Fukuoka's international business community returned to Toki Riyu plaza and Domus Ristro Italiano in Imaizumi for a repeat performance of the popular Kokusai Shinnenkai, now in its twelfth year.
As formalities commenced the MC introduced the honored guest Mr. David Harper, Director of Operations, Hilton Hotel, Fukuoka who delivered his much anticipated speech on the new "inbound economy". The crowd listened as Mr. Harper, a career Hilton veteran shared details, statistics and projections of the new tourist driven economy being buoyed by the Chinese inbound invasion!
Toast honors went to a dynamic new team. Beldelice owners Mr. Nikita Shportko and Mr. Jose Manual Silva founders and operators of the Bellwaffles café brand. They shared their story and their hopes with the receptive crowd then invited everyone to sample their famous Belgian treat while leading them all to a heartfelt "Kampai!".
With the evening's formalities concluded and the crowd eager to converse, they spread out in all directions while food and wine flowed freely around the room. Languages and laughter mixed as Fukuoka's international community melted into one.
Professional foreign nationals were on the increase this year with more then a few new faces. Beldelice, Photon group (from Boston) and A Touch of Tensai (online services) and others could be seen drawing a crowd and networking with Japan-American Society members, government officials and business counterparts. The event was also graced by a surprise visit by former Fukuoka prefecture governor Aso.
Antonio Mariani and host Luis Matos offered comic relief and several attractive door prizes from Off Broadway, Three Kings, Domus and Hilton Hotel. Cards picked from a bowl were happily collected by grateful winners.
Luis Matos thanked the participants, the sponsors and the Domus staff for their support for the FEPC annual event and allowed the mingling, strengthening of bonds, and networking to continue past 21:00 hours. The crowd then faded into the night and on to after parties.