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Illust by Junko Suzuki
Prop Station, a Nonprofit Social Welfare
Organization Supporting the Challenged.

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The Completion Ceremony for the Kobe Sweets Consortium in Tokyo

December 22, 2009

Nami delivering her opening remarks

On Monday November 30th, via an invitation, Her Imperial Highness Hisako Takamado graced us with her presence at the completion ceremony for our Kobe Sweets Consortium in Tokyo. Held at the Westin Tokyo Hotel, graduates who have been learning techniques and recipes from first-class pastry chefs even received a video message of encouragement from Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

Hosted by Prop Station and Nisshin Seifun Group Inc., and with support from sponsoring companies and top class pastry chefs, the Kobe Sweets Consortium (KSC) has been offering training programs to individuals with mental retardation and psychiatric disabilities since June of 2008. Our mission statement for this project is: "Giving a Chance to the Challenged to Play an Active Role in the Sweets World".

Remarks from Mr. Sasaki,
the president of Nisshin Seihun Group Inc

Master Junji Yagi, the technical director of Morozoff Ltd., (also the first foreign national who was authorized Confectionery Master by the Austrian Government), Master Noriyuki Nagai of the French pastry shop "Noliette", Master Takaaki Nishikawa of Kobe's "Boulamgerie Comme Chinois", and Master Takahiko Nozawa of the Viennesse sweets shop "Konditorei Neues" have been teaching the students how to create various pastries and bread for six months including Madeleine, Chocolate Mousse, Mousse with Raspberry and Yogurt, Nusbeugel, Kase Gebackene, Potato Bread, Galette with Bacon and Cheese, bûche de Noël, and Speculos. The completion ceremony was also used as an opportunity for the students to display their accomplishments using the skills that they have acquired during the program.

At 6:00PM, eager graduates arrived to set up tables on which they would be exhibiting their proud creations, each one personalized with his-or-her own stylistic touch for the judging that would soon begin.

Soon after Her Imperial Highness Hisako Takamodo arrived we were ready to get underway. At 7:00 as the main host, I delivered the opening remarks to get us started. The manager of Nisshin Seifun Group Inc. Mr. Toshiya Tago emceed for the ceremony and remarks from the hosts and guests are introduced in the following video clips.

Next, Mr. Akihisa Sasaki, the president of Nisshin Seifun Group Inc. gave an address for the ceremony.

Her Imperial Highness Hisako Takamado
giving her words

We received kind words from Her Imperial Highness Hisako Takamado. I sincerely appreciate her consideration on this occasion.

It was when I received the "Women's Courage Award, Japan" at the Embassy of the United States that I first had the pleasure of meeting Princess Takamado. Soon after, we shared this pleasure again when we crossed paths at the Spring Garden Party hosted by Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress.

I gave her an invitation letter for the completion ceremony of the KSC in Tokyo when she joined a special event at the Kobe Fashion Museum in October. She told me whole heartedly then that "We need to create a society where the Challenged can be able to work with great pride". It was my greatest honor and pleasure to invite her to the ceremony.

A video message from
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama

Here is a video message from Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

Ms. Ann Kambara, the director of the Tokyo American Center, the Embassy of the United Stats gave her remarks as a guest.

Ms. Kambara also posted some wonderful photos taken during the venue on YouTube. Please click here to check them out.

Also, the sponsors took the rostrum. First, Mr. Kunio Mizuta, the administrative vice minister of Health, Labour and Welfare presented his message.

Next, we received a message from Mr. Michio Ide, the administrative vice minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

An Address to the ceremony from Ms. Kambara,
the director of the Tokyo American Center

Mr. Shingo Ashida, the manager of Disabled Persons Programs Division, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government made his speech.

Mr. Tatsuo Yada, the mayor of Kobe City delivered his remarks.

A message of congratulations from the Hyogo Governor, Toshizo Ido was read to the graduates by Mr. Tetsuo Mori, the executive director of the Tokyo Office, Hyogo Prefectural Government.

From the left:
Mr Mizuta,the administrative vice minister of Health, Labour and Welfare
Mr. Ide, the administrative vice minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Mr. Ashida from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government
Mr. Yada, the mayor of Kobe City

After guests and supporters finished their remarks, all instructors gathered on the rostrum and on behalf of the instructors, Master Yagi handed each graduate a course completion certificate. With aprons bearing the "KSC" logo, each graduate confidently accepted their certificates for completing the six-month program after which the instructors made their final addresses.

A commemorative photo with HIH Takamado, the graduates, instructors, and hosts.

At last, the taste-testing began. Princess Takamado and other guests walked toward each table and sampled the sweets that the graduates wholeheartedly prepared for the ceremony. She smilingly spoke to all of the graduates, gave them her feedback, and asked them questions. They looked pretty nervous as Princess Takamado was talking to them but it was very impressive to see the students beaming with smiles and responding to her.

A scene from the meeting for announcing the results

I overheard guests saying, "This is really delicious!" and "That's fabulous!" The success of the KSC in Tokyo this year really pleased me. Also, I was proud of and pay my respects to the graduates for their great accomplishments.

Ms. Yuka Kikuchi, awarded the Grand Prix

When the taste-testing session finalized and each student's product was evaluated, the best work for this year was determined. The Grand Prix was awarded to Ms. Yuka Kikuchi who works at a bakery shop for people with disabilities in Kanagawa. Ms. Ann Kambara and Mr. Michio Ide gave her a plaque and testimonial.

After the results were announced it was time to socialize! The guests, graduates, supporters, and folks from sponsoring companies enjoyed conversation over dinner that was served by the Westin Tokyo Hotel.

A scene from the social gathering

During the socializing I received many warm congratulations from the guests. Mr. Haruhisa Yamanegi, the director of the Center for Non-Regular Workers, RENGO read a message from Nobuaki Koga, the president of RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation). One of the supporters of Prop Station and my friend, Mr. Shuhei Kishimoto, a member of the House of Representatives gave a pep talk to me and the graduates as well. Mr. Munenori Kawamata, the chairperson of Japan Selp Center congratulated me on the success of the program and also informed me of a new plan to sell products made by the Challenged who work at sweets or bakery shops over the internet.

On behalf of the sponsoring companies of the KSC, Mr. Juntaro Kawaguchi (the president of Nitto Shokai Co., Ltd.), Mr. Chikara Hirase (the president of Hirase Foods), and Mr. Tamio Kurahashi (the vice president of Mitsui Sugar Co., Ltd.) closed the ceremony with remarks of encouragement.

Mr. Hiroya Masuda, the former Minister of Public Management was amazed at the palatability of the sweets. Having visited the program sessions and watched over the students very often, his wife, Maki told me that she got a vicarious thrill seeing their accomplishments.

From the left:
Mr. Yamanegi, the director of the Center for Non-Regular Workers, RENGO
Mr. Kishimoto, a member of the House of Representatives
Mr. Kawamata, the chairperson of Japan Selp Center
Mr. Kawaguchi, the president of Nitto Shokai Co., Ltd

From the left:
Mr. Hirase, the president of Hirase Foods
Mr. Kurahashi, the vice president of Mitsui Sugar Co., Ltd
Mr. Masuda, the former Minister of Public Management
Master Kondo

Future plans for the KSC were also introduced at the gathering and Prop Station will attempt to create a new learning opportunity for the Challenged throughout Japan in order for them to acquire confectionery making skills in the Challenged Program through the use of ICT. Furthermore, Master Fuyuko Kondo was introduced as a new instructor for the Challenged Program next year. She is a pioneer for female pastry chefs in Japan and owns the French pastry shop "La Chouette".

With folks from the sponsoring companies

"Making truly delicious marketable products" is the concept that we focus on in the KSC. We don't want people to buy the products out of sympathy "because they are made by people with disabilities". Our sponsoring companies provide only the best ingredients and allow us to use these free of cost. Representatives from these companies also joined the ceremony and celebrated the students' achievements.

The Challenged Program Vol. 2 for the Kobe Sweets Consortium in Tokyo has now come to a close. I am deeply grateful to all who provided their tremendous support for the program and give special thanks to Master Yagi, Master Nagai, Master Nishikawa and Master Nozawa. These professional chefs took time out of their busy schedules and voluntarily served in the program as its instructors. It is because of their great contributions that the Kobe Sweets Consortium in Tokyo was such a huge success.

I sincerely appreciate all of those in Nisshin Seifun Group Inc. including the honorary president Mr. Osamu Shioda and president Mr. Akira Sasaki. Nisshin Seifun Group Inc. has offered a tremendous amount of support for the KSC since it was established last year. We will continue our great efforts in promoting the program. Thank you to everyone for your continued support for the further advancement of the Kobe Sweets Consortium.

<by Nami>

The photos taken after the ceremony

The KSC instructors (from the left: Master Yagi, Master Nozawa,
Master Nagai, Master Nishikawa, and Master Kondo)

Ms. Kozue Okawara (left) Ms. Masayo Ito (right)           Ms. Yuka Kikuchi

Mr. Yukio Kojima

Mr. Ken Saito (left) Mr.Eiichi Morita (right)

Mr.Yuji Hosoya  Last year‘s graduates Mr. Ryo Nakatsukasa(left) Mr. Tomohito Utsumi (right)

Ms. Mizuki Yoshiyama

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