Cultural understanding is a vital aspect of any business venture—especially ventures of the cross-cultural, international variety. Formal mayoral candidate and Azumano Travel CEO Sho Dozono knows this maxim well. Dozono will speak tonight at Portland State as part of an ongoing lecture series called “Oregon Success Stories in Doing Business with Japan.”
Cultural understanding is a vital aspect of any business venture—especially ventures of the cross-cultural, international variety.
Formal mayoral candidate and Azumano Travel CEO Sho Dozono knows this maxim well. Dozono will speak tonight at Portland State as part of an ongoing lecture series called “Oregon Success Stories in Doing Business with Japan.”
Dozono, who received the second-highest number of votes to eventual victor Sam Adams in the ’08 Portland mayoral election, also produced the Japanese television program Oregon Kara Ai (From Oregon With Love), which will be the primary focus of his talk.
Ken Ruoff, director of the Center for Japanese Studies, organizes all of the public programming for the center, and discussed Dozono’s role and the show’s impact both abroad and here in Oregon.
“Sho, back in the ’80s, was one of the people back on the ground here in Oregon [who] worked with Fuji Television to facilitate this program about a Japanese family that lived in Oregon,” Ruoff said. “[The show] became fabulously popular in Japan. As a result of the television series, Oregon developed a certain image—[it] glorified the image of Oregon.
“As a result, [there was] an influx of Japanese tourists in Oregon. So, in that sense, it’s another one of many…success stories of Oregon businesses doing business with Japan,” Ruoff said.
Dozono believes that the television show created a different image of American travel for Japanese viewers.
“Oregon Kara Ai was a very special TV program that Azumano Travel brought to Oregon in order to promote Oregon as a travel destination for the growing Japanese tourist business,” Dozono said. “United Airlines had just started their once-a-week direct service between Portland and Tokyo in 1983. It was an opportunity to promote Oregon in Japan and it was a strategy that Azumano came up with for that purpose. Back in 1984, very few people in Japan had ever heard of Oregon.”
The show helped to illuminate aspects of America, guiding tourists down avenues not considered typical travel destinations. According to Dozono, the initial goals of Azumano Travel were to attract more tourists from Japan to Oregon. Dozono was serving on the state’s tourism commission and became increasingly frustrated that potential tourists knew nothing of Oregon.
The From Oregon With Love story
Featuring Sho Dozono
As part of its “Oregon Success Stories in Doing Business with Japan” lecture series
Thursday, Jan. 17, 7 p.m.
Multicultural Resource Center
Smith Memorial Student Union, room 228
Free and open to the public
Clients would assume that north of California lay Canada—nothing else. Since 1984, Azumano Travel has brought more than 30,000 young people over from Japan to study language and American culture in Oregon. Since then, the agency has expanded its offices to Seattle, and has had successes in attracting tourists there, as well.
“America was California, Disneyland, New York and not much else,” Dozono said. “We wanted to showcase Oregon as this brand-new destination, and what better way than having a major TV network come to Oregon to produce a TV program—similar to the once-popular Little House on the Prairie.
“[From Oregon With Love] was produced by Japan’s number-one TV station, Fuji TV. The story [was] about a young boy coming to…live with his aunt and uncle on a ranch in central Oregon, and the challenges of adjusting [to] his new home and new country captured the imagination of a Japanese TV audience,” Dozono said. “It was an instant hit and made Oregon a household name in Japan.”
Ruoff and the rest of the center view success stories like these as important examples of how American business deals with Japan can enhance both countries, both socially and financially.
“The lectures provide a series of case studies of people and companies who have succeeded in doing business with Japan,” Ruoff said. “The United States has close economic ties with Japan. The U.S. is still a place that a lot of foreign jobs depend on.”
According to Ruoff, this series in particular is an opportunity for students who may have an interest in a business career. Hearing from people who have succeeded in doing business with Japan may provide students with insight into future career endeavors.
PSU President Wim Wiewel is also a fan of the series.
“I’m happy to say that the Center for Japanese Studies has been wonderfully active in bringing fascinating speakers to PSU, both from Portland itself, Japan and elsewhere,” Wiewel said in an e-mail. “The speakers all have great insight into the challenges and rewards of doing business with a very different culture. This is very useful for our students, but also very interesting because it shows how people learn and grow, and how individuals can create amazing economic opportunities not just for themselves, but for their city and region.”