Singer Kosetsu Minami Brings Young Spirit
to JCCC New Year’s Party
• The annual New Year’s Party of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Chicago (“JCCC”) was held at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel in Schaumburg on January 14, featuring veteran folk singer-songwriter Kosetsu Minami as the special guest.
• With approximately 900 attendees, the festivity began with the national anthem of both Japan and the United States, led by Yoshio Goto. Then the JCCC Chairman Kazuo Shimizu of Kikkoman Foods Inc. welcomed Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and his wife. Rauner was the first sitting governor of Illinois who attended the JCCC New Year’s Party.
• During his opening speech, Shimizu outlined the history
of the JCCC, which started in 1966 with 58 participating companies and
now has more than 500 members, one of the largest organizations in major
• Following Shimizu was the JCCC’s Honorary Chair Naoki
Ito, Consul General of Japan in Chicago, who praised Rauner for his trade
mission to Japan last year. Ito said Rauner’s visit to Tokyo for the 49th
Midwest U.S.-Japan Association Conference in September 2017, his first
overseas visit as the Illinois governor, helped raise the awareness of
Illinois in the Japanese business community.
• According to the Consulate General’s survey, as of October 2017, there are 630 Japanese business offices in Illinois, employing more than 46,000 people. The employment increased 6% over the past year and 16% during the past 5 years. The number of Japanese residents in Illinois was 15,300, an increase of 250 from the previous year.
• As Ito noted, it’s been 45 years since Kosetsu Minami’s
song “Kandagawa” became a big hit in Japan. This year, Ito continued,
also marks the 45th anniversary of the signing of the Chicago-Osaka sister-city
agreement, 45th anniversary of the building of Kikkoman’s Walworth plant
in Wisconsin, and 50th anniversary of the Midwest U.S.-Japan Association
• Governor Bruce Rauner, meanwhile, offered a new year’s
greeting in Japanese, “Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu,” and said that he
came to say thank you for the Japanese community’s effort for strengthening
friendship with the people in Illinois.
• A New Year’s speech by a Japanese student, the annual feature of the JCCC New Year’s Party, was presented by Kanta Nakano, a senior at the Futabakai Japanese Saturday School. Nakano, who came to Chicago four years ago on his father’s overseas assignment, is attending the Futabakai while going to a local high school as a regular student. Based on his experience, he spoke about the impact that direct communication has in everyday life to build new relationships of trust.
• Al Larson, mayor of Schaumburg, proposed a toast to begin the luncheon. The concert by Kosetsu Minami followed the luncheon.
• Minami’s songs are characterized by human emotions
such as being in love, anxiety and purity of the youth, and family ties.
Citing the words of Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara, who kept working as a doctor
until he passed away at the age of 105, Minami said he thought “Keep on
going” would mean that our perspective toward life could change depending
on how we set our minds to look at things. The song that followed - “Omokage
iro no sora” - captured the audience’s heart in its uplifting tone.
• The party featured the annual raffle in the end, a popular event with its generous prizes donated by the participating corporations, including round trip tickets to Japan.
• At the closing, the event’s Executive Committee Chairman
Atsuhiro Taji thanked the volunteers, without whom the event “couldn’t
have been possible.”
• Interview with Kosetsu Minami
• Singer-songwriter Kosetsu Minami was born in Oita-shi
in southern Japan to a family of Buddhist monks. He made his solo debut
in 1970 while he was a student at Meiji Gakuin University, and shortly
after that formed a three-member band Kaguyahime. The band is known for
several hit songs until it broke up in 1975.
• Q: You were born into a Buddhist temple. Why did you become a folk singer?
• Minami: I was the youngest of the four children, and
had two older brothers. I think my parents got tired of taking care of
kids, in short – they were like, “You, just do whatever you like.” I was
• Q: Was it an excuse to leave home and go to Tokyo that you enrolled Meiji Gakuin University?
• Minami: Yes. It had to be Tokyo, definitely. Back then, everything – the radio program that I listened to for the hit chart, information about books [on folk music] – was coming from Tokyo. You must be in Tokyo to feel the temperature of the time. That’s why I went to Tokyo.
• Q: How long did you go to the university?
• Minami: Two years. That was the time of the 1970 U.S.-Japan Security Treaty conflict, and student rebellion. All the schools [high schools and colleges] were shut down by the students’ lockout, and you could pass the test by simply submitting a written report. I had begun singing and had my own [radio] program by that time, so I just stopped going to the classes.
• Q: Your band, Kaguyahime, created a lot of hits, but you dissolved it at the peak of its popularity. I heard, back then, that you broke it up because you were so smart and wanted to avoid paying big taxes.
• Minami: That’s not the case. I’m still pretty bad about
• Q: I read a story on Wikipedia about a sick girl who
was a fan of yours, which goes like this:
• Minami: That’s true. The voice was in the tape that
the engineer from our recording company recorded. He investigated it a
lot – the voice cannot be there, but it was there for sure.
• Q: You have been performing in concert for a long time, so a lot of younger people know you too, don’t they?
• Minami: First, I love to sing, love to play a guitar and sing in front of the people who will listen. Also I love to make my songs known to the public. That’s all. When you love to do something, it makes you move your body. Maybe that’s the source of my energy.
• Q: Any new songs recently?
• Minami: A song called “Midori no tabibito” (A Green
Traveler). We are all travelers, our generation, to go through our lives.
I want to trace back the way I came, as a green traveler.
• Q: We are living in an increasingly uncertain world today. What do you think about that?
• Minami: Japan lost the war, but we have been striving
to be prosperous without having military or nuclear weapons. That’s wisdom
for us to get along with the world.
• Q: Thank you very much.
The participants make toast for a good luck in 2018 New Year.
Governor Bruce Rauner and his wife participate in the Japanese business community's New Year's Party.
JCCC's incoming and outgoing leaders
Kanta Nakano speaks about his experiences and hopes.
Kosetsu Minami, singer and songwriter, performs at JCCC's New Year's Party.