Brain Corporation, of which Mr. Maeda is the president, has offices in Gaienmae in Aoyama. This makes him a neighbor of OVE’s as well as friends with the four store associations (Aoyama Store Federation) based in Aoyama Dori. In particular, Mr. Maeda puts his links to embassies, etc. to good use in keeping with connections typical of the language publications business as well as being involved with diverse initiatives with the aim of holding events to uplift the district of Aoyama such as the Aoyama Festival or the Bicycle Exhibition.
“The community of Aoyama in particular plays host to many foreigners and I would like to have more interaction with people from many different countries, including the locals. I would also like to be able to discuss the community problems that need to be solved through mutual understanding of cultural differences and discovering a deep learning, joy and values from this.”
“Take signposts, for example. They may be easy for locals or Japanese people in general to follow but it is possible that they present difficulties for foreign visitors. Taking this into account, even in Aoyama, a community which is comparatively progressive when it comes to interaction with foreigners, there must still be many things we can improve on.”
Livening up the community while creating connections with people from other countries. And further, communicating information about the community of Aoyama to other countries. Mr. Maeda’s intentions can be thought to be somehow aiming for both goals. We asked him about the origin of his thoughts on the importance of creating a community while holding a global viewpoint.
For Mr. Maeda, who was a boy scout when he was at elementary school, contributing to the local community was very natural. In addition, his father worked for a language publishing company so he had everyday contact with people from many other countries through this. However much he was conscious of this fact when he was a child, both his local community and the world overseas were familiar to him and before he knew it, there were no barriers between these two worlds and it seems that he had a natural connection with them as a person.
“The starting point for both local and global is, in the end, yourself. For example, interaction between countries stems somehow from connections between communities and it is obvious but the root of all that is person-to-person interaction.”
“And we tend to think that interaction means knowing about the person you are talking to but I think it also means knowing about yourself. The reason for this is that one-directional knowledge of the person you are talking to cannot be said to be interaction; you first have to know yourself before the other person can get to know you. You also have to know about the place you live. As well as the country you were born in, of course. When you think in this vein, you realize the things that make you who you are from family, friends, school and work, broadening out to your town, community and country; these are all elements of the person that you present to the world. I came to think that until you are able to express all of this, you are not able to introduce yourself to the world.”
Mr. Maeda is involved with diverse initiatives in order to revive Aoyama but it may be perfectly understandable when you think about the fact that he lives in the area, it is where his children go to school, where his company is located and the feeling of wanting to improve the places closest to him and if there is a problem, wanting to solve it through discussions with the locals and nearby embassies, etc.
The Aoyama Festival is held in October. Mr. Maeda, just like OVE, is involved as a member of the community. In the past he has even entered floats such as the giant Aomori standing float and a float by the fashion designer, Junko Koshino.
“The trigger for this story was the entering of a Japanese standing float into the samba carnival in Brazil. I helped with cultural interaction between Japan and other countries but it was Junko Koshino who contributed as a bridge between the two countries at that time. The appearance of the float in Brazil was a great success and as a thank you, the people of Goshogawara City sent a float to the Aoyama Festival as Aoyama was where Junko Koshino lived. The interaction between the people involved continues to this day and now every year we have the Junko Float to commemorate the Goshogawara City Float.”
“When you look at it like this, both other countries and the local community are composed, in the end, of units of connections between people and I believe that this is really important. What I want to do is grasp the big elements of the connections between people rather than just introductions to different cultures and provide support so that all of the above are connected.”
Speaking of connections, Mr. Maeda has a connection with OVE through bikes. We are working with him so that the bike lifestyle takes root in the community of Aoyama.
“In Germany and Holland, countries I visited when I was at junior high school, bicycles were a part of the community lifestyle. You can experience the smells of your town and feel the wind on a bike, not to mention that it is environmentally friendly. In Aoyama I don’t just want to make a big deal out of bikes at events; I think it would be really wonderful if they became a more permanent presence in our everyday lives.”
When you look around you, there are boundless connections spread out before you if you just take one step out of your everyday life. The people and objects that are most important to you at the moment may be what connects us to society, the world and on to our future. And along the way, if there was an encounter between Mr. Maeda and OVE, that would be something really special.
President of Brain Corporation. With the mission of Global Communication Support, Mr. Maeda is involved in the local revitalization of Aoyama in a number of different ways.