, and creative thinkers from the United States come to Japan to talk about their expertise, experiences, opinions, and ideas. Planned on the upcoming roster are topics from Japan/USA/India trade to “promoting and encouraging women in leadership positions.”

Programs such as these, as well as other functions organized by the consulate, allow members of the Chubu chapter of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) to rub shoulders with some of the most influential people in Central Japan.

Kovacsics was keen to point out that, although forming connections between ACCJ members and prominent Japanese figures is not really the consulate’s job, creating an environment that fosters such ties is very important.

It is evident that Kovacsics takes his work extremely seriously, but it is equally clear that he enjoys his role. This dichotomy of seriousness and enjoyment is mirrored in his pastimes, which range from playing the drums in a rock band to having a healthy appetite for running.

“I’ve run 16 full marathons, and, despite my growing belly, I plan to run the Osaka, Kyoto, and Shizuoka marathons in the coming months,” he said.

The wall in his office is decorated with marathon medals from the four corners of the globe, but he said his personal best time was clocked in his hometown, Philadelphia.

Fittingly, the medal hangs beneath a picture of Rocky Balboa triumphantly punching the air as he overlooks the Philly skyline from atop its art museum’s steps. Kovacsics may also face uphill struggles during his time here, but much like his fictional counterpart, he has the determination to achieve his goals, no matter how big they may seem.

http://nagoya.usconsulate.gov

ACCJ-Chubu Welcomes New Consul

By Jonathan Hobbs

To welcome Stephen Kovacsics to his new post, the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan’s Chubu chapter held a breakfast on August 27 at the Hilton Nagoya.

At the event, Kovacsics said he had been focusing on getting acquainted with local political leaders, and had already met with officials from four regions in Aichi Prefecture.

During his tenure, the consulate will provide more diverse services, such as notarization, a service that was previously unavailable in Nagoya.

Kovacsics is excited to be working with the ACCJ to promote American business interests in Chubu, the heart of Japanese manufacturing. He also expressed excitement about U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy’s visit to the area, which will be her first.

Kovacsics arrived in Nagoya this summer to assume his new post after studying Japanese for a year at the Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute in Yokohama. He has served in the Foreign Service since 2003, and speaks Japanese, Russian, Hungarian, Arabic, and French.

AdamMiller

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Adam Miller has been living and writing in Japan since 2008.

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