Foreign Correspondents of Bad Behavior


“Please accept my resignation. I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.” You may be familiar with this quote attributed to a telegram Groucho Marx sent to the Friars Club in Los Angeles. They had initially refused his membership because he was Jewish and later accepted him after he became famous. Right now, the line is a good summation of my feelings for the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, of which I am a member, and especially for its Board of Directors.

On August 17, my Toastmasters’ group, the FCCJ Toastmasters, received a terse email, in Japanese, from the Board of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan (FCCJ). We were told to immediately stop using “FCCJ” in our name and informed that beginning on September 1, we would be charged a 32,000-yen room fee (each meeting), on top of food services, for our use of FCCJ facilities in Yurakucho.


Our club was founded by FCCJ members, and for more than nine years the FCCJ has been our only meeting place. That means on two Mondays every month, 15-20 Toastmasters and guests (including many FCCJ Members) purchased lunch from the FCCJ and occupied the usually empty Media Room for our two-hour sessions to help people become competent communicators and better leaders. 

On the surface, one might think the requests are not unreasonable. Nomenclature is important to branding. Economics change. Fees go up.

However, the way these directives were issued was not only unsavory, but nothing short of ugly. No warning. No request to discuss the changes. No one from the FCCJ Board approached us in any way. Just the email, in Japanese only, from a press club that uses English as its official language.

Why would the FCCJ, which has been bleeding money for well over a decade and is in desperate need of new members, treat a loyal customer, one who has been paying its bills without fail for nearly 10 years, with such contempt and disdain?


Why send out a single directive that couples two unrelated issues:a name change and a fee increase? One can only deduce that FCCJ Board harbors some abnormal distain for Toastmasters and decided, like a petulant child, to do something to hurt our club.It would not be exaggerating to call this it a slap in the face.

What does the FCCJ stand for anyway? Foreign? Yes, if that means aberrant or peculiar. Correspondents? But no communication. Club? Clique is more accurate. I recommend a course in public relations for the FCCJ Board.Just because the FCCJ is going down in flames doesn’t mean that everyone around deserves to get burned.


UPDATE: A KINDER, GENTLER FCCJ (November 14, 2017)
Since we posted this tale of woe and outrage, the FCCJ has come around. After a series of meetings with our Toastmasters executive board, the FCCJ board has allowed us to continue meeting at the Press Club, under the original terms of our agreement until the end of 2017. What happens next year is still under negotiation. The name issue has also been suspended. What’s that old chestnut about standing up to bullies?