“Regain what we lost in the pandemic,” was the sentiment at the heart of the Rokkosai festival held at Kobe University in November last year. The two-day festival, which had no restrictions on entry or food and drink, was the first of its kind in four years since 2019.
KISHI Yuichiro, who served as the chairman of the executive committee, expressed his gratitude to those who had helped, saying, “We have been able to manage a full revival. I can't express in words how grateful I am,” he said with a smile. He had led the executive committee of about 200 people for about a year, and after the festival’s successful conclusion, there was a sense of fulfillment and relief.
Born and raised in Kobe, Kishi graduated from Suma Gakuen High School (Kobe City) and initially entered a private university, but the following year he for a second time took the entrance exam for Kobe University. He regretted not being able to give his all when he first took the university entrance exam in his senior year of high school. He prepared for the exam without telling his parents and covered the expenses by working part-time. It was after he was admitted to the Faculty of Engineering that he first confessed to his parents that he wanted to attend Kobe University.
In middle and high school, he devoted himself to tennis, but at university, he wanted to try activities other than sports. He took an interest in the Rokkosai Executive Committee, a student group that runs the school festival, at a welcome event for new students.
“When I think of university festivals, I envision famous people giving speeches. I thought that being part of planning such an event would be a really valuable experience,” he said. Although they were still in the midst of the pandemic, he joined the committee after seeing the efforts of his seniors to keep the tradition of Rokkosai alive.
Warm encouragement from graduates and supporters
The theme of the 44th Rokkosai was “ABEKOBEKOBE” (Kobe upside down). The previous three years of the pandemic saw the festival canceled in 2020, held online in 2021, and with entry restrictions in 2022. The theme reflected their determination to turn these negatives into positives.
In his first year, Kishi experienced the festival online. The guest speaker was a YouTuber who was a student at Kobe University's Faculty of Maritime Sciences, Mr. Paka. With over a thousand viewers, Kishi experienced firsthand that with the help of many people an event could be realized, even online. In his second year, despite the restrictions on the number of attendees, they managed to host a lecture by actress SHIBUKI Jun, a former Takarazuka Revue actress. Seeing the attendees leaving with smiles on their faces gave him the motivation to continue the following year.
At the end of 2022, he ran for chairmanship of the committee in order to lead the committee in passing on the traditions handed down from his seniors. None of the members then knew what Rokkosai had been like before the pandemic.
“We had no members who knew how the festival was held in normal times, so we asked our seniors about their experiences. But it was very difficult to prepare based on just the image in our minds,” he said.
The executive committee’s tasks included negotiating with the university and soliciting sponsorships from companies and organizations. They also faced financial difficulties this time. When the event was online, they declined to accept sponsorship money, so their carryover operating funds were tight.
To compensate, they turned to crowdfunding. They received donations exceeding their goal of 1 million yen, along with heartwarming messages from graduates and supporters like “We pray for a complete revival” and “Thank you for continuing to hold the event.” It reminded them once again that the Rokkosai festival is made possible by the support of many people.
Cherishing an atmosphere where everyone can easily voice their opinions
On the days of the festival, November 11 and 12, the weather was cold. Still, over 15,000 people visited over the two days. Approximately 80 groups set up stalls, and there were stages by comedians and students, as well as a lecture by actress TAIRA Yuna from Hyogo Prefecture. The venue was filled with smiles, and the Rokkosai festival was back to its original form.
“Despite the cold, I was impressed by the sight of the executive committee members preparing and cleaning up with joy. I was genuinely glad to be the chairman,” he said. At the same time, he reflected on the struggles of his seniors who had been forced to accept the restrictions of the pandemic.
As chairperson, he kept one thing in mind. That is, to create an atmosphere where everyone could easily voice their opinions. He emphasized the importance of making decisions based on the collective opinion of the organization, not just his own. Believing that “working together and eating together” was important to enhance team strength, he actively invited junior staff to join him.
On the other hand, interacting with external supporters was a valuable opportunity to learn about professional behavior and language usage. “I was always conscious of doing what was expected of me as a representative,” he said.
To his juniors, he sends a cheer, “There are things you can only do while you’re in university. I want you to go for them.” And he appeals, “Instead of being swayed by others’ opinions, voice your own thoughts actively.”
Having completed his role as chairman, he is now exploring his future path, including the possibility of graduate school. With an optimism that betrays the confidence he gained from having successfully led a major event like Rokkosai, he says, “I don't know in what form, but I believe that this experience will definitely be useful in the future.”
KISHI Yuichiro was born in Kobe City in 2001. He entered the Faculty of Engineering at Kobe University in 2021. Within the Rokkosai executive committee, after being part of the “indoor planning bureau” which plans lectures and other events, he became the chairman. His motto is “Stick to winning,” which he says means overcoming difficulties as well as oneself. He lives in Kobe City.