Celebrating 50 Years of the IJCC
It was an ambitious step in 1973, to establish an association of Japanese and Irish business people in Japan.
Both Ireland and Japan had seen their economies grow substantially in the 1960s, and with trade and investment gathering momentum, optimism was the currency for the early founders. The Japan Ireland Economic Association (JIEA) was established 50 years ago and is the predecessor to what became the Ireland Japan Chamber of Commerce. The JIEA grew steadily over the subsequent years, with our earliest supporters including a portfolio of Japanese companies who built factories or made other investments in Ireland during the 70s, 80s and 90s – the likes of Olympus, Takeda, Alps, NEC and others.
In 2008, the JIEA was formally registered with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) as the current Ireland Japan Chamber of Commerce (IJCC). It was the Irish Ambassador to Japan at the time, Ambassador Brendan Scannell and First Secretary Gerard Keown who envisioned upgrading the JIEA to become a fully-fledged Irish Chamber, registered with METI, and embracing the growing number of Irish business people who were emerging from the FÁS program, JET programme and the growth of Irish expats in Japan developing business for their Irish employers.
Gradually the IJCC grew its membership and the scope of events during the 2010s, adding joint networking events with the US, British, Australian, New Zealand and other chambers; Third Thursday event; golf outings; all topped off by the Ireland Japan Business Awards, the hallmark event in the IJCC calendar where Irish and Japanese companies are recognised for their outstanding business contributions. In 2013, the IJCC fatefully put their resources (and their faith!) behind the I Love Ireland Festival, leading to the largest annual Irish community event in Asia which welcomed 130,000 attendees at its pre-pandemic height in 2019. It is thanks to the incredible support of the Ireland Japan community, IJCC members and friends, Team Ireland colleagues and our many board members over the years that the IJCC accomplishes such big feats for a small Chamber.
Over the years we have had an array of IJCC Presidents who have volunteered their time, including Frank Sanda, Seiji Kasama, Matthew Connolly, Gerard Mulligan, Paul Gilsenan, Eamonn Murphy and Yoshihiro Tsuchiya. The IJCC has welcomed many distinguished visitors on behalf of the Irish business community, including Mary McAleese, Leo Varadkar, Enda Kenny, Michael Martin, Pascal Donahue, Brendan Howlin, Richard Bruton and many other Irish leaders who visited Japan to extend relationships and find ideas to bring home to Ireland.
For myself, now in my 38th year in Japan, the Chamber has been a great anchor for Irish events and keeping in touch with Irish people. I have my work life, with its many and complex relationships with Japanese business people, which I must take care not to become overly absorbed in. The Chamber pulls me back to the Irish community, my people, the values and attitudes that are my own, nourishing my Irish identity, and also providing a link between Irish business and my Japanese business world.
One highlight of my time with the Chamber was being asked by Irish Ambassador to Japan Anne Barrington, who had heard me gradually grow in experience in the emcee role at IJCC events, to do the same role, in both Japanese and English, at the Irish Embassy St. Patrick's Day event held in the Imperial Hotel in March 2017. It was a nerve-racking experience, with hundreds of attendees including Minister Paschal Donohue, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform at the time. Following a lot of preparation to get the keigo right, I managed to do a reasonable job – and Ambassador Barrington asked me back the next year!!
Looking forward, with total trade between Ireland and Japan growing strongly each year, the IJCC has a growing role to play in facilitating business networking for our diverse membership as our collective businesses continue to grow. With your help, we hope to build upon the lifelong personal connections between both countries for many more years to come. A new cadre of Chamber leaders are doing a fantastic job of expanding the Chamber and making our offerings more valuable to the existing members, including in new ways such as involving members who are based in Ireland, as well as embracing regional members into the fold. The next 50 years will see the next generation of the Ireland Japan community leave their mark!
IJCC Director (2008 - Current)
A special thank you to IJCC Director Rick Grehan for his great work on the IJCC 50th Anniversary logo!