I received my official appointment as Consul-General of Japan in Nashville on April 1st and arrived to assume my post on May 20th.
After joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan in 1983, I spent a year in the United States for my overseas language training. Since then, my overseas posts have included posts at the Embassy on Mongolia, the Consulate-General in Chicago, and the Embassy in Washington, DC. In Tokyo, I worked on a variety of issues in many departments, including International Treaties, International Cooperation (ODA), Climate Change, Peaceful Use of Nuclear Technology, Maritime Security, and the Minister’s Secretariat (Personnel). As I reflect on the role of Consul-General of Japan in Nashville at a time when Japan- U.S. relationship is more important than ever for the peace and prosperity of the international community, I feel the great sense of both privilege and responsibility. I look forward to continuing my service here.
Japan-U.S. ties run deep in the consulate’s five-state area of Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Approximately 11,300 Japanese nationals live in this area, which is also home to approximately 460 Japanese companies as of this writing. In recent years, many of these companies have either newly arrived in the area or expanded existing operations. Japanese companies have been making contributions not only to the U.S. economy through job creation, but also to the promotion and reinforcement of our bilateral friendship through their support for local community organizations, cultural events, and sister-city relationships. Our consulate covers a vast geographic area, across which we will continue to improve our consular services to residents, both Japanese and American, and our support of businesses.
In addition to strong economic ties, we have active and flourishing cultural programs, interpersonal exchanges, and grassroots connections in our area. For example, people all over our five-state area participate in large Japan-themed celebrations throughout the year. In the spring, there is the Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival, which has become one of the largest Japanese festivals in the South over the past decade, and the North Mississippi Cherry Blossom Festival, a younger event that has grown incredibly over the past several years. In autumn comes the Memphis Japan Festival, the Moon Viewing in Nashville, and Japan Fest in New Orleans. In addition to these Japan festivals, many communities are planting cherry blossom trees, a beautiful symbol of friendship between our two countries. We have more than 15 sister city relationships with cities in Japan across the five states, with each relationship presenting abundant opportunities for residents of all ages to experience Japanese culture firsthand through hosting Japanese visitors, taking part in cultural events, or even traveling to Japan on exchanges themselves. All of these programs, events, and relationships have thrived thanks to the hard work of dedicated individuals in the Japan-America community.
In recent years, we have had approximately 50 young Americans annually depart from the five states for Japan each year to take part in the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. These JET participants live and work in Japan, gaining first-hand experience of life there. JETs serve as an essential bridge that connects Japan and the U.S., and many of them continue to play a key role in expanding our community of bilateral friendship upon their return to the U.S.
From the first day the Consulate-General of Japan in Nashville opened its door in 2008, we have worked to make the consulate accessible and dependable, striving for a positive experience for everyone who interacts with us. As the Consul-General of Japan in Nashville, my priority is to further strengthen the Japan-U.S. relationship and to promote mutual exchanges in communities across the five states by providing information about Japan, Japanese culture, and businesses through various channels. Please reach out to us with your questions, comments, and suggestions. I welcome your input.
I look forward to meeting as many of you as I can, working with you all to create an even stronger friendship between Japan and our five-state area.
Consul-General of Japan in Nashville
May 31, 2018
Greetings from Consul-General Hiroyuki Kobayashi