NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College’s 2012 Distinguished Achievement Award winner, Toshihiro “Ted” Fukudome, by his own description enjoys “challenges to the status quo.”
That may have been why he decided to make the most of his talent for English, at which he excelled in school in his hometown of Miyakonojo, Japan, and to seek the advice of a young teacher of conversational English and a Mennonite service worker, Doyle Preheim, Bethel Class of 1963.
Through Preheim, Fukudome went to Freeman (S.D.) Junior College and then on to Bethel, where he majored in economics and business, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1972.
His first job after graduation was with Sanrio Company Ltd. as international coordinator and assistant to the executive vice president. Now globally famous for its “Hello Kitty” brand, Sanrio was then a small company with fewer than 100 employees.
“Due to my English-language skills,” Fukudome says, “I was involved in all aspects of the company’s international business affairs. In hindsight, the experience at Sanrio gave me early exposure to high-level business interface and strategic thinking processes and prompted me to pursue an MBA program.”
One of Fukudome’s key responsibilities during his four years with Sanrio was maintenance of license agreements with U.S. companies including United Features Syndicate and Hallmark Inc., including frequent visits to the head offices. Because Hallmark was based in Kansas City, Mo., his trips there allowed Fukudome to renew a Bethel friendship with Connie Harms, Class of 1971. They were married in 1974.
Fukudome left Sanrio in 1976 to pursue his MBA at the American Graduate School of International Management (Thunderbird) in Glendale, Ariz.
He then spent 11 years with Nippon Polaroid KK, the Japan branch of the U.S.-based instant photography and Polarizing® sunglasses manufacturer and supplier. He held various positions within the company, including national wholesale sales manager, new product development marketing manager (USA) and eventually marketing director for consumer products. In that position, he contributed to 75 percent of total company revenue between 1986 and 1988.
From 1988-91, Fukudome was director of marketing for Tupperware KK. A major responsibility was to create and build a marketing group “capable of carrying out and interpreting extensive consumer research to guide in determining products best suited [to] Japan,” he says.
He also worked on development of a series of nontraditional Tupperware container products, “a concept, as I understand it, that has been exported globally to other Tupperware affiliates.”
Fukudome next went to Mattel KK for four years as president and representative director, as well as general manager for Mattel Toys-Northeast Asia. “I made a successful Mattel reentry into Japan,” he says, “as Mattel had failed and pulled out of Japan years earlier. I expanded my territorial responsibilities to cover Korea and Micronesian countries.”
Mattel’s reentry into Japan succeeded, he says, because of an initial strategy of using a local marketing company as an incubator through which he was able to recruit most of his sales, marketing, IT and other administrative employees; effectively deploying strategies that anticipated “the possible breakdown of traditional toy distribution strategies” (he notes that Toys R Us had come into Japan at about this same time); and “extensive and intensive image rebuilding.”
From 1996-97, Fukudome worked as an independent consultant, working on various marketing-related projects for Polaroid, UNICEF and Interplay KK, the Japan office of a U.S.-based computer games and entertainment company, which led to a position as representative director during that same time period.
Fukudome became president and representative director for ACCO Brands Japan, a Chicago-based office products/supply company, in 1997. While Connie has retired after teaching 25 years at the American School in Japan in Tokyo, Ted is not quite at that point yet.
He says of his position at ACCO Japan, “I brought the company to a healthy financial position from an ailing [position], with operating income grown in excess of 20-fold. In its 51st year, it has 60-plus employees and is one of the very few successful foreign companies operating in Japan.”
Connie now lives most of the time in Boston while Ted maintains a busy travel schedule. The Fukudomes’ son, Eugene, a general surgery resident planning to specialize in plastic surgery, and his wife Angela, an ophthalmologist specializing in glaucoma, live in Boston along with the Fukudomes’ grandson, Max. Daughter Marie (who pronounces her name the Japanese way, Mah-ree-ay) works for the Hyatt Hotel Group in Chicago.
Fukudome’s hobbies are his daily workout at the gym as well as playing golf and listening to classical music. In addition, since March 2011, he has dealt with the extraordinary challenges to his company and his country in responding to the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that struck northern Japan.
The Bethel College Alumni Association presents the Distinguished Achievement Award to acknowledge character and citizenship, achievement in a chosen profession or vocation, and work of benefit to humanity.
Fukudome and other alumni award winners will be honored at the annual Alumni Banquet Saturday, May 19, at 6 p.m. in Memorial Hall on the Bethel College campus.
Price for the banquet is $21 per person. To make a reservation, visit or phone Thresher Bookstore in Schultz Student Center at 316-284-5205. Payment or credit card information is required when the reservation is made. No refunds can be given after May 11, since after that Alumni Office will have been charged for reserved meals.