Convention in Japan Rounds into Form Year after year, the international convention is Lions writ large—crowds of Lions, a spectacular parade, gala shows and, woven into events and meetings, exuberant expressions of Lions’ spirit and service. This year promises to be more of the same—and then some. Nearly 31,000 Lions, Leos and guests are already registered for the 99th International Convention June 24-28 in Fukuoka, Japan. That figure dates from early March. Registrations are running far ahead of registrations from the same date for the conventions in Honolulu in 2015 (15,123), Toronto in 2014 (14,061) and Hamburg in 2013 (19,087). A great part of the appeal of convention is the energy, fellowship and sharing of ideas that accompany a gathering of Lions. Expect Fukuoka to be a memorable experience for Lions, who will enjoy time-old traditions such as the parade and experience entirely contemporary Lions’ events such as the continuing celebration of the impending centennial of Lions Clubs in 2017. The Parade of Nations promises to be particularly celebratory. Assembled by U.S. state or nation and in many instances accompanied by a marching band, upbeat Lions stroll in formation while singing, chanting and amiably chatting with spectators, Lions and non-Lions like. The diversity of Lions Clubs is on full display. This year, not always the case, the parade will occur on the city’s main street, Meijii Dori. Lions will pass curious office workers and onlookers, cross a river and end in scenic Tenjin Park, the site of a Lions festival. More than 80 stores and food vendors will provide a broad array of dishes. Lions in Fukuoka will feel especially welcome by the Japanese, who take great pride in their sense of hospitality— omotenashi. At department stores attendants in welltailored uniforms sometimes welcome customers at an elevator bank with a bow and polite greeting. Staff at nice restaurants often stand in a line and bow at the end of the meal and escort diners to the sidewalk. The graciousness stems from omoiyari, an acute sensitivity to other people. A charming, relaxed city, Fukuoka promises to be an ideal venue for Lions. Like Lions, it’s traditional yet also encompasses the new and the modern. The city is the home of the oldest Zen temple in Japan, yet it is celebrated for its cutting-edge gourmet food. This city has an abundance of fresh seafood, traditional festivals and the most yatai (street food stalls) in all of Japan. The three plenary sessions will be packed with worldclass entertainers, inspiring speakers and Lions’ business and updates. The entertainment includes the Joy Club, a renowned disabled performing troupe; a stirring drum show; a 1950s singing and dancing show; and a musical celebration of Lions’ centennial. The first plenary will include the farewell address of International President Dr. Jitsuhiro Yamada, a segment on the centennial and end with the traditional flag ceremony and a military flyover. The second plenary includes speeches by candidates for the international board and a segment on LCIF. The final plenary includes the announcement of the election results, the swearing-in and inaugural speech of the new president and the oath of office by 2016-17 district governors. A highlight of the plenary sessions will be the keynote speech of 2014 Nobel Peace prize winner Kailash Satyarthai of India. Satyarthai, 62, is a human rights activist. His group, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (known in English as “Save Childhood Movement”), describes itself as “the largest grass-roots movement against child labor, child trafficking and child servitude.” He shared the Nobel with Pakistan teenager Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by a Taliban gunman. The international show will be held at the spacious Yahuoku! Dome, a baseball stadium that has hosted Michael Jackson, the Rolling Stones and Madonna. The headliner is Shini Tanimura, an acclaimed Japanese singersongwriter. The Kyushu Symphony Orchestra will accompany him. A fast-paced taiko drum show featuring Drum Tao also is part of the lineup. A convention highlight will be the presentation of the 2016 Lions Humanitarian Award to Doctors Without Borders. Born during the protests in Paris in 1968 amid a group of young doctors, the organization has treated more than 100 million people. With offices in 29 nations and employing more than 30,000 people, it operates on the belief that all people have the right to medical care regardless of gender, race, religion, creed or political affiliation and that medical needs outweigh respect for national boundaries. A $250,000 grant from LCIF accompanies the Humanitarian Award. Another convention highlight is the announcement of the Peace Poster and Essay Contest winners. If present, the contest winners are recognized during a plenary session, and a presentation and reception is held later. The humility and joy evident in the young winners are memorable moments. Three service opportunities will be available at the convention. Lions can take part in a graffiti removal project, visit the Fukuoka Children’s Hospital and donate art supplies to the hospital. Leos will find a warm welcome at the convention. Besides marching in the parade and otherwise taking part in regular convention events, Leos can attend skill-building workshops and enjoy numerous networking opportunities. The seminars at the convention focus on LCIF, Lions Quest, Leos, the centennial and other aspects of Lions. The seminars enable Lions to return to their clubs with knowledge and skills to take their club to a new level of service. This year’s tours are especially appealing. Scheduled are a bus tour that includes Japan’s longest and tallest suspension bridge, gorgeous Beppy Bay and a Japanese set lunch; a bus tour of the sweeping Kusasenri Plain and its wild horses, majestic Mt. Nakadake, an animal park and Laputa Road, the “road in the sky”; and a tour of historical Karatsu Castle, the former Takatori Estate and Hikiyama Exhibition Hall and its whimsical giant floats. The tours are a great opportunity to appreciate the culture and history of Fukuoka and Japan. Never ones to be unprepared or outworked, Japanese Lions are diligently preparing for a successful convention. Japan is a place where Lionism is particularly strong. Lions here are among the first to respond to any disaster worldwide; their service projects in Japan are reliably efficient and effective. A convention in Japan will fall into a similar groove: well-run, organized and distinguished by attention to detail and earnest courtesy. Lions can expect five days of unparalleled fun, fellowship and fruitful learning. The Tochoji Temple in Fukuoka dates from 806. The carving of the seated Buddha statue, one of the largest of its kind, began in 1988 and took four years. Digital LION Get a complete list of the convention’s seminars, tours and service opportunities at lionmagazine.org. Lions Clubs founder Melvin Jones urges Lions to attend the convention in Chicago (June 1937 LION). Read his appeal at lionmagazine.org. Watch a cool promotional video on the Fukuoka convention at lionmagazine.org. What’s a convention in Japan really like? Read about the 2002 convention in Osaka (October 2002 LION) and the 1978 convention in Tokyo (July/August 1978 LION).
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