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'Ponyo' lawyer seeks sponsor for orchestra
Atsushi Suwabe
Sat, May 15, 2010
The Yomiuri Shimbun/Asia News Network

JAPAN, OSAKA, May 14, 2010 -The Century Orchestra Osaka will see its regular 400 million yen a year budget severed over the next fiscal year when the prefectural government curbs subsidizing the orchestra to reign in costs.

Since its establishment in 1989, the orchestra has become somewhat of a fixture in the local community. "The orchestra belongs to the citizens of Osaka. I want to protect it by any means possible," says Takeo Mizuno, 68, who since April last year has chaired the orchestra's managing foundation pro bono.

An opera aficionado, Mizuno began attending flute and singing classes three years ago. He was then asked to become chairman because of his broad music knowledge.

Taking time out from his busy schedule, the former president of the Osaka Bar Association is now searching for orchestra sponsors.

"I want to find a sponsor willing to approach [its relationship with] the orchestra as if it is the owner of a professional baseball team. This is a tremendous business opportunity," he says.

As a lawyer, Mizuno specialized in environmental pollution cases, working on lawsuits filed by citizens against local governments or companies.

One of his most famous cases was working as chief of the defense counsel seeking to suspend public works on the Tomonoura shoreline in Fukuyama, Hiroshima Prefecture--the scenic area widely believed to have inspired Hayao Miyazaki's animation film "Gake no Ue no Ponyo" (Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea). Mizuno won the case at the district court.

"It's a lawyer's job to accept difficult problems. I think [the orchestra's problem] has something in common with the Tomonoura case; you could describe it as a specially fostered culture that needs protecting," Mizuno says. Although calm, he displays a dignified determination when discussing the issue.

His three children all fully grown, Mizuno now has the time to pursue his interest in music. He also has the time--and will--to search for sponsors in spite of the current economic downturn. - The Yomiuri Shimbun

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