Succession: An importance that is hard to express in words


In clubs, social groups, seminars…as you go through your student life, you will encounter cases of “succession” from senior to junior in the groups you’re involved in. Hiroto Fujiwara asserts that some things cannot be conveyed through words and written documents alone. Here he describes how he acted as an upperclassman, something he learned during his four years of activities as a member of the Totsuka Festival Steering Committee.

Hiroto Fujiwara Fourth-year student, Department of Political Science, Faculty of Law Hiroto Fujiwara has been a Totsuka Festival Steering Committee member since his freshman year. He has experience as a member of the Steering Committee and as a Regional Leader, and has led the 24th Totsuka Festival Steering Committee since the fall of his sophomore year. As an alumnus of the Totsuka Festival, he is now committed to supporting younger generations of leaders. Since high school, he has worked waiting tables at a restaurant. His hobby is watching soccer matches. He watched the 2022 World Cup with his juniors in the Totsuka Festival Steering Committee.

Learning empathy for “Do for Others”

Perhaps I’m a little strange, but since elementary school, my personality has been one that does not mind so-called “behind-the-scenes work.” I have always liked to make people happy by doing things that others might consider boring or tedious. In gym class, I would always remember where the things we needed were stored in the shed, and I’d be happy when I could please my friends by letting them know. I was a member of the soccer team in elementary and middle school, where I always volunteered to move the goal and pick up balls. At our high school festivals, I would work at our class booth instead of going out to see the others.

I entered Meiji Gakuin by recommendation of my high school. I joined the Faculty of Law because I was interested in the legal aspects of people’s lives, and I wanted to join the Department of Political Science. One of the deciding factors for coming here was that I felt empathy with the University’s “Do for Others” philosophy, which is also applicable to the kind of behind-the-scenes work I had been doing myself.

The Totsuka Festival Steering Committee

In May 2019, when I was a first-year student, I joined the Totsuka Festival Steering Committee just before my first Totsuka Festival. I was in charge of planning proposed events, doing things like using classrooms to support local and student groups and ensuring they were cleaned up at the end.

It kept me busy, running around receiving instructions from the Steering Committee Headquarters via walkie-talkie, but I felt a strong connection with the community at the Bon-odori dance, held in front of Building C as one of the main events of the closing ceremony, where I saw many parents with small children and other local residents participating.

Based on this experience, I was made a community leader at the preparatory meeting for the following year. I was pleased to experience deeper exchanges through introductions with the town associations in Kamikurata and Shimokurata, and at a town association festival where I helped carry the o-mikoshi portable shrine, people greeted me, saying “You’re one of the Totsuka Festival kids, aren’t you?”, which made me happy.

From the fall of my second year until May 2021 of my third year, I served as the executive delegate (the delegate who serves as the core member of the leadership) and was a representative of the Totsuka Festival Steering Committee, which coordinated the 24th Totsuka Festival, the first time it was broadcast. Based on content I inherited from the previous executive delegate, along with the broadcasting team, we did our best to create lectures about filming formats and equipment and other aspects unique to broadcasting. The 25th executive delegate was given a group summary and handover of monthly mandatory items, focusing on our movement toward regional cooperation and content related to distribution. I passed the role on to the 25th executive delegate, providing information about our actions toward local cooperation and broadcasting, and summarizing items that each team needed to accomplish in each month.

What it means to stop and think

Looking back, I feel that most of my learning in the Department of Political Science came not from any one particularly useful class, but rather through being able to deepen my thinking about group decision-making as we learned about various cases in each class. To mention one class in particular, however, I feel that the experience of discussing Brexit in my first year of Professor Yuichi Sasaki's Intro Seminar of Political Science is at the root of that idea.

Politicians who express their opinions in parliamentary broadcasts and such events must consider the environment they’re in, including the groups supporting them when they are making their statements. As listeners, therefore, we must infer not only what is being said but also why those things are being said. Politics seems like some far-off thing to some of us, but in fact even we students unconsciously think about such things when we run our organizations, and by studying in the Department of Political Science, we learn that such things are very familiar to us.

When we hear someone expressing an opinion we disagree with, we tend to reflexively argue against it. But the more I learned, the more I began to stop and think, “How did this person come by that opinion?”

When you’re working in a group, it is impossible to avoid sometimes comparing the amount of effort different members are putting in. But when I was working with the Steering Committee, when issuing work assignments I did my best to consider the other responsibilities of each member—part-time jobs, club events, other activities they are involved in outside of the Committee—so that others and myself could, to the extent possible, avoid considering others as not doing what was expected of them.

The amount of work each group must do and the timing at which they must do it varies, but when we see little progress, we become frustrated with each other. Conversely, if too much work is dumped on one group, they will feel as if a heavy burden has been suddenly thrust upon them. Considering that, I tried to measure everyone’s capacity to do work so I could create teams that would satisfy everyone and that everyone felt were equal.

Why I passed the torch after two years

Graduation is approaching, but I continue working on transferring leadership of the Steering Committee for the 26th Totsuka Festival in 2023. One reason is because Steering Committee activities occur from fall to May of the following year. This is out of sync with the school year, and we will be the last generation of the current Totsuka Festival Steering Committee to have experienced a normal in-person event.

Since there was a possibility that the 2022 event would be conducted in the usual way, I had been compiling materials on precautions I had experienced when holding in-person events. In the end, it became a hybrid online and in-person event, and having many people gather on campus was postponed, but an in-person event may be possible during the 2023 school year. If that happens, however, it will be a first for the student leaders, and they will need to manage activities they had no experience with in the previous year.

Even so, I do not want to see our younger members hold back or lose their independence because I’ve meddled too much. In that regard, I felt sorry for the generation leading activities for the 25th Totsuka Festival (in the 2022 school year), which was the second time it was held as a hybrid online and in-person event. At first I had intended to just attend that event, but just before it, I looked at the schedules of the various responsibilities during the handover and realized the staff didn’t have enough resources to operate. While it is important to smoothly coordinate with various groups on campus, cooperation with the local community is also essential to the Totsuka Festival, and we must not cause any inconvenience such as by failing to meet externally imposed deadlines. With that in mind, as a staff member on the online distribution team I helped to create progress charts, improve coordination among the various staff members, and perform countdowns for program progress on the day of the event.

The leader of the broadcast team thanked me for my help, but I can’t help but think I should have stayed out of it all and not said anything. When an older student offers help, it is difficult for a younger student to refuse. There’s a chance that everything would have gone smoothly without my assistance, but I robbed them of that chance for success. I regret that as something I shouldn’t have done to their leader.

How one should act as an upperclassman

During the handover, I felt as if no matter how I tried to summarize everything in writing, I could not completely convey what was truly necessary. I could get across things that could be confirmed on a checklist, but I believe that the most important thing for any organizational activity is how to pass on less tangible elements, like our principles, thoughts, and enthusiasm.

In the case of the Totsuka Festival, the day of the festival is when everything comes together. There will always be hardships leading up to the event, but I believe the key to success is feelings: a desire to get the job done and a sense that if those who came before us succeeded, we can too.

So how can we convey the feelings part of what we do? Just putting them into words during a handover will not resonate with younger staff. You must demonstrate that you yourself put into practice what you’re trying to convey. Rather than just talk about how rewarding and enjoyable an experience is, only by paying attention to our daily behavior as a senior and creating a track record of good examples will we be able to pass on intangibles.

In fact, when my class became responsible for providing the executive delegate, I promised my Steering Committee classmates that I would try not to speak negatively in front of the younger students. Because I had set myself the task of staying ahead of and completing more work than everyone else, I think I sometimes caused my classmates to feel oppressed, or a difference in enthusiasm.

However, just as I once felt when looking at senior students, people see a difference in the behavior of senior students and that of those of a similar position and age. If I can show my juniors, even a little bit, that I’m willing to speak with them, to listen to them, then perhaps when they become seniors themselves, they will treat their juniors in the same way. I believe that creating such a track record is the most important thing an upperclassman can do. I want to be someone who makes those under them feel something, someone who conveys enthusiasm when they look at me. I have been working with this constantly in mind.

The resumption of in-person events at the Totsuka Festival is one reason for my passing the torch in my second year, but even without that, the succession of the 25th executive delegate would be reason enough. The biggest reason why I continue my involvement is that I want to convey an image as someone who can be consulted and can be counted on when needed, even after the handover is complete, and I want the generations following me to treat their successors in the same way.

I am sure that next year’s Totsuka Festival will involve its own hardships. However, I very much look forward to seeing what kind of Totsuka Festival results from overcoming those difficulties, even as I’m passing the torch. The festival will come during my first year as a college graduate, and I definitely plan to enjoy the Festival at the Yokohama Campus.

After graduation, becoming a systems engineer who can work in management

I focused my job search on the event industry and the IT industry. While the two might seem unrelated, they feel similar to me, in that both provide products and services that please the companies who are their customers through various forms of coordination. In addition, since both industries implement different team structures for each project, I began my job search in the hope that I could continue developing my skills in continuity and communication, such as acquiring an understanding of the different attitudes of the team members during planning meetings and succession, and how to share and how to distribute tasks to create a sense of satisfaction.

I am currently studying for the Fundamental Information Technology Engineer Examination to expand my skills as a systems engineer at the IT company that offered me a job. In the future, I would like to work in project management or some other management field, and I hope to continue learning so that when an opportunity for leadership arises, I will be able to seize it with confidence.