The 45th anniversary of the opening of the Japan‘s Consulate General in Atlanta was celebrated at a formal luncheon Feb. 18 hosted by Consul General Takashi Shinozuka at his residence.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, senior executives from nine of Japan’s largest companies operating in the state, local city, county and state officials, representatives of Georgia’s U.S. senators, and long-term Japan supporters participated in the event, which ended with the governor and consul general planting a cherry tree as a symbol of the friendship binding Japan to the state.
Mr. Shinozuka in his welcoming comments turned toward the governor and said “I know, governor, that you were personally involved in helping our community to grow and thrive in this great place,” in a reference to his prior post as Georgia’s secretary of state, who is responsible for registration of foreign companies.
He traced the origin of the consulate to February 1974. “It was the time of Gov. Jimmy Carter. Since then, the state of Georgia, the Georgia General Assembly, the city of Atlanta and the local communities have always helped the Japanese community and Japanese companies along this journey.”
While Japan now has 1,200-1,300 Japanese affiliated companies in the consulate’s Southeast district including North and South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia, he added that “half of them are in Georgia.”
He also recognized Georgia for having nearly half of the 21-22,000 Japanese citizens living the Southeast.
And he cited YKK Corp. of America and Murata Electronics North America Inc., as the pioneers to establish a presence in the early 1970s.
“Since then the number of the Japanese affiliated companies has grown by 300 times,” he said, adding his congratulations to the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the state of Georgia’s office in Tokyo and the Metro Atlanta Chamber for attracting so many Japanese companies.
Before inviting Mr. Kemp to speak he pointed to the 41 years of cooperation between seven Southeastern states and Japan in alternatively hosting the SEUS-Japan meetings, and referenced the 42nd such meeting to be held in Savannah this coming October.
To underscore the cultural intimacy of Georgia-Japan relations, he also referred to the more than 20,000 attendees at the annual JapanFest, the largest Japanese cultural festival in the Southeast.
Mr. Kemp was no less effusive in his support for Georgia-Japanese ties citing the Sister State/prefecture relationship with Kagoshima and the 11 Sister City relationships between Georgia and Japan, including Elberton–Mure, Americus-Miyoshi, Gainesville–Izunokuni, Atlanta–Fukuoka, LaGrange–Aso, Augusta–Takarazuka, Macon–Kurobe, Savannah–Shimizu, Columbus-Kiryu, Rome–Kumamoto, Dublin–Osaki.
In addition to the trade figures between Japan and the state, he cited the more than 30,000 Georgians working for Japanese affiliates in the state and and the more than 32,000 tourists from Japan who visited Georgia last year.
Following the luncheon featuring Japanese dishes, the guests gathered in front of the residence for a photograph. Among the attendees were Jiro Masui, chairman of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce; Scott Kirchner, president, Panasonic Automotive Systems Company of America; Mike Chrzanowski, president, Yamaha Motor Manufacturing Corp. of America; Hirohiko Arai, president, Kubota Manufacturing of America Corp.; Kazuhisa Yokoya, Yokogawa Corp. of America;
Mike Turner, vice president of marketing, YKK (USA) Inc.; Don Bunn, Toyo Tire North America Manufacutring Inc.; Michael Schoon, vice president, Hitachi Automotive Systems Americas Inc.; Japan-America Society of Georgia, vice chairman, Al Hodge; Yoshi Domoto, executive director, Japan-America Society of Georgia; Takuya Takahashi, chief executive director, JETRO Atlanta; Shinji Saji, president, TD Automotive Compressor Georgia LLC; Ken Suito, president, Toyota Industries Compressor Parts America, and Franz Pierre, vice president and group manager, Ricoh Electronics Inc.