OKINAWA, JAPAN – For Toru Kiyan, the disciplines of karate have served him well in life and throughout his 33 years serving with the Exchange.
Kiyan, manager of the Butler Express at Camp Foster, is a multilevel black belt karate sensei. As the he worked his way toward becoming a karate expert, Kiyan also found success at the Exchange.
Kiyan started his career with the Exchange in the summer of 1985 as a part-time janitor.
“At that time (there were) very few computers…lots of paperwork,” Kiyan said. “I started by sweeping floors, stocking shelves and doing lots of manual work. Now as a manger, I spend more time thinking, planning, typing and writing.”
Kiyan grew up in Okinawa when it was still under U.S. civil administrative control after World War II. As a young man, his decision to join the Exchange was a logical choice.
“I love America,” he said. “In Okinawa, we were under U.S. administrative control. We used the U.S. dollar, listened to American music. I was even a Life Scout in the Boy Scouts of America. However, on 15 May 1972, Okinawa reverted to Japan and we soon started losing the American feel I was used to on Okinawa. When I joined the Exchange, I saw it as a chance to be a little closer to that American culture that I grew up with.”
The study of martial arts can have many benefits, including physical, mental and even spiritual health. Kiyan has risen to high levels in the karate world, and at the same time, to higher and higher levels of responsibility in the Exchange world. His experience offers a glimpse at how those two worlds mesh in a very meaningful way for him.
“Karate has taught me patience and discipline,” Kiyan said. “I follow the standards set by the Exchange and try to build on those lessons taught to me over the years. Karate has helped me to be more focused while at work.
Work hard, and make sure you remind yourself that you work for the customer and we are all part of the military family. I’m honored to help those in uniform and bring them a little piece of home. You make an impression within 7 seconds of meeting someone, so you have to make it a good impression. I have taken that to heart when working with others and serving our customers.”
Kiyan will be leaving the Exchange family sooner than some would like, due to the Japanese labor laws governing retirement age, but he leaves behind a legacy of diligent service and achievement. His is a story of success, perseverance, and dedication to setting and reaching goals. He wanted to become a karate expert, so he worked hard and did it. He wanted to be of value to the Exchange family, and did that too.
“I can’t believe I am going to retire soon,” Kiyan said. “I started as a janitor with the Exchange and worked my way up. I wanted to be a manager but I did not think I could make it. However, I kept working hard, and studied hard, and I was fortunate enough to be promoted several times until becoming a store manager. I love my job and I love to see the smile on a customer’s face.”