Perhaps I’m bias due to my background with Japan, but my favorite high-profile supporter by far that I met at this year’s National Jamboree was Mr. Masato Mizuno. While there are many amazing, successful philanthropists that are still just young Scouts at heart, all I had to hear was that there was someone from Japan in the vicinity, and I was on my way to make his acquaintance.
I found myself greeted with bright eyes and a cheerful smile and such welcoming warmth that a simple hello turned into a half hour conversation. We spoke a little of our backgrounds, spoke a little Japanese, discussed our roles at the Jamboree and bonded over our love of the other’s country as well as our mutual newness to Scouting.
Throughout our conversation, I noticed that he greeted every single person (youth, staff, or VIP) with the same kind smile and bright eyes. Every time I saw him in those few days, the light in his eyes was electric and he seemed to have a new best friend chatting at his side. Our team was inspired by his story as we learned more and more of Mr. Mizuno, his legacy, and how he happened to end up at the 2017 National Jamboree in West Virginia, USA.
Mr. Mizuno began his story with his grandfather who was only 7 years old when a huge earthquake wiped out much of central Japan in the late 1800s. Not long after that, his great grandfather passed and his grandfather moved to Osaka to work for a shop at about 9 years old. At 18, (not yet) Grandpa Mizuno happened upon a baseball game between Kyoto high school and a foreigners’ club team where he fell in love with the sport.
His love was put on hold while he served four years in the Russo-Japanese War, but upon his return in 1906, he was free to pursue his love of sports which he did by starting a sporting goods company. With a focus on quality and function, the company grew slowly rather than expanding with masses of cheap products. The company stayed in the family as Mizuno’s father took over, but his background was in chemistry, so the company took a scientific approach which developed a larger Research and Development department.
Mizuno’s father had moved to Tokyo with his wife and their two younger children when he took over the family business. This left Mizuno and his older sister to be raised by their grandparents in Kobe. His grandparents would encourage Mizuno and his older sister to sumo wrestle, but as he could never beat his sister, his grandfather was disappointed, called him weak, and enrolled him in Cub Scouts to ‘man up’ a bit.
While Mizuno wishes he could claim a rank higher than Star, he fondly reflected on being out in nature, watching the stars, and ‘manning up’ in the wild. As a young man in the late 1960s, he moved to the United States to attend Carthage College. I can only imagine how rare it would have been to be a Japanese student in an American university in the late 1960s, but other sources indicate that Mizuno’s bright-eyed and friendly demeanor has been a constant of his personality.
Mizuno returned to Japan in 1970, got married and moved to Tokyo where he was disappointed that he could no longer see the stars that he had learned to love during his Cub Scout days. This influenced his decision to study environmental matters and, as a part of the World Federation Sporting Industry, they made an environmental committee which influenced the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to set up an environmental committee which Mizuno was invited to join.
Masato Mizuno stepped in to take over the family business in 1988 and shifted to international growth. Since then, Mizuno Sports has established offices in the United States, Canada, France, Germany, and Taiwan, but his ties to the Japanese Olympic Committee eventually pulled him into fighting for the Olympic bid, and he asked his brother to take over the family business. This freed up Mizuno to take over as CEO of the bid committee for the 2020 Olympic Games.
Driven by a competitive spirit after losing the bid to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympics as well as a passion for his country to rebuild after the tsunami and earthquake of 2011, Mizuno committed everything to winning the 2020 Olympic bid. The payoff of his effort and sacrifice was, of course, hearing these words on September 7, 2013: “The International Olympic Committee has the honor of announcing that the Games of the 32nd Olympiad in 2020 are awarded to the city of TOKYO!”
With the satisfaction of accomplishing his goal and pushed by policy to retire from the committee at 70 years young, Mizuno left the execution of the 2020 Olympic Games to others only to be quickly recruited by an old friend who happened to be the President of Boy Scouts of Japan. In his first year with Boy Scouts, he became the Scout Ambassador for the last World Jamboree which took place in Japan. The following year (2016), he was appointed the Vice President and the International Commission of Japan for the Boy Scouts.
Mizuno is a self-proclaimed “Rookie” to Scouting as his experience only consists of Cub Scouts as a young boy, but he has determined to approach this with the same commitment as any of his past projects saying, “Once I’m appointed, I have to do my best with the Scout spirit.” Mizuno has since been put in charge of recruiting in Japan for the upcoming 2019 World Jamboree, and he is ready to pour his Olympic-sized energy into it. His closing comment was this: “I don’t know if I can do [it], how much I can do it, but Scouts, we have to do our best all the time, so I promise I’ll do my best.” Cheers, Masato!