When most Americans think of the Japanese culture, they think of its civilized approach to life, its remarkable cutting edge technology, and of course, its sushi. But more than anything else, Japan is a culture focused on the concept of honoring order, tradition and family, and above all, an ineffable dedication to embrace these values while creating a better world for the greater good.
If you ever had the good fortune to meet a Japanese gentleman named Koji Ishii - you would soon know all of these things are true.
At age 18 in 1968, in Tokyo, Koji was standing on the brink of a young man’s life, along with all of his friends. He formed folk song group KK&M(Koji, Kojiro & Mari) after PP&M (Peter, Paul and Mary), busy performing protest songs. Koji was active in scouting as a leader in boy scout as well where he achieved to garn his Hayabusa (Falcon) Scout status equivalent to Eagle Scout in the states and It was a time when the sky appeared limitless and the future filled with opportunity. A dutiful son, and the seventh of seven children, he came to make a decision only a dreamer could make, a choice that would be something of his own that would set him on an entirely different path from that of his siblings, an adventure that would belong only to him. And so, to everyone’s great surprise, he boldly decided to pursue the rest of his education - in America.
With his parents support, he applied to and was accepted by the University of Kansas School of Journalism to pursue his long-standing dream of becoming an international journalist. He attended KU and later graduated with honors from Columbia College in 1972, with a degree in Film & Television production.
In 1978, Mr. Ishii formed SIP Film Productions, designed as a commercial production house that would specialize in commercial production and more specifically, corporate imaging, a field in which he was later to become a bona fide expert.
His determination to build something extraordinary was only equal to the immense pride he took in doing so. After several years, the SIP client list came to include such prominent clients as Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Northwest Air, Korean Air, Tokyo Disneyland, Midopa, Toyota, Nissan, Subaru, Mazda, Hyundai, Seiko, Steven Spielberg, Sanyo, Toshiba, Sony, Fujitsu, Panasonic, Sharp, Fuji Film, Hitachi, Shiseido, Kanebo, Suntory, Kirin, Yamaha Music and Sports, Isetan, Parco, House Foods, Brother, Gunze and Remy Martin, among many others. Ishii produced four large film format presentations for pavilions of Sumitomo Group, Hitachi Group, Japan Iron and Steel Federation and Sankinkai Group at Tsukuba Expo 85, the International Science Technology Exposition in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan where 20 million visitors over 111 countries participated in six months period in 1985.
Much to his credit, SIP Film Productions went on to win a number of prestigious awards including two Clio Awards for commercials produced of behalf of Seiko and Hitachi, SIP also went on to win International Broadcasting Awards, U.S. Television and Film Festival Awards, and others from the New York Art Directors Club, the Japan Commercial Congress and more.
In 1985, Mr. Ishii acted as the lead negotiator for bringing the Universal Studio Tours to Japan as well as the American Multi-Cinema organization for Access International, a subsidiary of the urban concept planning company, Access Research Firm in Osaka, Japan. His expertise at branding further enabled him to create a pre-teen fashion line for the $500 million dollar firm Shikibo, while at the same time, acting as consultant for Imagica (Japan’s largest film laboratory), Senior Consultant for Dentsu Motion Pictures, (Japan’s largest film production company and a subsidiary of Dentsu Advertising Agency), and Chief Consultant for United Artists in their effort to promote their 3-D motion picture system in Japan. Later, Mr. Ishii was also responsible for introducing the Swissorama 360 degree projection screens to Japan as well. He was also invited to serve as an executive advisor as brain to President of Dentsu Los Angeles.
During 1987–1989, in recognition of his many significant accomplishments, Koji was awarded two Presidential Medals from President Ronald Reagan for his outstanding contributions to Japanese-American relations and fair trade. In 1990, he became Japan’s representative for the U.S. International Space / Time Capsule Project sponsored by NASA and the Rochester Natural History Museum, and coming up with the idea the capsule should include a human element in the form of an audio disk containing the voices of both the young and the old stating their hopes for the future. Koji was invited to meet Minister Keigo Ouchi of the Health and Welfare, Minister Shoichi Watanabe of the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, President Heitor Gurgulino de Souza of the United Nations University. Koji compiled over 100,000 personal messages that were included on the first space payload. For his humanitarian contribution, he received a special commendation from Vice President Dan Quayle, and later, the Yuri Gagarin 30th Year Anniversary Award in 1991 from the Soviet Space Agency Glavkosmos. Koji also served as a contributing editor and writer for Advertising Conference the most prestigious advertising industry magazine in Japan, and later authored a book entitled “Los Angeles Yesterday and Today,” which included a personal recommendation from Mayor Tom Bradley inside the book. The book went on to sell over 30,000 copies in Japan.
In 2010, Mr. Ishii was appointed Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Japanese company Spread, Inc., a world leader in innovative eco-friendly vertical farming and hydroponic growth methods for the world’s food supply. Mr. Ishii led Spread Inc.’s efforts to bring their futuristic technology and superior quality products to the U.S. and international markets.
Mr. Ishii also serves as an honored member of the Sport and Art Education Foundation Advisory Board, a non-profit organization dedicated to benefiting those with early stage Alzheimer’s through a unique form of table tennis therapy.
Life for all of us - begins as a simple blank page not unlike the Japanese art form of origami – which creates intricate and beautiful objects from the complex folding of a single blank sheet of paper. Koji’s life and career has been the undaunted pursuit of a dream, the courage it took to do so, and the realization of hope for the future. We in the Western world would do well to pay attention. It is an extraordinary example of what a simple piece of paper – in the hands of the right person – can become – the origami of a life - filled with pride and purpose.