BioKyowa president thanks Cape at retirement reception

Monday, February 28, 2005

Editor's note: The following is excerpted from a speech delivered by BioKyowa president Kohta Fujiwara at a retirement reception in his honor Friday at the Cape Girardeau Country Club. Fujiwara will remain an adviser to the new BioKyowa president for the next year before returning to Japan.

I came on board BioKyowa in June of 1998, and I still remember as if it was only yesterday when I made an exciting announcement at the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce about the expansion of feed-grade amino acids and food-grade nucleotide seasonings. Now, when the time has come to leave, the Southeast Missourian newspaper wrote two weeks ago: "As president of BioKyowa, Kohta Fujiwara saw highs and lows -- from the exhilaration of a $100 million expansion to the sharp downturn of product prices that forced him to lay off 40 workers."

The bitter part of my seven years' experience with BioKyowa is well-condensed in this short sentence. However, the more important story remains in the latter part of my experience with BioKyowa. That is the story that BioKyowa weathered the storm and did come back as a newborn company in 2003. We have shifted major production of multiple kinds of industrial grade amino acids over from Japan to BioKyowa. These high-quality, industrial-grade amino acids have wide usages in pharmaceutical and health food applications, and these products are in line with the mainstream business of our parent company, Kyowa Hakko. As a result, BioKyowa is now the core biochemical plant among the worldwide Kyowa Hakko group.

Upon leaving my position as president, I am glad to conclude that I did demonstrate the commitment to re-establish BioKyowa under new vision and planning. Now I will pass the task to further develop a new progressive plan to my successor, Mr. Terumi Okada, and I will remain with BioKyowa over the year as an adviser to management.

I would like to take a moment and share with you my personal view on America as it has had a direct bearing on my activity in Cape Girardeau. First, I need to give you a quick background about my experience outside Japan.

I was a high school exchange student and lived in Minnesota for one year in 1962. Then, during my 37 years of service to Kyowa Hakko, I worked in New York and Los Angeles for a total of eight years. I worked in Germany and Switzerland for eight years. And I worked in Cape Girardeau for nearly seven years.

This means that I have lived outside Japan for a total of 24 years and in America for 16 years. And yet I feel like I am just starting to understand what America really is.

My first experience of living in America as an innocent high school kid was nothing but a dream come true. I thought of America in terms of American TV home comedies, and everything that I saw, that I ate, and what I did -- including dating an American high school girl -- was so exciting. I have extremely rosy memories of my high school life in America.

My second experience living in America, which was in the big cities of New York and Los Angeles, was as a young salesman, meeting with customers most of the time. I was well-accepted and was successful because of my American-like conduct and behavior that I learned from my American high school experience. So I also have fond and nice memories of those times.

Now, after coming back to live in this country for the third time, and living in Cape Girardeau, and befriending a much broader variety of people at BioKyowa and in the community, involving many businesses and private issues, I started to feel something different about this country. I realized that to have nice memories of the past in America does not mean that I have a correct view of America. The America I had cherished in my younger days is no longer here. It is not because America has changed, but because I have changed. I have grown to more maturity.

Instead, I am beginning to see the new light at the end of the American tunnel. And what lies ahead at the end of the tunnel is the strength of America and the strength of the American people.

I am beginning to see what it takes to be a real American and what makes America a great nation. My wife says, "We cannot be Americans from now, but if we were to be born again, let's wish we would be born as Americans."

I thank America for what my wife and I are here today. And most of all, I thank Cape Girardeau.

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