Warmest greetings and best wishes for 2019.
I would first like to express our sympathy and solidarity to the people of Alaska for the suffering and damage caused by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Southcentral Alaska on November 30th, 2018. I was truly impressed with how helpful in both spirit and actions the people of Southcentral Alaska were to each other. The whole situation reminded me of the Japanese people when the devastating earthquake and tsunami struck eastern Japan in March 2011. Those who survived the natural disaster were praised by the international community for having remained calm and polite and having displayed their caring nature.
In 2018, Japan also experienced a series of natural disasters including typhoons, heavy rain and earthquakes. Thanks to Japan’s community-minded resilience and efforts of the people, recovery in the affected regions such as western Japan and Hokkaido, northernmost of Japan, has progressed steadfastly, making the regions fully ready to welcome tourists from around the world.
The year 2019 is destined to be a special year for Japan. In February, Japan will commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of His Majesty the Emperor Akihito’s accession to the throne. On April 30th, Japan will see the abdication of the Emperor, which is a rare event even in our country’s 2,678-year history of emperors, and on May 1st, Japan will see the enthronement of His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince Naruhito. A new era will start on May 1st, reflecting the wish of His Majesty the Emperor Akihito that the duties of the Emperor as the symbol of the state can continue without interruption.
The Alaska-Japan security partnership has growing importance in light of North Korea’s nuclear and missile ambitions and China’s actions in the East and South China Seas as well as in the Arctic. Japan Air Self-Defense Force has taken part in Red Flag Alaska – multi-nation joint training exercises organized by the U.S. Air Force – for more than twenty years. The First Airborne Brigade of Japan Ground Self-Defense Force has taken part in Arctic Aurora – a bilateral training exercise organized by U.S. Army Alaska – for four consecutive years. In June 2018, my wife and I hosted a reception to celebrate the close ties between the military in Alaska and the Japan Self-Defense Force. In May of 2018, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley stationed in Alaska took part in the celebration of the 70th anniversary of Japan Coast Guard as the only foreign vessel to do so.
In Alaska, eight municipalities have sister-city relationships with municipalities in Japan. In August 2018, a delegation from the city of Obihiro, led by Mayor Yonezawa, visited Seward to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their sister-city relationship. In September 2019, a delegation from the Municipality of Anchorage will be visiting the City of Chitose to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their sister-city relationship.
Since 1986, young people of Alaska have participated in the JET Program* and have spent one year or more experiencing Japan at the local level as Assistant Language Teachers (ALT) or Coordinator for International Relations (CIR). In 2018, nine young people from Alaska joined in the JET Program, bringing the total number of Alaskans who have worked as ALT or CIR in Japan to 232. For more information please click the following link.
*The Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program
Alaska and Japan have enjoyed strong bonds of friendship for many years. Long-time efforts and hard-earned experience of Japanese and Japanese-Americans in Alaska have contributed greatly to the friendly Alaska-Japan relations. I believe deepening the mutual understanding of Japan and Alaska as well as their respective peoples will lead to making the invaluable Alaska-Japan friendship even stronger. In 2018, based on such belief, the Consular Office of Japan in Anchorage, based on such belief, strived to promote cultural and other exchanges and carried out programs aimed at helping the people of Alaska to deepen their understanding of Japan and Japanese people. We are determined to continue our efforts in 2019.
One of the programs prioritized by the Consular Office is the screening of Japanese films with the cooperation of local universities and high schools. In November 2018, we held the Japanese Film Festival at the University of Alaska Anchorage. We plan to have a similar event in Fairbanks and again in Anchorage in the near future. I hope to see more people of Alaska become big fans of Japanese films.
The year 2018’s natural disasters in Alaska and Japan have highlighted the importance of disaster risk reduction. As one of the countries that are most prone to natural disasters, Japan has a wealth of experience and expertise in disaster risk reduction. I truly believe that disaster risk reduction is an area of cooperation Alaska and Japan should strive to strengthen.
I would be deeply grateful for your continued support for making the bonds of friendship between Alaska and Japan even stronger.
2019 New Year's Message
January 10, 2019