EVENT REPORT: Brainstorming for SWET’s 40th Anniversary

On the evening of Wednesday, June 19, six SWET members gathered in Jinbōchō, Tokyo, for a brainstorming session about plans for celebrating SWET’s upcoming 40th anniversary. To start off with, we discussed the proposed date: SWET’s inaugural meeting was held on November 15, 1980, and in 2020, the 15th falls on Sunday. We agreed that mid-November 2020 sounded optimal, before the year-end rush begins and after the rush of other events that usually take place in September and October. We suggest November 14–15, 2020, for the 40th-anniversary celebrations.

Coming up with a theme for the event, given the heterogeneity of SWET, was no mean task, but the brainstorming among George Bourdaniotis, Lawrie Hunter, Julie Kuma, Lynne Riggs, Avery Udagawa, and Lisa Wilcut led us gradually to the word “converge.” Indeed, SWET is the convergence of diverse people with common professional experiences, concerns, and needs.

What have we been doing these 40 years? The History of SWET on our website gives the highlights. The essence may be summed up as “coming together, working together, and benefiting from our society.” And what are we going to do with that experience from now on? It’s a spontaneous, ongoing process. Our suggestion for the 2020 anniversary theme is:

    Convergence, Collaboration, and Community: Building on Four Decades

Who should we invite to our celebrations? Besides our members, hopefully we could inspire many former members to consider attending the event as a form of reunion, and collaborators and clients to join us to learn more about what “SWET folk” are about.

As one of the attractions, a “luminary” speaker would be good, suggested founding member Ruth Stevens in an email from New York. Given SWET’s complex interests, probably a panel of engaging speakers would stoke the most interest. The names we came up with include people who have been connected to SWET in various ways, but all are extremely busy people. To get even three or four of them in Tokyo at the same time could be a feat, but would no doubt result in a stimulating and memorable event.

The rough plan we came up with starts with a Saturday featuring invited speakers talking/discussing in the morning, a buffet, lunch for hobnobbing at noon, and separate sessions on an array of topics organized for the afternoon in which people of various generations would gather to network and share stories. A gala party would be held in the evening. We did not get into much detail for the plan for Sunday, except that it be centered on networking/visiting and enjoying some aspect of Tokyo (a landscape garden, boat cruise, backstreet tour, were some of the ideas mentioned so far).

Commemorative projects need not be limited to the dates of the anniversary celebration. The one idea suggested so far is to have a new design of T-shirts or tote bags. The consensus at the meeting was that tote bags were very popular and not as difficult to handle as the size-sensitive T-shirts (we are still trying to sell off current stock from the previous project).

An idea we did not actually discuss at the meeting is to organize an exhibit of books and other publications, artifacts of the work of SWET (and other) writers, editors, and translators over the past 40 decades and now, etc. This would give younger people a chance to see the achievements of years past, many nearly forgotten beneath the tidal wave of digital technology and communications, that might offer inspiration and support for current and future projects. It would offer a nostalgic backdrop to the reunion of people whose careers began with many of those projects and occasion for them to talk about what they experienced.

Where? International House of Japan naturally comes to mind, as it has lecture halls and meeting rooms, catering facilities, the Library, as well as lodging facilities (if people came from overseas). Use of its facilities, however, give priority to I-House members. With the introduction of an I-House member, facilities can be booked one year ahead. The Lecture Hall (capacity 120; member-discount full-day price ¥152,604) would probably be just about right. So we have some time to consider our options. A university would also be a good venue, although it is difficult to gain access to facilities without a key member involved in the planning process being on the university faculty.

There seemed to be some traction among the six of us who met for the idea of making the anniversary not only a social event, but a chance to gain some perspective on the history of our professions in Japan, what has been accomplished (or not), and where we are headed—to do something a bit ambitious.

Whatever we do, much help and cooperation will be needed, so we hope many others will join us in taking advantage of this prime opportunity.