The Global Alumni Leadership Exchange to Japan was an alumni relations tour de force – an opportunity for Yale volunteer leaders to share their talents and skills while enjoying unrivaled access to the educational, political, and cultural treasures of Japan.
As Yale representatives we were able to bridge university cultures and share best practices in alumni relations with the University of Tokyo and UMIC – the University Management Initiatives Consortium – a cooperative of many Japanese universities coming together for the single purpose to learn about our alumni association practices at Yale.
The cornerstone of our exchange was our educational exchange – lectures and workshops on alumni relations. We conducted two morning sessions for the staff, faculty and alumni of the University of Tokyo that included 14 workshops that were jointly facilitated by a Yale alumnus and a Todai alumnus, and three sessions for UMIC – conferences in Tokyo and Kyoto for other universities eager to learn of our Western practices.
Presentation topics included class and club activities, Yale Global Day of Service, AYA board governance and assemblies, Alumni Fund and other fundraising programs, shared interest group activities, and YaleGALE.
After seeing a presentation by Alex Kerr ’74, our mission expanded to emphasize the importancce of understanding and preserving some of the great historical Japanese culture and art. We learned about this on our retreat at Chiiori and during our stay in the machiyas in Kyoto.
Highlights of the trip included:
- Watching the Shrine maidens perform at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo
- Sitting in on a session of the Senate thanks to Senator Yoriko Kawaguchi, former Foreign Minister, Yale Grad School ’72 and recipient of the 2008 Yale Wilbur Cross Medal.
- A Japanese baseball game experience watching the Tigers play the Swallows.
- Private tour of the not-to-be missed Tsukiji Market – the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market, the largest fish market and auction in the world. In 2005 public tours of the market were discontinued and in a rare treat, the President of the Rotary Club of Tsukiji invited our Yale delegation for a private tour.
- An opportunity to try soba-making, kazura vine basket-making, and more during our retreat at Chiiori. Chiiori is the brainchild and project of alum Alex Kerr ’74, Chairman of Iori – an organization dedicated to preserving Japanese culture and ancient traditions.
- And, many spectacular “friendship” dinners and receptions with new-found alumni friends from Yale, the University of Tokyo, and UMIC partners.