President Barack Obama greets Japan Prime Minister Shino Abe at the White House. Photo: Chip LaRouche
JACL members are invited by the White House to be a part of the historic weeklong visit.
By JACL National Staff
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife, Akie, arrived in Washington, D.C., on April 28 for their historic visit to the United States. Dozens of JACL members were invited by the White House to attend the official State Arrival Ceremony for the prime minister on the South Lawn of the presidential residence. Chip Larouche, JACL vp of planning and development, traveled with his wife, Setsy, from Portland, Ore., to join the well-wishers.
“My wife, Setsy, and I were honored to be part of this historic ceremony,” said Larouche. “Both President Obama and Prime Minister Abe eloquently highlighted in their speeches the lasting and essential bonds that Japan and the United States enjoy, and it’s heartwarming to know that JACL has had an important role in promoting and maintaining many important elements of that bond.”
At the ceremony, President Barack Obama remarked that the prime minister’s visit was a celebration of “the ties of friendship that bind our peoples,” and he referred to “growing up in Hawaii . . . home to so many proud Japanese Americans.”
JACL Executive Director Priscilla Ouchida and her daughter, Elissa Ouchida, attended the official State Dinner held on April 28 in the East Room of the White House.
Two hundred guests, including former JACL National Director Floyd Mori, Hawaii Gov. David Ige, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy and U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, enjoyed the meal prepared by White House chefs and guest chef Masaharu Morimoto. Invitees were the first to use the newly delivered White House china dinnerware featuring a Kailua-blue trim designed by First Lady Michelle Obama. The opulent dinner was festooned with ceiling-hugging floral arrangements of cherry blossom branches, peonies and orchids and a simple pair of cherry blossom-decorated chopsticks at each place setting. Stars from “Jersey Boys,” which received an award for best foreign film in Japan, performed for the evening’s guests.
Ouchida remarked, “The visit was as much about the friendship between Japan and Japanese Americans as about the close ties that exist between the U.S. and Japan. At every level, there was an effort to ensure Japanese American participation.”
Sen. Hirono of Hawaii provided members of JACL with highly coveted tickets to Abe’s address to a joint session of the United States Congress, the first by a leader from Japan. JACL Legal Counsel Brandon Mita, Washington, D.C., Chapter President John Tobe, former National President Floyd Shimomura, Daniel K. Inouye Fellow Craig Shimizu, Janice Faden and Georgette Furukawa-
Martinez were among those who witnessed the speech.
Abe delivered his speech in English, and he acknowledged the late-Sen. Daniel Inouye, who he said “symbolized the honor and achievements of Japanese Americans.” Sprinkled with humor and stories, Abe also spoke of deep remorse over World War II, stating, “Our actions brought suffering to the peoples in Asian countries. We must not avert our eyes from that.” The prime minister also cited previous statements with a pledge to “uphold the views expressed by the previous prime ministers in this regard.” He offered, “My dear friends, on behalf of Japan and the Japanese people, I offer with profound respect my eternal condolences to the souls of all American people that were lost during World War II.”
Said Shimomura: “It was an awesome experience watching from the gallery as Prime Minister Abe made his historic speech to Congress. I was especially proud when he praised the late Sen. Inouye and the contributions made by Japanese Americans.”
During his trip, Abe also met with a number of JACL members in Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
Kenneth Oye, president of New England Chapter, met twice with the prime minister during his visit to Boston, and said, “The meetings with Prime Minister Abe were surprisingly substantive. Secretary of State John Kerry hosted Prime Minister Abe at his home on Louisburg Square. My conversations with the prime minister and his delegation covered Asian international political relations, the management of risks associated with nuclear power, regenerative medicine and synthetic biology and the pitching staff of the Boston Red Sox. At MIT, New England JACL Chapter member Richard Samuels and I were joined by Joichi Ito, Susumu Tonegawa, Suzanne Berger, Robert Langer and Fiona Murray on a faculty panel on innovation. The prime minister’s remarks were sharp and to the point. Most surprising — a bunch of us long-winded MIT faculty actually managed to keep our remarks to two minutes each!”
Miko Sawamura, JACL vp of general operations, who attended a dinner in San Francisco hosted by Consul General Masuto Watanabe at the Fairmont Hotel, said, “It was an honor to attend the dinner held in honor of His Excellency, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Mrs. Abe. The event was exhilarating. Prime Minister Abe is charismatic and has a great sense of humor. It was such an honor to meet Prime Minister Abe at the dinner. I was able to thank him for his leadership and commitment to U.S.-Japan relations and for taking time to meet with the community.
“To know that Prime Minister Abe spoke of change to ‘empower women so they can get more actively engaged in all walks of life’ was especially meaningful,” Sawamura continued. “Japan aims to increase the proportion of women in management positions to 30 percent by 2020. As a member of the Japan-sponsored 2007 Japanese American Leadership Delegation, I am excited that both the U.S. and Japan will continue to strengthen and actively promote people-to-people ties, including ‘efforts to increase student, research and legislative exchanges.’ Prime Minister Abe called the U.S.-Japan alliance ‘an alliance of hope.’ I am hopeful that our communities will continue to join together ‘toward an alliance of hope.’”