On February 27, Consul and Mrs. Sato were able to sit down with Alaska’s new Governor, Michael J. Dunleavy and Lt. Governor Kevin Meyer to discuss the growing importance of maintaining a close Japan-Alaska friendship. Consul and Mrs. Sato were also able to sit down with numerous members of the Alaska Legislature, including House Speaker Bryce Edgemon, House Majority Leader Representative Steve Thompson, Senate President Cathy Giessel and Senate Majority Leader Mia Costello, among many others. In their meetings with the Alaska Legislature, Consul and Mrs. Sato were able to express Japan’s continuing commitment to further strengthening the Japan-Alaska friendship. Consul and Mrs. Sato were also able to speak with several members of the Alaska Legislature that come from cities and boroughs with Sister City ties with municipalities in Japan.
Consul and Mrs. Sato also had the opportunity to meet new Juneau Mayor Beth Weldon, and Juneau Assemblyman Mr. Loren Jones. Mayor Weldon and Assemblyman Jones were able to provide a thorough briefing about the important issues facing residents in Juneau. Mayor Weldon was also kind enough to hoist the flag of Japan, alongside the flag of the United States of America, on February 28 at Juneau’s Marine Park.
In addition to the numerous meetings, Consul and Mrs. Sato were able to host a few events during their brief stay in Juneau. On February 27, Consul and Mrs. Sato hosted a film screening at the Gold Town Nickelodeon Theater, which was free to the public. The film screened was the 2013 film, “A Tale of Samurai Cooking: A True Love Story,” which recounts the story of a young samurai, Yasonobu, must learn from his new wife, Oharu, how to cook in order to serve as the cook for the Kaga Domain during Japan’s Edo period – about 270 years ago. The film screening was attended by over 45 people.
On February 28, Consul and Mrs. Sato hosted a Seminar on Japan-Alaska Relations at the Baranof Hotel, in Juneau. The Seminar began with opening remarks from Juneau Mayor Beth Weldon. The Seminar featured presentations on the important facets of the Japan-Alaska Relationship, and featured presentations from Consul Masatoshi Sato, and University of Alaska Fairbanks Associate Professor of Japanese, Dr. David Henry. In his presentation, Consul Sato talked about the security aspects of the Japan-Alaska friendship, and the growing importance the relationship has in light of growing tensions in the Artic and in East and Southeast Asia. Consul Sato’s speech highlighted the continued training exercises that occur annually in Alaska between the U.S. Military and the Japan Air and Ground Self-Defense Forces, and the close working relationship between the U.S. Coast Guard in Alaska, and the Japan Coast Guard in the North Pacific Ocean. He also pointed out that the Alaska-Japan security partnership is conducive to advancing the vision to maintain and promote a free and open Indo-Pacific – the vision the U.S. and Japan share. Dr. Henry spoke on “Alaska in the Japanese Imagination,” and featured brief stories of several Japanese people who were fascinated by Alaska, and would later build lives for themselves in the state they came to love.
Following the presentations, a robust question and answer time was held wherein attendees asked insightful questions of the presenters about numerous issues concerning the Japan-Alaska relationship. Palmer, Alaska Representative DeLena Johnson offered closing remarks at the Seminar, and talked about her strong support for the continuing sister city relationship between Palmer, and Saroma, Japan.
Following the Seminar, Consul and Mrs. Sato hosted a reception at the Baranof Hotel, which featured remarks from Consul Sato, and a toast from Lt. Governor Kevin Meyer. The reception featured select sake and umeshu – Japanese plum wine – from Japan.
Lastly, staff members from the Consular Office of Japan in Anchorage were able to hold an info session on the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program at the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) on February 27. On February 28, the staff members returned to the UAS campus to host a JET Program information table outside a popular coffee shop. This was the first time representatives from the Consular Office of Japan have been able to give presentations about the JET Program at UAS in some time, and we are grateful to the staff members at UAS who helped make this part of our mission in Juneau a success.
The Consular Office of Japan in Anchorage is grateful for the support we received by many in Juneau who helped make our three-day mission to Juneau a success. We hope to have many more opportunities to support building stronger ties between Alaska and Japan in Southeast Alaska in the years to come.