Time flies! It’s difficult to believe two years have already passed since I arrived in Nashville to become Consul-General of Japan in April 2015. But, as I look back upon this time, I am happy to note that many positive developments in the Japan-U.S. relationship have occurred.
Since arriving in Nashville, I have had the opportunity to visit many different parts of the five states that our Consulate covers; Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
I have met with governors, many state and local officials, business representatives, education officials, and current and former members of the U.S. armed services. Everywhere I’ve traveled, people have welcomed me with great Southern hospitality. I continue to be touched by the enthusiasm expressed for the future of Japan-U.S. relations and the friendship displayed toward Japan.
Last year, I had the privilege of attending the inauguration ceremonies for the governors of Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi; I had productive exchanges with these leaders on ideas for further enhancing our bilateral relationships.
The location of our Consulate in Nashville has afforded us the opportunity to build strong relationships with governors and state economic development agencies – here in Tennessee and also in Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
Currently, Tennessee and Kentucky are home to nearly 200 Japanese-owned companies, followed by 44 in Mississippi, 20 in Louisiana and in Aransas.
These companies have contributed to their local economies and their communities.
For example, Japanese companies doing business in Tennessee directly employ more than 50,000 local people. Across our five-state jurisdiction, that number is more than 110,000.
In October 2016, I accompanied delegations from Mississippi and Tennessee to participate in the Southeast U.S.-Japan Association (SEUS) annual conference held in Tokyo. It was encouraging to witness the extremely positive economic relations between the Southeast U.S. and Japan. Our alliance is truly a win-win situation.
This experience renewed my commitment to further promoting our partnership. This year's SEUS meeting will take place in Greenville, South Carolina, in October, and I am looking forward to joining the group again and taking part in the lively discussions.
I am also excited that our U.S. – Japan grassroots friendships continue to grow across the Southeast.
In April 2017, an estimated 45,000 guests celebrated Japanese food, culture, and friendship during the ninth Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival, making it the largest Japan-themed festival in the southern United States.
September marks the start of our fall festival season, including the Lexington Summer Festival (September 9), Memphis Japan Fest (September 24), a third annual Moon Viewing Festival (October 8), and New Orleans Japan Fest (October 14).
These events are invaluable opportunities for people to experience the Japanese culture first-hand, so our Consulate will work very closely with co-organizers to make these events memorable for everyone.
The Consulate will also continue to support and promote sister-city relationships and the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program.
Finally, this is an especially thrilling time for our relationship with the Southeast U.S., as the Hon. William F. Hagerty, IV, assumed his post as the new U.S. Ambassador to Japan. I am confident Ambassador Hagerty’s leadership will further strengthen Japan’s relationship with the Southeast U.S.
You can always find information about Consulate activities and other updates on our website. If you are interested in receiving our newsletters, please contact us by e-mail.
Please feel free to contact our office if you need any assistance or support or have any suggestions or comments. We are more than happy to do whatever possible to enhance our bilateral relationship.
Consul-General of Japan in Nashville
September 18, 2017
Greetings from Consul-General Masami Kinefuchi