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Campus Now

Autumn Issue (Nov.)

Messages to Their Second Century

I want to travel to the other side of the ocean.
A life spurred on by curiosity.

Mr. Naoyuki Toyotoshi
Republic of Paraguay Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Japan

Despite being a first generation Paraguayan citizen who was born and raised in Japan, Naoyuki Toyotoshi currently serves as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary for the Republic of Paraguay. This rare achievement was made possible due to the trust which Mr. Toyotoshi has won in Paraguay.
During our discussion with Mr. Toyotoshi, we talked about the many twist and turns of his life, and he also sent a message to our university.

Searching for connections in order to realize a move to South America

——Would you please discuss the memories that you have of being a student at Waseda?

I have nothing but fun and positive memories. I played mahjong and go and went on trips with my classmates. Reflecting back, an important event that happened at that time was my encounter with the book entitled "Systematic World Geography: Central & South America Edition" (Heibonsha Limited Publishers) at the Kinokuniya Book Store in Shinjuku. At that time, WWII had just ended and Japan was very poor. I felt a strong sense of admiration for the plentiful Central and South American countries which were listed in the book along with photographs.

——Please discuss the event which led to your move to South America.

Although I really wanted to go to Central or South America, it was very difficult to move abroad at the time. I entered the Waseda University Council for Overseas Immigration in order to examine past examples. However, I found only two options. The first method was to participate in a group immigration plan, and the second method was to receive an invitation from a person of Japanese descent living overseas. The idea of participating in a group immigration plan in order to engage in agriculture overseas was unfathomable to me since I had been born in Tokyo and had no farming experience. Therefore, I was left with only one option. I went to an annual meeting for persons of Japanese descent living overseas and searched for someone who would invite me to Central or South America.

Mr. Toyotoshi's passport from when he traveled to Argentina. His profession is listed as "Engineer".

Unfortunately, my request for an invitation was refused by a member of an overseas corporation whom I met at that gathering. However, I still did not abandon hope. Afterwards, while working at Osaka Shosen Company, I periodically kept in contact with the individual from that overseas corporation. Twos year after I had graduate from university and entered the workforce, I had an opportunity to meet with the president of the overseas corporation which was the employer of that individual. I finally received approval for an invitation.

However, the president of the company stated that it was difficult to invite someone without any technical skills. Therefore, by order of the president, I spent 3 months training at the Japanese company Narumi Corporation. As a result, when I traveled overseas, my profession was classified as "engineer" in my passport. In this way, I traveled to Argentina as an engineer.

A daring plan and steady steps to achieve that plan

——What kind of work did you do after moving abroad?

For approximately 9 years, I conducted door-to-door sales of toys, porcelain and china in Argentina. However, one day I saw a hydroplane bound for Paraguay and I felt I sudden desire to visit the country and see what it was like. Once I get such a feeling, I can't contain my desire for action. I left my bag full of products on that very spot and boarded the next plane destined for Paraguay. I found a wonderful country full of friendly people and the beautiful sound of the Paraguayan harp. I developed an overwhelming affection for Paraguay and felt a desire to work in the country. I was able to convince my company regarding my plan, and I began the import and sales of Honda motorcycles in Paraguay.

During the course of my work, I made many friends in Paraguay. I eventually made the decision to immigrate to Paraguay, and I established an import sales business of Honda vehicles with my friends in the country. Business at our company really took off after we began the import sales of Toyota vehicles

——You possess such ability to take action!

Curiosity is the origin of my action. When I realize that a new world is waiting across the sea, I want to do whatever is necessary to go and see that land. I remain fundamentally the same even after establishing a company in Paraguay. For example, my second son entered a university in America and I went to visit him. I that time, I developed affection for a town which I happened to visit in Canada. I established a group company in that town so that I would be able to visit often.

——What is the secret for succeeding in company management?

Trust is very important. When I lived in Argentina, I tried cooperating with a trading company in order to conduct export sales to Japan of locally-caught sea bream. In order to secure enough stock in time for New Year's in Japan, it was necessary fish on the rough August seas of Argentina. I pleaded with local fishermen and was able to gather enough fish for exporting. Unfortunately, I was told that the color of the fish was unacceptable and payment was not made to the trading company. In such an instance, there are some people Argentina who would not have paid the fisherman or refrigeration companies. However, I used my entire savings in order to make such payments. Although it was a major blow to me financially, my efforts to make payment gained me the trust of local individuals. In that respect, this mistake led to my future success.

Another example is related to the sale of cars. Payments are made in monthly installments, and there were many times when customers did not pay by the specified due date. Even if I didn't receive payment from customers, I had bank loans which required payment on a specified date every month. I frantically gathered as much money as possible and always made return payments on my loans on the specified dates. As a result, the bank agreed to issue further loans which served as the basis for the growth of my company. It is important to have big dreams when planning a business. However, when it comes time to execute that plan, you must act steadily and gain the trust of those around you.

Further growth as a place for international exchange

Mr. Toyotoshi in front of the Colegio Japones Paraguayo which he operates

——Why were you appointed as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary?

I received the appointment because I had gained unshakeable trust from the President of Paraguay. When I was first offered the position of Ambassador, I refused because I had no experience in diplomacy and I wanted to continue a lifestyle which allowed me to play golf as much as I wanted. However, the President visited me again with a map of Japan in his hand. He showed me the map and emphasized how many golf courses existed in Japan! In the end, I was persuaded by President's enthusiasm and I accepted the position. I now serve as a bridge that connects Paraguay and Japan.

——What kind of expectations do you have for Waseda University in the future?

I would like the university to achieve further growth as a place for international exchange. Personally, in order to cultivate professionals who will lead various fields in Paraguay, I operate the Colegio Japones Paraguayo, a local school offering continuous education from elementary school to high school. I hope that graduate from my school will study at overseas universities such as Waseda University. At the same time, I hope that Japanese university students will have encounters with foreign students at university and will develop in interest in foreign countries. Of course, it is important to take action and actually visit countries of interest. Even with such dramatic advances in communications and media, there are many things which can only be understood by visiting a country.

In particular, countries in Central and South America possess rich natural resources, are experiencing dramatic economic growth and are full of potential. In the future, such countries will increase their presence in the global economy and will become more important as business partners to Japan. In this respect, it is now extremely important to focus on Central and South American countries. I hope that Japanese university students will visit Central and South America, particularly Paraguay.

Mr. Naoyuki Toyotoshi
Republic of Paraguay Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Japan

Born in 1936. Graduated from the Waseda University School of Political Science and Economics, Department of Economics. Entered employment at Osaka Shosen in 1958. Moved to Argentina in 1960 and entered S. Tsuji SA Company. Immigrated to Paraguay in 1969 and established Toyotoshi SA (automotive import sales company). Continued to develop multifaceted business in the Republic of Paraguay, including river transportation, livestock raising, mobile phone operations and manufacturing of leather seats for automobiles. Also established automotive import sales companies in France and Canada, founding the Toyotoshi Group. Appointed to Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary in 2009.