US University Clubs in Tokyo

Education Tokyo Life - March 16th, 2007

by George P. Taylor IX 

Alumni of a number of colleges and universities have established clubs here in Tokyo to bring together alumni and faculty for conviviality and comradeship. Ac­tive clubs include the Harvard Club of Japan (the HQ), the Yale Club of Japan (the YCJ), the Dartmouth Club of Japan, the Brown University Club of Japan (the BUCJ), and the Penn Club of Japan (PCJ). The clubs hold events ranging from informal happy hours and dinners, to en­lightening speaking engagements, to concerts and recitals, to receptions by some of the famous and powerful. Most clubs also help students in Japan who wish to apply to their institutions as undergraduates.

Membership

Most of the clubs have ecumenical membership policies. As YCJ Co-president Engin Yenidunya puts it, the YCJ is open to “anyone with a connection to Yale—however tenuous… graduate students, undergraduates, gradu­ated with honors, barely graduated, attended summer school, or flunked out after one term (like Dick Cheney), it doesn’t matter.” The membership policy of the HCJ is similar; anyone who has attended any Harvard school, is faculty at any Harvard school, or is a parent of a cur­rent Harvard student, may join the HCJ.

Harvard – The HCJ charges membership dues of ¥7,500 (or ¥5,000 for those graduated within ten years) per year. The HCJ has about 400 members, with many Japanese and foreign members, including royalty, former Prime Ministers and other politicians, leaders in finance and industry, leading scientists, magnetic levitation engi­neers, artists, authors, musicians, entrepreneurs, interns, and more. To join, please contact Ms. Yukari Fujita at membership@harvardclubofjapan.org, www.harvardclubofjapan.org

Yale – The YCJ also has about 400 members, split equal­ly between Japanese and foreign residents. It contains a broad mix of longtime Japan residents, newcomers, recent graduates, interns, established Japanese politi­cians, creative writers, journalists, and businessmen. The YCJ charges no membership fees, with members paying cash at the door, and with events costing no more than ¥4,000 per event. To join, please contact Engin Yenidunya at engin.yenidunya@aya.yale.edu or Benjamin Seiver at benjamin.seiver@aig.co.jp , www.yaleclubs.org/japan

Dartmouth – The Dartmouth Club of Japan serves about 400 alumni from the college and graduate schools, host­ing social events, dinners with visiting alumni, and oc­casional academic forums. The Dartmouth Club also awards the Asakawa Award for positive contributions to promoting understanding between Japan and the United States. The Club also hosts an annual barbecue for Dartmouth undergraduates, and helps support the students while in Japan by helping find internships dur­ing their stay, www.dartmouth.edu/~djs/index.html.

Penn – The Penn Club of Japan, managed by a Board of five graduates, conducts regular monthly events, an annual conference, and one annual grand social event that raise thousands of dollars for children’s charities.

Brown – The Brown University Club of Japan has over 150 alumni members, and welcomes alumni, former exchange students, current students, and others involved with Brown University. Member­ship is free. To join, please contact Eric Golden at eric.golden@credit-suisse.com, www.bucj.org

Informal Events

The informal events have included dinners at which members share bread, wine, laughter, and conversation; and more recently the intermural “Yale Bar Reviews,” ably organized by Engin Yenidunya, Co-president of The YCJ.

Speakers

Speeches and presentations heard by the clubs let at­tendees hear and question persons with insights into, or experience in, the arts, cultures, theoretical and ap­plied sciences, the business world, politics, and more. Speakers are often students, alumni, or faculty, but this is not a hard rule, and events often enjoy the insights and wisdom of other luminaries.

Recent YCJ speakers include:

  • Author and Yale alumnus Alex Kerr’s views on bu­reaucratic and commercial interests overwhelming Japan’s traditional aesthetic sense in architecture and urban planning;
  • Entrepreneur and Yale alumna Rochelle Kopp, dis­cussing how cultural misunderstandings between Japa­nese and foreign businessmen have led to friction, de­lays, losses, and lawsuits; and
  • Morgan Stanley Japan Chief Economist and Yale Alumnus Robert Feldman on the political and eco­nomic future of Japan.

Recent HCJ speakers include:

  • Harvard School of Public Health alumnus Dr. J. Jacques Carter, speaking on Public Health as a Global Issue;
  • Bernard Krishner, thrilling his audience with stories of interviewing Babe Ruth and Emperor Hirohito; and warming hearts with his devotion to helping the chil­dren of Cambodia;
  • Harvard Alumnus and renowned architect Edward Suzuki giving an illustrated talk about his work;
  • Dr. Hideki Murayama, Vice President and General Manager of the Research & Development Center of Frontier Carbon Corporation, speaking about nanate-chnology and the delightfully named molecule Buck-minsterfullerene (C6o).
Artistic Events

Summers usually bring tours by a myriad of a capella groups, (e.g., Harvard’s Din and Tonics, Krokadiloes, and Radcliffe Pitches, and Yale’s Wiffenpoofs, Shades, Whim ‘n Rhythm, and Alley Cats) who provide a little bit of the alma mater to Tokyo, and tears to a few eyes. Other recent YCJ musical events include a concert by a flautist Kei Hirayama, a recital by cellist Erika Teraoka, and a recital by pianist Mai Miyaki. The HCJ, recently leaning toward visual artists, has enjoyed an exhibi­tion by noted Kyoto-based American artist Daniel Kel­ly, and a viewing of Chinese art at Shinsei Bank.

Volunteers

These clubs are run entirely by volunteers. Thierry Porte, President of the HCJ, points out “There is no Clubhouse. There is no paid staff. Please consider vol­unteering your time to help at an event, to interview a candidate for admissions, or to assist us with administrative matters. We look forward to seeing you.”

The Weekender has heard rumor that other clubs related to illustrious institutions exist in Tokyo, including affiliates of Oxford and Cambridge Universities, The University of California at Los Angeles, Columbia University, Cornell University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.