Anne Godsey and Allen Judd, members of the original organizing committee, salute the society's founders.

The Japan-America Society of Georgia celebrated its 30th anniversary Sept. 2 with an evening of reminiscences at Consul General Takuji Hanatani’s residence in Buckhead, which was attended by some 70 well-wishers of the organization.

The society’s continued significance in cementing Georgia-Japan relations was underscored by an official commendation from Katsuya Okadu, Japan’s minister for foreign affairs.

Additionally, Kazuo Ogoura, president of the New York-based Japan Foundation; Peter Kelley, president of the National Association of Japan-America Societies Inc. and Yoshifumi Matsudaira, CEO of the Atlanta office of the Japan External Trade Organization, all sent congratulatory letters.

Sachi Koto, the society’s current chairman, traced its origins to George Waldner, then dean of faculty at Oglethorpe University and currently president of York College of Pennsylvania in York, Pa.

“…he had the foresight of seeing what the society could bring to the state…and that was to promote the cultural exchange and mutual understanding between Japan and the state of Georgia,” she said.

The idea didn’t have any traction, however, until Ian Wilson, a senior Coca-Cola Co. executive responsible for the company’s Pacific operations, and Ryo Kawade, Japan’s consul general in Atlanta at the time, used their influence to develop a board of directors.

The original planning group included Anne Godsey, the wife of a Coca-Cola executive, and Allen Judd, then vice president with responsibilities for Asia with the First National Bank of Atlanta, who attended the reception.

Fred Chanoke, then president of Murata-Erie North America Inc., served as an adviser to the group.

Murata-Erie, a manufacturer of electromechanical parts and YKK Corp., a zipper manufacturer, were the first Japanese manufacturing companies to set up facilities in Georgia.

Day Lancaster, the society’s vice chairman, provided a historical overview of Japan’s relations with Georgia dating back to the 1960s and 1970s.  The relationship flowered thanks to the efforts of former governors Carl Sanders, Jimmy Carter and George Busbee.

Mr. Judd saluted the contributions among others of former Coca-Cola executives Sam Ayoub and Robert Broadwater, who was a fervent supporter of Japan despite having been a prisoner of war there during World War II.

He also described how former chairman Mr. Ayoub called Mike Mansfield, the former U.S. senator from Montana and an ambassador to Japan for 10 years, and persuaded him to allow the society to honor annually a contributor to Japan-Georgia relations with the “Mike Mansfield Award.”

Over its 30-year history the society has grown to include 750 members and sponsors a large number of business, cultural, education and sporting events.

To read Mr. Lancaster’s historical review, go to

To learn more about the society, go to