Sunday, June 9, 2013

Chiba Kun Ambassadors For The Third Straight Year

"Foreigners know about Tokyo Disneyland, 
but they don't know about Chiba Prefecture"

Kensaku Morita
Governor, Chiba Prefecture


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The appointment certificate as the Chiba Kun Ambassadors 2013.
  
Chiba Prefecture began the "Ambassadors to Spread Chiba Prefecture's Charm to the World Together with CHI-BA+KUN" (abbreviated as "CHI-BA+KUN Ambassadors") project in 2011. The CHI-BA+KUN Ambassadors are exchange students and other foreign residents living in Chiba Prefecture, who use their blogs, Facebook, and other social media to promote Chiba Prefecture's many attractions in their native languages.

For the third year running, I was selected to be one of the 20 Chiba Kun Ambassadors, which comprise of international students and other foreign students from nine countries - China, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, United Kingdom, U.S.A. and Vietnam. This year, I am extra excited because I finally have a partner from Malaysia - Roslina, an elementary school teacher who is doing her short-term exchange-cum-training program in Chiba University.

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The venue for the appointment ceremony was at Chiba Prefectural Government Office.

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One thing I love about this place is that the surrounding, which is full of greenery.

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A model of Chiba Kun, the official character for Chiba Prefecture.

Chiba Kun which sometimes mistaken as a dog, is a red creature designed by Chiharu Sakazaki (坂崎千春), the same artist who designed the penguin character on JR East Suica card. Chiba Kun made its first appearance on January 11, 2007, which is considered as its birthday. It was the mascot for the 65th National Sports Festival and the 10th National Sports Festival for the Disabled, held in Chiba in 2010. From then on, Chiba Kun's popularity soared greatly and on January 1, 2011 onwards, it was made the mascot character for Chiba prefecture.

It is common for various areas in Japan to have their own mascots. Another famous one would be the black bear - Kumamon from Kumamoto Prefecture. You can check out this website for the full list of the mascots and ranking as well. It is however, quite surprising to see Chiba Kun is ranked at a lowly 46th place.

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The newly elected ambassadors lining up to receive their appointment certificate.

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Received my appointment certificate from the Director of the International Division of Chiba Prefectural Government Office.

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 The arrival of the most eagerly waited VIP - Chiba Kun!

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Chiba Kun was undoubtedly the most popular figure on that day. The girls kept going "kawaiiiiii, kawaiiiii" as the camera was working overtime 
when Chiba Kun came into the hall.

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Each of us were given the chance to have individual photos taken with Chiba Kun.

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Another shot. We were told to take as many shots as we want with Chiba Kun lol!

So, you may wonder, what does a Chiba Kun Ambassadors do? Just like the name suggests, we will be the ambassadors for Chiba Kun, who will proactively explore Chiba both voluntarily and through Prefecture-sponsored tours, which include cultural workshops and visits to famous spots in Chiba. The CHI-BA+KUN Ambassadors use these experiences to promote Chiba Prefecture's attractions (tourist spots, cuisine, daily life, etc.) in their own words through various tools, like personal blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Besides that, from my first two years as Chiba Kun Ambassadors, I was lucky to be selected to appear in local TV variety show - Nekketsu BO-SO TV, and also being interviewed with Chiba TV. In addition to that, I was one of the guest runners representing Chiba Kun Ambassadors at the Chiba Aqua Line Marathon late October last year.

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All 19 Chiba Kun Ambassadors (one was absent) listening attentively to the words from Mr. Kensaku Morita.

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Our group photo with Mr. Kensaku Morita and Chiba Kun!

The next on the agenda was the arrival of Mr. Kensaku Morita, the Governor of Chiba Prefecture. He used to be an actor in the 70s before becoming active in politics. He was there to give a short speech and words of encouragements to the Chiba Kun Ambassadors. He told us that he was on a business trip to Thailand last year and everyone there seems to know very well about Tokyo Disneyland. Unfortunately, they have no idea about Chiba Prefecture, when the real fact that geographically, Tokyo Disneyland is located in Urayasu City in Chiba Prefecture.

When we suggested that the name is changed to Chiba Disneyland, he said that is not a good idea because nobody will visit the theme park anymore lol!

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It was time to bid farewell to Chiba Kun. Bye bye!!!

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With Mr Kenji Saso, the Director of International Exchange and Cooperation of Chiba Prefectural Government,
and Kak Ros Ismail, who together with me, are the Malaysian representatives as Chiba Kun Ambassadors this year.

Chiba Prefecture boasts the fact as the first place where the majority of tourist to Japan will first step their feet down into Japan - Narita International Airport which serves as the gateway to Japan. Besides that, Makuhari Messe, one of the most prominent convention centers in Asia and Kazusa DNA Research Institute, a world leader in cutting edge research also further strengthens Chiba Prefecture's position as an internationalised prefecture.

On the other hand, blessed with many beautiful natural areas surrounded with oceans and rivers that provide an abundance of fresh, delicious food, Chiba Prefecture is one of the leading producers of agricultural, forest and fish products in Japan. Among the well-known examples of local specialties from Chiba Prefecture are peanuts and sweet potatoes. About 78 per cent of the Japan's peanut are produced in this prefecture.

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Each of us were presented with a goodie bag which contains pamphlets, Chiba Kun Ambassadors limited-edition badge, stickers, etc.
 

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The appointment certificate I got as Chiba Kun Ambassadors for three consecutive years.
 
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The three limited-edition badges of Chiba Kun Ambassadors, and another two which I got as a token of appreciation from my involvement during the first two years.
 

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The Chiba Kun Ambassadors Card, in which we get special discounts to certain tourist spots in Chiba Prefecture,
and also the badge I still keep from one of the TV shows last year.

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Apparently, the appointment ceremony was in the newspaper (Chiba Nippo, Yomiuri Shinbun and Nippon Keizai Shinbun),
and also the evening news on Chiba TV as well.

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This one appeared in Tokyo Shinbun newspaper on Sunday (June 8, 2013)

At the end of the appointment ceremony, Mr. Ishizaki who is the main coordinator for this project came to me and gave me this encouraging words, "There is a sense of reassurance having you around once again." As one of the Chiba Kun Ambassadors, I will try my best to shed these shining, brilliant and energetic treasures and the endless potential of Chiba Prefecture not only to people in Malaysia, but also in the whole world.

Since becoming the Chiba Kun Ambassador in the first year in 2011, I have seen that this program has undergone various improvement in terms of organisation and the activities planned for the ambassadors. This year, there will be four tours and two cultural exchange event planned for us until March 2014. What's interesting is that there will be a two-day-one-night tour for the second tour to be held in September this year. The first tour is gonna be held in a fortnight's time. This time it will be visit to the north-eastern region of Chiba Prefecture. I gotta say I am really excited to meet up with the rest of the Chiba Kun Ambassadors at the first tour. Till then, stay tuned!

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