His Majesty Emperor Akihito
Honorable Consul General and Mrs. Kiyokazu Ota, distinguished guests, it
is my honor to be here this afternoon to share in this celebration of
His Imperial Majesty the Emperorís 78th birthday.
We were of course all deeply shocked by the catastrophic events that unfolded on March 11 and of course, scores of Washington citizens rushed forward to help in any way they could.
At the same time, we all witnessed how Japan stood tall, as the strong and independent nation it is. Perhaps more than any other nation, Japan was prepared to deal with such a terrible event. The Emperor and Empress, especially, realized that the words of the Emperor would be of tremendous importance. He stepped up to his role as emperor and reassured the people that Japan would get through the devastating earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear crisis at Fukushima. The emperorís words and actions brought the nation together as the rest of the world watched in awe and admiration as Japan took care of its own.
For our part, we helped out as we could, offering technical assistance and expertise to the operators of the nuclear power plant, the $7.3 million in disaster relief aid symbolically delivered by our governor that Consul General Ota mentioned and other assistance and, perhaps most importantly, our strong moral support from one side of the Pacific to the other.
This kind of support is only natural. Japan and the state of Washington have much more than the Pacific Ocean in common. Japan continues to be one of Washington stateís closest partners in education, commerce and culture.
The fact that Japan was the first customer for the 787 Dreamliner, assembled in Washington, was certainly no accident. As the Nippon Airways 787 flies over the skies of Japan and around the world, there is a certain amount of Washington pride right up there with the Japanese pride because that airplane is OUR airplane.
Washington state and Hyogo Prefecture (Western Honshu) have been sister states for 48 years now, a beneficial relationship that has helped foster the working friendship between Japan and Washington over those years.
But Japan and Washington have been very close trading partners since nearly two centuries before that sister state relationship was formed. In fact, the ship Lady Washington, captained by Robert Gray, was the one of the first American trading vessel to make landfall in Japan, which it did in 1791 carrying a load of fur pelts from the Pacific Northwest. The spirit and significance of that historic encounter does continue today.
Beyond our sister state relationship, our cities, counties and ports in Washington have engaged in some 37 sister relationships with their counterparts in Japan. I believe we have more sister relationships with cities, counties and ports in Japan than with any other country.
One I am especially familiar with is the sister relationship between Kato, Japan and Olympia, Washington. Olympia has a beautiful Japanese garden that lies right next to its city hall to honor this relationship, and named the Fourth Avenue Bridge the Olympia-Yashiro Friendship Bridge after it was rebuilt in 2006. In turn, the main street in Kato is called Olympia Avenue. Over the years there have been a number of cultural, educational and business exchanges between groups in Kato and Olympia.
Of course Seattle has had its sister relationship with the Japanese city of Kobe for 54 years and has a very active association. Gordon Clinton, who as mayor of Seattle from 1956 to 1964 was had a big role in the cityís hosting of the Seattle Worldís Fair 1962, served as the legal representative for the consul of Japan for 10 years after his term in office. He was also a key force in the drafting of legislation to end the Alien Land Law in 1966, and served as President of the Japan-America Society in 1973. So today I would like to salute former Mayor Clinton as well. He died just a few weeks ago, on Nov. 19, at age 91 and he will be honored nearby this afternoon.
We are honored to have a steady stream of Japanese visitors in my office and to the state Capitol.. Many of these groups are made up of young Japanese students who are here for the first time. They are full of life and boundless curiosity.
It is this generation that will be our future world leaders and their learning experience in Washington will be of great benefit to both Japan and the State of Washington.
So it is with honor that we today mark the Emperorís birthday (actual day Dec. 23) as he is the head of a great nation and has done much during his reign to improve relations between Japan and other nations of the world. May he live long and continue to reign over the prosperous nation of Japan.
May you, Consul
General Ota and your wife Junko, continue to enjoy your time in our
great state. May it lead to many more great things in trade, education,
culture and continued understanding between the people of Washington and
the people of Japan.
I would like to
toast, now, the special friendship between
the great state of Washington and the proud nation of Japan on this
occasion of the Emperorís birthday.
May our friendship continue to grow.
Let us drink to this friendship and in doing so wish the Emperor
many more happy years.