Vanessa Oshima (Mackenzie)


At school Vanessa was an outstanding student gaining top marks in School Certificate and Sixth Form Certificate before leaving New Zealand as part of the Rotary Exchange Programme supported by the Matamata Rotary Club. Although she had clearly written Canada as her first choice of country she was selected to go to  Japan spent a year at Narita High School. A year that changed her life and career for good.

She was from a ‘tennis family’ and played for the school as well as the local club.  Brother Justin went on to play professional tennis in Germany and is now a prominent coach at World Tennis in Auckland.  Vanessa also enjoyed taking part in netball.

On her return from the Rotary Exchange she attending Waikato University and graduated with a Bachelor of Social Science and Master of Management in Economics/Japanese (with Honours).  She won a Japan Government Research Fellow for two years to Kyoto University where she studied Economics.

Vanessa has had an amazing career which includes:  Lecturer at Auckland Institute of Studies;  St Helens, Auckland (Sociology, Popular Culture {insight into the world of marketing, brands, quality} Business Ethics); Consultant Benchmark Communication (Auckland); Manager Japan Market Intelligence (Tokyo); Marketing Manager, Consumer Research (Phillip Morris International); Category Brand Manager (Nike Japan); Vice President, Corporate Strategy and Planning, Coca Cola (Japan) Company.

She has been fortunate to have worked in the area of strategy and brand development for some of the world’s most famous brands (currently Coca Cola) and with a diverse group of people.

Vanessa claims her most recent and proudest achievement is nothing to do with work but with a challenge she has taken up to run for breast cancer.  This challenge was in support of a fellow Matamata College classmate (Caroline Bridson) who has just completed breast cancer treatment.  Vanessa promised to run every day – at least 5 km – until her friend won over her challenge with breast cancer.  On day 259 Caroline was done with her treatment but Vanessa realized she was not and has continued on.     A colleague John Hackett, who is an inspiration, has just completed 2500 days of running without a break – his motto is “it is about finding a way not finding an excuse”.

Caroline and Vanessa ask that by reading about this challenge you make a pledge to get checked with a mammogram or encourage the women of your family and friends to do so.

Vanessa has lived in Japan since 2001.  She married Yasu whom she met while on her student exchange.  They have been married for 20 years and have two sons – Zachery Taka is 19 who attends Waseda University and Jordan Zen, 16 attending Japan University Affiliated High School.