Catch up with Yoshifumi Kitamura

Since organising his first international convention in 1998, the professor from Osaka has brought more than 25 major events in Japan to fruition. He now serves as a MICE ambassador for the Japan National Organization, among other association roles

Yoshifumi Kitamura

How did it all begin for you in business events?
My first event was the AMCP (International Conference on Advanced Multimedia Contents Processing) back in 1998, but it was not until the 2003 symposium on Virtual Reality Software and Technology that I served as the chair of an event.

Ever since, I have tried to organise every event to be better in every way from the last one. It is difficult, but that is always my aim – and an enjoyable challenge.

Yoshifumi Kitamura

What’s keeping you busy now?
The 11th ACM SIGGRAPH Asia Conference, the annual regional meeting of the Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques, which is scheduled to be held in Tokyo over four days in December.

I served as conference chairman the last time the pan-Asia event was in Japan, in Kobe in 2015.

How will this year’s event differ from the last edition in Kobe, three years ago?
When I organised the event in 2015, it was only the second time it had been held in Japan, but it was a huge success and attracted more than 7,000 professional delegates – the largest number in the history of the event.

I was the conference chairman in 2015, when the conference had the largest-ever amount of content, including presentations, demonstrations and so on.

This time, I am a member of the advisory group. But I am confident that the 2018 convention will be the biggest and best ever. I anticipate at least 10,000 professional delegates.

How will SIGGRAPH Asia Conference 2018 assist researchers in this area in moving forward?
I see my role as being the bridge between the research community in this professional area in Japan, and the wider international community.

Often, the Japanese research community is less vocal in comparison to their international counterparts so I see the event as an opportunity to bring the two together and develop international relationships.

What is the hardest part about convincing organisations to hold their events in Japan?
My priority has to be doing the best for the research communities and providing them with the very best conference experience, and a big part of that lies in convincing both sides that I am reliable and can provide what we promise.

We need high-quality presentations and workshops that are delivered by the best researchers in the best locations and facilities.

It is also important to ensure that participants are of a high quality in their field, and I think this is another strength of Japan.

We are fortunate because Japan has a good reputation for being able to deliver these sort of events.

Japan is safe, it has established industries and a strong national economy, plus a track record in research and developments and academia. We are also lucky because a lot of people are personally interested in coming to Japan.

What trends are you seeing in the international conferences sector?
I would have to say that there has been a clear turn away from the US as a destination for hosting conferences.

Events like SIGGRAPH Asia and SIGCHI (Special Interest Group Computer Human Interaction’s Conference on Human Factors in Computing System), for example, inherently place importance on diversity in the people who are attending because we have to assume variety in the users of computers and machines.

Ensuring diversity among the delegates has become more difficult in the US now.

But do organisations have concerns about coming to Japan for their events?
Cost is often a concern, but we work closely with the national and local governments to see what subsidies and other forms of support are available. But yes, this can be a challenge when other cities in the region are able to offer more generous support.

The best way to overcome that is to guarantee the quality of the event, the participants, the venues, the accommodation and the entertainment. And I think that the number and scale of events coming to Japan in recent years speaks to our success in that area.

How can Japan continue to grow its events sector?
The most important thing is to always deliver something new and different. It has to be interesting, entertaining and capture the imagination – and we really cannot afford to fail.

If one event is a success, then word-of-mouth recommendations will sell it for the next event.

In December, SIGGRAPH Asia will be the best event in the history of the conference and that naturally raises expectations for the next one, so we have to keep pushing ahead in order for people keep coming back.

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