While taking a tour of Wells Technology near Bemidji, Katsutoshi Watanabe recognized something: one of the cutting tools being used was designed by Watanabe's place of employment, OSG Corporation.
Watanabe is one of five Japanese Rotarians who are in the middle of a weeklong trip to Bemidji. The five are part of the Rotary International's Group Study Exchange program, which facilitates international exchange opportunities for business professionals. Participants experience the host country's culture, observe how their professions are practiced abroad, develop personal and professional relationships and exchange ideas.
The five Japanese Rotarians made a presentation Monday to the Rotary Club of Bemidji during its weekly meeting.
The Japanese Rotarians are members of Rotary District 2760 out of Aichi, Japan, which has a population of 46.9 million. They are making a five-week visit to different areas of District 5580, which covers the northern half of Minnesota, all of North Dakota, the northwest corner of Wisconsin and the western half of Ontario, Canada.
The Japanese GSE participants are:
- Noriko Nakata (who has been going by the name Non-No), principal and general director of the Joshin School of Foreign Language, a school that teaches, among other languages, English. Nakata, who is married with a daughter and a son, is the team leader for the GSE group.
- Natsuyo Kajiura (Summer), a supervisor/teacher with Aviva Co. Ltd., a company that teaches computer skills to children and adults. She lives with her mother, plays golf and likes to have dinner parties with friends.
- Katsutoshi Watanabe (Ben), design center engineering and development with OSG Corporation, which manufactures and sells cutting tools, rolling dies, gauges, machine tools and machine parts. He is married and plays badminton
- Takashi Nomura, an engineer with Nagoya Tokushuko Co. Ltd., which designs and fabricates dies and die parts. He is married, enjoys bass fishing and golf. He also lived in Kentucky for three years through his work at Nagoya Tokushuko Co.
- Takanori Iwase, quality control manager with Hakusoh Co. Ltd., a company that manufactures baseball and softball bats. He lives with his parents but plans to get married next year. He makes pastries in his free time.
Through their presentation, the five GSE participants introduced themselves and their lives.
Additionally, they offered information on Aichi, Japan, including its seasons, scenery, architecture and tourist destinations. One popular destination is Aichi's hot springs, which attract not only people, but Japanese monkeys.
Nakata noted that kimonos, which are often associated with the Japanese, are not daily attire.
"We wear kimonos only at formal occasions," she said.
Another presenter introduced Aichi's most famous native sons and daughters, including figure skater Mao Asada, the 2010 Winter Olympic silver medalist; and Ichiro Suzuki, a Major League Baseball player who plays with the Seattle Mariners.
Major companies in Aichi include Toyota, Mitsubishi and Shippoh Enamelware.
The GSE participants first arrived in District 5580 a couple of weeks ago in Thunder Bay, Ontario. They then went to Duluth, Minn., before arriving in Bemidji.
They came to Bemidji April 22 and toured the Concordia Language Villages and enjoyed a welcome reception at Lake Bemidji State Park.
In the past four days, participants have toured Wells Technology, Bemidji schools, Christian Hockey Sticks in Roseau, Itasca State Park and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in Bemidji. In coming days, they will visit Walker, Brainerd, Fosston and Park Rapids. They also will see the Bemidji State University campus.
The Japanese Rotarians' visit follows a similar trip made by Bemidji Rotarians in October and November.
Then, three Bemidji Rotarians - team leader Evonne McKinzie of the Bemidji Rotary Club, Rosie Berg of the Bemidji Sunrise Rotary and Rebecca Hoffman of the Bemidji Rotary Club - spent five weeks in Nagoya, Japan, a city with a population totaling more than two million.