Japanese ambassador visits Utah

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Abby Hobbs
Japanese Ambassador Ken Shimanouchi addresses BYU students in the David M. Kennedy Center about security and economy on Friday, November 13, 2015. (Abby Hobbs)

Japanese Ambassador Ken Shimanouchi greeted BYU students in the David M. Kennedy Center on Friday November 13, 2015. Shimanounchi has visited schools and communities from Boston to San Francisco along with four other Japanese delegates to promote the project entitled “Walk in U.S., Talk on Japan,” where they have discussed Japanese society, economy, women in management, business and culture.

The five panelists, including Ambassador Shimanouchi, as well as Japanese leaders in business and research informed BYU students on Friday of the positive relationship between Japan and the U.S., advocating the mission of “Walk in U.S., Talk on Japan,” which is to promote “people-to-people relationships in the United States,” according to the The Government of Japan website.

Consul General Makoto Ito began by thanking BYU for its extensive Japanese language and culture programs and spoke of the similarities between Utah and Japan, including the large population of hard-working and highly educated people dedicated to the family as well as the beautiful nature and snowy mountains. “The spirit of friendship is a key part of building strong relations between us, helping to form a solid foundation of mutual understanding and trust between people,” Ito said.

Next to address the students was Ambassador Ken Shimanouchi, former member of the Japanese Foreign Ministry and former ambassador to Brazil and Spain. Shimanouchi renounced the current rumors that Japan is becoming more assertive and aggressive in a global context. “Japan has been and will remain steadfastly a peace-loving nation,” Shimanouchi said.

According to Shimanouchi, Japan has goals to reduce corporate taxes, electricity bills and increase the roles of women in both governmental and private sectors. Additionally, Japan expects over 20 million tourists to visit this year, and Shimanouchi said these numbers are expected to grow exponentially with the Tokyo-hosted Olympics coming up in 2020.

Shimanouchi told of his personal connection to the U.S. through a powerful childhood experience. With tension levels very high just nine years following WWII, Shimanouchi said that as a young Japanese boy living in the U.S., he was persecuted and called “ugly names.” But, he remembers a classmate named Doug who stood up for him. “There is no country in the world where a nine year old would act with such courage and such awareness. This is what’s remarkable about this country,” Shimanouchi said, “Its an extraordinary nation.”

Abby Hobbs
Michiko Iwanami discussed the importance of “Womenomics” in a panel discussion on at the David M. Kennedy Center on Friday, November 13, 2015..

Akemi Takayama, former employee of the Bank of Tokyo, Deutsche Bank, and Kumon Leysin Academy of Switzerland, spoke on Japanese culture by telling her personal experience of taking the Shikoku Pilgrimage to visit 88 Japanese temples. Takayama said it was this 750-mile journey by foot that helped her to truly appreciate the Japanese belief of finding harmony with nature.

Kyoko Shibata who works as a credit officer at Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation spoke about Japanese economy and business. She highlighted the culture of employer-employee relationships and gave advice to students on how they can prepare culturally to enter the workforce in Japan.

Michiko Iwanami who is a researcher at Sojitz Research Institute, Ltd. spoke briefly on “Womenomics,” a policy created by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “Womenomics” is a prominent ideology in Japan based on helping women receive equality in the workforce.

Norimichi Hayashi, former employee of Itochu Corporations and Kurita Waters Industries, spoke of the importance of personal exchanges among nations, especially for young people. Today there are currently over 60,000 Japanese students studying abroad and scholarships have been doubled. “Walk in U.S., Talk on Japan” hopes that these numbers can increase for American students studying abroad in Japan.

Judge Raymond Uno, a member of the Japanese American Citizens League in Salt Lake City, closed the delegation by expressing the positive relationships that have been fostered through his involvement in the JACL. Uno and the members of the delegation wish for students, and all Americans alike, to join hands with Japanese citizens and build relationships with Japan as a whole.

Many students who attended Friday’s delegation came because of an invitation given by their Japanese language professors to learn about Japanese culture firsthand. Those students left with not only a feel for the culture and language, but also a deepened understanding of how this culture connects with America and impacts economics and politics between Japan and the U.S.

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