Sumitomo Cultural Forum 2007

On September 24, 2007, The "Sumitomo Cultural Forum - 2007 -Let's talk about family more” was held in The Yuraku-cho Asahi Hall in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

Mr. Mitsuru Iba, the secretary-general of the Sumitomo Group Public Affairs Committee greeted the attendees as the sponsor.  He introduced the history of the Sumitomo Cultural Forum which began in 1979 with the first being titled “How to live in the 80’s”. Every forum thereafter then invited specialists related to the forums chosen subject from various circles, as well as panelists to discuss the topic as it related to ways of life in the particular period. After the 11th forum in 1985, they were discontinued until 2006 when, due to Japan’s large changes it underwent in the 21st century, the forums were brought back to the forefront of ideas and discussion.

This second forum, after the Sumitomo Group began to hold them again in 2006, was focused solely on the “family” which doesn’t have many chances to be discussed with real intentions concerning the family's ideal way. The subject of family was discussed for three hours with the keynote addresses delivered by the panel followed by a discussion by the panel members. The panelists featured four people, Mr. Shuntaro Torigoe, a Journalist, essayist Ms. Harue Itsumi, Mr. Ikuyo Kaneko, professor at Keio University and Ms. Jeanie Fuji who is the on-site manager of the Ginzan Hot Spring Fujiya Inn located in Yamagata Prefecture.

The first part of the keynote address by Mr. Torigoe, featured his thoughts in the progression and importance for our human growth. This concept is important as it applies to one’s own family, who gives birth to us and raises us, as well as the family which we create with our spouses and own children and also by our friends from childhood or school who we learn the rules of society with and can form yet another family. Moreover, while undergoing an operation to battle cancer, he told of an experience he had when he could actually feel the support of his wife and daughters who he was typically used to taking care of. This experience was important as he told the audience “Family or friends can be like air and when something big happens in life, then you realize how much important they are. Even though we might be far away from each other, our hearts are connected as one and that is what family is”. Mr. Torigoe stressed this idea and that he wanted to have people think and consider the importance of family and looked forward to discussing the subject with his fellow panelists. 

The second part of the forum included a panel discussion as the attendees listened to each panelist's opinions and stories based on their own experiences.

Ms. Itsumi, who lost her husband 14 years ago due to cancer, was the next speaker at the forum. She spoke about how “the family bond becomes stronger through the struggle against disease” and how her husband battled the disease. “We discussed some things with our children very often and sometimes it was in the middle of the night” and showed that bonds of the three people in the family who were left by their father got stronger in missing him and keeping his memory alive. Mr. Torigoe and Mr. Kaneko then pointed out, “We don’t need to be a perfect mother or father. There is a gap. That is why people try to reach their hands out to each other and begin to understand each other better and solid communication is born from there”.

Ms. Fuji introduced her experiences of being able to make time for her children while balancing her work schedule with managing the inn because she was able to receive some help from people who were surrounding her.  She then pointed out,”Japanese families are very busy. Comparing Japan with my own country, the times people have with their family are much shorter than they are in America”.  She also introduced her own saying “The family that plays (spends happy times) together stays together” and quoted a well-known saying from America “The family that prays together stays together”. She also pointed out “You can make more fun time for a family easily with a small effort like turning off the television during dinner and having conversation or giving a bath to your children etc.” Ms. Fuji stressed overall, the importance for making more time for family.

In his presentation, Mr. Kaneko emphasized the importance of parents needing to support their own kids, “Kids need someone who completely assists them. Otherwise they can’t go into the world safely”. Based on his experiences with over 800 children, as the director of the Keio Yochisha Elementary School, he also introduced a good example of success to try and reproduce.  This included family based activities that people within the community can join. Some of these community events for the region, especially school events have taken place in a cities like Kyoto and others. Even though the idea of “family community” has lost its importance in Japan, these cities are trying to reproduce the idea that “The family is a symbol of region and school” and try to reach out to that concept. Ms. Itsumi also added that now she hopes the possibilities of local communities, through traditional events will remain strong after she was touched by the memories of such festivals and events in her own town when growing up.

With such a variety of opinion exchanges, Mr. Torigoe finished with his thoughts “Adults as well as children have becoming too busy and because of that we have sacrificed time and feelings within our own families as well as within our communities and we have put at risk having these days of success and happiness”.  First of all, if you learned something from today's forum, you should try to apply the lesson in your surroundings, then the change will start and the circle of communications might extend little by little”. 

This year’s forum attracted approximately 350 participants, most of whose age was between 40 and 60 years old.  The forum encompassed a friendly mood as well as some humor provided by Mr. Torigoe in his address which drew laughter from the audience. With the conclusion of the forum, he summarized the panelists’ suggestion that “let us each start with a little thing which we can easily do and reach”, which was received with a large ovation from the attendees.

Shuntaro Torigoe, journalist
Harue Itsumi, essayist
Jeanie Fuji, on-site manager of the Ginzan Hot Spring Fujiya Inn
Ikuyo Kaneko, professor at Keio University
Mitsuru Iba, Secretary
General, Sumitomo
Group Public Affairs