Chicago Shimpo
JCCC, Biggest Chamber of Commerce in the U.S., Celebrates New Year

• The Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Chicago (JCCC) celebrated 2016 New Year at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel in Schaumburg on January 13, featuring popular singer-songwriter Anri as the special guest. The number of attendees exceeded 1,000 this year for the first time in eight years.
• Nao Sugita and Mark Scott emceed, and the New Year’s party started with the national anthem of both Japan and the United States, led by Yoshio Goto

• In his opening remarks, JCCC Chairman Kazuaki Tsuda of Sumitomo Corporation of Americas 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 U.S. cities. He thanked JCCC members, senior colleagues, and local people for their long-time commitments and warm supports to make JCCC’s significant advancement. “JCCC marked its 50th anniversary in 2016 and has been making progress toward another 50 years,” Tsuda said.
• He explained the JCCC’s three primary missions as follows: (1) making plans and implementing much needed events such as business seminars for its members and promoting business interactions between Japan and the U.S.; (2) continuing to support the local education effort for Japanese students through Chicago Futabakai Japanese Schools; and (3) contributing to the local communities as a corporate citizen through the JCCC Foundation (established in 1991), which provides grants to education-related organizations. Since its inception, it has granted more than $5.5 million to date.
• Tsuda also mentioned about other JCCC’s activities such as participating in organizing Japan Festival and said, “We’ll keep the meaning of JCCC existence in a right direction and continue to strive for advancing our presence in local communities and the U.S., while we very much appreciate warm support from local people,” he said.

• Following Tsuda was the JCCC’s Honorary Chair Naoki Ito, Consul General of Japan in Chicago, who spoke about changes. This year, the Japanese Emperor is going to abdicate, and the Crown Prince will assume the throne on May 1st. Governor J.B. Pritzker was inaugurated, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Schaumburg’s long-time Mayor Al Larson are retiring. CG Ito said, “This year is full of changes, but let’s work together to make stronger partnership with local communities and enhance our presence. Let’s push forward to our goals as a boar rushes.” (The boar is the zodiac sign of this year.)

• According to the Consulate General’s survey, as of October 2018, there are 630 Japanese business offices in Illinois, employing more than 46,000 American workers. The number of Japanese residents in the Chicagoland area is 12,000, an increase of 5,000 during past 20 years. “With your power, let’s make a new era of Japan-Midwest friendship, Japan-US relationship together. Also, let’s make a successful Japan Festival in Chicago’s Millennium Park on June 16 together with all of you attending here,” CG Ito concluded his speech.

• Mark S. Peterson, President and CEO at Intersect Illinois, greeted the attendees saying, “I look for a continued partnership with all of you. So much has been brought to our communities, so much culture, so much innovation, and so much color. We look forward to building those ties even closer in 2019.”

• A New Year’s speech by a Japanese student, the annual feature of the JCCC New Year’s Party, was presented by Riku Takizawa, a senior at the Futabakai Japanese Saturday School.
• Takizawa has a dream to become a teacher because he had been touched by his teacher’s caring spirits to everyone when he was sixth grader in Japan.
• After moved to the U.S., his first friends were ESL students, who came from a variety of countries. While they were talking each other, Takizawa recognized that no high-level English proficiency was needed to understand each other when they tried to do so. They talked about their own home countries, and then he got a sense of being Japanese and an idea of cross-cultural understandings.
• After six years of American life, Takizawa has felt pride for his Japanese identity; at the same time, he has learned the importance of American values. He also learned the importance of caring about what others think.
• “Someday, I want to be a teacher who can teach students to have warm minds like a down quilt and in being a broad-minded person to understand others. So I’ll do my best to reach my goal without any regret,” Takizawa stated.

• Al Larson, who has been Schaumburg Mayor for 32 years and has welcomed Japanese business investments, made a toast saying, “KAMPAI!”

• After a luncheon, Anri’s awaited concert started. She made her debut in 1978 with “Olivia wo kikinagara, (Wile I’m listening to Olivia…)”. She has long attracted her fans with her empathetic themes and cross-genre music. She celebrated her 40th anniversary last year. Currently she resides in Los Angeles and has had music activities globally.
• Most audience remembered their young days, some groups waved torch lights, and a group of the attendees danced in front of the stage.

• At the end of the concert, Anri said that she was asked by JCCC to come to Chicago last summer and looked forward to coming here. She has been quite busy and couldn’t have much time to travel in the U.S. “I think that Japanese and Japanese Americans are living in many states in America, so I want to visit them and bring Japanese pieces of music as much as I can,” she said.

• The next feature was the annual raffle, a popular event with its generous prizes donated by the participating corporations, including round trip tickets to Japan. During the raffle, a quiz session was held with a theme of 2020 Olympics, and the audience responded by yes or no with body languages. A quiz winner was rewarded with an air ticket.

• At the closing, the event’s Executive Committee Chairman Ryo Kamisaku thanked the volunteers and the committee members and said that JCCC is the biggest Japanese Chamber of Commerce in the U.S., followed by Southern California and New York. “People say that Chicago is the third biggest city in America, but regarding Japanese Chamber of Commerce, Chicago is the number one!” said Kamisaku emphatically. He also said, “Probably JCCC is only Japanese Chamber in the U.S. that is able to hold such a big shinnenkai with more than 1,000 attendees. It’s a big asset for us. With this asset, let’s cheer JCCC up all together.”

Popular singer-songwriter Anri performs at JCCC’s Shinnenkai as the special guest.

More than 1000 attendees enjoy the concert at JCCC's Shinnenkai

Consul General Naoki Ito

Schaumburg Mayor Al Larson

Riku Takizawa speaks his hopes for 2019.

Exciting annual raffle and games to get a round trip to Japan

A quiz session featuring 2020 Tokyo Olympics