Saigon Tomonkai

About the Saigon Tomonkai

This Tomonkai was founded in December, 1998, at a time when the first “Vietnam boom” began to calm down with the Asian currency crisis. Compared to this time period, there are about twice as many Japanese living in Ho Chi Minh. However, regardless of the changing economic environment, there are about 35 members in the Saigon Tomonkai.

We meet for a social gathering about once every two months. We provide a valuable opportunity for members of various age groups and occupation to gather. People that normally would not connect are gathered, drink together, and exchange conversations in a drunk and friendly state.

We have golfing matches with the Mitakai a few times a year. Tomonkai used to win no matter what types of rules were set, so we gave the Mitakai an opportunity to win through rock-paper-scissors. However, we lost 4 matches in a row recently, so we, as the Tomonkai, now do practice rounds. The Saigon Tomonkai performs cultural activities as well, such as organizing lecture meetings.
Masafumi Yamamoto (Enrolled in 1990, School of Letters, Arts, and Sciences)


Golfing matches hosted by the Saigon Tomonkai. We cannot lose any more maches against the Mitakai.

The People of the Saigon Tomonkai

The attractive points of Saigon

Vietnam has attracted attention from Japan with the “China Plus One” and other things recently. Within Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh (formerly known as Saigon) is the center of the nation’s economy.

With the tropical weather, and the fertile Mekong Delta, the city has flourished for a long time as a export port for agricultural and marine products. In the 19th century, it was the center of French Indochina, and the cityscape back then is still prominent. During the Vietnam War it was a base for the Americans so compared to other cities, the market economy of this city is much longer.

Current Vietnam, whose take off was delayed due to the war, is similar to Japan in the 1960s. Cars are not yet available, and the cities are full of motorcycles. Many of the stores are small scale and family run. At the same time, more convenience stores and supermarkets are opening, and many common people have cell phones and smart phones, so the ‘old’ is mixed with the ‘new’.

What makes Vietnam most attractive are the people. Due to the Ju-kyo culture, people are kind and respectful to their parents. They are pro-Japanese, and they have many similar characteristics to the Japanese people. It is a safe city. The population is 87 million and the average age is 28-9. The city has a lot of people, and they all are relatively young. On top of that, a rare characteristic for South East Asian countries, the Vietnamese economy does not rely on the Chinese market.

High inflation, weak supporting industries, delayed inflation control, expensive property value, domination of the government, unclear exchanges… there are many problems that this country holds, but the country keeps on, maybe with the help of the energy from the citizens. Who leads them, are the bright and big-hearted people of Saigon. The openness of their minds and hearts, the power and energy they have to lead the country, these are characteristics that the people of Waseda have too.
Kenji Omi (Graduated in 1998, School of Political Science and Economics)


A street corner in Saigon. Streets flooded with motorcycles and crossing electric wires are the symbols of Saigon.

Saigon Opera House

Message from the Chairman

People seem to say that Japan is secluded, but Saigon has become a city filled with energy, leaving little trace of scars from the Vietnam War. I am sure everyone already knows about the infamous flood of motorcycles. Before liberation, Saigon was called “Little Paris.”It is now starting to become the central/hub of Indochina. This is very interesting for someone who has watched this entire process.

With the recent “China Plus One” and the Thailand floods, the number of Japanese enterprises launching in Saigon is increasing. I am expecting a further increase in the number of Tomonkai members. As a place to cultivate mutual friendship of our members, as well as a place for exchanging information and socializing, I would like to bring further excitement to our Tomonkai.

Please visit Saigon. There is an energy and spirit similar to that of Japan’s period of rapid growth. There has always been a large number of Japanophiles here, and you will definitely see some incredible smiles. You will be able to take home a brand new level of motivation.
Toshiyuki Abe(Graduated in 1972,School of Political Science and Economics)


The school flag is always doing its job.

Messages from the Members

In June, it will be 2 years since I have moved to Ho Chi Minh. Aside from the motorcycle noise and the Karaoke all-nighters, this is a very nice place to live. If you take a walk through the city, many French colonial style buildings can still be seen. There are many discoveries throughout the city.

Golfing and drinking parties with everyone from the Tomonkai is something I look forward to here. My wife and I both went to Waseda University. For me, I have spent a total of 13 years in Waseda, in high school, college, and graduate school (except for the 2 years of which I spent studying abroad). I feel the bond of the university here. I would like to bring more excitement to the Saigon Tomonkai, and also figure out a plan to grow out of my current position as a “senior that gets taken care of by his junior.”
Minoru Asaga (Graduated in 1991, School of Science and Engineering)

I came to Vietnam 4 years ago to found a forage production company for Japanese export. I used to live in the innermost area of the Mekong Delta with Vietnamese residents, but I have been living in Saigon since last year. Although I was overwhelmed by the difference in culture and lifestyles, I married a Vietnamese woman, and I believe I am living just like a local.

However, I am still just a rookie. I met what one may call “Japanese residents” in the Saigon Tomonkai. Chairman Abe is a walking encyclopedia of Vietnam; he has been living here since the Vietnam War. Chief secretary Yamamoto is a corporate warrior that has lived in Vietnam for more than 10 years. When we drink at the Saigon Tomonkai, it is a warm moment for my soul that surpasses the barriers of juniors and seniors.
Yoshifuimi Hirano(Graduated in 1979, School of Law)

With Waseda as the “common denominator,” people of different age groups and jobs are able to drink and laugh together. There are people who recently moved here, people who have been living in Vietnam since the 1990s, people who have been here for a short time but are deeply rooted in Vietnam, people who have Vietnamese nationality, and all sorts of people. You meet these people for the first time, and inside jokes about Waseda or stories about hardships in Vietnam are shared happily. As you joke, you find yourself talking about Vietnam and Japan. The Tomonkai provides a place to do so, in a foreign country. That’s what the Tomonkai is to me. My only regret is that I don’t fully know the school anthem.
Kenji Omi (Graduated in 1998, School of Political Science and Economics)

I am a Vietnamese study abroad student who joined one of the Tomonkai gatherings for the first time, in the Spring of 2007. Back then, I met Chief Secretary Yamamoto for the first time, and he told me that there were over 60 members on the member’s list, but not one person was Vietnamese. In Waseda, there are about 15 Vietnamese students constantly, but I learned that many never come back to Ho Chi Minh, or stay in Japan.

When I first joined, most of the members were much older than I was, and the main topics discussed at gatherings were centered around Politics and work, but in the last 2 years, more younger members have joined and we talk about many different things. The number of Vietnamese study abroad students have increased to 2 members. I hope that I can get more study abroad students to join, and connect with them in Saigon. Let’s set the goal to win the golfing match again this year! Saigon Tomonkai.
DO SON BACK KHOA (Graduated in 1999, International Affairs Division)

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