I was invited to a Canada Day dinner, put on by the Kansai Canadian Chamber of Commerce. Takemori-San and I were invited as guests of Peter MacArthur, Senior Trade Commissioner to Japan. I assumed that the invitation was a standard, "So-and-so invites you to such-and-such...", so I was a bit surprised (but delighted) when Mr. MacArthur not only met us at the door, but spent the majority of his evening engaging us in conversation, inviting us to enjoy the delicious meal, and introducting us to various people.
The dinner itself (and dessert, for that matter!) was delicious. Amazing food, both in taste and presentation. There was a wide variety of salads - pasta salads, lettuce salads, fruit salads, seafood salads. Infinite meat and seafood dishes - prawns, roast beef, chicken. Potatoes, roasted vegetables, buns, bread. Dessert was pies and cheesecake and fruit salad and miniature fruity brownies. There was red wine, white wine, and the most delicious Ice Wine. I'm not sure I've had Ice Wine before - or if I have, it wasn't that great because I don't remember! But this Ice Wine was wonderful.
The evening began with introductory comments by the MC's; Carlos Ramirez (Kansai Governor Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan) and Yumiko Nagoshi (Assistant Manager, International Division, Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry). Remarks followed by Mr. Joseph Caron (Canadian Ambassador to Japan), Mr. Ryuichiro Yamazaki (Ambassador, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Osaka Office), and Mr. Iwao Takai (President, The Canada Japan Society of the Kansai) - followed by a toast by Ms. Patricia Bader-Johnston (President of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan). The majority of the speeches were made in both Japanese and English (with the speakers translating themselves), but Mr. Takai began his speech with Canada Day congratulations in French! His few words in French elicted smiles and laughs from everyone, and I was impressed both by his small bit of French, and my ability to understand it! (I studied French for 6 years, but haven't used it for 3!)
I hadn't realized that Canadians were so active in Japan or specifically in the Kansai region! I learned that there are just over 2000 Canadians living in the Kansai region - I never would have guessed that there were so many. There is much business and interaction between the Kansai region and Canada, and there are great relationship and plans in place to build on it. (I also learned that unfortunately, due to fuel costs, Air Canada will be cancelling it's Vancouver-Osaka route.)
Near the end of the evening, there were several draw prizes up to be won. To my surprise, as I was being introduced to Ambassador Caron, my name was called! I won some 100% Organic Maple Syrup. Let me tell you - I will never buy any other form of syrup again. I was planning on giving it to Takemori-San, as he had mentioned earlier how happy his wife would be if he won some - but he won some as well! After the majority of the prizes, there was one left - a BBQ set; complete with a BBQ, gas, lawn chairs, torches, cup coolers, a big blue and white cooler, and some other things. I said to Takemori-San, "Wouldn't it be cool if you won it?" And he just laughed. Guess what. Yep, he won it. The look on his face was priceless.
I was fortunate enough to meet many important and influential people that evening - all of whom were very kind, friendly, and interesting! Aside from Mr. MacArthur, to whom I was privileged to spend a large part of the evening talking to, I also met (among others): Ambassador Caron, Ms. Bader-Johnston, and Mr. Allan Edwards (Consul and Senior Trade Commissioner). Mr. Edwards was a delight to talk to - he was very animated and excited; extremely charismatic! He was from Cranbrook (I worked near Cranbrook last year) and has visited Kelowna; so we found a few points in common. I found myself wishing I had gotten more time to speak with him - I'm sure he has many interesting stories and would be an infinite source of knowledge of many things. He did poke fun at the Kelowna Rockets, but as I left, he called it a tie between the Kooteney Ice and the Rockets. Ambassador Caron was friendly as well, and interested in the coop program and strengthening ties between Canada and Kansai businesses, such as Osaka Gas. He was a pleasure to talk to, although I missed a bit of the conversation in picking up my Maple Syrup prize!
Ms. Bader-Johnston was also wonderful to talk to - we discussed school, Engineering, and the coop program. Her niece is in Chemical Engineering and just started working; between these topics and Japan, we had a lovely conversation. She was quick to tell me that if I ever needed a place to stay in Tokyo, I should let her know! I would have loved to have a chance to speak with her more, as well, and I hope to meet her again one day! Amidst playing host, Mr. MacArthur was also very interesting to talk to, and a big supporter of the coop program. It was neat to hear his perspective and to find him so supportive of the program; I also learned that they are very interested in expanding and increasing the program and it's scope - which I think is great! He also won a prize - the grand price: an iPod Touch! However, he was deep in conversation when they called his name, and it took a few moments of several people yelling his name across the room to get him to claim his prize. He told me afterwards that he thought he had won some CDs, before realizing what it was! He was a wonderful host, and I was glad to meet him, as well as appreciative of the introductions and conversation.
The night was a lot of fun, and it was encouraging to see the connections between Kansai and Japan, and become more aware of how important they are to each other, and how many people are supporting and building on that! It was a pleasure to meet so many people; both Canadians and Japanese. It also encouraged me to find out more about Canada and the role we play in world economics, and the role other countries play in our economy! They say that the more you learn, the less you know - - I can't agree more!
Canada Day 2008 was a success - and a great memory. :)