40th Anniversary GSE Tour

District 253 Japan Spring 1979.


In September 2019 PDG Geoffrey Farr joined the 5 Team members at Ambleside in the English Lake District to commemorate their six week tour of Yamagata and Fukushima Provinces in Northern Japan.

It is remarkable and probably unique in the Rotary world for a GSE Team to meet regularly over 40 years and still to have great enjoyment and rapport.

Geoffrey was International Chairman of District 109 when he was selected to be Team Leader in the Autumn of 1978. It was the start of an intensive period of activity, selecting a divergent team from 25 candidates and then to proceed with an agenda that included the Japanese Language, customs of living, relationships of Japanese Companies with Government, geography of the Area and building team bonding.

The Team:- Peter Ashby, Local Govt.Officer.  Alex Gibb, Post Office Administration.  Godfrey Mott, Hospital Technology. John Warwick, Maths Teacher and Douglas Wills, Newspaper Reporter.

We gathered at Heathrow with a wonderful turnout from Dist.109 and flew to Singapore where we stayed for 2 nights before flying to Japan. That was an education in itself as the Team shared rooms for the first time!

Then on to Tokyo where we were met by Dr, Yoshio Yoshida and four colleagues. They bussed us to the New Otani Hotel, our base for three days before we visited Dist. 253. There followed an interesting, vital briefing on our Tour and it opened our eyes to a different world!

Then followed nearly six weeks of intense travel including 13 one night visits, sleeping on floors, couches, some beds but mostly with Rotary families. Elsewhere is a record of the visit in detail.

So how did the Group Study Exchange Scheme benefit the Team?

Here are some of the Teams’ views:-

“I learned about team building/concensus, use of technology, investing in future growth rather than playing catch-up and the value of good education and welfare”

“I soon realised what a difficult language was Japanese, but it made me concentrate even harder and determined to put into action in my work at home their determination and work ethic.”

“The Japanese Education System was so different. Many of the Students in the 6th Form seemed much younger than the English equivalent, but their talent and enthusiasm made me realise that teaching was so much more than instruction.”

“The comparison with news in such a different language made it difficult to evaluate but I came to appreciate the attention to detail which I would find important later in my career.”

All of us have no doubt that the GSE Scholarship Scheme was one of the best ever in Rotary.

Communication has improved so much that we can talk and see each other across the world! In 1979 no telephone calls were made and Geoffrey’s weekly reports were dictated and sent home by express post!!  How the World has changed !!!

Perhaps the need has lessened but you would have difficulty persuading the six of us that the need has gone.

Finally, our Reunion in Ambleside confirmed the close bond that has existed for 40 years. As Leader of this Team it gave me enduring pleasure in Japan to see these men speak and communicate, often at short notice, to between 30 and 300 Japanese men and women. They were a credit to Rotary, to Britain and, most important, to themselves.

All of the team enhanced their careers over the years and now four of them are retired!

O how time flies.

Geoffrey Farr
PDG, Luton North