With over 250 people, the Conference of the National Federation of Australia-Japan Societies reflected the great energy and enthusiasm of the Australian -Japanese partnership. This conference was hosted by AJS-NSW – now in its 50th year.

A contingent from the Japan-Australia Societies of Osaka, Kobe and Shizuoka came from Japan, together with delegates from all over Australia, local business people, educators, people involved in sister city relationships and students came to Sydney for a great two days (October 19th and 20th 2018).

Friday 19th October was Day 1 – “Business Day” which saw quality presentations from Australian and Japanese companies exploring ‘new dimensions’ across the Australian and Japanese markets. These included Regeneus, Sekisui House Australia, PwC, Innovation Dojo, Mitsui & Co. (Australia) Ltd, LANSA, Destinations NSW and JNTO.

Toru Abe, CEO of Sekisui House Australia, presented stories of his company’s sizeable projects in the Australian market. Duncan Thomson, Vice-President at Regeneus, an Australian clinical-stage regenerative medicine company collaborating with Asahi Glass, spoke of their successful partnership and aspects of a foreign small startup dealing with a huge foreign partner. A business panel discussion followed with Wendy Holdenson, Director of Mitsui & Co. (Australia) Ltd – also a Corporate Sponsor of the Conference – and Gordon Davies, VP of LANSA , a software development company, that has established its own subsidiary in Japan.

Aspects of current innovation were presented by a panel led by Jason Hayes of PwC together with Joshua Flannery from Sydney Start Up Hub, Kaoru Nishinakagawa of Innovation Dojo, and Daphne Shen of V-Kaiwa, a graduate of the Innovation Dojo program.

The two sides of the Australia-Japan relationship in tourism were showcased through presentations by Kana Wakabayashi of JNTO and Sandra Chipchase of Destination NSW. Australians’ love affair with Japan continues, with visitors growing in number and diversity of interest, while NSW is effectively marketing to Japanese visitors focusing on events such as Vivid Sydney. The final session of the day focused on the Washoku boom, with the partners of Yachiyo Japanese Bistro, speaking about their efforts to educate the Australian palate in the true tastes of Japan.

The conference was opened with welcomes from Jonathan O’Dea, MP, representing the Premier of NSW; the Japanese Ambassador H.E. Sumio Kusaka; and a video message from Australia’s Ambassador to Japan, Richard Court.

Murray McLean, Chair of the Australia-Japan Foundation, presented the keynote address and spoke of the need for renewal – succession planning and gender diversity in groups such as AJS, warning against complacency with the modern Australia-Japan relationship.

The People-to-People Day on Saturday focused on a “Deeper Understanding” theme, with over 140 people in sessions on Japanese education in Australia, how to leverage Japanese in your career, and running effective sister city exchanges. Culture was also a big theme, with opportunities for participants to learn about haiku, to watch kimono and ikebana (both Sogetsu and Ohara Schools) demonstrations and to participate in Taiko drumming workshops. An introduction to Otaku culture was presented by Andrew Qiu, President of the successful SMASH! Sydney Manga and Anime Show, followed by a cosplay parade and presentation of the winners of a manga drawing contest.

The final cultural event was a very special performance of a Hochoshiki, a traditional Shinto knife (fish-cutting) ceremony that dates from the Nara era, performed by culinary master Hideo Dekura.

The two days concluded with a Gala Dinner at the National Maritime Museum – to celebrate two fantastic days and also the 50th Anniversary of AJS-NSW. A dramatic Sydney thunderstorm opened proceedings – fortunately many people enjoyed it under cover with a drink in hand – and then Sydney Okinawan band Goshu Kariyushikai welcomed us with an energetic song and dance performance. A fabulous dinner was interspersed with a performance by Australia’s famed taiko group Taikoz (see video here), led by Ian Cleworth, and kanpai no ondo from JAS Chairman Yuichi Tomita and former NFAJS President Leigh McClintock. At 9pm the Darling Harbour fireworks provided more excitement for guests, and the dinner concluded with old acquaintances renewed and new friendships made – an indication of the ongoing importance of personal relationships between Australia and Japan.

See AJS-NSW Facebook for photos