Shiga Kenjinkai

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Shiga Kenjin Kai
Newsletter of Shiga Kenjinkai in Tokyo
by Philbert Ono

Shiga Kenjinkai (滋賀県人会) is a group or association of people outside Shiga who have ties to Shiga Prefecture. Kenjinkai literally means "native people of the prefecture." Most Shiga Kenjinkai members are originally from Shiga, but members can also be descendants of people originally from Shiga. Anybody interested in Shiga can also become a member.

Other prefectures in Japan also have their own Kenjinkai, but the Shiga Kenjinkai probably has the largest network with at least one chapter in each of the 47 prefectures as well as in 11 countries overseas: USA (Seattle, Southern California, and Hawaii), Canada (Vancouver, Alberta, and Toronto), Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Hong Kong, Indonesia, France, UK, and Germany.

All the Shiga Kenjinkai chapters in Japan and overseas belong to the National Federation of Shiga Kenjinkai (全国滋賀県人会連合会) called Zenkoku Shiga Kenjinkai Rengokai or Zenjiren for short. The national federation has its office in Tokyo Shiga Kenjinkai office. Each chapter receives a small annual subsidy from the national federation.

Membership

In Japan, the Shiga Kenjinkai varies widely with regard to membership. The Shiga Kenjinkai in Kyoto and Tokyo is very large with thousands of members. They include prominent business people. Both Tokyo and Kyoto even have their own Shiga Kenjinkai building. Meanwhile, the Shiga Kenjinkai in Niigata has only 6 members (as of fall 2007).

In Japan, many Shiga Kenjinkai have Omi Shonin merchant roots. During the feudal era, eastern Shiga had many merchants called Omi shonin who traveled up and down Japan. They sold fabrics, lacquerware, medicines, etc., and established branch outlets all over Japan. (A few of them became major department stores, wholesalers, and trading companies.) Thus, many natives of Shiga moved away and settled all over Japan to sell their wares.

In the US, Canada, and South America, most Shiga Kenjinkai members are immigrants from Shiga or their descendants. In Europe, where few Japanese immigrated, most Shiga Kenjinkai members are from Shiga but are transient or on temporary overseas assignment and not immigrants.

Most Shiga Kenjinkai chapters have an aging membership. It is not uncommon for the average age members to be in the 70s. Recruiting more and younger members is a major issue among many chapters. Having the children of native Shiga members join the Kenjinkai is one solution. However, most of these children were born and raised outside Shiga and might not be as interested in Shiga as their parents. This also applies to overseas Shiga Kenjinkai

Activities

Speaking in English, Shiga Governor Kada Yukiko teaches how to dance the Goshu Ondo at the Shiga Kenjinkai International Convention in Nov. 2008. (Video is crooked because I was taking still photos at the same time.) See photos here.
Each Shiga Kenjinkai conduct their own social activities. They may also publish a newsletter or maintain a Web site. The Shiga Kenjinkai in Tokyo holds a large dinner banquet at a first-class hotel twice a year, for New Year's and a summer party. Shiga politicians also attend these events. It also publishes a newsletter. The annual membership fee is low (around 3000 yen), but dinner banquets cost 10,000 yen which is too much for younger members (college students).

Overseas Shiga Kenjinkai usually have picnics and Japanese cultural activities. But there are still doubts about whether their activities are attractive enough to recruit new and younger members.

The Kenjinkai are quite important because they can help promote Shiga in Japan and overseas. Unfortunately, most of them still do not have a Web site.

Every few years, the National Federation of Shiga Kenjinkai holds an international convention where members of all the Shiga Kenjinkai in Japan and overseas can attend and meet each other. The venue changes each time and it has been held in places such as Hawaii, Los Angeles, and South America.

The most recent international convention was held during Nov. 12-14, 2007 in Otsu, Shiga. It was the 11th Shiga Kenjinkai International Convention 滋賀県人会世界大会 held at Otsu Prince Hotel. It was held in Shiga for the first time in 16 years.

About 350 people attended, and about 160 came from overseas. Over 100 came from Canada. There are quite a few Shiga Kenjin in Canada. Some of them were bilingual, and others were not. A few came to Japan for the first time. They thought Japan was a really beautiful country. Most of them still had relatives in Japan or Shiga.

The convention had speakers, symposiums, and presentations from overseas Shiga Kenjinkai. Governor Kada Yukiko and other politicians gave speeches. Governor Kada spoke in both Japanese and English. She even taught the Goshu Ondo dance in English. The convention cost 20,000 yen (excluding lodging). Photos here.

Shiga Kenjinkai Web Sites

Shiga Kenjin Kai
Shiga Kenjinkai banners
The Shiga Kenjinkai are very friendly. They are always looking for new members. Contact the Kenjinkai nearest you.

Here's a list of overseas Kenjinkai. Unfortunately, most of them do not have a Web site.

Here are some Shiga Kenjinkai Web sites (all in Japanese):

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