Cornellian assists in Japan’s recovery

Kiyo Kaneko ’82, of Tokyo, was deeply involved in recovery efforts after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami hit his country on March 11. Kaneko is Scientific and Regulatory Affairs Manager at Coca-Cola Japan and a member of the company’s risk management team. After confirming damages and casualties at local Coca-Cola bottlers, he worked with the team to set up a plan to deliver relief goods (bottled water, non-sweetened tea, and sport drinks) to affected areas. Recovery is ongoing, and he is now setting up a business continuity plan for Coca-Cola in Japan.

mycornell-kanekoQ: What were your major obstacles in the recovery effort?
A: Due to the damages to transportation systems (highways, railroads, airports and, most importantly, shortage of gas), we found out we couldn’t deliver the relief goods and then started to work with Japanese governments to find ways of delivery. We used the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, U.S. military, and others to meet our goal. In order to cope with the shortage of the bottled water, we negotiated with Japanese governments to import foreign water products. Current regulations require Japanese labels be placed on products in the market. This negotiation went well and the government issued special exemption for water products from foreign countries to be sold in Japan.

Q: What’s the most important thing you learned at Cornell?
A: Cornell provided me with all necessary basic knowledge and training required for a biology/chemistry major, which helped me in graduate school and in my career in the pharmaceutical industry (about 16 years) and beverage industry (10 years now). Of course, social life at Cornell played very important roles in my development. Being a foreign student and the first group of graduates under the One Course At A Time program, everything was new to me. I enjoyed life on the Hilltop very much after receiving tremendous support from classmates, brothers in Milts, sisters in Arrows, faculty members, and staff.

Q: How did Cornell change you?
A: Being in the United States about 30 years ago was quite an experience for a boy from Japan. I was eventually forced to live in the diversity of lifestyle, culture, values, and perception of people in many ways. I believe this helped me understand joy and sorrow of people and respect others.

Q: What person on campus had the biggest impact on you?
A: Faculty members in biology (Drs. Rogers and Pray) and chemistry (Drs. Deskin, Ault, and Jordan) are very important people for me in my career. Dr. DuVal (German and English as a second language) and Dr. Stromer (speech communication) helped me improve my English language and communication skills and provided me with many hints on surviving in a foreign country and culture.

Q: What makes you happiest?
A: Good wine and beer with great music (opera and classical).