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Japanese diplomat gives thanks
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Members of the Rotary Club of McMinnville, along with visitors, including representatives from Bridgestone America, Yorozu Automotive, VIAM Manufacturing, and M-TEK were honored Thursday with a visit and speech from Consul General Hiroshi Sato, Consulate General of Japan in Nashville.
Consul Sato is the first and only Consul General in Tennessee. He has spent his entire career with Japan’s ministry of foreign affairs. He has also been in the foreign service for nearly 40 years.
Consul Sato started his speech by saying, “This is a beautiful town. The downtown is such a beautiful place. We can shoot the movie ‘Back to the Future’ right away in downtown. This is something I should have expected from a town hailed as the Nursery Capital of the World.”
Consul Sato’s first impression of Tennessee happened after he came from his previous post in Hong Kong. He stepped onto an elevator in Nashville and had people say to him, “Good morning. Have a good day.”
He said he had never had that happen to him anywhere else, certainly not in New York City or Washington, D.C. He said his first impression of Tennessee was the people were so nice. He went on the say, “And that impression has not changed a bit over the past three years.”
Consul Sato emphasized how important Tennessee is to Japan because, “Of the $22 billion in FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) in Tennessee, $14 billion, or more than half, comes from Japan.” Japan now has 179 Japanese companies in Tennessee and those numbers are still growing. Nearly 35,000 Tennesseans are directly employed by Japanese companies. A large percentage of the companies are in the automotive sector, such as Bridgestone and Yorozu in Warren County.
“The Japanese community has been warmly welcomed by the people of Tennessee and they are working side by side with American colleagues every day.” This leads to more than just a business partnership between the people of Japan and Tennessee. Consul Sato ellaborated that this can been seen by Yorozu’s partnership with Warren County schools. It is a mutually beneficial relationship, he said.
Consul Sato was very thankful to the people of Tennessee and the rest of the United States for the care and concern that was shown to the people of Japan who were affected by the tsunami and the resulting 9.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Japan in March 2011. Consul Sato showed a video of the aftermath of this disaster. Over 15,800 people lost their lives during this tragedy. Still today, another 3,059 remain missing. Thankfully, as of April 5, 2012 there are only 330 people left in emergency shelters.
Japanese people are trained from an early age how to respond in an emergency situation. Because of this, and because of such strict building codes, the disaster, even though terrible, was not as bad as it could have been. The overall financial impact of the tsunami and earthquake was lessened somewhat by the fact the Pacific Ocean coast, which suffered the greatest damage, accounts for only 2.5 percent of the total Japanese economy. The automotive sector that is so important in Tennessee slowed down automobile production because of the disaster.
The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power station was greatly affected by the tsunami.The plant was not as well prepared for the tremendous height of the tsunami, which reached over 140 feet. The facility has been shut down, bringing Japan a step closer to suspending atomic energy. Only one of the 54 nuclear reactors remains in operation, and it is due to be switched off in May.
Consul Sato ended his speech by saying, “Economic recovery which has been achieved over the last 13 months has come as a result of determination and hard work by those affected.”
Overall recovery was greatly aided by support from all over the world, especially the United States. Consul Sato extended his country’s deepest appreciation for the support and encouragement that has made a such huge difference in the lives of everyone in Japan.